George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Livingston, 3 March 1777

To William Livingston

Head quarters. Morris Town. 3d March 1777.


The honour of receiving your favours 20th & 22d Ulto I am now to acknowledge.

Some time past Colo. Shreve had my peremptory Order to march with such of his Battalion as was then inlisted: I therefore expected him every day ’till your Letter of the 20th informed me that he was then at Burlington. He has my Order repeated to march immediately to Princeton, there to remain under General Putnam ’till he hears farther from me.1 Your Opinion of him is perhaps too well founded.

I fear it is not in my power to give so full and satisfactory an Answer to your request “to explain the Nature of the Oath administered by Virtue of my Proclamation” as You may expect.2 What the Stile of it was, as administered by the Generals to whom that business was chiefly assigned, I can not precisely tell. My Instructions to them were, to insist on nothing more than an Obligation “in no manner to injure the States”; without adverting to the Form prescribed by any Law of this: Had I known of any particular Form adapted to the Circumstances of its Inhabitants, I would most certainly have ordered it.

To remedy the Abuses which frequent Complaints had informed me were practised by the Troops Stationed at the Ferries upon Delaware, I have some time since ordered all the Boats from Trenton upwards to be collected at Coriell’s ferry, & placed under an Officer of approved Character with a strong Guard; whose Orders are such as will render the passage of the Inhabitants easy & expeditious, and at the same time Secure the Boats from the possibility of falling into the Enemy’s hands. Orders Similar to these Genl Gates has, respecting those below.3 An obedience to these Orders will, I hope, answer every good purpose: But should it not, I will adopt any other Mode which you shall think will answer the purpose.

Robert Combs, a Tavernkeeper in Pennytown, can inform you of a Rape committed on the Wife & Daughter of one Jno. Christopher by the Enemy while they lay there. Philip Parmer’s daughter was also ravished by six soldiers in that Neighbourhood—Thomas Keynes daughter was treated in the same manner. Those facts I did not particularly recollect at the time of writing You on the subject of the Enemy’s brutality—I have since found the Memorandm that was taken when our Army lay on the other side of the Delaware.4

The Enemy remain much in the same situation they did when I wrote you last5—From a number of concurring Circumstances & corresponding Accts I am led to believe that the Enemy’s loss in killed & wounded on the 23d Ulto can not be less than 100—At the same time 7 prisoners were made—Capt. Thruston with the 3 Volunteer Companies from Virginia & some Maryland Militia had an Engagement near Piscataway on the 1st Instt. The effect has not yet reached me. The Captn was much wounded in the Arm, 3 of his party killed & 7 wounded.

Our innoculated Soldiers have the disorder much lighter than could be reasonably expected: From present appearances We shall not loose a Man. I have the Honour to be with great sincerity Yr most Obdt Hble Sert

Go: Washington

LS, in George Johnston’s writing, MHi: Livingston Papers; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1GW’s original order to Col. Israel Shreve of the 2d New Jersey Regiment has not been identified, but for GW’s renewed orders, see GW to Shreve, this date.

4Allegations that American women had been raped by British soldiers in New Jersey surfaced in December 1776 and were printed in the Pennsylvania Packet (Philadelphia) on 27 Dec. 1776 and in the Pennsylvania Evening Post (Philadelphia) on 28 Dec. 1776 by order of the Pennsylvania council of safety. Six of the victims gave depositions concerning their mistreatment to Hunterdon County justice Jared Saxton on 22 and 24 Mar. 1777. Four of the young women said they were attacked by several soldiers at the house of Edmund Palmer in Pennington, New Jersey. These included Palmer’s married daughter Mary Phillips, Palmer’s thirteen-year-old granddaughter, Abigail, who said she was raped for “three Days successively,” and the daughters of Thomas Caine, Elisabeth and Sarah, who were visiting the Palmers. Two other women testified before Saxton, Rebekkah Christopher, who said that she was raped at her home by two soldiers before she managed to escape with her ten-year-old daughter to a neighbor’s house, and Mary Campbell, the wife of Daniel Campbell, who said that she was dragged from the home of her father and raped by three men, even though she was “five months & upwards Advanc’d in her Pregnancy” (DNA:PCC, item 53). The memorandum referred to by GW has not been identified.

5See GW to Livingston, 22 Feb. 1777. On the draft the rest of this paragraph follows the letter’s closing.

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