George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Colonel Samuel Miles, 8 August 1776

To Colonel Samuel Miles

New York ⟨Hea⟩d Quarters Aug. 8 1776.


Since your Departure from hence we have received Intelligence of the utmost Importance that Genl Clinton has arrived at Staten Island with the whole Southern Army—that the foreign Troops are arriving, the whole making a most formidable & alarming Force. By the Preparations making we have Reason to expect an early & very vigorous Attack for which we would wish to have more equal Numbers: Upon looking round I do not see any Quarter from which I may so confidently look for Assistance as the Pennsylvania Troops who have shewn so much Spirit & Zeal & particularly those of the three Battalions under your Command of whom I hear a most excellent Character. I do not scrutinize into the Terms of the Inlistment of Troops at such a Time as this nor would I avail myself of any Authority derived from that Source: Brave Men who love their Country & are resolved to defend it will go where the Service requires at so critical & dangerous a Period as this & Men of a different Character, such I hope we have not among us, can be useful no where. I flatter myself therefore when the brave Officers & Soldiers under your special Command reflect that the Time is fast Approaching which is to determine our Fate & that of our Posterity they will most chearfully perservere & comply with such Request respecting their March & Destination as the State of Things requires—Under this Perswasion I have wrote to General Mercer to desire one of the Riffle Battalions may be forwarded over as we have not one Corps of that Kind in or near New York, & the Ground in many Places will admit them to act with great Advantage.1 I doubt not your utmost Influence to facilitate so important an Object. I have left it to Gen. Mercer who will doubtless consult with you on the Subject, to determine which Battalion should come, or if they could be spared I should be glad to see a greater Number: From what I can learn I do not believe New Jersey to be included in the present Plan of Attack—if so, the Service rendered here would be of the most important Kind—If you think it will be of any Use, I have no Objection to your Communicating this Letter to your Officers & Men, & then such Steps may be taken as will ⟨mutilated⟩ the great Cause in which we are all engagd—I am Sir, with much Truth & Esteem Your most Obed. & very Hbble Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Joseph Reed’s writing, ViMtvL. This letter is addressed at the end of the text to “Col. Miles Commanding Officer of the 3 Battalions raised for Defence of Pennsylvania now at Amboy.”

Samuel Miles (1739–1805) was appointed by the Pennsylvania general assembly on 13 Mar. 1776 to be colonel of the rifle regiment raised for the service of the province. Miles’s state regiment consisted of two battalions of riflemen, each commanded by a lieutenant colonel, and because the assembly on 14 Mar. named Miles “First Colonel of the Pennsylvania Forces,” his command broadly defined also included the state battalion of musketmen commanded by the second colonel, Samuel John Atlee (see Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 4th ser., 5:683–84, 687–88). A veteran of the French and Indian War, Miles had risen through the ranks of the Pennsylvania provincial forces from sergeant in 1755 to captain in 1760, and at Fort Ligonier during Forbes’s 1758 campaign, he had been slightly wounded in the foot (see Miles, “Auto-Biographical Sketch,” 50–52). After the French and Indian War, Miles became a successful wine and rum merchant in Philadelphia. Although he retired in 1774 to a farm in Whitemarsh Township, Philadelphia County (now Montgomery County), Miles was actively involved in Revolutionary politics. Before his appointment as colonel of the state rifle regiment, he was a colonel in the county militia and a member of the general assembly and the council of safety. Miles’s rifle regiment joined the flying camp at Perth Amboy, N.J., sometime in July 1776, and by 12 Aug. it was in New York (see GW’s first letter to Hancock, that date). At the Battle of Long Island on 27 Aug., the regiment was cut off by Hessian troops, and many of its officers and men, including Miles, were taken prisoner (see Miles, “Auto-Biographical Sketch,” 115–17). In spite of his vigorous efforts to be exchanged, Miles remained a prisoner until April 1778, when, unable to obtain the rank of brigadier general to which the Pennsylvania council of safety had appointed him in December 1776, he returned to his farm. Later in 1778 the general assembly appointed Miles an auditor for settling public accounts, and from 1780 to 1782 he served as deputy quartermaster general for Pennsylvania. When in May 1787 GW arrived at Philadelphia for the Constitutional Convention, Miles commanded the troop of light horse that escorted him into the city (see Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:155–56).

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