George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Captain Henry Lee, Jr., 23 December 1777

From Captain Henry Lee, Jr.

Decembr 23d [1777] P.M 9 Oclock


On hearing of the enemys excursion I immediately left camp, & moved down towards Darby. Early this morning we sat out on the partizan business; having fully reconnoitred the enemys disposition, whom we found posted in force, tho loose in their position I divided my Troop. Lt Lindsay with Major Clarke whom we accidentally met with took the route towards Chester, while myself with the other party visited the right of their encampment. Nothing of consequence occurred in my quarter. Mr Lindsay after having reached the Chester road, received information of a number of marauders down towards the river. He immediately posted two videts on that road with proper instructions, whilst he himself pursued in quest of his prey. The experiment was certainly daring, but the risk was not equal to the prospect of success. The videts posted by the road, were deceived by the dress & behavior of a large party of the enemys dragoons put in search of forage. The consequence of which was that Mr Lindsay was obliged to relinquish his design, & one of his videts fell into the enemys hands. Knowing that Col. Butler was not far off, he applied to him for assistance. It was immediately granted. Ten of the dragoons were taken & thirteen horses. Their Captn Lee, escaped. The lost soldier was also retaken. They belonged to Preston’s regimt, the 17th. I take the liberty of mentioning to your Excellency the superiority of the enemy cavalry in the excellence of their horses & discipline.1 With the most perfect respect

Heny Lee j.

ALS, DLC:GW. The cover indicates that Lee sent this letter “pr dragoon.”

1Hessian general Carl Leopold Baurmeister gives an account of this engagement between British light dragoons and Col. Richard Butler’s Pennsylvania troops: “A scouting party of one officer and twenty horse of the 17th Regiment of Dragoons followed the Darby road toward Wilmington with such utter heedlessness that at four o’clock in the afternoon of the 23rd of December they fell into an ambush. After firing one round, thirteen horses and eleven dragoons were captured” (Baurmeister, Revolution in America description begins Carl Leopold Baurmeister. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. New Brunswick, N.J., 1957. description ends , 148; see also 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 , 162). Thomas Leigh, formerly a lieutenant in the British 16th Regiment of Light Dragoons, had been promoted to captain of the 17th Regiment of Light Dragoons on 14 December.

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