George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel John Cadwalader, 27 December 1776

From Colonel John Cadwalader

Burlington [N.J.] 27th Decr 1776 10 o’Clock


As I did not hear from you this Morning, & being prepared to embark, I concluded you was still on this Side & therefore embarked & landed about 1500 men, about two miles above Bristol—After a considerable number were landed I had information, from the Paymaster of Col: Hichcocks Brigade, that you had crossed over from Trenton—This defeated the Scheme of joining your Army—We were much embarrassed which way to proceed—I thought it most prudent to retreat; but Col: Reed was of opinion that we might safely proceed to Burlington—and recommended it warmly least it should have a bad Effect on the militia who were twice disappointed—The Landing in open daylight, must have alarmed the Enemy & we might have been cut off by all their Force collected to this place—We had intelligence, immediatly afterwards, that the Enemy had left the Black Horse & Mt Holley—Upon this we determined to proceed to Burlington1—Col: Reed & two other officers went on from one post to another, till they came to Bordenton, where they found the Coast clear—Col: Reed & Col: Cox are now there, & we shall march at four to morrow Morng for that place.2 This information has enduced me to proceed, tho not quite conformable to your orders which I recd on the march this Afternoon3—If you should think proper to cross over, it may be easily effected at the place where we passed—A pursuit would keep up the Panic—They went off with great precipitation, & press’d all the Waggons in their reach—I am told many of them are gone to South Amboy4—If we can drive them from West Jersey, the Success will raise an Army by next Spring, & establish the Credit of the Continental Money, to support it—I shall write you tomorrow, I hope from Trenton. I am Sir, your most obt very hble Servant

John Cadwalder

I have 2 six pounders, brass; & two three pounders, iron.


1For a more detailed account of the heated discussion about the wisdom of remaining in New Jersey, see “Reed’s Narrative, 1776–77,” description begins “General Joseph Reed’s Narrative of the Movements of the American Army in the Neighborhood of Trenton in the Winter of 1776–77.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 8 (1884): 391–402. description ends 395–96. Capt. Thomas Rodney of the Kent County, Del., militia says in his letter to Caesar Rodney of 30 Dec. that he and his company were ordered “to be in Bristol before day” on this date. “We were there accordingly, and about nine o’clock began to embark one mile above Bristol, and about three o’clock in the afternoon got all our troops and artillery over, consisting of about three thousand men, and began our march to Burlington—the Infantry, flanked by the Riflemen, making the advanced guard. We got there about nine o’clock, and took possession of the town, but found the enemy had made precipitate retreat the day before, bad as the weather was, in a great panick” (Ryden, Rodney Letters description begins George Herbert Ryden, ed. Letters to and from Caesar Rodney, 1756–1784. Philadelphia, 1933. description ends , 150–52; see also Rodney, Thomas Rodney’s Diary description begins Cæsar A. Rodney, ed. Diary of Captain Thomas Rodney, 1776–1777. Wilmington, Del. 1888. In Papers of the Historical Society of Delaware, vol. 8. description ends , 24–25). Sgt. John Smith of Lippett’s Rhode Island regiment says in his diary that after breakfast this morning “our Colo Came & told Us to teak Every thing that we Could Carry with us for we were a going over to the Jerseys & accordingly we march’d in to town [Bristol] & Drew some Rum & some Shoes and Stockings for some of the Soldiers that had none to wair & marchd about 2 A Clock up the River & Crosed it then we march’d 7 or 8 miles Round about to Burlinton hearing that Some Hesians were in the town we Came their in Evening about 9 oclock it Being Cold & Dark & Bad traveling But heard of no Enemy we went into the Barraks their & Loged” (Rau, “Smith’s Diary,” description begins Louise Rau, ed. “Sergeant John Smith’s Diary of 1776.” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 20 (1933-34): 247–70. description ends 268; see also Sellers, “Peale’s Journal,” description begins Horace W. Sellers. “Charles Willson Peale, Artist—Soldier.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 38 (1914): 257–86. description ends 276, and “Young’s Journal,” description begins “Journal of Sergeant William Young: Written During the Jersey Campaign in the Winter of 1776-7.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 8 (1884): 255–78. description ends 259).

2The officers with Reed were Joseph Cowperthwaite, major of the 1st Regiment of Philadelphia associators, and John Cox, lieutenant colonel of the 2d Regiment of Philadelphia associators. Reed and Cox later this day went to Trenton, which they “found evacuated ... not a single Soldier of either Army being there” (“Reed’s Narrative, 1776–77,” description begins “General Joseph Reed’s Narrative of the Movements of the American Army in the Neighborhood of Trenton in the Winter of 1776–77.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 8 (1884): 391–402. description ends 397).

4For accounts of the withdrawal of Donop’s Hessian corps from Bordentown, Mount Holley, and Black Horse, and its retreat to Princeton between 26 and 30 Dec., see 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 , 42–44; Donop to Knyphausen, 27 Dec., in Stryker, Battles of Trenton and Princeton description begins William S. Stryker. The Battles of Trenton and Princeton. 1898. Reprint. Spartanburg, S.C., 1967. description ends , 398–400; James Grant to Donop, 27, 28 Dec., ibid., 400–401, 425–26; Donop to Grant, 29 Dec., ibid., 426–27.

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