George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Israel Putnam, 12 December 1776

From Major General Israel Putnam

Philadelphia 12 Decr 1776

My Dear General

Your Favor of Yesterday I have received1—All Things in this City remain in Confusion, for Want of Men to put them into Order—The Citizens are generally with you—The Continental Recruits are cloathing & arming as fast as possible, & are employed on Guard & Fatigue Duty, for which there is scarce a Relief—A Party are now going to the Jerseys, to bring off all the Craft out of the Creeks.

The Council of Safety have this Day issued Orders for every able Bodyed Man to be enrolled, & put to work on throwing up the Lines—I have reconnoitered the Ground round the City, in Company with General Mifflin, & the French Engineers, who are preparing a Draft of the Lines which we are to begin to morrow—The principal Stores are removed to Christiana Bridge by Orders from Congress to General Mifflin who sets out to Morrow by Directions from that Body with a Committee of the Assembly & Council of Safety to endeavour to animate the Inhabitants of the Province to come in to your Relief which through some unhappy Circumstances has been too long delayed.2

The Continental Frigate commanded by Captain Biddle order’d by Congress on a Cruise, since the arrival of the Roebuck & two other Ships in our Bay is countermanded & with four or five Privateers ordered to be stationed in the River.3

Major Mifflin remains with me as a Deputy in the Qr Mr General’s Department.

Inclosed is Col. Wybert’s Commission for Want of which I am credibly informed he is confined in the Provost Guard in New York because he refused to enter into the Service of the Enemy4—Capt. Herbert & other Officers lately released from N.Y. mention his hard Treatment, with great Regret.5

Israel Putnam


1This letter has not been found.

2Congress on 10 Dec. resolved “that General Mifflin be directed to repair immediately to the neighbouring counties, and, by all the means in his power, rouse and bring them in, to the defence of Philadelphia.” Congress on that date also requested the Pennsylvania general assembly “to appoint a committee of their body to make the said tour with General Mifflin, in order to assist him in this good and necessary work” (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 , 6:1017). For the names of the persons whom the general assembly on 11 Dec. appointed to accompany Mifflin, see Pa. Gen. Assembly Journals description begins Journals and Proceedings of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia, 1777. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , Nov. 1776–Oct. 1777 sess., 8.

3Congress on this date resolved that Capt. Nicholas Biddle’s new 32-gun frigate Randolph and the sloop Hornet “be directed to act in such manner as the continental general commanding here [Putnam] may direct, for the defence of this city, in preventing the enemy from passing the Delaware” (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 , 6:1024). Later on this date Congress also resolved that “when it shall happen that the General [Putnam] has no further occasion for the use of the frigate Randolph, for the defence of this city, if the same should fall into the enemies hands, should Captain Biddle in that case carry the said frigate safely to sea, and thereby save her from falling into the enemies’ hands, this Congress will reward him and his people with a present of 10,000 dollars” (ibid., 1026).

Robert Morris, a member of the Continental marine committee, decided the next day, after reading GW’s letter to Hancock of this date, to send the Randolph and the Hornet to sea without further delay. “As soon as I saw this authentic Account [in GW’s letter] of the Enemy’s design to Cross Delaware above the Falls,” Morris wrote Hancock on 13 Dec., “I waited on Genl. Putnam & proposed that the Frigate Randolph & Sloop Hornet shou’d be sent to Sea immediately as it was plain to me they wou’d be of no use here & I had received certain advice that there was not any British Men of War in our Bay. The General [Putnam] very readily Consented & I have this afternoon given Capt. Biddle & Capt Nicholson their Instructions signed by me on behalf of the Marine Committee. They will depart early in the Morning and I entertain the most sanguine hopes of their escape” (Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 5:604–5). For Morris’s instructions to Biddle of 13 Dec., 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 , 7:476–77. The Randolph did not sail from Philadelphia until early February 1777.

4Wuibert’s commission as an engineer with the rank of lieutenant colonel, dated 24 June 1776 and signed by Hancock, is in DLC:GW.

5Capt. Thomas Herbert of Col. Samuel John Atlee’s Pennsylvania musketry regiment had been captured at the Battle of Long Island on 27 Aug. 1776.

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