George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General James Potter, 18 May 1778

From Brigadier General James Potter

Camp near the Cross Roads [Pa.] May 18th 1778


I have called on a Majestrate and taken the Testimony of five persons in regard of the Barbarity of the Brittish Troops to the Militia on the first Instant of which I send you inclosed,1 I can do little good in this part of the Country with my small party, I have about one hundred & ninety men, one half of them I keep in small parties on the Lines, they take up a number of Market People & whips them well and sends them off. All account agree that the Enemy are preparing to leave the City. I am your Excellencys Most obedt Humble Servt

Ja’s Potter


1The enclosed affidavits attested to British brutality at Crooked Billet, Pa., on 1 May (see John Lacey, Jr., to GW, 2 May). William Stayner of Philadelphia testified on 14 May that “several of the Brittish Light Infantry informed him, this Deponant, that in the Engagement with Genl Lacey on the first of May Inst: they Bayoneted some of Genl Laceys men after they had surrendered themselves Prisoners, others they threw into heaps of Buck-Wheat Straw while alive, & burnt them to Death” (DLC:GW).

Frederick Watts and Samuel Henry claimed on 14 May that they had “found the Bodies of the dead used in a most I[n]humane & barbarous manner, the field in which some of the men fell, there was Buck-Wheat Straw, which appeared to us they had taken and sett fire to, and threw the men into, whether quite dead or not we cannot tell, but when found, burnt to that digree that some of them could not be known, We viewed the Corps of most of the Dead & saw only two as we remember that had escaped the most cruel Barbarity that had ever been exercised by any Civilised Nation, nay Savage Barbarity in its utmost exertion of cruelty could not equal it” (DLC:GW).

Samuel Erwin testified on 15 May that on the day of the battle he “saw a smoke in one of his Fields, and after the Enemy had retreated, went out to see what was the occasion thereof, was much surprised to find one of the Militia men lying dead, his Clothes Burning and nearly consumed, which had burnt the body black, he thinks the man was set on fire before he was dead, from this sircumstance that his Arms were standing nearly erect, he further sayeth that he saw three other Bodies in Thos Cravans Field burnt in an inhuman manner, & further sayeth not” (DLC:GW). Thomas Creven swore on 15 May that after the battle “he was called on by one of the Brittish Light Horse to carry some Milch to one of their Wounded Officers, when he came into the Field he was asked by a Trooper if he did not see some fires round the Field, to which he said he did, the trooper said they were men, & that their own Amunition set them on fire after the Brittish lef[t] the ground he went again into the Field where he saw four or five men burnt to a Shocking digree” (DLC:GW).

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