George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Hugh Mercer, 5 August 1776

From Brigadier General Hugh Mercer

Eliza. Town [N.J.] 5 Augt 1776


In consequence of your Letter of the 1st Inst. which I did not receive till the Evening of the 3d I came here yesterday to have an Interview with Genl Livingstone & Col. Dickinson.1

By the Return of the Troops on duty here your Excellency will see that the whole force of the Flying Camp is as yet only Two hundred and Seventy four Rank & file.2 I understood that the Pensyl. Militia were to remain on Duty here untill Troops had Assembled to form the flying Camp ⟨bu⟩t of Late they have become, many of them clamorous, to return home—Col. Matlock is gone to Philada to represent the Temper of the Association to the Convention—that some Speedy method by bounty or otherwise may be adopted to facilitate the Recruiting business.3 I have the honor to be Sir Your Excellencys Most obedt Servt

Hugh Mercer


1GW’s letter to Mercer of 1 Aug. has not been found. John Dickinson (1732–1808), colonel of the 1st Battalion of Philadelphia Associators and until 20 July 1776 a Pennsylvania delegate to Congress, arrived at Elizabeth with his battalion on 10 July. Dickinson’s conference with Mercer and William Livingston on 4 Aug. apparently concerned the fact that some of the associators were unwilling to remain on duty at Elizabeth for more than a month and were threatening to go home within the next few days (see Mercer to GW, 10 Aug.). Dickinson returned to Philadelphia in early September, and failing to obtain appointment as a brigadier general of militia, he resigned his commission on 30 September. A sincere proponent of reconciliation with Britain, Dickinson had abstained from voting for independence in Congress on 2 July 1776, a decision that tarnished his earlier reputation as an articulate defender of American liberties. In December 1776 Dickinson moved his family from Philadelphia to his estate in Kent County, Del., and during the Philadelphia campaign of 1777, he served as a private in the Delaware militia, declining an appointment as a brigadier general in that service in September 1777. During 1779 Dickinson was a Delaware delegate to Congress. He became president of Delaware in November 1781, and a year later he was elected president of Pennsylvania. Dickinson remained Pennsylvania’s chief executive until 1785, and in 1787 he attended the Constitutional Convention as a delegate from Delaware.

2This return has not been identified.

3Timothy Matlack (c.1736–1829), a Quaker merchant from Philadelphia, was colonel of the 5th Battalion of Philadelphia Associators, part of which had marched to Elizabeth in July to serve temporarily under Mercer’s command. In May and June 1775 Charles Thomson, secretary of the Continental Congress, had employed Matlack as his clerk, and in October 1775 Congress had appointed Matlack storekeeper of military supplies in Philadelphia (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 2:49; 3:278). Matlack became a member of the Pennsylvania council of safety on 24 July 1776, and in March 1777 he was made secretary of the state’s new executive council, a position that he held until 1782. Elected a delegate to Congress on 31 May 1780, Matlack attended sessions only during the fall of that year.

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