George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Philemon Dickinson, 24 May 1778

To Major General Philemon Dickinson

Valley forge May 24th 1778 11 O’Clock P.M.

Dr Sir

From some intelligence received ⟨si⟩nce I wrote you to day,1 it would seem that the Enemy have a Land movement in view, but where or what their object is, is entirely a matter of incertainty.2 Some reports say they mean to make a push against us here and that this is the most common opinion—Others that their intention is to pass through Jersey. Lest the Latter should be their object, I think it will be highly expedient to prepare the Militia for assembling themselves on the shortest notice, and for this purpose that it will be adviseable to fix on certain Signals by which they may be the more expeditiously summoned. The Tree near prince Town, which is well known to you & to most people appear very proper to hoist Beacons on. I shall send you in the morning Two pieces of Artillery under the direction of proper Officers and some Matrosses, with which I am in hopes you will be able to give the Enemy some annoyance if Jersey is their Rout; It is said, that by cutting away the Bridges over Ancocus and [ ] Creeks & obstructing the Roads their march may be considerably retarded and rendered much more circuitous—But of this you will be a much better judge than I can possibly be. You know that there are Two Continental Regiments now in Jersey, which I trust will cooperate with you and give you every aid; and if I obtain no information between this & morning to alter my present Opinion, I shall detach General Maxwell with Two more, so that if the whole can unite and are joined by a tolerable number of Militia, I should hope that the Enemy will not be able to effect their retreat without some loss—At any rate it will be the means of restraining their parties and preventing them committing Such depredations as they otherwise might and perhaps of occasioning desertions. I will consult General Knox again upon the subject of Lead and if it is possible, I will forward you some. It is an Article with which we are illy provided here, and I am to request in case any can be spared, that you will have it used with the greatest discretion and œconomy. I am Dr Sir with great regard Yr Most Obedt servt


Df, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1The earlier letter of this date from GW to Dickinson has not been found.

2James McHenry wrote to Capt. Allen McLane on this date in thanks for some intelligence received: “Mr. W. got to Head Quarters about 12 OClock last night, and gave a full, and very satisfactory account of the enemy and their movements. His Excellency has only to desire that you will continue your usual vigilance, and give him the earliest information of what you may observe” (DLC: Toner Collection).

John Laurens wrote to McLane on 26 May in response to a letter that has not been found: “I have received your Letter and communicated its contents to His Excellency. intelligence becomes every moment more interesting—the grand fact of the enemys design to evacuate the city being ascertained, no pains should be spared to discover if possible the precise moment when the event is to take place, and the route which their army will pursue—whether they mean to cross the Delaware and march through Jerseys or cross the Schuylkil and march down to Chester to embark there, on account of the tedious navigation through the Chevaux de frise, and because they may cover their real march by a pretended attempt on this army—Endeavour to discover the number of Transports, their situation in the River as well as that of the Ships of War. Whether the horses that have been embarked were really Dragoon horses, or only those that are superfluous as their heavy Artillery and Baggage is embarked—and they wd march as light as possible through Jerseys provided they go that way.

“What are the Bridge Boats that you speak of, do you mean those that may be put together for facilitating the embarkation on board the Transports? His excellency desires that if you have sufficient ground for suspecting the Morris’s and Nice, of what you mention in your letter that you will immediately secure them and send them to Camp. I will endeavour to come and pay you a visit” (DLC:GW).

Laurens wrote to McLane again on 29 May: “His Excellency commands me to inform that as soon as you shall have received certain intelligence of the enemys having evacuated Philadelphia you are immediately to march with the detachment under your command to Camp—and not to suffer a single Soldier to enter the city—in the mean time you will continue your vigilance and activity—and transmit every interesting intelligence to Head Quarters” (DLC:GW).

Index Entries