George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Hugh Mercer, 14 July 1776

From Brigadier General Hugh Mercer

Perth Amboy [N.J.] 14 July 1776


This Morning Lord Howe sent Lt Reeve of the Eagle Man of War, with a flag of Truce to this Post—He delivered me the Letters which accompany this1—Nothing worthy your attention has happened here since I had the honor to re[c]eive your Instructions of the 11th Inst. by Mr Ross2—The Enemies Guards in our view continue without any new movement—From their Number it is probable that two Regiments encamp near this End of Staten Island—We have been able however to procure no certain Intelligence of their Situation—No Person has yet come over to us, nor is it easy to find one of our Friends duely qualifyed or ready to undertake the business of a Spy on the Island. About four Hundred of the Pennsyl. Rifle Battalion have joind us—and another Party of the Same Regiment is on its way; from This last I have ordered One hundred Men to take post at the Ferries of Pasiac and Hackensack & shall releive all the Jersey Militia, as soon as Reinforcements arrive. When the two Battalions of Rifle men and one of Musketry from Pennsyl., are posted from hence to the Ferries towards N. York a favourable opp[ortunit]y may probably offer to surprize the Enemies Small posts—Boats may I think be procured—and the Rifle Men would be happy to be so employd—Such an enterprize is not suspected by the Enemy, nor beleivd to be under consideration here. I have the honor to be Sir your Excellencys most obedt Servt

H. Mercer


1Ambrose Serle who was aboard the Eagle with Lord Howe says that Lt. Samuel Reeves left the ship for Perth Amboy on 13 July with “dispatches, addressed to the several Governors in North America, notifying his Arrival and the Objects of his Commission, and inclosing a Declaration to be published by them in their respective Colonies. This was a prudent and decent Way of acquainting the People of America, that the Door was yet open for Reconciliation; for it was expected, they would have the Curiosity to read the Inclosures, which were dispatched under a flying Seal, being their Interest & Concern more than that of the Governors. Mr. Reeve breakfasted with Mercer, the American Commander, who behaved civilly, yet rather dryly. They had very coarse Fare, which the American noticed, but added, they had Plenty of Necessaries, and did not wish for Luxuries. The Lieutenant very properly replied, that it was very happy for those who had not them not to wish for them” (Tatum, Serle’s Journal description begins Edward H. Tatum, Jr., ed. The American Journal of Ambrose Serle: Secretary to Lord Howe, 1776–1778. San Marino, Calif., 1940. description ends , 31–33).

Mercer wrote to Hancock on 16 July: “Three days ago, Lord Howe sent Lieutenant Reeve, of the Eagle man-of-war, in a flag, to Amboy, with letters to the late Governours from hence to Georgia, which were immediately conveyed to Head-Quarters in New-York” (Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 1:369). GW forwarded those documents to Congress in his letter to Hancock of 15 July. For Lord Howe’s circular letter to the royal governors of the middle and southern colonies of 20 June and his declaration of that same date offering pardons to recanting American Patriots, see Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 4th ser., 6:1001–2. Also included were numerous private letters from Howe’s friends in England to acquaintances in America supporting reconciliation.

2These instructions from GW have not been found. David Ross, Jr. (1755–1800), a son of Dr. David Ross (d. 1778) of Bladensburg, Md., joined Mercer in hopes of becoming his brigade major, but despite Mercer’s strong recommendation of him to Congress, Ross was not so appointed (see Mercer to GW, 16 July [first letter]). In January 1777 Ross was named major of Col. William Grayson’s Additional Continental Regiment. He fought at Germantown on 4 Oct. 1777, and several weeks after the battle he was tried and acquitted on the charge of leaving his arms on the field (see General Orders, 28 Nov. 1777). Ross resigned his commission in a letter to GW of 20 Dec. 1777 (DNA: RG 93, Manuscript File, no. 20182) and returned to Maryland, where he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1783. He served as a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1787 to 1789.

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