George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Philemon Dickinson, 24 December 1776

From Brigadier General Philemon Dickinson

Yardly’s Farm [Bucks County, Pa.] 24 Decr 1776


I have this moment dispatch’d a proper Person over the river, to make the followg enquires, (& to return tomorrow morng, at which time a Horse will be provided for him, to wait upon your Excellency, with such Information as he may obtain) Viz: what Guards are posted upon the different roads leading into Trenton, the number on the Mill-bridge, where the Cannon lay & what number; to ascertain the number of the Enemy in Trenton, & whether any reinforcements have lately arrived, or any Troops march’d out, & such other Intelligence as he can possibly procure.

By a Person just returned from Jersey, I am informed that a certain Benj: Combes whom your Excellency lately released, went immediately to Amboy, has since returned, & now acts as Commissary to Genl Howe at Penny town, where he is giving out a large quantity of Continental Pork, to the Poor & protected Inhabitants of that State; The Person who gives this Information, made application for some Pork, but was refused, because he had not taken Protection. I am allso informed that the number of the Enemy now in Trenton, amounts to 2,000 men, all Hessians, except a few British Troops. I have order’d a Capt. & 25 men to Genl Stevens’s Quarters, agreable to Genl Green’s request, there to wait your Excellency’s Orders—The Bearers Capt. Mott with a few others, now waits upon my Lord Sterling to give him some Information about certain roads, agreable to his Lordships requests—Capt. Mott is a man that may be relied upon in every respect.1 I am extremely sorry for the occasion of my Absence at present, have been detained till near 1 OClock to compleat the above orders, hope to meet with my Mother in Philada & to return immediately.2 I have the honor to be, Your Excellencys, Most Ob. Servt

Philemon Dickinson

A Man from Jersy this moment came in, who crossed at McConkys ferry, he say’s, the Hesians shot one of our People there this morng that they heard Waggon’s going all night, & tis imagined the Enemy have had notice of the Boats being brought down to McConkys, & conjecture those waggons or Carriages carried up Field Pieces—a Party of Hessians were seen this morng very early at Howells Ferry, opposite to this Post, whch is unusual,3 they certainly have had some Information; at least it appears so from those circumstances, they are informed of our every movement I beleive. I recd this instant a few lines from Genl Mercer about a certain B. Greene, I refer your Excellency to Capt. Mott to give his Character, & if you think proper to have him secured, your Orders by Colo. Smith shall be instantly complied with.4



1John Mott, who was a captain in the Hunterdon County militia, had served the previous campaign in the northern department as a lieutenant in Col. Elias Dayton’s 3d New Jersey Regiment. Mott was commissioned a captain in the new 3d New Jersey Regiment effective 29 Nov. 1776, and at this time he apparently was recruiting his company for that regiment. Mott remained a captain in the 3d New Jersey Regiment until he retired from the army in September 1780.

2Philemon and John Dickinson’s mother was Mary Cadwalader Dickinson, daughter of Philadelphia councilman John Cadwalader (d. 1734).

3Howells Ferry is another name for Yardley’s Ferry.

4Isaac Smith (1736–1807), a Trenton physician and Hunterdon County justice who in 1774 had been elected a member of the New Jersey convention and the provincial committee of correspondence, served as colonel of the 1st Regiment of the Hunterdon County militia until 15 Feb. 1777 when he resigned his commission to become an associate justice on the New Jersey supreme court. Although Smith was a member of the U.S. Congress from 1795 to 1797, he retained his seat on the state supreme court until 1804. In 1797 GW appointed Smith a commissioner to treat with the Seneca Indians.

Index Entries