Interrogations of British Deserters During the Revolutionary War, 1782-1783

Two small volumes in Series 6a in the George Washington papers contain notes made by Washington’s aides as they interrogated British deserters and escapees. The interrogations took place around New York City in 1782 and 1783 while the city was occupied by British troops.

These men constituted a diverse group. They were Americans pressed into British service, sailors captured from French ships, escapees from British prison ships, Hessian mercenaries, and Americans serving in loyalist regiments, including the one commanded by Benedict Arnold after his defection. Responding to a set of questions, they give their names and histories, describe conditions at British encampments, and tell where, how, and why they left. Their histories, most no more than a paragraph, are packed with experience. Washington used this information in his plans.