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To George Washington from John McKinly, 28 February 1777

From John McKinly

Wilmington [Del.] 28th Febry 1777

Sir

I received Directions from the General Assembly of this State just before their adjournment, a few Days agoe, to acquaint your Excellency that on the Receipt of your Letter of the 31st January last, they passed “An Act against Desertion & harbouring ⟨Deserters⟩ or dealing with them in certain Cases” which I flatter myself will answer the intended purpose1—I also have it in charge to inform You that Lieut. Collo. Bedford & Major McDonagh totally decline entering into the Service—& to remind You that the Battalion raising in this State is without Field Officers, the want of whom has gr⟨ea⟩tly delayed the filling up of the Battalion—there are some Vacancies among the ⟨mutilated such⟩ as have come to my knowledge I have noted in the general ⟨mutilated⟩ Companies, nearly full, raised by the Captains Kirkwood ⟨mutilated m⟩arching Orders & I expect they will proceed this Day to Philad⟨elphia mutilated⟩ furnished with Cloathing & some Accoutrements2—We have not had ⟨with⟩ our ⟨mutilated⟩ either Linnens or Woolens from abroad—some few attempts that have been made proved unsuccessfull & the home manufacture is very triffling, therefore our Quota of Troops must depend upon the publick Stock for Cloathing—by the Returns of the other Captains about the beginning of this Month some of their Companies were about half full, others extremely deficient—The recruiting Service suffered much in it’s beginning by the uncommon Sickness & Death of the Men who returned from the late Campaign, about the Months of December & January, & by the want of money to pay off those that had served out their time of Inlistment in the Delaware Battalion—We have also had a Number of recruiting Parties from other States constantly amongst us—I mention these things as an Apology for our recruiting Officers not being in greater forwardness with their Companies—Enclosed your Excellency will find, Doctr Tiltons Commission & Letter of Resignation, with two Blank Commissions intended for the Lt Collo. & Major, & Copies of the Report &c. of Collos. Collins & West Commissioners from this State for the Appointment of Officers, as returned to the General Assembly, for your further information.3 I have the honor to be with the greatest Esteem—Sir—Yr most obedt humble Servt

Jno. McKinly Presid⟨t⟩

ALS, DLC:GW. The Delaware general assembly requested McKinly to draft this letter on 22 Feb., the last day of its session (see Delaware House of Assembly Journal description begins Votes of the House of Assembly of the Delaware State, Held at New-Castle on Monday October 28, 1776. Wilmington, Del., 1777. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records.) description ends , 28 Oct. 1776–7 June 1777 sess., 97). The material in angle brackets is mutilated. John McKinly (1721–1796), a Wilmington physician and a colonel in the Newcastle County militia, was elected president of Delaware in February 1777. The British army captured McKinly in September 1777 and held him prisoner until August 1778, when he was released upon parole. After his exchange in September 1778 he retired from public service to resume his medical practice.

1Before adjourning on 22 Feb., the Delaware general assembly requested McKinly to inform GW that it had passed an act dealing with deserters as a result of GW’s Circular to Eleven States of 31 Jan.-1 Feb. 1777, which it received on 7 Feb. (see Delaware House of Assembly Journal description begins Votes of the House of Assembly of the Delaware State, Held at New-Castle on Monday October 28, 1776. Wilmington, Del., 1777. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records.) description ends , 28 Oct. 1776–7 June 1777 sess., 51, 64, 65, 83, 94, 86 [96], 97).

2Robert H. Kirkwood, Jr. (d. 1791), a farmer from Newcastle County, Del., was appointed a first lieutenant in the Delaware Regiment on 17 Jan. 1776 and promoted to captain the following December. He was brevetted major in September 1783. In March 1791 Kirkwood was commissioned a captain in the U.S. Army, and on 4 Nov. 1791 he was killed during the confederated Indian army victory over Maj. Gen. Arthur St. Clair’s forces near Fort Recovery, Ohio.

3These enclosures have not been identified. James Tilton (1745–1822) of Kent County, Del., who studied medicine at the College of Philadelphia (later the University of Pennsylvania), was appointed a surgeon in the Delaware Regiment on 16 Jan. 1776. He resigned from the regiment after the Battle of Princeton, and on 28 Jan. 1777 the Delaware general assembly ordered his letter of resignation to be sent to GW (see Delaware Archives description begins Delaware Archives. 5 vols. 1911–19. Reprint. New York, 1974. description ends , 1:85). Tilton soon regretted his resignation, and in April 1777 he reentered the military as a hospital physician and surgeon, serving eventually at hospitals in Princeton and Trenton, N.J., New Windsor, Md., and Williamsburg, Virginia. In 1783 he was elected to the Continental Congress, and he later served in the Delaware house of representatives. Tilton served as physician and surgeon general of the U.S. Army during the War of 1812. Thomas Collins (1732–1789), who was born in England, was the high sheriff of Kent County in the 1760s. He was commissioned a lieutenant colonel in the Delaware militia in May 1775 and promoted to brigadier general in June 1778. Collins was elected president of Delaware in 1786. Samuel West was appointed a colonel in the Delaware militia in the fall of 1776.

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