George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Robert Morris, 14 December 1776

To Robert Morris

Head Quarters near Coriells Fery [Pa.]
Decr 14th 1776


I have before me your favor of yesterday, and for answer would inform you, that I shall most chearfully cooperate with you in endeavoring to save the Frigate Delaware, and for this purpose shall immediately inclose your Letter to Colo. Cadwallader, with directions for Capt. Alexander, with his Officers and a sufficient number of men to proceed to Phila. without delay in order to carry the Frigate out of your River before the Opportunity is lost,1 and am with much Esteem & Regard Sir Your most Humble Servant

Go: Washington

LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, PWacD: Sol Feinstone Collection, on deposit PPAmP 209.

1The Continental frigate Delaware had been built recently at Philadelphia, and at this time it was fitting out for sea. Morris’s letter to GW of 13 Dec. concerning this vessel has not been found, but Morris wrote Hancock on 13 Dec.: “On Viewing the Frigate Delaware, I thought it possible to get her away before Genl Howe cou’d get here. I have therefore set about it stoutly. A number of People scarce as they now are here, are at work on her, the sails will be bent, anchors to the Bows, stores onbd. and every thing in some forwardness tomorrow. I have sent an Express to the General [GW] informing him of my design & Requesting him to send down Capt Alexander, his Officers & such Seamen as are willing to go with him & if it is possible to get her away I shall order her to Baltimore under your own care” (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). Charles Alexander, who had served as a captain in the Pennsylvania navy from July 1775 to April 1776 commanding first the row galley Bull Dog and then the row galley Chatham, was commissioned captain of the Continental schooner Wasp by Congress on 18 April 1776, and on 6 June 1776 Congress named him captain of Delaware, which was then under construction (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 , 4:293, 5:423, 711, 6:861). Alexander and his seaman apparently had gone to Bristol with Cadwalader’s brigade as temporary volunteers at this time of emergency. Although GW’s instructions to Cadwalader concerning Alexander have not been found, Morris says in his letter to Hancock of 16 Dec.: “Capt Alexander is come down from Camp and we are at work on the Delaware but if the Enemy go back I will attempt the getting her regularly fitted for Sea” (Smith, Letters from 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 , 5:610–12). The Delaware sailed from Philadelphia in April 1777, but it returned to assist in the defense of the city in September. Alexander ran the Delaware aground in the river on 27 Sept. 1777, and he was obliged to surrender to the British. Exchanged by the spring of 1778, Alexander spent the rest of the war commanding various privateers.

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