George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Captain Henry Lee, Jr., 20 January 1778

From Captain Henry Lee, Jr.

[Pa.] Jany 20th 78


I am to inform your Excellency of an action, which happened this morning, between a party of the enemy’s dragoons, & my troop of horse.

They were near two hundd in number, & by a very circuitous route endeavoured to surprize me, in quarters. About day break, they appeared, we were immediately alarm’d, & manned the doors & windows. The contest was very warm; the British dragoons trusting to their vast superiority in number, attempted to force their way into the house. In this they were baffled by the bravery of my men. After having left two killed & four wounded they desisted & sheered off. We are trying to intercept them. Col. Stevens has pushed a party of infantry, to rea[c]h their rear. So well directed was the opposition, that we drove them from the stables & saved every horse. We have got the arms, some cloaks &c. of their wounded. The only damage I at present know of is slight wound received by Lt Lindsay. I am apprehensive about the patroles.

The enterprize was certainly daring, tho’ the issue of it very ignominious. I had not a soldier for each window. I have the honor to be with most perfect respect your Excellencys most Obt Hb. Servt

Heny Lee jr


William Howe’s aide Captain Muenchhausen wrote in his diary on 19 Jan. that “At 11 o’clock at night, 40 dragoons were detached by a long roundabout way to seize a rebel dragoon captain by the name of Lee, who has alarmed us quite often by his boldness and who is stationed 15 miles from here.” Muenchhausen wrote on the following day that “Early in the morning this Captain Lee was indeed surprised by us; he lost two officers and eight dragoons, but he himself retreated with a few men into a massive building out of which our men could not force him, mainly because they could not stay any longer” (Muenchhausen, At General Howe’s Side description begins Friedrich von Muenchhausen. At General Howe’s Side, 1776–1778: The Diary of General William Howe’s Aide de Camp, Captain Friedrich von Muenchhausen. Translated by Ernst Kipping. Annotated by Samuel Smith. Monmouth Beach, N.J., 1974. description ends , 47).

On 28 Jan. the Pennsylvania Packet (Lancaster) printed the second paragraph of the general orders of 20 Jan. thanking Lee and gave this report of the engagement: “Early on Wednesday the 20th instant, Capt. Lee of the light horse, having with him three Commissioned Officers, a Corporal and three privates, was unexpectedly surrounded in a stone house, inhabited by one Scott, about 16 miles west of the city of Philadelphia, by a body of the enemy’s light horse, (supposed to be 200, but who since appears to be 130) and was there assaulted for some time by this large corps. The little garrison made so gallant a resistance, as to oblige the assailants to retire, with the loss of about 12 killed and wounded. A Quarter-Master Sergeant endeavouring to escape as the enemy came up, was taken, and they also caught 3 privates in returning, out of a patrole they met.” See also Moore, Diary description begins Frank Moore. Diary of the American Revolution from Newspapers and Original Documents. 2 vols. New York, 1859–60. description ends , 2:10.

Index Entries