Letters to William Nichols

November 21, 1777:  Henry Laurens to William Nichols (see below) Click Here (Who was H. Laurens? Click Here)

Extracts From Above-Mentioned Letters

November 21, 1777: Henry Laurens to William Nichols

Henry Laurens
Immediately upon hearing of your Captivity, I wrote to Colonel John Laurens requesting him to make to you a tender of my Services in Money or by other means as far as duty to my Country would permit.(1) I then beleived you have been in General Washington's Camp & that my Letter would have found you there. Your favour of the 18th which came to hand this Evening Shews me you are at Reading. I beg you will now accept of such offers as are intimated above & inform me in what respect I can make your confinement tolerable. I speak to you as to a Gentleman & know you are too much a Man of honour to ask any thing which my own honour would oblige me to refuse.

I perceive your first application is that I may Interest my Self with General Washington in order to procure your Release by Exchange, of this I Shall think maturely & take the opinions of my friends & if proper will apply to Congress upon the occasion. In the mean time I apprehend a Letter from your Self directed to Lord Howe or the Commanding Officer of the British fleet Sent open under cover to His Excellency General Washington, requesting of Lord Howe to propose an equivalent for your dismission would be a proper first Step & I am very sure General Washington's humanity will do every act in the Case which he can think himself authorized to do.

You cannot be unacquainted with a demur to the Exchange of prisoners which took place some Months since & which we think is chargeable upon General Sir William Howe, that unlucky circumstance has hitherto been attended with more evils to the unfortunate 

Americans, than to the other party, these, such of them I mean as by the fortune of War have been made prisoners, have experienced not only humanity but very great Indulgence, while our people, Officers & Men, who have been made Captives, have in general been treated with such Cruelty as you are not answerable for & therefore I will not insult you with a detail or complaint of particulars. The ground on which I have given you this Slight intimation I may inform you of at a future opportunity. The Stoppage of the Cartel which was formerly in motion did not Seem to have extended to Sea Officers & Men, an Officer of a Carolina private Vessel of War & one of his Servants who had been exchanged between New York & Boston long Since the Subsisting dispute which I have alluded to, lately passed through this Town on their way home. This may afford Some ground for your address to Lord Howe & possibly the Name of Capt Manly in return for your Self may be very acceptable to us. But this is merely my own opinion & the effects of my good wishes to you, that you may upon adequate considerations obtain enlargement & be restored to your family. I know you are as little of an Enemy to the public in America as your honour & function will allow you to be.

If you want money or other aid please to inform me & depend upon me for every thing that I can with propriety grant &ca. 

Note: LB (ScHi). Addressed: "Captain William Nichols, Reading." 

1 "This evening," John Laurens had reported to his father on November 9, "Capt Nichols of the Eagle packet with the Capt of an armed sloop, were brought to Head Quarters-they were made prisoners by a detachment from Capt Lee's troops, and as Nichols mentioned his being acquainted with some gentlemen of Carolina, Capt Lee gave him a recommendatory letter to me. The honest seaman . . . seems to be affected by his misfortune and expresses as hearty rejoicing at the welfare of President Laurens as if he were a loyal subject to his master." Simms, Laurens Army Correspondence, pp. 73-74. See also Laurens to John Laurens, November 15, 1777.