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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from George Washington to Richard Caswell
Washington, George, 1732-1799
March 15, 1779
Volume 14, Pages 37-38

[From Executive Letter Book.]

Philadelphia, March 15th, 1779.


The enclosed papers are referred to us by Congress, and we wish for the assistance of your ideas to enable us to make a more perfect Report.

We request you, therefore, to take the trouble of committing to paper your opinion on the proposed terms of Exchange of Prisoners in the Southern department, and also anything which you think will conduce to that end without contravening your general arrangement or general policy and utility of the United States.

We deem it inconvenient in an inadmissible degree to permit an exchange of mere citizens; the difficulty of our making adequate reprisals, and many other circumstances concur in inclining us to this opinion. It seems even better to suffer the captivity of such

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as may unfortunately fall into their hands, for, though this is a calamity which greatly affects our sensibility, yet it is far short of what we apprehend from admitting such exchange, which must necessarily prove an incentive to make a greater number of citizens captives, the efforts for effecting which, we think, would be attended with increase of ravages and horrors. We shall also be very glad to be informed by you whether any reinforcements of Regular Troops can be spared to the Southern department, and if in your opinion any be necessary.

We, at the same time, suggest that North Carolina is making very considerable exertions for raising a reinforcement of Militia, both Cavalry and Infantry. We think you concur with us in opinion that Militia forces ought to be employed only in cases where they cannot be dispensed with.