Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO THE COUNCIL OF MASSACHUSETTS BAY. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. V (1776-1777)
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TO THE COUNCIL OF MASSACHUSETTS BAY. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. V (1776-1777) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. V (1776-1777).
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TO THE COUNCIL OF MASSACHUSETTS BAY.
Morristown, 28 February, 1777.
I yesterday received a letter from Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell of the 71st regiment, dated in Concord gaol on the 4th of this month.1 The Colonel, in this letter, gives me an account of such severity of his confinement, as is scarcely ever inflicted upon the most atrocious criminals. The following extract from his letter shows the reasons, that were given to him upon his being confined.—“The first of this month, I was carried and lodged in the common gaol of Concord, by an order of Congress, through the Council of Boston, intimating for a reason, that a refusal of General Howe to give up General Lee for six field-officers, of whom I was one, and the placing of that gentleman under the charge of the Provost of New York, were the motives of their particular ill treatment to me.” He then proceeds to give a description of the place in which he is confined, which, if true, is shocking to humanity, and not to be justified upon the most strict interpretation of the Resolve of Congress, which is as follows; “Should the proffered exchange of General Lee, for six Hessian field-officers, not be accepted, and the treatment of him as above mentioned be continued, then the principles of retaliation shall occasion five of the said Hessian field-officers, together with Lieutenant-Colonel Archibald Campbell, or any other officers that are or may be in our possession, equivalent in number or quality, to be detained, in order that the same treatment, which General Lee shall receive, may be exactly inflicted upon their persons.”2 By this you will observe, that exactly the same treatment is to be shown to Colonel Campbell and the Hessian officers, that General Howe shows to General Lee; and, as he is only confined to a commodious house, with genteel accommodations, we have no right or reason to be more severe upon Colonel Campbell, who I would wish should immediately upon the receipt of this be removed from his present situation, and put into a house where he may live comfortably.
Colonel Campbell mentions the case of Captain John Walker, of Colonel Gorham’s corps, who, he says, is confined in the same gaol and in the apartment with the common men. I know not what crime is alleged against Captain Walker; but, I will only observe, that, unless there is a very good foundation, such treatment is impolitic, for the enemy have three hundred of our officers, whom we have little chance of exchanging, and upon whom they may retaliate.
Before I had closed my letter, I was honored with your favors of the 11th and 13th instant. Nothing distresses me more, than the universal call that is upon me from all quarters for fire-arms, which I am totally unable to supply. The scandalous loss, waste, and private appropriation of public arms, during the last campaign, are beyond all conception. Every State must exert itself, and call upon its colonels to produce receipts, or to account for its arms, that were delivered out to them last year. I beg you will not only do this, but purchase all, fit for the field that that can be procured from private persons, of which there must be a vast number in the government. I am, &c.
P. S. I omitted to mention above, that the commissions of all the officers, upon the new establishment, are to bear date upon the 1st of January, 1777, and the precedency to be settled by a board of officers.1 I desire, for particular reasons, that the contents of the above letter may not be suffered to go beyond the Council for the present. Colonel Campbell’s confinement may be enlarged without assigning the reasons publicly.2
[1 ]Colonel Campbell had been taken prisoner in Boston harbor on board a transport, in June, 1776. See Vol. IV., p. 169.
[2 ]See Journals of Congress, January 4, 1777.
[1 ]General Washington was authorized by Congress to settle any disputes in the army respecting rank. Journals, 12 February, 1777. But, notwithstanding this power, it was his custom to refer all cases of this sort to the decision of a board of officers.
[2 ]“I last night received the favor of your letter, and am much obliged by the opinion you are pleased to entertain of me. I am not invested with the Powers you suppose; and it is as incompatible with my authority, as my inclination, to contravene any determinations Congress may make. But as it does not appear to me, that your present Treatment is required by any resolution of theirs, but is the result of misconception, I have written my opinion of the matter to Colonel Bowdoin, which, I imagine, will procure a mitigation of what you now suffer. I have also requested, that inquiry be made into the case of Captain Walker, and proper steps taken to remove all just cause of complaint concerning him. I shall always be happy to manifest my disinclination to any undue severities towards those, whom the fortune of war may chance to throw into my Hands.—Washington to Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell, 1 March, 1777. At the same time that Colonel Campbell wrote to General Washington, he also sent a long letter to Sir William Howe, which was forwarded through the hands of the Council of Massachusetts, and in which he described the situation in very expressive language. He acknowledges having received kind and proper treatment till this resolve of Congress for retaliation, but gives a revolting picture of his condition in Concord gaol. See his letter in the Remembrancer, vol. v., p. 138. Colonel Campbell was a member of Parliament for Dumfermline in Scotland.