To John Hancock
Camp at Middle Brook June 28th 1777
On Thursday Morning General Howe advanced with his Whole Army in several Columns from Amboy, as far as Westfeild. We are certainly informed, that the Troops, sent to Staten Island, returned the preceding Evening, and it is said with an Augumentation of Marines—so that carrying them there was a feint with intention to deceive us. His design in this sudden movement was either to bring on a General Engagement upon disadvantageous Terms considering matters in any point of view—or to cut off our Light parties & Lord Stirlings Division which was sent down to support them, or to possess himself of the Heights and passes in the Mountains on our Left. The Two last seemed to be the first Objects of his attention, as his March was rapid against these parties and indicated a strong disposition to gain those passes. In this situation of Affairs, it was thought absolutely necessary, that we should move our force from the Low Grounds to occupy the Heights before them, which was effected. As they advanced, they fell in with some of our Light parties & part of Lord Stirlings division, with which they had some pretty smart skirmishing, with but very little loss, I believe, on our side, except in three feild peices which unfortunately fell into the Enemy’s Hands, but not having obtained Returns yet, I cannot determine it with certainty—nor can we ascertain what the Enemy’s loss was.1 As soon, as we had gained the passes, I detached a Body of Light Troops under Brigadier General Scot to hang on their Flank and to watch their Motions and ordered Morgans Corps of Rifle Men to join him since. The Enemy remained at Westfeild till Yesterday Afternoon, when about Three OClock they moved towards Spank Town with our Light Troops in their Rear and pursuing.2 The Enemy have plundered all before em & it is said burnt some Houses. I have the Honor to be with great respect Sir Yr Most Obedt servt
LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169. Congress read this letter on 30 June and referred it to the committee of intelligence on the following day (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 8:508, 514).
1. Hessian captain Johann Ewald gives the following account of the march of Howe’s army from Perth Amboy to Westfield, N.J., in the early morning hours of Thursday, 26 June 1777: “General Howe presumed that the advance of the enemy corps could signal no other intention than that of falling upon our rear guard when the army crossed over Prince’s Bay to Staten Island. Therefore, at two o’clock on the morning of the 26th the jägers, the light infantry, all the grenadiers, three infantry brigades, and the light dragoons set out in two columns to disperse the enemy. The right-hand column under Lord Cornwallis, consisting of the Donop, Prueschenck, and mounted jäger companies, the Hessian grenadiers under Colonel Donop, the English Guards, and a part of the dragoons, took their route directly toward Westfield. The left-hand column under General Vaughan, which the Commander in Chief personally accompanied, consisted of the Anspach and my jäger companies, the light infantry, the English grenadiers, the English infantry, and the rest of the dragoons, which took their route by Metuchen Meeting House to cover the attack against the enemy army.
“The enemy had taken his position on the steep bush-covered heights; his right was protected by deep ravines and his left by a thick wood. The jägers tried to approach the enemy in the rear through the ravines, and the Hessian grenadiers made an attack on the right, supported by the Guards. The enemy was attacked with the bayonet and driven back, whereby Colonel Minnigerode and his grenadier battalion greatly distinguished themselves, taking from the enemy three Hessian guns which had been captured at Trenton. The loss of the enemy in dead and prisoners was reckoned at about five hundred men, and on our side at about one hundred and thirty dead and wounded, the Minnigerode Battalion having lost the most men. The entire army withdrew afterward upon the heights of Westfield Meeting House, where it remained overnight in bivouac” (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 , 69). In a similar account of the march British officer Archibald Robertson gives the casualties for his side as “about 40 Killed and Wounded” and adds that “we continued our march both Columns on the same Road towards Westfield in Extreme Heat. The 1st Column Encamp’d near Westfield and the 2d about 1 mile short of it. The Whole Rebel Army decamp’d that were near Quibble Town and regaind the Mountain” (Lydenberg, Robertson Diaries description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends , 138–39). For other accounts from the British perspective, see Ambrose Serle’s journal entries for 26, 27, and 28 June 1777, in Tatum, Serle’s Journal description begins Edward H. Tatum, Jr., ed. The American Journal of Ambrose Serle: Secretary to Lord Howe, 1776–1778. San Marino, Calif., 1940. description ends , 234–35, and Nicholas Cresswell’s journal entries for 27 and 28 June, in Cresswell, Journal description begins Lincoln MacVeagh, ed. The Journal of Nicholas Cresswell, 1774–1777. New York, 1924. description ends , 245–46. For Howe’s orders to his troops to prepare for the march of 25 June, see Kemble Papers description begins [Stephen Kemble]. The Kemble Papers. 2 vols. New York, 1884-85. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vols. 16–17. description ends , 1:447–49. Howe moved the army from Westfield to Rahway on 27 June and back to Perth Amboy on the following morning (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 , 69; Lydenberg, Robertson Diaries description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends , 139; Kemble Papers description begins [Stephen Kemble]. The Kemble Papers. 2 vols. New York, 1884-85. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vols. 16–17. description ends , 1:449–52).
2. At 8 P.M. on 27 June, GW’s aide-de-camp John Fitzgerald sent the following letter to Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln: “His Excellency has just receiv’d Information that the Enemy have mov’d off towards Spank Town, which renders the present movement unnecessary. It is therefore his Desire that you Halt as near the place you receive this as your Division can be accomodated ’till you hear further from him” (MH: Dearborn Collection).