Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Exchange of Prisoners in the Waters Off the Manor of Pelham During the Revolutionary War

Slowly a wide variety of resources is beginning to divulge more and more about events that occurred in the Manor of Pelham during the Revolutionary War. On one occasion there occurred an exchange of prisoners in waters off Hart Island in the Manor of Pelham. A Loyalist held as an American prisoner and named Judge Thomas Jones was exchanged for an American Brigadier General named G. Selleck Silliman who had been held by the British. Below is material from a book published in 1880 that includes the text of a letter written by G. Selleck Silliman describing the event.

"JUDGE JONES' EXCHANGE FOR GENERAL SILLIMAN. -- Sir Henry Clinton and Governor Trumbull agreed to the exchange of the parties, soon after the Judge's capture; but before the exchange was completed, Clinton sailed on his [Page 21 / Page 22] South Carolina expedition, leaving General Knyphausen in command at New York. Trumbull then wrote to Knyphausen in the matter and received reply Feb. 24, 1780, from Commissary Loring, that he was directed by General Knyphausen to state that General Clinton had left him no 'instructions' for the exchange. (Trumbull Papers, Vol. XI. p. 71.) Trumbull accordingly wrote again, March 13, and enclosed to Knyphausen a copy of 'the proposals made for the exchange of G. Genl. Silliman, &c., for T. Jones, Esq., &c., by Mr. Franklin and Majr Andre's consent. The Governor added: 'I hope this measure will put an end to any further delay or objection to the execution of the proposed exchange, and have only to add that Mr. Jones shall be ordered in as soon as B. Genl Silliman shall be sent out to us.' Trumbull also wrote to Governor William Franklin, President of the Board of Associated Loyalists, requesting him to furnish Knyphausen with the original proposals or Andre's consent. The Governor, furthermore, wrote on the same date to Judge Jones at Middletown, that he revoked the permission which had been given him to go into New York in exchange for General Silliman, until further orders, because, as he says, 'those proposals being fully known in N. York give me some reason to suspect a Disposition at least to Delay if not to fully evade them.' (Trumbull Papers, Vol. XX. pp. 236-238.) To Trumbull's letter of the 13th, Knyphausen replied on the 19th that he would 'inquire particularly into the affair' and answer 'in a short time.' This answer does not appear on file among the Governor's papwers, but it was doubtless favorable, and on the 27th of April following the exchange was finally effected.

The incidents of the exchange as given by Mrs. General Silliman (Jones' History, Vol. II., p. 565), may be supplemented by extracts from letters from the General himself, and his brother Deodate Silliman. The latter had charge of the Judge and sailed with him from Fairfield in the schooner Mifflin, of New London, at 9 A.M. April 27. 'About three in the afternoon,' he reports to the Governor 'I had the Pleasure of meeting the General off hart Island on his way to Fairfield to be exchangd. We then Proceeded with Flaggs together to the Grand Duke guard ship off New City Island, where th master of the Flagg and myself ware taken on board, and the exchange was then compleated By my giving a Receipt that I had Recd the General, and taking Receipt that I had Delivered Mr. Jones in Exchange for him -- which I beg leave to Transmitt to your Excellency.'

General Silliman's letter, written to the Governor (Papers, Vol. XI. p. 1070), is as follows:

'FAIRFIELD, May 2d 1780

SIR: Last Fryday evening, I had the satisfaction again to return from captivity to my Family and Friends, and once more to breathe the Air of Liberty and Freedom.

I left New York on Wensday last on Parole, in order to come Home to procure your Excellency's Permission for Mr. Jones to be sent in in Exchange for me. On Thursday about Three of the Clock in the afternoon, I happily met Mr. Jones in the Sound near Hart Island, going in under your Excellency's Flag in order that I might come out exchanged. We immediately put back, and came under the Stern of the Guard Ship the Grand Duke, commanded by Capt. Holman, [Page 22 / Page 23] which lay between New City Island and Hart Island. The Exchange was there made, and we having exchanged vessels, Mr. Jones proceeded immediately for New York, having the wind and tide for him, but I was detained by the same means that carried him on till the next morning, and then made sail and got Home at evening.

And now Hond. Sir give me Leave to return your Excellency my most sincere Thanks for the many Favours that I have in Time past experienced from your Excellency, and Especially for your late particular attention to every measure that tended to return me to the Blessings of Liberty and Freedom.

The Deputy Commissary of Prisoners when I parted with him threatened that they would soon have me again. . . .

I am Your Excellency's
Most Obedient
Humble Servant

His Excellency Govr. TRUMBULL.'"

Source:Johnston, Henry P., Observations on Judge Jones' Loyalist History of the American Revolution. How Far Is It An Authority?, pp. 21-23 (NY, NY: D. Appleton & Co. 1880).

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