George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Hugh Mercer, 10 August 1776

From Brigadier General Hugh Mercer

Perth Amboy [N.J.] 10 Augt [1776] 10 oClock A.M.


I received the favour of two Letters from your Excellency this forenoon1—In consequence of them Shall push forward to N. York as many of the Troops as I can prevail on to march—Col. Attlees Battalion of Musketry will march this Afternoon2—Col. Miles’ two Battalions of Riflemen set out this Morning—A Tender of 10 Carriage Guns came up this Morning—to Billups point—was under Sail about an hour ago, seemingly with a view to pass up the Sound—The Wind faild and she is come to; the distance—too great to fire on her as yet—we are prepared when She comes near enough, As the Enemy probably draws off from this End of Staten Island—The tender may be sent to prevent our passing over—Your Letter I hoped would have had good Effects on our Militia—but fear nothing will do3—None have gone off from hence last Night but some Battalions are in very ill humour and very abusive to their Officers—Col. Dickinson writes me that Thirty of his Men have gone off with their Arms this Morning—I have wrote to the Congress to take some Measures to stop this Infamous Desertion and to the Convention of New Jersey to raise their militia to take up the Deserters and to supply proper Guards for these Posts4—I have ordered one Company of Genl Dickinsons Brigade to be Stationed at Trenton, one at Prince Town & one at Brunswick to Stop all Deserters. I have the honour to be Sir Your Excellencys Most obedt St

Hugh Mercer


1These letters have not been identified.

2Samuel John Atlee (1739–1786), of Lancaster County, Pa., a veteran of the French and Indian War who had served with the Pennsylvania forces as a lieutenant during the Forbes campaign of 1758 and as a captain after May 1759, was named colonel of the state musketry battalion by the Pennsylvania general assembly on 21 Mar. 1776 (see Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 4th ser., 5:687–88). Atlee and his musketmen arrived at Perth Amboy on 21 July and marched to New York on 11 Aug. (see Extract of a Letter from an Officer in the 2d Philadelphia Battalion, 22 July, and Hugh Mercer to John Dickinson, 11 Aug. [first letter], ibid., 5th ser., 1:499, 895). Assigned to Stirling’s brigade, Atlee fought in the Battle of Long Island on 27 Aug. and was taken prisoner late that afternoon by a Highland regiment (see Atlee’s journal of the battle, ibid., 1251–55). He was exchanged on 1 Oct. 1778, and a few weeks later he was elected a Pennsylvania delegate to Congress, where he served until November 1779 and again from December 1780 to October 1782.

3Mercer apparently is referring to GW’s letter to the Pennsylvania Associators of 8 August.

4Mercer wrote Hancock on 4 Aug.: “Some of the Militia from Pennsylvania not duely informed of the length of Time their Services here might be required, have become much dissatisfied—it is with difficulty the Officers in some of the Battalions prevent a desertion, not of men singly but by Companies—Some speedy and effectual measures will be necessary that the Quota’s for the Flying Camp be made up—to relieve the Associators as soon as possible” (DNA:PCC, item 159).

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