George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major John Clark, Jr., 18 November 1777

From Major John Clark, Jr.

Newton Township [Pa.] 18th Novr 1777–12: oClock


A few Minutes ago one of my Friends came to me & informs me about 5000 of the Enemy crossed from Philadelphia at the Middle Ferry; they are on the Chester Road encamped a few Miles from Chester—they have a great many Baggage Waggons & a number of Field pieces, one of the Officers waiters assured my Friend the whole Army were moving on—others of the Privates say they are going to cross the Delaware—they surprized the Guard at the Blue Bell & took a few prisoners three of ours wounded & three of the Enemy killed including a Scotch Officer1—Gens. Potter Reed & Cadwalader are now reconnoitring & expected any moment2—the Militia moved up this morning to the Square—you will soon have a more particular account The Light Infantry of the Enemy are among the number above mentioned. I am in hast yours &c.

Jno. Clark Junr

P.S. I cou’d not procure an Express sooner.

ALS, DLC:GW. The cover indicates that Clark sent this letter “per Express.”

1British officer Archibald Robertson confirms this intelligence in his journal entry for 18 Nov.: “As Red Bank still remain’d to be taken possession of before the Ships could come up the River—17th—at midnight Lord Cornwallis from Philadelphia to Chester with the 1st Battalion Grenadiers, 1 Battalion Light Infantry, One Battalion Hessian Grenadiers, 50 Jagers, and the 33d and 27th Regiments. He reach’d Chester Early in the morning having only met a few Stragglers on the March. . . . This Corps was immediately Embark’d in small Craft and flat Boats and in the Evening we all Landed at Billings Port 6 miles from Chester up the River on the Jersey Shore where we found the Troops from New York under Sir Thomas Willson had that day likewise landed” (Lydenberg, Robertson Diaries description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends , 155–56).

Clark gives a fuller account of the night’s events in his letter to Paul Zantzinger of 20 Nov., which includes a description of the encounter between Cornwallis’s troops and an American picket guard that took place while the British were en route to Chester: “On the 17th at 12 P.M. His Lordship with 3000 British & Hessian Troops crossed the schuylkill at the Middle Ferry & filed off into the darby Road unnoticed where he surprised & took a Militia Picket in Number about 30 with the loss of 1 Captain 1 sergt Major & 3 Privates Killed & several wounded—He then proceeded to Chester” (John Clark, Jr., to Paul Zantzinger, 20 Nov., PHarH: Records of Pennsylvania’s Revolutionary Governments, 1775–1790; see also Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 1st ser., 6:23). Charles Craig’s second letter to GW of 18 Nov. also contains intelligence of the British troop movements.

2Joseph Reed had declined a brigadier general’s commission in the Continental army in the spring of 1777 and held no military appointment thereafter, but he nevertheless was addressed sometimes as general (see John Hancock to GW, 15 May 1777, and note 1, and Reed to Hancock, 7 June, in DNA:PCC, item 78).

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