George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel James Irvine, 3 March 1777

From Colonel James Irvine

Newtown [Pa.] March 3d 1777


pursuant to my Instructions from Major General Gates, I have examined the Ferrys from Bristol to Easton, a Report of their present State I now inclose.1 I have given strict Orders to Col: Erwin & Majors McIlvain & Labar to collect & bring over all the Boats in their districts respectively, and secure them in proper places on the West side of the River upon the least Alarm of the Enemies approach to the Delaware, and to place sufficient Guards over them for their security, with directions to call upon the nearest Officers for assistance in case of immergency.2

The Guard at this place at present consists of 3 subs: & about 30 Rank & File of Militia; any Orders your Excellency may favor me with respecting my Duty here or in regard of the Ferrys I shall chearfully attend to & comply with to the best of my abilities. I am, with the greatest respect Sir Your most humb: servant

James Irvine

P:S: Since writing the above I have seen Capt: Coryell who is appointed by authority from your Excellency to take charge of the Ferry at his House and five miles above & below on the Delaware I have directed the Officer on duty there to dismiss his Guard & deliver up all the Boats to Mr Coryell.3


ALS, PHi: Gratz Collection.

1Gates ordered Irvine to take command at Newtown, Pa., on 23 Feb. 1777 (Fitzpatrick, Writings, 7:166, n. 14). Irvine’s enclosed “Report of the Boats &c. at the several Ferrys on the River Delaware from Bristol to Easton inclusive,” dated 3 Mar. 1777 and located in DLC:GW, shows that six detachments of militia, consisting of seventy-four men total, were guarding thirty-nine vessels of various kinds, many of which were in disrepair and missing oars and poles, at about a dozen ferries along the Delaware River.

2Joseph McIlvaine (1748–1787) was a major in the Bucks County, Pa., militia from 1775 to May 1777, when he was promoted to colonel. Abraham Labar (c.1750–c.1777), who joined a company of Northampton County associators as a lieutenant in May 1775, became a major in the Northampton County militia in July 1776 and was promoted to colonel in May 1777. Labar had been sent to guard the ferry at Easton in December 1776 (see William Maxwell to Labar, 10 Dec. 1776, in Notes and Queries, Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 24 [1900], 386).

3According to Irvine’s enclosed report (see note 1), the “4 Skows, and 1 Durham Boat” at John Coryell’s ferry were guarded by a detachment consisting of one officer and nine enlisted men.

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