George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Thomas Wharton, Jr., 10 December 1776

To Thomas Wharton, Jr.

Head Quarters Trenton Falls 10th Decemr 1776


Yours of last Evening reached me at 4 OClock this Morning.1 I immediately sent Orders to Commodore Seymour to dispatch one of his Gallies down to Dunk’s Ferry, and I shall dispose of the Remainder in such Manner, and at such places as will be most likely, not only to annoy the Enemy in their passage, but to give the earliest Information of any Attempt of that kind. Parties of the Enemy have been reconnoitering both up and down the River, and I imagine it has been one of those parties that have appeared near Burlington,2 for as they have not found the least Opposition from the people of Jersey, they venture very far from their main Body, which from the best Information still lays about Trenton and above it.

I have desired Colo. Humpton, who is the bearer of this, to apply for a Party of Men, to go up Coopers and Ancocus Creeks, and bring down all the Craft he may find there, for it is in vain to cut down Bridges, if the Boats are left.3 They cannot be trusted to the Care of the Owners, for if an Enemy was to appear, such is their Fear, that they would deliver them up, upon the first demand.

I think that the Fort began at Billingsport should be attended to, if there is not a party already there, one should be sent under a good Officer, who would not too readily take the Alarm and come off, for you may depend that only small Bodies will be sent to that Distance. But I have always found that the Intelligence brought by people not used to see Men in Arms, has always magnifyed Numbers exceedingly, and on this Head the Officer should be guarded, not to trust to Report, but be well satisfyed himself, before he gives up his post.

Having sent down Major Genl Putnam to throw up necessary Works for the Defence of your City, I hope you will co operate with him, and give him every Assistance in your power to expedite so necessary an Operation. I have the Honour to be Sir yr.

Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; copy, PHi: Washington Manuscripts; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

2Jäger captain Johann Ewald, who was stationed at one of the two Trenton ferries, says in his diary that on the night of 9 Dec. he “took a patrol along the Delaware and Captain [Friedrich Heinrich] Lorey patrolled beyond Crosswicks with twelve mounted jägers and an officer with thirty dragoons” (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 , 30).

Thomas Seymour was appointed by the Pennsylvania council of safety on 26 Sept. 1776 as “Commodore & Commander-in-Chief of all the Naval Armaments in the service of this State” (Pa. Archives, Colonial ser. description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 10:731). On 8 Dec. the council of safety directed Seymour to go to Trenton with the armed boats under his command and “put himself under the directions of Gen’l Washington, &c.” (ibid., 11:39). For a listing of the row galleys and other vessels commanded by Seymour to 1 Jan. 1777, see Naval Documents description begins William Bell Clark et al., eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 11 vols. to date. Washington, D.C., 1964—. description ends , 7:834–35. Seymour exercised little active control over the Pennsylvania fleet during the spring and summer of 1777, and in September 1777 the state’s supreme executive council removed him from his command on account of his uncertain health and advanced age (see the Pennsylvania supreme executive council to the Pennsylvania navy board, 6 Sept. 1777, in Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 1st ser., 5:594).

3Cooper Creek enters the Delaware River at Camden, N.J., nearly opposite Philadelphia. The mouth of Rancocas Creek is about ten miles farther up the New Jersey side of the Delaware River and about six miles down the river from Burlington.

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