« IndietroContinua »
conducted on one principle, to wit: to release those first who were first captured as far as circumstances of rank would apply. There is no other rule by which impartial justice can be done.” This reply could not have been unexpected to Colonel Webb. In his letter to the General he confesses that from the letters which passed between Washington, when he was on his staff, and General Howe, he had little reason “to flatter himself of it taking place.” There being no other way of release but a general exchange, Colonel Webb turned himself with his usual energy to this object, and endeavored, both by interview and correspondence with British officers in a similar situation as himself, such as Phillips, Reidesel, and other Convention prisoners, and with Loring, the British CommissaryGeneral of prisoners, to devise a plan which would be mutually satisfactory. The difficulties in the way of any arrangement are more easily discernible now than they were then ; the motives of Washington and the secret instruction of Congress throw light on the policy which governed the American authorities. To Congress the American officers in confinement appealed in 1779. and Colonel Webb was appointed by them to present the memorial. As a preliminary step he, by permission, visited General Washington at his Headquarters at Middletown, in February, 1779, and obtained from him "a calculation made from the last returns of the Commissary of Prisoners," as a basis for the exchange.
It was not, however, until January, 1781, that Colonel Webb was finally released. His regimental orders of the 7th February express the satisfaction he felt in rejoining his command. On the 7th of August, 1782, Congress passed an Act, for reforming and consolidatirg the army, to take effect January 1, 1783. On the 21st of the same month, Washington, from his headquarters at Newburgh, issued a general order assembling the Light Infantry and embodying their battalions in two regiments. Colonel Webb was made a Brig.-Gen. by the general Act of Congress, of September 30, 1783, which fixed promotions. He was one of the founders of the General Society of the Cincinnati, and later active in the organization of the New York Branch. On the 20th October, 1779, Colonel Webb married Eliza Bancker, daughter of Richard Bancker, of New York. This lady died in the spring of 1782:
After the war he lived for some years in the city of New York. He appears in the New York City Directory of 1786, as residing at 4 Dock, now Pearl Street, the most fashionable quarter of the city. His name is entered as “gentleman.” Inheriting a large fortune from his father he followed no occupation, as this term implies. In 1790 he married his second wife, Catharine, youngest daughter of Judge Hogeboom, of Claverack, and Hillitjie Müller his wife. The Judge was descended from one of the old grantees of the. Rensselaer Manor.
The Webb house at Wethersfield, a view of which is here given, is still standing. It was the common resting place for American officers and gentlemen of distinction on their passage through Connecticut, and was known among them, from the generous courtesy of its occupants, as “ Hospitality Hall.” Its chief interest to the historical student is derived from its having been the spot selected for the conferences held between Washington and Rochambeau. There are numerous accounts of these two interviews which took place on the 20th September, 1780, and the 21st May, 1781—at the latter of which the plan of campaign, which opened with the operations before New York, and ended with the capitualation of Yorktown, was concerted.
The family manuscripts from which many of the details of this sketch have been taken, abound in testimony to the esteem and friendship in which Col. Webb was held by his companions in arms.
on intimate terms with the beaux esprits of the army, who held the character of the American service as high for courtesy in the camp as for gallantry in the field. These intimacies he maintained to the end of his life. He died at Claverack, N. Y., December 30, 1807. Of his children by his second wife, the Hon. James Watson Webb is best known. In his youth he was a Lieutenant in the 3d U. S. Artillery, and has since represented the United States as Minister to Brazil; his son, Gen. Alexander S. Webb, late of the United States army, did efficient and gallant service in the civil war, and is now the President of the College of New York. Gen. Geo. Webb Morell is a grandson of Gen. Sam'l B. Webb.
JOHN AUSTIN STEVENS.