George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Philemon Dickinson, 21 December 1776

From Brigadier General Philemon Dickinson

Yardly’s Farm [Bucks County, Pa.] 21 Decemr 1776


Two Persons returned Yesterday from the Jerseys, who inform me, that there is a very great body of the Enemy in, & around Brunswick, but they could not ascertain the Number—one of them say’s, they were sending off Provisions &c., towards N. York. They made strict enquiry about Boats, but could not hear, of any preparations of the kind.

Another Person from Crosswicks informs me, that he saw a Scow & 4 Batteaus above the Bridge, belonging to Lewis’s Mill, which he should have brought off with a small party, but there was a Guard of 100 Hessians posted at the Bridge: he is of Opinion, those Boats were not collected by the Enemy, but accidentally left there1—A Negro fellow whose master lives in Trenton, whom I have just seen, informs me they are building Boats at Henry’s Mills, a mile from Town,2 & that he was told by the Soldiers there were many boats coming from Brunswick; what degree of credibility is to be given to this information, I will not determine. I have endeavour’d to prevail wth some intelligent Person, to go down into Trenton, but hitherto without success; if tis agreable to your Excellency, I will offer 15, or 20, Dollars, to a good hand who will undertake it, if such a one can be found; People here, are extremely fearfull of the Inhabitants at Trenton betrayg them—I have deliver’d your Excellency’s message, (communicated to me, by Col. Cary), to the officers & men within my Department, & hope it will have the desired effect.

Capt. Anderson with his Party returned Yesterday, with the loss of one man taken, & two or three missing, nothing material; The Snow hasten’d his return.3 I have the honor to be, Your Excellency’s, most ob. Servt

Philemon Dickinson


1Johann Ewald says in his journal that on 14 Dec. his Hessian jäger company “was stationed at the Lewis Mill . . . to protect communications between Black Horse [now Columbus, N.J.] and Bordentown” (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 , 31). Located on Black’s Creek a short distance southeast of Bordentown, this mill was owned by Lt. Col. William Lewis of the 1st Regiment of Burlington County militia (see Ewald’s map of the area around the Lewis Mill, ibid., 32–33).

2Samuel Henry (c.1717–1782), a wealthy Trenton businessman who owned an ironworks east of the town on Assunpink Creek, had been arrested as a Loyalist in July 1776 on order of the New Jersey provincial congress, but he was paroled a short time later after promising to give no further offense to the Patriots.

3The officer who commanded this scouting detachment probably was John Anderson (1731–1797), a captain in the Hunterdon County militia who in February 1776 had been appointed a first lieutenant in the 3d New Jersey Regiment and who subsequently had resigned that commission to serve as a captain in Col. Philip Johnson’s regiment of New Jersey militia levies during the summer and fall of this year. Anderson was commissioned a captain in the 4th New Jersey Regiment on 28 Nov. 1776, and he retired from the army in September 1780.

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