George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Samuel Chase, 25 August 1777

From Samuel Chase

Philadelphia. Augst 25. 1777.

Dear Sir.

From an Opinion that your Excellency would wish to be acquainted with the Country, which will probably be the Seat of this Summers Campain, and that a Knowledge of such Persons, there, in whom You may repose a Confidence, would be acceptable to You, I take the Liberty to solicit, for a Moment, your attention to this Subject.

You will receive, by Dr Shippen, a pretty exact Map of the Country, and which will afford a general Idea of it. the Distances & natural Advantages can only be known by your own observation. Mr Henry Hollingsworth is active and well acquainted; Mr Jos. Gilpin, Patrick Ewing, —— Hyland, Jos. Baxter, Charles Rumsey, Dockery Thompson and Wm Clark, all of Cæcil County, may be relied on.

If any Intelligence should be wanted, or Service rendered, in Kent County, John Voores & J. Henry at George Town, and Capt. —— Kent and —— Leathrbury, assembly Men, Joseph Nicholson Senr and John Cadwallader Esqr: may be depended on.

In Harford County, on the South Side of the Susquehanagh, your Orders will be readily & faithfully executed by Aquila Hall, Frank Holland, John Paca[,] Benjamin Rumsey & Jacob Giles.1

Colo. Patterson, near Xtteen Bridge bears a good Character.

One Charles Gordon, a Lawyer, and one —— Pearce, near George Town, one —— Millegan on Bohemia, and Danl Heath, near Warwick are very suspicious Characters.2 would it be improper for the above Gentlemen of Cæcil to give You an alphabetical List of all doubtful & suspected Persons?

If wanted, I am informed 50,000 Flints may be purchased in Baltimore. Mr William Lux will execute any of your orders there.3 a Considerable Quantity of Continental Powder is near that Place. I am Dear Sir with Sincere Esteem Your very affectionate obedient Servant

Saml Chase

I had almost forgot to request You to send an Engineer, if one can be spared to Baltimore and Annapolis, to advise in their Fortifications. could Genl Conway be spared to go there? I beleive Baltimore might be defended.


Samuel Chase (1741–1811), a prominent lawyer from Annapolis who was a delegate to the Continental Congress 1774–78, knew many of the local leaders in Maryland from his long service in the general assembly and eight of the nine provincial conventions. Strident and outspoken in nature, Chase seldom shied away from political controversy. He was an early and vigorous advocate of independence, and in the wake of John Sullivan’s mismanaged Staten Island raid and much-criticized role in the Battle of Brandywine, Chase tried unsuccessfully to remove Maryland and Delaware troops from Sullivan’s command. Chase became a subject of controversy himself in the fall of 1778 when he was accused of giving his Baltimore business partners insider information about Congress’s secret plan to buy flour for the French fleet so that they could speculate at public expense. Badly damaged in reputation by that episode, Chase restricted his political activities during the later part of the war to the general assembly. Although he voted against adoption of the Constitution as a member of the Maryland Ratification Committee in 1788, Chase later became a Federalist, and in 1796 GW appointed him to the U.S. Supreme Court. Impeached for improper judicial behavior in 1804, Chase was acquitted by the Senate in 1805, and he remained a justice until his death six years later.

1Most of the men mentioned in this letter were current or former members of the Maryland assembly. In Cecil County Joseph Gilpin (1725–1790) was a Head of Elk sawmill owner, and Patrick Ewing (1737–1819) was a yeoman residing in Octarara Hundred. Stephen Hyland (1743–1806) of North Elk Parish had been a captain in the Cecil County militia since 1776, and in September 1778 he was appointed a colonel. Joseph Baxter had been a second lieutenant of Col. William Smallwood’s Maryland regiment from January to May 1776. John Dockery Thompson (1743–1786) of Bohemia was a lieutenant colonel, later a colonel, of the Cecil County militia, and William Clark was a second lieutenant in the militia.

John Voorhees, a Kent County merchant, was acting in November 1777 as a brigade quartermaster of militia, and in July 1780 he became commissary of purchases for the county. “J. Henry” is apparently James Henry, who began his military career as a corporal in a Kent County minute company in January 1776. By June 1776 Henry was an ensign in the militia, and by January 1777 he had been promoted to captain. James Kent (c.1738–1805) of Queen Anne’s County was a captain in the county militia in January 1776, and in July 1776 he became a colonel of militia in the Maryland flying camp. He resigned his commission after one month in order to enter the Maryland Convention. Peregrine Lethrbury (Leatherbury; 1752–1801), a lawyer in Chestertown, Kent County, became a major in the county militia in December 1781. Joseph Nicholson, Sr. (1709–c.1787), a Chestertown merchant, had been a colonel of the militia before the war.

Aquila Hall (1727–1779), a Harford County merchant and mill owner, was made a captain of county militia in September 1775. He rose to the rank of colonel in January 1776, and he served as county lieutenant from July to November 1777. During the last week of August 1777 Hall commanded a few hundred militia at Harford Town and provided Gov. Thomas Johnson with information about British movements. Francis Holland (c.1745–1795), a planter and merchant in Harford County, enrolled as a private in a militia company in September 1775, and by October 1776 he was captain of a company in the Maryland flying camp. In April 1778 Holland became colonel of the county militia. John Paca (c.1712–1785), a Harford County planter and town developer, was the father of William Paca, one of the delegates to the Continental Congress. Benjamin Rumsey (1734–1808), a planter and lawyer who in September 1775 had become a captain and in January 1776 a colonel in the Harford County militia, at this time commanded a small body of militia at Joppa, where he was building a small fort and observing British troop movements. Although Rumsey was elected to the Continental Congress in November 1776 and February 1777, he attended irregularly. The Jacob Giles to whom Chase refers may be Jacob Giles, Sr. (1705–1784), a prominent Quaker who was part owner of the Cumberland forge and Bush River ironworks in Harford County, or one of his two sons Jacob, born respectively in 1733 and 1753 to different wives.

2Charles Gordon practiced law in Cecil County before being accused by the county committee of safety in 1775 of pro-British sympathies. In 1776 Gordon moved to Delaware where he provided provisions and other assistance to the British army before returning to Cecil County. When William Smallwood attempted to have Gordon arrested in April 1778, he fled to New York, and after the war he went to England. The “one Pearce” mentioned here may be James Pearce of Cecil County, who was accused by the clerk of the county court in October 1778 of having joined the British army. Daniel Heath supplied cattle to the British fleet before fleeing to the British lines in November 1777.

3William Lux (c.1730–1778), a merchant and shipowner in Baltimore who was a close political ally of Samuel Chase at this time, had been appointed the Continental prize agent for Maryland in April 1776.

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