George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General William Smallwood, 28 March 1778

From Brigadier General William Smallwood

Wilmington [Del.] March 28th 1778

Dear Sir,

I have inclosed you Depositions &c., relative to the Treatment of the British Prisoners Captured in the Brig Symetry during their Stay here—shou’d have transmitted them before, but have waited in expectation of obtaining Colo. Gunbys, Captns Godmans, & Learmonths De-positions, which would have been very material, as they were privy to the whole transactions from the Time of the Brigs Capture, but they have not yet Returned.1

The Enemy about four Days ago had a Fleet of near 50 Sail standing up the River, which I fancy was from New York—and yesterdy their Foraging Fleet went up, without touching on this Side the Delaware, except three or four small Parties about Fort Penn, who have been constantly drove off by a Party of 100 of our Men, who have been guarding & aiding the removal of the Forage on that Shore—which is at length happily effected2—A Gentleman out of Philadelphia on Friday last, informed me he saw Genl Lee in the Coffee House there, but can give no account whether he came by Land, or with the Fleet3—I have the Honor to be with much Regard your Excellencys very Obedt Hble Sert

W. Smallwood


1The enclosed depositions have not been identified. Samuel Godman of Anne Arundel County, Md., who had served as a first lieutenant in the 3d Maryland Regiment from July 1776, became a captain in the 4th Maryland Regiment in December 1776. He resigned his commission in May 1779. John Learmonth, of Sussex County, Del., who had been commissioned a second lieutenant in the Delaware Regiment in January 1776, was promoted to first lieutenant in November 1776 and to captain in April 1777. He was captured at the Battle of Camden in August 1780 and remained a prisoner until the end of the war. For discussion of the capture of the British transport brig Symmetry in December 1777, see Smallwood to GW, 30 Dec. 1777, and note 3 to that document. For GW’s request that Smallwood provide information about the treatment of prisoners captured with the Symmetry, see GW to Smallwood, 6 Mar.; see also Smallwood to GW, 9–10 March.

2British artillery officer Francis Downman wrote in his journal for 28 Mar.: “A number of vessels arrived to-day from England with recruits and provisions, last from New York.” He also noted: “The three regiments that went down the river the other day returned the 28th, after collecting a great quantity of forage without any loss and disposing of a few of the rebels, i.e. bayoneting them and bringing some prisoners” (Whinyates, Services of Francis Downman description begins F. A. Whinyates, ed. The Services of Lieut.-Colonel Francis Downman, R.A., in France, North America, and the West Indies, between the Years 1758 and 1784. Woolwich, England, 1898. description ends , 57). The “Foraging Fleet” was transporting the expedition led by Col. Charles Mawhood, which left Salem, N.J., on 27 Mar. (see 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 , 166; see also 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 , 49).

3According to the Royal Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia) of Friday, 27 Mar., Maj. Gen. Charles Lee arrived at Philadelphia on the afternoon of 25 Mar. by land from New York.

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