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From George Washington to Brigadier General John Cadwalader, 28 August 1777

To Brigadier General John Cadwalader

Wilmington [Del.] August 28: 1777.

Dr Sir

General Howe has advanced part of his Force about Two miles this side the Head of Elk, and from the information of Deserters and prisoners, there is reason to beleive, he is either marching or soon will be towards Philadelphia.1 If that is his Object, and of which there can be but little doubt, I think many important advantages would be derived from the Militias hanging on his Rear or Right Flank, after he leaves Elk, while he is opposed by this Army in Front or in such Other way as shall seem most adviseable from circumstances. But then, I am wholly at a loss to whom to address myself respecting the Militia on the Eastern shore, not knowing their Officers or where they are assembling. The Congress thought proper to point out Genl Smallwood and Colo. Gist to arrange & conduct ’em, who, owing, I suppose to a miscarriage of the dispatches that were sent them, have not yet reached this place, nor have I heard any thing of them. Matters being thus circumstanced, and as the aid of the Militia is very material2 and no time is to be lost in obtaining It, I must request your Good Offices and interest in assisting to assemble—spirit up and forward them in the best manner things will a⟨llow⟩3 towards the Head of the Bay, that they may be in a situation to annoy the Enemy should they make a push against Philadelphia; giving such advice and direction to the Officers as shall appear to you necessary and proper. I know well, that your situation in this instance will be delicate and not a little embarrassing. I feel myself in that predicament; Yet, I trust the exigency of our Affairs will not only furnish an apology but will fully justifye your interesting yourself upon this Subject. For the requisition I have made, I shall offer no excuse. It is the result of necessity and founded in the most implicit confidence that you are, and will be ready upon all occasions to afford every aid in your power to advance the true interest and happiness of your Country; influenced by these considerations I have made It, and have only to add that I am with great regard & esteem Dr Sir Yr Most Obedt servt

Go: Washington

P.S. Several deserters have come in to day and our parties made between thirty & forty prisoners.

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, PHi: Cadwalader Collection; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The postscript to the LS is not included on the draft or the Varick transcript. GW franked the cover of the LS, which includes Harrison’s inscription: “Wilmington—12 oClock at Night.”

1Having been prevented from marching the previous day by heavy rain, Howe’s army began its advance toward Head of Elk about four o’clock on the morning of 28 August. “Since the region here is heavily wooded and cut up with ravines,” Howe’s aide Captain Muenchhausen says in his diary entry for this date, “we marched very slowly and carefully. It was 10 o’clock when the head of our column got beyond the pretty little town of Head of Elk, where we halted for an hour to repair the bridge so that our artillery could cross. While the bridge was being repaired the troops marched through the water up to their knees.

“We observed some officers on a wooded hill opposite us [Grays Hill], all of them either in blue and white or blue and red, though one was dressed unobtrusively in a plain gray coat. These gentlemen observed us with their glasses as carefully as we observed them. Those of our officers who know Washington well, maintained that the man in the plain coat was Washington. The hills from which they were viewing us seemed to be alive with troops.

“My General [Howe] deployed 3,000 men and marched forward. As soon as they observed our advance, they retreated; we caught only two dragoons. These dragoons and some Negro slaves confirmed that it was Washington with his suite and a strong escort that was looking us over. Most of our troops halted on and around this height. . . . From talk said to have been from the lips of Washington and some of his officers, we learn that Washington believes our objective to be Lancaster rather than Philadelphia” (Muenchhausen, At General Howe’s Side description begins Friedrich von Muenchhausen. At General Howe’s Side, 1776–1778: The Diary of General William Howe’s Aide de Camp, Captain Friedrich von Muenchhausen. Translated by Ernst Kipping. Annotated by Samuel Smith. Monmouth Beach, N.J., 1974. description ends , 26; see also André, Journal description begins John André. Major André’s Journal: Operations of the British Army under Lieutenant Generals Sir William Howe and Sir Henry Clinton, June 1777 to November 1778. 1930. Reprint. New York, 1968. description ends , 38–39; Lydenberg, Robertson Diaries description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends , 143; 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 , 443; Baurmeister, Revolution in America description begins Carl Leopold Baurmeister. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. New Brunswick, N.J., 1957. description ends , 100; and Ewald, Diary description begins Johann Ewald. Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal. Translated and edited by Joseph P. Tustin. New Haven and London, 1979. description ends , 75–76).

2The draft and the Varick transcript both read: “extremely necessary.”

3The draft and Varick transcript both read: “in the best manner you can.”

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