George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Hancock, 23 November 1776

To John Hancock

New Ark1 Nov. 23d 1776


I have not yet heard that any Provision is making to supply the place of the Troops composing the Flying Camp, whose departure is now at hand. The situation of our Affairs is truly critical & such as requires uncommon exertions on our part. From the movements of the Enemy & the information we have received, they certainly will make a push to possess themselves of this part of the Jersey. In order that you may be fully apprized of our Weakness and of the necessity there is of our obtaining early Succours, I have by the advice of the Genl Officers here, directed Genl Mifflin to wait on you. he is intimately acqu[ainte]d with our circumstances and will represent them better, than my hurried state will allow.2 I have wrote to Genl Lee to come over with the Continental Regiments immediately under his command;3 those with Genl Heath, I have ordered to secure the Passes, through the Highlands; I have also wrote to Govr Livingston requesting of him such aid as may be in his power,4 and would submit it to the consideration of Congress, whether application should not be made for part of the Pensylvania Militia to step forth at this pressing time.5

Before I conclude, I would mention if an Early & immediate supply of Money could be sent to Mr Dalham to pay the Flying Camp Troops, it might have a happy effect. they would subsist themselves comfortably on their return—provide many necessaries of which they are in great want, & moreover, It might be the means of inducing many after seeing Their friends to engage again.6

I expected on coming here to have met with many of the Militia, but find from inquiry that there are not more than from four to five Hundred at the different posts. I have the Honor to be Sir Yr Most Obedt St

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169. two Varick transcripts, DLC:GW. The last paragraph of the LS does not appear in the draft or the Varick transcripts. For other textual variations in the draft, see nn.2, 3, 5, and 6. Congress read this letter on 25 Nov. and referred it to a committee of the whole (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 , 6:979).

1GW arrived at Newark either on the evening of 22 Nov. or sometime on this date, and he remained there until the morning of 28 Nov. (see GW to Hancock, 30 November). His headquarters during this time probably was at the Eagle Tavern (see Atkinson, History of Newark description begins Joseph Atkinson. The History of Newark, New Jersey, being a Narrative of its Rise and Progress, from the Settlement in May, 1666, by Emigrants from Connecticut, to the Present Time, Including a Sketch of the Press of Newark, from 1791 to 1878. Newark, N.J., 1878. description ends , 92–93).

2The draft reads: “and will make a better representation of It, than I possibly can, hurried as I am.” Thomas Mifflin arrived in Philadelphia on the evening of 24 Nov. (see Hancock to GW, and Mifflin to GW, both 26 Nov.), and he rejoined GW at Trenton Falls on 9 Dec. (see GW to Hancock, that date).

GW enclosed with this letter an “Abstract of the Returns of the Troops now at & near Newark fit for Duty,” which shows a total of 5,410 men. The strength of the various brigades and regiments composing this force was listed as: Gen. Adam Stephen’s Virginia brigade, 600 men; Gen. Rezin Beall’s brigade of Maryland flying camp troops, 1,200 men; Gen. Nathaniel Heard’s brigade of New Jersey flying camp troops, 800 men; Col. Edward Hand’s Pennsylvania brigade, 600 men; Col. William Smallwood’s Maryland Regiment, 200 men; Col. John Durkee’s 20th Continental Regiment, 250 men; Col. Israel Hutchinson’s 27th Continental Regiment, 100 men; Col. Philip Burr Bradley’s Connecticut state regiment, 60 men; Gen. James Ewing’s brigade of Pennsylvania flying camp troops, 600 men, and Lord Stirling’s brigade of Virginia, Delaware, and Pennsylvania troops, 1,000 men. The time of the expiration of service for Beall’s and Heard’s brigades and Bradley’s regiment is given as 1 Dec. and for Ewing’s brigade and Durkee’s and Hutchinson’s regiments as 1 Jan. (DNA:PCC, item 152).

Samuel Blachley Webb wrote Joseph Trumbull on 24 Nov. from GW’s headquarters at Newark: “You ask me a true Account of our Situation; ’tis next to Impossible to give it to you; I can only say that no lads ever shew greater activity in retreating than we have since we left You. Our Soldiers are the best fellows in the World at this Business. Fatal necessity has obliged Us to give up to the Enemy much of a fine country, well Wooded, Watered & Stock’d; not only that, but our Cannon, Mortars, Ordinance Stores &c are mostly gone. Our whole Body did not amount to Two Thousand at the time the Enemy landed in the Jerseys, of consequence we had it not in our power to make a stand, ’till we arrived at this place, where we have collected our Force, & are not only ready, but willing, to Meet the Lads in blue & Red as soon as they think proper. ’Tis a sacred truth they never yet have ventured to Attack Us but with great Advantages; they pursue no faster than their heavy Artillery can be brought up. With this they Scour every piece of Wood, Stone Walls, &c, before they approach. If they come on soon we shall I trust give a good acct to our Country. This must be before ye 1st of December, as most of the troops on this side are then their own Masters” (Ford, Webb Correspondence and Journals description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed. Correspondence and Journals of Samuel Blachley Webb. 3 vols. New York, 1893–94. description ends , 1:172–73).

3See GW to Charles Lee, 21 November. In the draft Harrison first wrote: “I have wrote to Genl Lee & ordered him to come over with the Continental Regiments immediately under his command,” and then struck out the word “ordered.”

5The draft reads: “& would submit it to your consideration whether some measures should not be taken to prevail on part of the Militia of Pensylvania to step forth at this Time of difficulty.”

6In the draft this paragraph reads: “Before I conclude, I would just mention that if a Supply of Money could be immediately sent to the paymaster, Mr Dalham, it might have several valuable consequences; The flying Camp Men would be paid & return satisfied & the public probably would save something from their pay Rolls being made out here.” Richard Dallam (1743–1820) of Harford County, Md., was named deputy paymaster general of the flying camp by the Continental Congress on 17 July 1776, and he served in that capacity for about eleven months (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 , 5:571). Dallam had been a member of several Maryland conventions between 1774 and 1776, and during the early months of 1776 he had served as quartermaster of a Harford County militia regiment. After his tenure as paymaster of the flying camp ended in the spring of 1777, Dallam returned home, and from November 1777 to the end of the war, he was county lieutenant of Harford County. He also was appointed a purchasing agent in the county in 1779 and commissary for purchases there in 1780 (see Dallam to GW, 8 Jan. 1791, DLC:GW).

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