George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Hugh Mercer, 7 September 1776

From Brigadier General Hugh Mercer

Amboy [N.J.] 8 oClock A.M. 7th Sept. 1776


I have been confined two days by a fever which has not left me—it is a great mortification that I have it not in my power to attend at Head Quarters—it would however have been impossible for any Officers from this place to be in Time at New York—By some Neglect of the Messenger your letter was not delivered till 7 this morning.1

General Roberdeau waits on your Excelle[n]cy to know the Result of your Determinations and to inform you of the State of the Troops in the New Jerseys.

My Ideas of the operations for this Campaign are to prevent the Enemy from executing their Plan of a Junction between the Armies of Howe & Burgoin—on which the Expectations of the King and Ministry are fixed.

We should keep N. York if possible—as the Acquiring of that will give Eclat to the Arms of Britain—Afford the Soldiers good Quarters—and furnish a Safe harbour for the fleet—If it even could be retaind A month or two—keeping the feild so long in this Climate may be supposd to affect the health of European Troops very much. On the other hand a free and Safe Communication with the Countries from whence supplies of Men & Provisions can come to your Army is a consideration of superior moment to any other.

How far both those objects may be within the compass of your Excellencys Force I cannot pretend to judge—having a very inadequate knowledge of the particulars necessary to found an Opinion upon. I have not seen Col. Rawlings but gave General orders att all the Posts along the Jersey Shore—that the Troops from Mary Land should proceed immediately to N. York.2

I hope to be able very soon to effect some enterprize on Staten Island—when we have a Sufficient Number of men for the Flying Camp to dispose along the different Posts—but the Militia are not the Men for such a Purpose—Four Colonels were with me some Nights ago to inform that their men would fight the Enemy on this Side—but would not go over to Staten Island. I have the honour to be Sir Your Excellencys Most obed. Servt

Hugh Mercer

1No letter requesting Mercer to attend the council of war held at headquarters on this date has been found. For an account of the council’s decisions, see GW to Hancock, 8 September.

2Moses Rawlings (1745–1809), who had joined Capt. Michael Cresap’s Maryland rifle company as a lieutenant in June 1775 and had become captain of the company when Cresap died in October, was appointed lieutenant colonel of Col. Hugh Stephenson’s Maryland and Virginia rifle regiment by Congress on 27 June 1776 (see 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 , 5:486). Stephenson having died in August, Rawlings marched the regiment north to New York during this month, and commanded it at Fort Washington, where he was wounded and captured when the fort fell to the British on 16 Nov. (see GW to Henry Laurens, 21 Aug. 1778, DNA:PCC, item 152). After being exchanged in December 1777, Rawlings “found his efforts to collect his regiment ineffectual and that he was drawing pay without doing duty; he therefore determined to resign which he did in June 1779” (Rawlings to the Continental Congress, 28 Nov. 1785, DNA:PCC, item 41; see also Rawlings to GW, August 1778, DNA:PCC, item 41, and 2 June 1779, DNA: RG 93, Manuscript File no. 20186). In September 1779 Rawlings was named commander of prisoners at Fort Frederick, Md., and he apparently served in that capacity until 1783.

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