George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General William Smallwood, 17 May 1778

From Brigadier General William Smallwood

Wilmington [Del.] May 17th 1778

Dear sir,

I have inclosed you the Proceedings and sentence of a Court Martial against one Jetson a person who for some time past has been not less dreaded, than fam’d for his Infamous Practices of Piloting the Enemy in the Night and Aiding them in kid-napping the more virtuous Inhabitants, particularly those who have Manifested an Attachment to, & have been active in Support of the Common Cause, and depriving them by force of their Property, he lately headed a party in the Neighbourhood of Port Penn and carried off Lieut. Hyatt of the Deleware Regiment, who was at his fathers recovering of a wound which he had recieved, Striping the Family of a good deal of Property at the same time,1 his depredations and range have principally been in the Neighbourhood of Duck Creek & Bomba Hook so remote from this, that there has not been an Opertunity of Adducing Several Evidences which might otherwise have appear’d against him, he was taken in the Thorough-fair of Duck Creek on the 12th Inst. after a Smart Engagement by Capt. Jaquet2 who I had detachd down to Cantwells Bridge with 50 Men to guard & Escort the removal of the Stores; Jetson was in a barge Carrying a two pounder in her Bow two Swivels & two Howitzers with one Capt: Cook who had Sixteen Men Arm’d with Musquets, & his Barge loaded with goods & wheat which he had traded for and was just proceeding on board of his Schooner which mounts 10 Carriage Guns and in which he has traded all this Winter loading her twice a week in that Creek without Interruption when Jaquet attacked him with 30 Men, took the barge kill’d wounded & took 14 Among the wounded & Prisoners was Captn Cook & his Mate3—I have since detached Upward of 100 Men under Colo. Pope to Secure and destroy all the Craft upon the⟨se⟩ Creeks and the Enemies Store houses and Granaries upon Bomba Hook to break up their Trade with the Inhabitants and to take off all the Stock on that Island and the Shores Adjacent which might lay in their reach, and if Possible to Apprehend China Clo⟨w⟩ and a party of 100 of his Adherents who I had understood had rendevouz’d on the Island with an Intention to Fortify it and keep up a Constant Communication with the Enemy or have it in their power to secure a retreat to their Shipping, I have not yet reciev’d any Accounts from Colo. Pope but on Friday Night a heavy firing was heard and a great light in that Quarter from which Conclude he was destroying their holds on the Island.4

Doctr McKinley, Capt. Moor of the Deleware Regt Mr Littler prisoners of war in Philada and Mr Patterson father of Genl Patterson whose daughter now lies in Philada in great distress are desirous to send in some flour agreeable to the list below to Support them and defray their past expences, this Indulgence their Sufferings and the past good Conduct of most of them, might justly Claim, but I did not think proper to grant it without your Approbation, I believe their present distress is great and perhaps your determination cannot be Signified too Speedily for their Circumstances5—I have also inclosed you an Application from Mrs Flowr on behalf of herself and Isaac Nichols who is represented to me as a Man of Honor to obtain leave to go into Philada the former thro’ her own & Mr Nichols’s Solicitation to obtain her husbands Parole and the latter in part to effect this purpose and to obtain a sum of Money lodg’d there for him by his son in England who I understand for some years past has Annually made remittances for his Support, you will therefore please Signify whether I may grant them a permit for these purposes or perhaps if not too troublesome one from yourself might have a better effect.6 I have the Honor to be with the greatest regard Your very Obdt Hble Servt

W. Smallwood


1John Vance Hyatt (1755–1806) was appointed an ensign in the Delaware Regiment in December 1776 and was promoted to second lieutenant in April 1777. Hyatt was taken prisoner at his home on 26 April 1778, promoted to first lieutenant while still imprisoned on Long Island in March 1779, and exchanged in March 1781. He left the army in January 1783.

2Peter Jaquett (1755–1834) was appointed an ensign in the Delaware Regiment in January 1776 and promoted to lieutenant a year later. He became a captain in April 1777 and served until the end of the war, receiving a brevet commission of major in June 1782. Although he was an active member of the Society of the Cincinnati after the war, his attempts to secure public office from GW met with failure (see Jaquett to GW, 18 April 1789).

3“Jetson” was Joseph Judson, a mariner from Appoquinimink Hundred, New Castle County, Del., who was convicted of trading with the British in 1779 but settled in Canada after the war. The schooner on which he sailed had been owned in the summer of 1777 by a pair of Philadelphia entrepreneurs, who named it the Duck Creek Packet and permitted it to be used to carry American casualties from the Battle of Brandywine to Philadelphia. In the fall of that year, the schooner “was carried off by one Joseph Judson the Master thereof who … stood down the River and Bay with her and during the Fall and part of the Winter employed her in Supplying the British Fleet with Wood” before being captured in Duck Creek in May 1778 (James Oellers and Henry Horne to Congress, 29 July 1778, DNA:PCC, item 41).

4Cheney (China) Clow, a laborer of Kent County, Del., who was active in the Delaware unrest of early 1778, was captured in May 1783 and accused of “being moved and seduced by the instigation of the Devil.” He was executed in 1787 (see Delaware Archives description begins Delaware Archives. 5 vols. 1911–19. Reprint. New York, 1974. description ends , 3:1296–99, and Smallwood to GW, 18 April, n.2).

5Samuel Patterson (c.1733–1785) was the son of William Patterson (d. 1794) of New Castle County, Del., since May 1777 a member of the Delaware house of assembly. Which of his daughters lay in “great distress” in Philadelphia has not been determined. Smallwood appended a list at the bottom of this letter indicating that John McKinly sought 25 barrels of flour, Mr. Littler sought 30 barrels, James Moore sought 20 barrels, and William Patterson asked for “15 or 20” barrels.

6Isaac Nichols, a former resident of Barbados who served as a customs agent in Boston and died before the end of the Revolutionary War, was the father of the well-known Boston Loyalist Rev. Robert Boucher Nichols (Nickolls; c.1739–1814), who spent most of the war in England (see Jones, The Loyalists of Massachusetts description begins E. Alfred Jones. The Loyalists of Massachusetts: Their Memorials, Petitions and Claims. London, 1930. description ends , 218–20). Smallwood enclosed an undated letter to him from John Lea, Jonathan Rumford, Jr., and Nicholas Way: “Being inform’d that Mrs Flower of Marcus hook whose Husband has been some time kept in close confinement in Philadelphia from an anxiety to make every interest for his release, has solicited a pass thro’ the American Guards on his way to Philadelphia for Mr Isaac Nichols late an Officer of the Customs and of the Neighbourhood of Boston, from whence after suffering great loss, he removed about the commencemt of the present War & has been settled within a few Miles of this place; the Subscribers being acquainted with Mr Nichols beg leave to mention in his favor that his polite behaviour and prudent conduct have gained him general esteem as a Gentleman and an inoffensive Citizen, and as we hear Mr Nichols desires a permission in part on his own Account to receive a sum of Money for the support of his Family, which he says is the gift of one of his Sons for this purpose; we apprehend his merit in supporting a character of unsuspected integrity in his present circumstances which are a striking contrast with the affluence he formerly enjoyed, together with his advanced Age and misfortunes justly recommend him to every indulgence which may be granted with propriety” (DLC:GW).

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