To John Hancock
Decr 1st 1776 ½ after 7. P.M.
In a little time after I wrote you this Evening, the Enemy appeared in several parties on the Heights opposite Brunswic and were advancing in a large body towards the crossing place. We had a smart canonade whilst we were parading our Men but without any or but little loss on either side. It being impossible to oppose them with our present force with the least prospect of success, we shall retreat to the West side of Delaware & have advanced about Eight miles, where it is hoped we shall meet a reinforcement sufficient to check their Progress.1 I have sent Colo. Humpton forward to collect the necessary boats for our transportation2 and conceive it proper, that the Militia from Pensylvania should be ordered towards Trentton, that they may be ready to Join us and act as occasion may require. I am Sir Yr Most Obedt Servt
P.S. I wish my Letters of Yesterday may arrive safe, being informed that the return Express who had ’em was idling his time & shewing ’em on the Road.3
LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169. Congress read this letter on 2 Dec. and referred it to the Board of War (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 , 6:999).
1. On this date, Archibald Robertson says, he “was sent on to Amboy to get Cantonments for the Grenadiers, Hessians, and Reserve. The Light Infantry had moved towards Brunswick and on information that it was evacuated, Lord Cornwallis turned off at Woodbridge with the Hessian Grenadiers and push’d on to Brunswick, but found the Rear Guard of the Rebels still there and 5 pieces of Cannon with which they gave us a Cannonade. The Jagers prevented their destroying the Bridge over the Raritan. The Reserve came up in the Evening. This night the Rebels marched towards Prince Town. The Guards at Woodbridge, the 4th Brigade at Raway.” Robertson’s diary entry for the following day says, however, that “this morning Part of the Bridge the Rebels had destroy’d was repaired, a Company of the Light Infantry took possession of Brunswick and this Afternoon the Reserve march’d in. The Hessian Grenadiers cantoned at the Landing near the Bridge” (Lydenberg, Robertson Diaries description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends , 114–15).
Jäger Capt. Johann Ewald says in his diary that “toward evening” on this date, he “joined the army, which had deployed upon the heights of the Raritan, where they had erected batteries which cannonaded the enemy situated on the opposite side. The enemy returned the fire with his own guns. There was a bridge across the river at the landing which the enemy had broken off, and where some twenty houses were situated on both sides. The houses on the opposite side had been occupied by enemy riflemen and those on this side by jägers under Captain Wreden, whom I joined. . . . The firing continued on both sides until late in the night, during which we lost several brave men. . . . During the dark night the Americans left the right bank of the Raritan River. Captain Wreden immediately crossed the damaged bridge with his jägers and took post on the height at Barker’s [?] plantation, and the bridge was quickly repaired” (Ewald, Diary description begins Johann Ewald. Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal. Translated and edited by Joseph P. Tustin. New Haven and London, 1979. description ends , 24; see also Baurmeister, Revolution in America description begins Carl Leopold Baurmeister. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. New Brunswick, N.J., 1957. description ends , 73–74, and William Howe to George Germain, 20 Dec., in Davies, Documents of the American Revolution description begins K. G. Davies, ed. Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783; (Colonial Office Series). 21 vols. Shannon and Dublin, 1972–81. description ends , 12:266–28).
The bridge across the Raritan River was about two miles upstream from the town of New Brunswick (see Ewald’s “Plan of the Area of Bound Brook, 20 April 1777,” in Ewald, Diary description begins Johann Ewald. Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal. Translated and edited by Joseph P. Tustin. New Haven and London, 1979. description ends , 58–59). Thomas Contee, one of the Maryland commissioners who was visiting the army at New Brunswick, says in his diary entry for this date: “We rode out to the bridge to see Smallwood’s . . . battalion. Met General Washington and some other generals, and were informed the enemy were advancing. We rode to Brunswick to see the officers of Smallwood’s battalion. They were ordered to their post on an alarm. General Chamberlain [James Lloyd Chamberlaine] and myself rode up the hills above the town. We saw the enemy’s light horse approach towards the ferry at Brunswick. In a short time the field pieces appeared, and they fixed upon a hill and began to cannonade the town. We saw the first fire and remained until several shots were exchanged from our side. The enemy fired six to our one” (Wall, Chronicles of New Brunswick description begins John P. Wall. The Chronicles of New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1667–1931. New Brunswick, N.J., 1931. description ends , 207).
Lt. James McMichael of Col. Samuel Miles’s Pennsylvania rifle regiment says in his diary entry for 27 Nov.: “Intelligence that the enemy are marching for Brunswick causing us to prepare to meet them, but we are reduced to so small a number we have little hopes of victory.” Under this date he writes: “The enemy appeared in view at 1 P. M. We were all under arms on the parade. After a heavy cannonade of an hour, in which we had two killed, we received orders to evacuate the town, and proceeded towards Princeton and encamped near Kingston” ((“McMichael’s Diary,” description begins William P. McMichael. “Diary of Lieutenant James McMichael, of the Pennsylvania Line, 1776–1778.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 16 (1892): 129–59. description ends 139). Kingston is about thirteen miles southwest of New Brunswick.