George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Richard Peters, 4 December 1776

To Richard Peters

Head Quarters Trenton 4th Decemr 1776


Yours of the 28th last Month was delivered to me by the Brigadier Le Roche de Fermoy, who is now here, but unable to render me that Service, which I dare say from his Character, he would, was he better acquainted with our Language.1

I yesterday recd a Letter, from you without a date, mentioning that the prisoners, from York Town, were directed to halt at Newtown for my Orders.2 On hearing they were there, I sent Colo. Moylan to conduct them and the prisoners from Reading, who arrived nearly at the same time, over towards Brunswic and deliver them in.

I hope you have not sent Capt. price, Lieut: Peacock and Major Campbell on to this place, as it is highly improper they should see and know the Situation of our Army here and at princetown. They had better be sent up under the Care of some person to Newtown or that Neighbourhood and there wait the Arrival of some larger party, who, I imagine will be soon forward from Lancaster, and go in with them.3

Lieutenant Symes came over to me at Brunswic from Bethlehem without the least Guard or Escort, and a Lieutenant of the 7th Regiment went thro’ our whole Army, and was at last discovered by a mere Accident. He had a pass from the Council of Safety and that was all. Such an irregular Mode of suffering prisoners to go in alone, must be put a Stop to, or the Enemy will be as well acquainted with our Situation as we are ourselves, if they are left at Liberty to chuse their own Rout, they will always take that, thro’ our Army, for Reasons too obvious to mention. I am Sir yr most obt Servt

Go: Washington

I have been obliged to send down a Number of our Sick to Philadelphia to make room for the Troops and to remove them out of the Way. Be pleased to have some Care taken to have them properly accommodated. I should think part of the House of Employment might be procured for that purpose. I have ordered down an Officer from each Regiment and a Surgeons Mate if they can be spared. But I hope they will not want the Assistance of the visiting Physicians of the Hospital.

LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1This letter has not been found. Although Matthias-Alexis, chevalier de La Rochefermoy (1725–1782), apparently never ranked higher than a captain of grenadiers during his previous service with the French army in the West Indies, Congress believed that he had been a colonel of engineers, and on 5 Nov. 1776 it appointed him a brigadier general in the Continental army, intending to send him to the northern department. GW’s plea for assistance from Newark on 23 Nov., however, prompted Congress on 25 Nov., among other measures, to order La Rochefermoy to join GW (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 , 6:927, 980). La Rochefermoy served as a brigade commander under GW for a few weeks only. On 31 Mar. 1777 Congress directed General Gates to employ La Rochefermoy in the northern department (ibid., 7:211), and he subsequently was stationed at Ticonderoga, where in July 1777 he disgraced himself during the American evacuation of that post by failing to notify all of his troops of the secret nighttime withdrawal and then prematurely revealing it to the British by burning his headquarters. Although La Rochefermoy vigorously defended himself during the next several months and insisted that he be promoted to major general, Congress rejected all of his arguments and claims, and on 31 Jan. 1778 it gave him leave to resign his commission and liberty to go to France (ibid., 9:1069, 10:105). La Rochefermoy apparently returned to the West Indies (see ibid., 174). In the spring of 1781 he arrived at Boston with his son, who was an officer in Rochambeau’s army, but his renewed solicitation for a position in the American army was ignored (see La Rochefermoy to GW, 24 April 1781, DLC:GW). Americans usually referred to La Rochefermoy as Le Roche de Fermoy, de Fermoy, or simply Fermoy.

2This letter has not been identified. Newtown, Pa., the Bucks County village in which GW temporarily established his headquarters following his 26 Dec. attack on Trenton, is about ten miles west of Trenton.

3These British prisoners of war were Capt. William Price of the 25th Regiment, Lt. George Peacocke of the 6th Regiment, and Maj. Mungo Campbell of the 55th Regiment.

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