American forces under Lieutenant Colonel Josiah Parker skirmish with British regulars.
British General Howe sends a response, after many entreaties from General Washington, regarding prisoner exchange and the cruel treatment of some of the American prisoners: “Your several Letters of the 1st 6th 12th 17th and 29th December have been received: I have not troubled you with Answers to them as the Exchanges to which they relate so far as the military Line is concerned, have been regularly made. The Conditions respecting the Exchange of Prisoners not being complied with on your Part in the Manner I had a Right to expect from the Agreement subsisting between us, and from your repeated Declarations in Answer to my Letters on that Subject, I propose to send an Officer of Rank to you to confer upon the future Mode of Exchange, Subsistance &ca, if it meets with your Approbation; this Expedient appearing to me effectual for settling all Differences, will, I hope, be the Means of preventing a Repetition of the improper Terms in which your Letter of the 13th Instant is expressed, & founded upon the grossest Misrepresentations: I shall not make any further Comment upon it than to assure you, that your Threats of retaliating upon the innocent such Punishment, as may be de[c]reed in the Circumstances of Mr Lee by the Laws of his Country, will not divert me from my Duty in any Respect, at the same Time you may rest satisfied that the Proceedings against him will not be precipitated; and I trust that in this, or in any other Event during the Course of my Command, you will not have just Cause to accuse me of Inhumanity, Prejudice, or Passion. Altho’ I cannot contradict the Account you have been pleased to transmit of the cruel Treatment of Lieutenant Yeates I can aver my Abhorrence of the Barbarity therein set forth, and am satisfied that the Officers under my Command are equally inclined to discourage such Behaviour, and to prevent it in every possible Degree; but the Heat of Action will sometimes produce Instances that are only to be lamented. Lieutenant Colonel Walcot is the Officer I have appointed to negotiate respecting the Prisoners; he will accordingly wait your Answer to this at Brunswick, which you will be pleased to address to Lord Cornwallis commanding at that Place.”
Meanwhile, Jonathon Trumball writes to Washington bemoaning the state of affairs regarding prisoner exchange, and asserts that the British are treating the northern prisoners with more cruelty than those from the south: “The Friends of the Officers and Soldiers now prisoners of war from this State, especially those confined in New-York are impatient for their Release, & with good Reason, as their sufferings there from Cold, Hunger, nakedness, Sickness, the want of every Necessary, & accumulated Insult beggar all Description, many incapable to support this Load of Suffering, have fell sacrifice to the rigour and Inhumanity of our polished Enemies, after having endured Hardships and Tortures incomparably more severe and excruciating than the wildest Savage would inflict upon his barbarous Foe, others by force of a Strong Constitution yet endure their Misery, they can endure but little longer, I hope your Humanity will relieve them before they fall Victims to the accursed policy of our inhuman Enemies. I am unable to mention all the Officers from this State now prisoners, I entreat your Excellency to effect their Exchange as soon as possible—Major Meigs & Capt. Hanchet were taken at Quebec, and are here on their parole, General Waterbury was taken on Lake Champlain Major Wells, Lieuts. Fitch Fanning & Cleaveland & Hopkins on Long-Island, Lieut. Colo. Heart, & Brigade Major Wyllys on York-Island. I beg leave to recommend these Gentlemen in particular to your Excellencys Care to have them exchanged, and generally all Officers and Soldiers from this State now prisoners of war; This Letter will be delivered to you by Brigade Major Wyllys who is out upon his parole for Thirty Days to procure his Exchange, I wish your Excellency to take Measures to prevent his return—Lt Hopkins is likewise out upon his parole for the like Purpose. I beg leave to propose he may [be] exchanged for a Lieut. McDermot of the 16th Regiment of british Troops now a prisoner in this State, if agreable, his parole admits of his release upon sending in a prisoner of equal Rank.I am Sensible your Excellency needs no Arguments or Motives to induce you to effect the Exchange of our Prisoners in the speediest manner, yet I must intreat your pardon for just mentioning a Jealousy our Enemies endeavour to instill into our prisoners that the prisoners from the Southern States are taken better Care of than ours; and indeed, I fear, we in this State, inadvertently have failed in some Degree of doing all we ought to or might have done to procure their Discharge, which makes me more earnest, & perhaps too importunate to have it soon effected.”
Join us at Bow Tie Tours for Philadelphia’s Best Historical Walking Tours, including the best tour regarding the crossing of the Delaware and the Battle of Trenton in existence! Our “Independence Tour Extraordinaire” includes tickets to Independence Hall, as well as numerous other sites, such as 2nd National Bank, Graff House, Carpenter Hall, and Christ Church. If you are interested in learning about George Washington, join us for our Valley Forge Tour. For Civil War buffs, come see Gettysburg. Or, for the true history buffs, contact us about taking part in our historical vacation packages.