George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Walton White, 20 September 1777

From Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Walton White

Philada 20. Septr 1777.


I beg Leave to inform you that my Wound is so much better that I am able to hop about again, and as I am not yet well enough to join my Regiment I should be happy to render any Service to my Country while I remain here.

Being the only Field Officer now in Town I have been frequently applied to by Captains Barre and Reid of the two Frigates and many of the Inhabitants to act as such, and order all the Ships, Shallops Boats &c. to Trenton as they conceive they will be of the greatest Service to the Enemy should they get Possession of the City.1

The Removal also of the Horses now in this town and its Neighbourhood, which may be scouted by the Tories; I think an Object worth attending to.2

With the Advice of many of the Inhabitants our Friends, I have ordered the Ships to be removed as far up the River as their Draught of Water will admit and I have informed the Owners of such Vessells as refuse to Comply with this Order that they will be burnt on the Approach of the Enemy.

I shall decline acting any further untill I have the Honor of your Excellency’s Instructions & Commands; Nothing cou’d have induced me to have acted this far without first acquainting your Excellency with it but the immediate Necessity of the Order and their being neither Congress, Board of War, Governor nor any Field Officer in town—but Your Excellencys most obedient humble servant

Anthy W: White

A few Light Dragoons ordered here will be of the greatest Service in Case of the Enemys Approach to this Town.


1John Barry (1745–1803), who was one of the more enterprising American naval officers of the Revolutionary War, at this time commanded the Continental frigate Effingham, which, along with the frigate Washington, commanded by Thomas Read, had been under construction near Philadelphia since the summer of 1776. Prevented from leaving the Delaware River by the British occupation of Philadelphia on 26 Sept., both vessels were sunk in early November by order of the Continental Navy Board (see GW to Navy Board, 25 Oct., and Navy Board to Barry, 2 Nov., in Naval Documents description begins William Bell Clark et al., eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 11 vols. to date. Washington, D.C., 1964—. description ends , 10:377). Barry, a native of Ireland who had settled in Philadelphia by 1760, was captain of a merchant ship at the beginning of the war. Given command of the Continental brig Lexington by Congress in March 1776, Barry soon distinguished himself by capturing several British sloops, and in June 1776 Congress appointed him captain of the Effingham. Using cannon from that unfinished vessel, Barry formed a temporary artillery battery that fought in the battles of Trenton and Princeton. After the scuttling of the Effingham, Barry took command of a squadron of boats on the Delaware River, and in March 1778 he captured two British ships and a schooner, an achievement for which he received GW’s thanks (see Barry to GW, 9 Mar. 1778, and GW to Barry, 12 Mar. 1778, both in DLC:GW). In September 1778 Barry briefly commanded the frigate Raleigh, which he was obliged to run aground when pursued by a British warship. He had better luck with the Alliance, which he successfully commanded from September 1780 to the end of the war. In 1794 Barry became commander of the frigate United States and senior captain in the navy, and during the 1798–99 Quasi-War with France he commanded the American naval forces in the West Indies.

2For the removal of horses from Philadelphia, see Alexander Hamilton to White, 23 Sept., in Instructions to Hamilton, c.21 Sept., n.3.

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