George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Brigadier General William Smallwood, 12 September 1777

To Brigadier General William Smallwood

Derby [Pa.] Sepr 12th 1777.


Having more maturely considered ⟨the⟩ situation and circumstances of the Enemy, since Colo. Hamilton wrote you this Morning,1 It appears to me, that the Forces under your command, can not be employed to so much advantage in anyway, as by falling on the Enemy’s Rear and attacking & harrassing them, as Often as possible. I am persuaded many advantages will result from this measure. It will greatly retard their march, & give us time, and also will oblige them, either to keep a strong guard with their Sick & wounded, with which they must now ⟨be⟩ much incumbered—or to send ’em back under a large escort.2 In either case you will have an Opportunity of attacking with a good prospect of Success. Add to these considerations before you could join me by a circuitous march & your Troops were rested, Matters might be brought to a Crisis. I therefore wish you to pursue such line of Conduct, and that with all possible diligence and dispatch.3 You will also write to Genl Rodney & Colo. Gist urging them to push on & join you with all the force they have & can collect. It will be adviseable too for you to send into the Country as you march & to call in every aid you can; But I would not have you to wait for their joining, as they can do it after you have proceeded near the Enemy. No Exertions can be too great at this Time, and a Spirited Effort by the people would in all probability put a happy & speedy end to the present contest.4 I am Sir Yr Most Obedt sert

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, NjMoHP; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The mutilated words in the text of the LS are supplied within angle brackets from the draft. For significant differences in wording between the LS and draft texts, see notes 2, 3, and 4. The wording of the Varick transcript is nearly the same as that of the draft.

1This letter has not been identified.

2The draft reads: “or to send ’em back to their Shipping under a large escort, which you will have an Opportunity of attacking with a good prospect of success.” The succeeding sentence does not appear in the draft.

3The draft reads: “I therefore wish to you to pursue the line of conduct I have pomted out, and must urge you to every possible degree of diligence & dispatch.”

4The draft reads: “No exertions can be too great at this time and if the people would make a spirited effort, there is the strongest reason to beleive the present contest would terminate happily and speedily.”

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