Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Most Airy Buildings

In an April 21, 1777 letter to General George Washington, British commander Sir William Howe denied that American prisoners suffered inordinately in his custody.  Howe wrote, “All the prisoners were confined in the most airy buildings, and on board the largest transports in the fleet, which were the very healthiest places of reception that could possibly be provided.”

In his June 10 response, Washington observed, “That airy Buildings were chosen to confine our Men....is a fact I shall not dispute.  But whether this was an Advantage or not in the Winter Season, I leave you to decide.  I am inclined to think it was not; especially, as there was a general Complaint, that they were destitute of fire the greater part of the time, and were only prevented from feeling the inclemency of the Weather, in its extremest rigor, by their crowded situation.

British newspapers published these letters between the contending generals.  For instance, in July 1777 The Westminster Magazine (London) published George Washington's April 2, 1777 letter on the 
emaciated and languishing state of prisoners released by Howe.  Howe's April 21 letter to Washington appeared in The Westminster Magazine of August and Washington's June 10 response appeared in the September issue.  Consult also The George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799.
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