George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Hancock, 18 September 1777

From John Hancock

Philada Septr 18th 1777. 10 O’Clock. P.M.


Last Night I was duely honoured with your Favour of yesterday, and this Day communicated the same to Congress.

A few Minutes ago I received a Letter by Express from Genl Dickinson (a Copy of which I enclose) covering one to you, which I also forward.1

A certain Joseph Burns of Chester County, who had been sent out by Genl Wayne to reconnoitre the Situation of the Enemy, has this Moment called on me.2 He says he found them within seven or eight Miles of the Swede’s Ford; and being unable to get back again, was under a Necessity of making the best of his Way to this City. He further says, that some of the Pennsylvania light Horse on their Return to Town, had made Prisoners of two British Soldiers within eighteen Miles of this City on the Lancaster Road. I thought it best to lay this Intelligence before you, and to transmit it immediately by Express—and have the Honour to be, with the greatest Respect Sir your most obed. & very hble Servt

John Hancock Presidt

The Inclos’d Letter from Col. Wood Congress Refer to you.3

LS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 12A. The postscript of the LS is in Hancock’s writing.

1Hancock forwarded Philemon Dickinson’s letter to GW of 17 Sept., and he enclosed a copy of the letter that Dickinson wrote to him on 18 Sept. at “Colo. Quicks Farm near Brunswick,” which reads: “By Express just received from genl Wines [William Winds] at Hackinsack, I am informed the enemy have crossed the North-river, & have taken with them two thousand head of Cattle—Genl Wines says, from the best accounts he could possibly collect the numbers of the enemy was near or quite four thousand men, & that generals Clinton, Campbell, Tryon, & Skinners were with them—what the original intentions of this manauvre were, I am at a loss to determine, as they have left this state with so much precipitation—I can scarcely think genl Clinton with such a force, would have come out on a foraging party, when he knew there was no force in Jersey collected to oppose him.

“Genl McDougall with his brigade, (who is at Hackinsack) shall go on immediately to join the army under the immediate command of his Excellency genl Washington.

“Our militia are collecting very fast, I shall march a 1,000 men this evening into Elizabeth-Town at which post, I expect to collect a body of three thousand men, in a few days.

“I make no doubt the enemy were apprized of the force that was collecting as all our movements are known to them. I have wrote the general by this Express & shall wait his further orders at Elizabeth-Town” (DLC:GW).

2This informant may be the Joseph Burns who was an ensign in the 6th Regiment of the Chester County militia in 1781 and 1782.

3Congress on this date read “a letter, of the 14, from Colonel J[oseph] Wood” and resolved “that it be transmitted to General Washington” (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 , 8:753). This enclosure has not been identified.

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