George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel Israel Shreve, 18 May 1778

From Colonel Israel Shreve

Evesham [N.J.] May 18th 1778


Since Last thirsday1 ten foot, three Sailors, one Light Dragoon with horse and Accutriments, Deserters from the British Army and Navy Come in to this post, they All agree the heavy Baggage and Cannon is Loaded on Board the fleet, about 800 Remain at Coopers point, Cuting and Carrying Wood on board their fleet, I am Sorry I have to inform your Excy that a Guard of one Serjt and Six men, was Sent by Major Harrison from Woods town, for this post, with twelve prisoners Refugees, no way Confined, on their way Seized the Guard Carried of[f] five, the Serjt and one man Escaped.2

We have taken Several prisoners Since my Last, Exclusive of those that made their Escape among them, Wm Hamett, that Intriped young man that took two Continental officers at Docter Varlears (As mentioned in their papers)3 Mr Lowring you find offers a Lt for him, one of those he took. thought Best to Send it to your Excy to Shew their Lowlife threats, which we Value not.4

the Enemy has been once as far as Haddonfield, they Do not Care to Stir out much, at night Draw in their piquets near their Redouts.

Assoon as our Regts are full, I hope we Shall have a Sufficient number for this post.

by a Law of this State a Muster master is to attend at the Quarters of the Brigade, there muster and Receive the Drafts and Deliver them to Such Regt they Chuse,5 I understand Mr Dun the Mustermaster Is Going to Camp for that purpose, most of the men is nearly Ready to Join; to march Round to head Quarters, there be mustered, and then have to Return will take up Some time, and fateague those that Chuse to Serve in the two Regts here, I Wish they might be Mustered here, I have ordered Major Howell of the Second, and Capt. Piatt of the first to head Quarters to Receive those that Chuse our Regts If they ⟨must⟩ march there first.6

Ensign Jonathan Rhea of my Regt Sent in his Resignation Some time Last February, on account of the Sudden Death of his father, mother and Grandmother who were Carried off in a fortunet.7 he has Setled his Business and Joined us again, is very Desirous to Continue his Rank, he being the youngest officer in the Regt but one, Can make but Little uneasiness he is a Good officer a young man of a Good Edecation and famaly, Should be Glad his old Commission Could be Sent him in the Next Letter to me. this is Submitted by your Excys very Hume Servt

I. Shreve Colo.

N.B. I Omitted puting in Mr Lorings paper Cut open the Seal for that purpose.



1The previous Thursday was 14 May.

2William Harrison was appointed a major in Col. David Forman’s Additional Continental Regiment in May 1777 and resigned in July 1778. He was based at Woodstown in central Salem County, N.J., about ten miles northeast of the town of Salem. British captain John Montresor recorded in his journal on 5 May that “14 men on their march to Billingsport to join the Royal Army were apprehended by 7 of the Militia, but whilst they were carrying them off to the rebel head quarters, they seized on and disarmed their guards and brought them prisoners to Billingsport and from thence to this city” (Scull, Montresor Journals description begins G. D. Scull, ed. The Montresor Journals. New York, 1882. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vol. 14. description ends , 489).

3The Pennsylvania Evening Post (Philadelphia) printed this report on 18 March: “Sunday evening [15 March] William Hamet, an intrepid young man, who had suffered much by the rebel plunderers, and desirous of serving his country by securing its enemies, hearing that there were two rebel officers at Benjamin Vanleer’s in Jersey, passed over the Delaware with four others, with design to take them. On approaching the house, he judiciously placed one of his four companions as centries at each corner of it, broke open the door, passed up to the room where the two officers lay, and, with a fixed bayonet at their breasts, demanded their arms. Upon their denying they had any, he searched for them, and found under their bolster, and on a table, two swords and three pistols, which he immediately secured, and conducted the gentlemen safe to the provost in this city.” A court of oyer and terminer in Gloucester County, N.J., sentenced Hamet to death for high treason in December 1778 (Royal Gazette [New York], 30 Dec. 1778). Benjamin Van Leer (Vanlier; c.1733–1820) was a doctor who lived near Haddonfield in Newton Township, Gloucester County, New Jersey.

4The enclosed certificate was signed by commissary general of prisoners Joshua Loring at Philadelphia on 15 May: “This to Certify Whom it may Concern, that on the arrival of William Hammitt in Philadelphia, Lieut. —— Smith of Colo. Procters’ Artillery shall be released from his Confinement & sent out in Exchange for him, and should any sufferings be inflicted on said Hammitt, retaliation will be made” (DLC:GW). James Smith (c.1751–1835) became a second lieutenant in the 4th Continental Artillery Regiment in March 1777, was promoted to first lieutenant in December 1778, and became a captain-lieutenant in June 1779. He was exchanged in December 1780 and remained in service until June 1783.

5“An Act for the speedy and effectual recruiting of the four New-Jersey Regiments in the Service of the United States” was passed by the New Jersey general assembly on 3 April 1778 (N.J. Acts 1777, Second Sitting description begins Acts of the General Assembly of the State of New-Jersey. At a Session begun at Trenton on the 28th Day of October 1777, and continued by Adjournments. Being the second Sitting of their second Session. Trenton, 1778. description ends , 64–71).

6Daniel Piatt (1745–1780) was appointed a captain in the 1st New Jersey Regiment in December 1775, and his commission as major dated from January 1778. He died of disease in April 1780, receiving a Masonic funeral (see General Orders, 18 April 1780).

7By “fortunet” Shreve presumably means fortnight. Jonathan Rhea (d. 1815) had been appointed an ensign in the 2d New Jersey Regiment in January 1777. GW declined Shreve’s request in his reply of 23 May, but Rhea nevertheless returned to service in his old regiment with a commission backdated to April 1778.

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