George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Pennsylvania Council of Safety, 14 December 1776

From the Pennsylvania Council of Safety

In Council of Safety Philadelphia
Decr 14. 1776 8 o’Clock in the Evening


The Council this moment received a Letter from William Attlee Esqr. of Lancaster1—extract from which we dispatch to you by express—he says (dated 13th instant).

“The inclosed is copy of a Letter from Colo. Burd last night by express[.] I march with my whole Battalion on Monday next—Colonel Galbreaths Battalion, we are told, will move on Saturday next2—The Militia of Lancaster seem rather backward owing principally to this that many of our spirited officers and young men are gone to escort the prisoners sent from hence and upon their return have hopes they will turn out to the assistance of their Brethren—There are a few of the Militia from Cumberland County arrived here, who say that large Numbers are on their way down—The Battalion from Northumberland are also soon expected.”

From these and other Circumstances we have reason to hope a considerable reinforcement may join you in a few days if the enemy can be kept at bay—We shall communicate every peice of intelligence to you which may appear to deserve your notice and thank you for such information as you may think proper to give this Board. By order of the Council I have the Honor to be Your Excellencys very Humble Servant

Dav’d Rittenhouse V. President


David Rittenhouse (1732–1796) of Philadelphia, one of the most accomplished scientists and mathematicians in eighteenth-century America, was an active Patriot who served on the Pennsylvania committee of safety from 1775 to 1776 and the state council of safety from 1776 to 1777. Elected vice-president of the council of safety in August 1776, he became its president in 1777. Rittenhouse also was a member of the state constitutional convention earlier this year, and he was much involved in efforts to manufacture cannon and gunpowder and to fortify the Delaware River below Philadelphia.

1William Augustus Atlee (1735–1793), who had been an attorney in Lancaster County since 1758, was a member and often chairman of the county’s various committees of inspection, observation, and safety. He also served in the provincial convention in July 1774 and the provincial conference in June 1776, and from 1776 to 1778 he was a deputy commissary general of prisoners. In August 1777 Atlee became one of the judges of the state supreme court. He was reappointed to that position in 1784, and in 1791 he was named presiding judge of the state’s second judicial district.

2The following Saturday was this date, and the following Monday was 16 December. James Burd (1726–1793), who had been colonel of the 3d Battalion of the Pennsylvania Regiment during the French and Indian War, at this time was colonel of the 4th Regiment of the Lancaster County militia. Burd resigned his commission on 27 Dec. (see Burd to William Augustus Atlee, that date, in Force, American Archives, 5th ser. description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 3:1448). Bartrem (Bartram, Bertram) Galbraith (Galbreath; 1738–1804), a surveyor of Scotch-Irish descent who had been an officer in a ranger company during the French and Indian War, was colonel of the 6th Regiment of the Lancaster County militia. He also served in the provincial convention in January 1775, the provincial conference in June 1776, the state constitutional convention in July 1776, and the general assembly from 1776 to 1777. In June 1777 Galbraith was appointed county lieutenant of Lancaster County, in which capacity he served for four years.

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