From Brigadier General William Smallwood
Nottingham [Md.] 13th Septr 1777
After meeting with many impediments in the Commissary’s & Quarter masters departments, which have delayed considerably the march of the Militia under my command I arrived here yesterday evening with about 700 effectives and expect to be joined in a day or two by 600 more exclusive of the body under Colo. Gist, who was yesterday at Christeen & will pursue the rout you have chalked out for him: altho’ I have strong expectations of being at the head of 1300 effective men in the course of two or 3 days not above 800 of them will have arms, unless your Excellency can supply the deficiency—I have written by this opportunity to the commanding Officer at Wilmington for 30 M. cartridges from No. 16 to 21—unless we receive these cartridges our men can be of no Service being very badly provided with that article, and their arms at best but indifferent. A box of mixed cartridges from Number 25 to 28 will also be wanting. The men are thinly clad, many of them without tents & badly trained, but seem willing & well disposed and in good Spirits. I intend as Soon as the men are provided with the above necessaries to hang on the Enemy’s rear & left flank and to harass them as much as we can. If your Excellency should be of opinion that the militia under my command can act more usefully in some other quarter, I beg your directions and you may be assured I will do my utmost to follow them. I must request your Excellency to provide me with the above mentioned cartridges, if they can not be obtained from Willmington: I have sent two expresses to Governor Johnson for cartridges & other necessaries, but I fear he will not be able to supply in time the numbers wanted.1 I have the Honor to be with much Regard yr Excellency’s most obedt Hble Sert
GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison replied to Smallwood the following day from the Buck Tavern on the Lancaster Road: “His Excellency has received your Letter of Yesterday, and is sorry to find the Force you have is so small, and that too, so illy provided with Arms & Ammunition. To remedy the former will be extremely difficult—I may add impracticable—As to the latter, an Order has been given to Genl Knox to send on a Supply. His Excellency begs you will push on as expeditiously as possible with what Troops you now have leaving those in your rear to follow, and that you will either annoy & harrass the Enemy on their Flank or Rear or proceed to join him as shall seem best from circumstances. The Ammunition he expects you will meet, But he wishes you, if you can, to obtain a Supply of powder out of a Quantity said to be deposited at a Saml Youngs about Nine Miles from Wilmington in Mill Creek Hundred. You will also write Colo. Gist and give him such directions to cooperate with you as shall appear most conducive to the Service—The General also desires, that you will be punctual in giving him information every day by trusty persons—of your Route, your views and of the places you will encamp at, that he may be in a situation to concert such a Line of Conduct as may be best to be pursued. Your own good Judgement and feelings will readily suggest the necessity of the most vigorous exertions at this Interesting period, and I am persuaded you will afford every aid in your power with all possible dispatch. The Enemy are now advanced, as far as, [ ] and there is every reason to believe they will make a violent Effort to possess themselves of Philadelphia & that in the course of two or three days at farthest.” In a postscript to the letter, Harrison writes: “Having spoken to many of my Officers respecting the Line of conduct you should pursue, it is the general Opinion, that you can not render so much service, as by perpetually hanging on & annoying their Rear. This I wish you to do without you should find it unadvisable from some very particular circumstances” (DLC:GW).