George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Hancock, 17 October 1777

From John Hancock

York Town: Pennsylvania October 17th 1777.


I do myself the Honour to forward the enclosed Resolves in Obedience to the Commands of Congress, and shall only refer your Attention to them.1

I congratulate you on the Success of our Arms in the Northern Department. Lest you should not have recieved an Account of the Particulars from Genl Gates, I do myself the Pleasure to forward you a Copy of his Letter to Congress together with the Inclosures.2 From the Character and Rank of the Prisoners, I am in Hopes the Victory is compleat, and that it will be the Means of giving a decisive Turn henceforth to our Affairs in that Quarter. With every Wish in your Favour, and with Sentiments of perfect Esteem & Respect, I have the Honour to be, Sir your most obed. & very hble Servt

John Hancock Presid.

I have this moment Recd your favr of 16th which I shall lay before Congress on Monday.3

LS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 12A. On the LS the postscript is in Hancock’s writing. The letter-book copy includes some draft changes.

1Hancock enclosed copies of resolutions of this date commending Commo. John Hazelwood “and the other officers and men concerned in the defence of the river Delaware,” authorizing new measures for recruiting Continental soldiers and apprehending deserters, and establishing new regulations for the post office (DLC:GW; see also 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 , 9:813–17, and GW to Hancock, 21 Oct., and notes 1 and 2).

2The enclosed copy of Gates’s letter to Hancock of 12 Oct. from Saratoga, N.Y., concerns the recent American victory at Bemis Heights: “On the 7th inst. the enemy attacked our advanced Picket upon the left, which drew on an action about the same hour of the day, and near the same spot of ground where that of the 19th of Sepr [Freeman’s Farm] was fought. From three oClock in the afternoon until almost night the conflict was very warm and bloody, when the enemy, by a precipitate retreat, determined the fate of the day leaving in our hands eight peices of brass Cannon, the tents and baggage of their flying army, a large quantity of fixed Ammunition, a considerable number of wounded and prisoners, among whom are the following principal officers—Major Williams who commanded the artillery, Major Ackland who commanded the Corps of grenadiers, Capt. Money Q. Mr Genl and Sir Francis Clark principal Aid de Camp to his Excellency genl Burgoyne. The loss upon our side is not more than [blank] killed and wounded amongst the latter is the gallant Major genl Arnold, whose leg was fractur’d by a mus⟨ket⟩ ball as he was forcing the enemy’s breast work. Too much praise cannot be given to the Corps commanded by Colo. Morgan consisting of his rifle regiment, and the light Infantry of the army under Majr Dearborn. But it would be injustice not to say that the whole body engaged deserve the honour and applause due to such exalted merit. The night after the action the enemy took post in the strong entrenched Camp upon their left. Genl Lincoln, whose division was opposite to the enemy, going in the afternoon to dire⟨ct⟩ a Cannonade to annoy their Camp, received a Musket ball in his leg, which shattered the bone. This has deprived me of the assistance of one of the best of officers as well as men. His loss at this time cannot be too much regretted. I am in hopes his leg may yet be saved.

“The 9th at midnight the enemy quitted their Intrenchments and retired to Saratoga. Early in the morning of the 9th I received the inclosed letter from genl Burgoyne acquainting me that he left his whole hospital to my protection, in which are 300 wounded Officers & Soldiers. Brigadier gen. Frazer who commanded the flying army of the enemy was killed the 7th Inst. At one oClock in the morning of the 10th I received the enclosed letter from genl Burgoyne with Lady Harriot Ackland. That morning as soon as the army could be properly put in motion, I marched in pursuit of the enemy and arrived here in the evening, and found the enemy had taken post upon the opposite side of the Fish-Kill in an entrenched Camp which they occupied upon their advancing down the country. The enemy have burnt all the houses before them as they retreated. The extensive buildings and mills &c. belonging to Major genl Schuyler are also laid in ashes.

“This shameful behaviour occasion’d my sending a Drum with the enclosed letter to genl Burgoyne.

“I am happy to acquaint your Excellency that desertion has taken a deep root in the Royal army, Particularly among the Germans who come to us in shoals.

“I am so much pushed on every side with business that it is impossible for me to be more particular now, but I hope in a few days to have leisure to acquaint your Excellcy with every circumstance at present omitted” (DLC:GW).

Hancock also enclosed a copy of Gates’s letter to Burgoyne of 12 Oct. regarding the “Ravages” of the British army and individual wounded and captured officers (DLC:GW).

3The following Monday was 20 October.

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