Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO ABRAHAM SKINNER, DEPUTY COMMISSARY-GENERAL OF PRISONERS. INSTRUCTIONS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VIII (1779-1780)
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TO ABRAHAM SKINNER, DEPUTY COMMISSARY-GENERAL OF PRISONERS. INSTRUCTIONS. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. VIII (1779-1780) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. VIII (1779-1780).
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TO ABRAHAM SKINNER, DEPUTY COMMISSARY-GENERAL OF PRISONERS.
Head-Quarters, 17 September, 1780.
It having been agreed that an interview should take place at Elizabethtown between Major-Generals Phillips and Lincoln on the subject of their exchange, I was induced, from the earnest desire I had of relieving the Prisoners on both sides, so far as circumstances would admit, and in compliance with the directions of Congress, to inform His Excellency Sir Henry Clinton on the 26th ulto., that “I should direct our Commissary of Prisoners to attend at Elizabethtown at the same time, who would be instructed to execute with the Commissary on his part, if he should think proper to send him, an exchange of Officers, Prisoners of War, on the footing of equal rank, or composition, as far as the number in our hands would admit, and to include also the whole of the Officers of Convention on parole at New York, or in Europe.” The interview between the two Generals is to be on the 19th Instant, when Sir Henry Clinton has informed me in answer to my letter, that “His Commissary should attend.”
You will, therefore, proceed to Elizabethtown, on the 19th Instant, and meet the Commissary on the part of Sir Henry Clinton, or other Officer deputed by him, with whom you will make, or endeavor to make, under the restrictions and exceptions heretofore mentioned, an Exchange of all the Enemy’s Officers, who are prisoners of War in our hands, and also of all the Officers of Convention on parole in New York, or in Europe, for an equal number of ours of like rank, according to the order of their captivity; and, when the principle of equal rank will not apply, you will exchange them on the footing of composition; confining the composition to Officers only; and according to the value or tariff treated of and judged reasonable by the Commissioners at the last meeting at Amboy. In the Exchanges on the principle of composition, our Officers next in rank to those belonging to the Enemy’s Army, who cannot be exchanged on the principle of equality, are to be included, and in the order of their captivity.
The above are the general rules, by which you are to conduct yourself in the execution of the proposed business, and which are to operate only in general with respect to our Officers, prisoners in this quarter, and for their benefit, whose long captivity gives them a claim to the public’s first attention. There is, however, besides the exchange, which it is hoped Major-Genl. Lincoln will effect of himself, either for Major-General Phillips or Major-Genl. Riedesel, and which falls within the principle of equality, the case of Brigadr.-Genl. Duportail, whose release, being particularly directed by Congress, must be attempted and effected, either upon one or other of the foregoing principles, tho’ it would be best if it could be obtained on that of composition. The case of Lt.-Colo. Ramsay and Connolly is also to be particularly attended to, for the reasons formerly given you, and likewise Col. Webb’s, if the several officers taken in the Eagle packet are comprehended in your transactions, & which, upon every principle of justice, ought to be the case. If there are any other instances of Exchanges out of the general and customary line, about which you have received any orders from Congress or the Board of War, you must of course regard them and comply with their directions, or at least endeavor to carry them into execution.
You are perfectly acquainted with all the circumstances respecting Violators of parole, and know who have been adjudged such, and who have not, and the order and manner in which they are to be accounted; and also the characters for whom we do not conceive ourselves accountable. It is therefore unnecessary for me to observe further with respect to these, than that the Instructions, you have had repeatedly concerning them, are to govern you on the present occasion. We have in Canada a Lieut.-Colonel Stacey, a prisoner belonging to the Massachusetts line, who was taken at Cherry Valley on the 11th of November, 1778. He is to be added to your list of lt.-colonels, and exchanged whenever it comes to his turn, having regard to the time of his captivity. You will also recollect the captains, who are Hostages, and endeavor at their release.
An exchange of all the Officers, prisoners of War in our hands, and also of all the Convention Officers on parole in New York or Europe, is what is earnestly wished. But if you find you cannot make it so general as to comprehend the whole, make it as extensive as you can. You will report your proceedings to me and the Exchanges you may make, specifying the names and ranks of the Officers on both sides. I have mentioned your Instructions to Major-General Lincoln, who will facilitate the execution of the Objects to which they extend, as far as he can, by endeavoring to get General Phillips to countenance the business either wholly or partially, if it should be necessary. * * *
I am, dear Sir, &c.1
[1 ]Mr. Skinner met the British commissary, but they could not agree upon any plan of exchange within the range of the above instructions. Mr. Loring, the British commissary, said the proposals would be accepted if the privates then prisoners in New York were included. On the 8th of October, General Washington wrote to Sir Henry Clinton: “This is perfectly agreeable to me, and I have accordingly directed our commissary to take the most effectual and immediate measures to carry into execution the exchange as well of those privates as of the officers.”