George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Hancock, 31 July 1777

From John Hancock

Philada July 31t 1777. 5 O’Clock A.M.


An Express this Moment arrived with a Letter from Genl Rodney a Copy of which I enclose agreeably to your Request in your Favour of yesterday which came to Hand last Night.1 The Enemy by this Intelligence are in the Offing of the Capes, and the Wind was fair yesterday for their coming up this Bay. I shall send likewise to Lord Stirling a Copy of the enclosed immediately. I am Sir with the greatest Respect Your mot obd. Set

J. H. Presidt

The enclosed I just recd from Genl Mifflin.

LB, DNA:PCC, item 12A. The express delivered this letter at “half after nine O’Clock this morning” on 31 July 1777 (see GW to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., that date).

1Hancock enclosed a copy of Caesar Rodney’s letter to him of 30 July from Dover, Del.: “Just now by Express from Lewis [Lewes, Sussex County, Del.] I am Informed that two hundred and Twenty Eight of the Enemy’s ships have appeared in the offing—I have Sent a fresh man and Horse that this Inteligence may be the Sooner with you—I believe our Militia (if necessary) will Turn out Imediately pretty Generally—but must Let you know we are in great Want of Arms, Ammunition & Camp Utensils—if you Can, and think us Necessary, pray provide us with those things as far as in the power of Congress—Consistant with their other Calls” (DNA:PCC, item 78; see also Ryden, Rodney Letters description begins George Herbert Ryden, ed. Letters to and from Caesar Rodney, 1756–1784. Philadelphia, 1933. description ends , 201–2). Rodney’s letter, which is addressed in part “Per Thomas North Express who must be furnished with a Horse wherever he stands in need,” is endorsed by Maj. Gen. Thomas Mifflin, “Received at 10 Minutes after 3 OClock at Chester and forwarded at 30 Minutes after Three.”

Col. David Hall of the Delaware Continental Regiment wrote to Rodney at 8 A.M. on 2 Aug. to give new intelligence concerning the movement of the British fleet: “I find you are anxious to know the movements of the Fleet—On Wednesday (30 July) we first discovered them & in a little time we could make 23 Sail from the Light-House; they had every Appearance of coming into our Bay one of the small Vessels was placed in the Tail of the Hen & Chickens with a large flag as a Beacon for them & a Ship anchored in the Channel; thus they continued endeavoring to get in ’till the Evening when a large Ship which we took to be the Admiral fired a gun & immediately the whole Fleet tacked & stood off; except the Admiral with three or four others which lay close in the Cape ’till thursday Morning & about ten o’clock she fired a signal Gun and stood off for the Fleet which were to the eastward; immediately the whole Fleet changed their Course to about E.S.E. as near as we could judge the Wind being at S. and about four O’clock P.M.; they were out of sight; whether they were bound to New York or Virginia is not in my power to tell—Our disaffected were greatly disappointed by the Fleet not going up, as they expected the Matter would be shortly settled to their Satisfaction; several went on board of them from Indian River & Nehemiah Field & Samuel Edwards (two Pilots) from off our Beach—The northern & Western Battalions still adhere to their former Principles as not above four made their Appearance under Arms at the Alarm” (Ryden, Rodney Letters description begins George Herbert Ryden, ed. Letters to and from Caesar Rodney, 1756–1784. Philadelphia, 1933. description ends , 203–4). British officer Archibald Robertson confirms Hall’s intelligence in his diary entry for 30 July: “30th about 7 in the morning made Cape Henlopen at the Mouth of the Delaware, went up near to Cape James. The Roebuck who was Station’d there Spoke with the Admiral, at 3 in the Afternoon the wind fair to go up the River. The Admiral made a Signal for the Fleet to come under his Stern and Stood out of the River. The General Officers Went on board the Admiral. Said the Rebels had a great many fire rafts etc., etc. in the Delaware. The Admiral Stood towards the Chesapeak” (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 , 141).

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