George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Stirling, 30 August 1777

From Major General Stirling

Price’s Near the Swedish Church near Derby [Pa.]1
August 30th 1777.

My dear General

I thank you kindly for your letter of the 27th.2 My Bruises are so much better, that I can move Gently without much pain, & hope tomorrow or Next day to be able to Join the Army in a Chair or Sulky, at least I will make the Experiment. I have hitherto been obliged to lay Cheifly on my back.

Considering the Abundance of Militia which are now turning out to Join the Army and the Unformed State they Generally are in; & the difficulty & Expence of provideing such a Multitude with provisions and Waggons. I was led this Morning to form a plan of Makeing the best use, of the Most Serviceable among them: The enclosed paper Contains what has occured to me on the Occasion.3 Besides the good purposes mentioned in the paper, the plan if Carried into Execution will have this other Effect, that the Enemy will be Confined to their own lines & will not be able to avail themselves of any benefit from their forageing or plundering parties, and will in a great Measure Cut off their Intelligence, and their Reconitering parties; on Occasion of a General Action they Can be Called to Act on the flanks of the Enemys line of Battle or to Cut off their Retreat not a word should be said that this will relive the rest of the Militia ’till the Brigade’s are all Compleated. Genl Sulivans division I am informed is this Afternoon Encamped on the hither side of Schuylkill, Dayton & Ogden’s Regiments will be this Evening near Derby. I am ever your faithfull & Affectionate Humble Servt



1The Price family mansion, which probably was owned at this time by Philip Price, stood near the Swedish Lutheran Church of St. James’s in Kingsessington on the east side of Cobb’s Creek about two miles from Darby.

2This letter has not been found.

3Stirling’s enclosed plan for the militia, dated 30 Aug., reads: “Proposed That three Brigades of Light Troops be formed out of the Militia on the following plan. Each Brigade to Consist of One Brigadier[,] Two Colonels[,] Eight Corps or Battalions, each of which is to Consist of 3 Companies, Commanded by One Field Officer[,] Three Captains[,] Six Lieutenants[,] Nine Serjeants[,] Three Conck Shell Horn blowers[,] 150 Rank & File[.] Each Colonel to have the Command of four of the Batalion.

“Two of these Brigades should be kept Constantly on the flanks of the Enemy in Battalions or Companies, to take every opportunity of Firing on the Enemy and to Harrass them day and Night. the other Brigade to do the like in and about the Rear; The Brigadiers are, when they see a proper Occasion, to Order two, three or more of the Battalions to Join together for some sudden Stroke, but they must not remain long together in large Bodies, nor in one place; they should frequently Change their ground, especially in the evening directly after it is dark; The Brigadiers will daily Assign the proper Stations to their Colonels & they to the Commanding Officers of their Battalions. The Commandg Officers of the Battalions are immediately to inform their Colonels of every thing Material that happens, the Colonels are to Communicate the same to their Brigadiers who are daily to transmit the same with whatever Intelligence they recieve, particularly the Motions of the Enemy to the Commander in Chief, or to the nearest Commanding General—But if any thing Material should happen it is to be Communicated Instantly—The Brigadiers should Correspond with each other, and frequently agree upon a Certain hour for all their Battalions to attack at the same time, or on any other Manuevers which Circumstances render adviseable—It will be a good Constant rule in every attack to Continue your fire on the Enemy’s Line for eight or Ten Rounds, & no more, altho they should not pursue—If the Enemy should pursue any Battalion or party, it should instantly retire, keeping at long Musquet Shell from them, & immediately inform the next Battalions on the Right and Left, who are forthwith to attack the flanks of the Enemy’s party; The party pursued may then Close in with the Enemy, if they are not too large a body—The Battalions after every Skirmish, or Action, are immediately to Compleat their Amunition.

“A Troop of Light Horse made up out of the Militia of the Country should be attached to each Brigade.

“If three or four such Brigades could be made up of Volunteers from the Militia to remain with the Army, While the Enemy Continue in Maryland Pensilvania, or Virginia; there would be but little use for any other Militia. They would be of more use than Twenty Thousand in the Common Way, Relieve the Army of a prodigious load of baggage, and Waggons and save an expence which will otherwise be immense.

“The Temptation of plunder operates Strongly on the Minds of the Common people, especially the best Woodsmen—I would therefore give them all the Plunder they Actually take from the Enemy” (ADS, DLC:GW).

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