George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Hancock, 23 August 1777

To John Hancock

August the 23d 1777


I beg leave to inform you, that the Army marched early this Morning, & will encamp, I expect, this Evening within Five or Six Miles of Philadelphia. To Morrow morning it will move again, and I think to march it through the City, but without halting. I am induced to do this, from the Opinion of Several of my Officers & Many Friends in Philadelphia, that it may have some influence on the minds of the dissaffected there and those who are Dupes to their artifices & opinions. The march will be down Front & up Chesnut Street, and, I presume about Seven OClock.1

Notwithstanding the arrival of the Enemy’s Fleet in Chesepeak Bay, and the seeming probability that Genl Howe will debark his Troops and attempt something, yet I would take the Liberty to mention, that I think the several Works for the defence of the City2 should be carried on with the usual industry, and that no pains should be omitted to compleat them. I would also advise that the same Look Outs for intelligence should be continued at the Capes, and the earliest information communicated of any thing material. For though the Fleet is in Chesepeak Bay, the Enemy may push in a Number of Vessels with Troops and make an effort to effect some Stroke against Philadelphia by Surprize. Such an Event does not seem probable, while they have a large shew of Force in a Neighbouring State, but it will be prudent to guard against. I have the Honor to be with great respect Sir Yr Most Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

P.S. I think some directions should be given Genl Armstrong respecting the Militia.

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The postscript is not included on the draft or the Varick transcript. Congress read this letter later on this date and referred it to the Board of War (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 , 8:668).

1For GW’s orders for the army’s march through Philadelphia, see General Orders, this date. Lt. James McMichael wrote in his diary entry for 23 Aug.: “At 3 A.M. we marched from camp at Cross Roads, passed the Crooked Billet, and proceeded to Stenton, near Germantown, where receiving orders to march thro’ Philadelphia next day, we encamped. The night was wet and the camp disadvantageous.” For 24 Aug. McMichael wrote: “At 3 A.M. the General was beat, when all tents were struck, and at 4 o’clock we marched for Philadelphia. At 6 A.M. we entered Front street, passed down the same in sub-divisions to Chestnut street, when turning we proceeded to the Commons, thence over the Middle Ferry on Schuylkill, to the heights of Derby, at 8 P.M. where we encamped” ((“McMichael’s Diary,” description begins William P. McMichael. “Diary of Lieutenant James McMichael, of the Pennsylvania Line, 1776–1778.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 16 (1892): 129–59. description ends 147; see also “Old Virginia Line,” description begins Lyon G. Tyler. “The Old Virginia Line in the Middle States during the American Revolution.” Tyler’s Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine 12 (1930–31): 1–43, 90–141, 198–203, 283–89. description ends 287, and Pickering and Upham, Life of Pickering description begins Octavius Pickering and Charles W. Upham. The Life of Timothy Pickering. 4 vols. Boston, 1867–73. description ends , 1:152).

John Adams wrote Abigail Adams from Philadelphia on 24 Aug.: “This Morning was fair, but now it is overcast and rains very hard which will spoil our Show, and wett the Army. 12. O Clock. The Rain ceased and the Army marched through the Town, between Seven and Ten O Clock. The Waggons went another Road. Four Regiments of Light Horse—Blands, Bailers, Sheldons, and Moylands. Four Grand Divisions of the Army—and the Artillery with the Matrosses. They marched Twelve deep, and yet took up above two Hours in passing by. General Washington and the other General Officers, and their Aids on Horse back. The Colonels and other Field Officers on Horse back” (Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 7:538–39). Rhode Island delegate Henry Marchant wrote Gov. Nicholas Cooke on 24 Aug. that the troops marched “with a lively smart Step” (ibid., 540–42), and Richard Henry Lee wrote Thomas Jefferson on 25 Aug. that “they made a fine appearance” (ibid., 550–52; see also Graydon, Memoirs description begins Alexander Graydon. Memoirs of His Own Time. With Reminiscences of the Men and Events of the Revolution. Edited by John Stockton Littell. Philadelphia, 1846. description ends , 291, and Lafayette’s Memoir of 1779 in Lafayette Papers description begins Stanley J. Idzerda et al., eds. Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution: Selected Letters and Papers, 1776–1790. 5 vols. Ithaca, N.Y., 1977-83. description ends , 1:91–92).

While passing through Philadelphia on 24 Aug., GW and his military family stopped for refreshment at the City Tavern on Second Street above Walnut. Caleb Gibbs paid proprietor Daniel Smith £12 for punch and 7s.6d. for grog, and he paid £1.16 for feeding twelve horses hay and oats at a nearby stable. Robert Hanson Harrison paid $4 for the “Expences for his Excellency’s Servants & those of the family at Smiths Tavern” (Gibbs’s entries for 24 Aug. and 2 Sept. in household account book, 11 April 1776–21 Nov. 1780, DLC:GW, ser. 5, vol. 28; Smith’s and Harrison’s accounts, 24 Aug., in vouchers and receipted accounts, 1776–80, DLC:GW, ser. 5, vol. 29).

2The draft and Varick transcript both read: “the defence of Delaware.”

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