George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel Theodorick Bland, 11 December 1777

From Colonel Theodorick Bland

Jonathan Robertsons Smith shop near the Road which
leads down to Bedwin’s ford [11 December 1777]1


I have detached Let Coll Temple with a small Party from Matsons to the Lancaster Road with orders to fall in at the Seventeen milestone and proceed down the road on the front of the Enemy (dataching a party to gain their left) and if they are on the retreat to move down & Join me as low as Marian Meeting, Majr Jamison with another party I detached about two or three mile in the rear of this place from my Right to fall in with the right of the Enemy supposing them to front towards Lancaster & I myself an proceeding down towards Merian & the ferries. I have Just heard a firing which continued pretty smart about two minutes and ceased. it was in the direction of the buck Tavern, the Country people say almost exactly where it began yesterday with the Militia, I write this to Inform yr Excy that from every information I have yet obtaind & from that firing tis probable the Enemy are yet on that ground, I expect I shall soon learn in What Number from the parties on their flanks & front & Myself being in their rear as I soon expect to be. Unless I can obtain certain & satisfactory intelligence with respect to Numbers, reinforcement and destination, I shall not send Yr Excy any more expresses, but you may look on it that they are incamped as a foraging Party, at or near the Buck, which is their situation from all the Intelligence I have yet been able to get. I am Sr with respect &c. Yr Excys most obedt Sert

Theok Bland

½ past eleven Some intelligence says that they are returned to Phil. others that they are gone up the Lancaster road in No. 9,000 but neither to be depended on as yet.

Capt. Call one of the party sent off towards the firing says that he is informd the Enemy (the main body that was out[)] are gone towards darby & that there is a small party of Hessians only left where the firing was but this intelligence not yet certain in my opinion.2


1Bland apparently is referring to Bevin’s Ford on the Schuylkill River, roughly halfway between Matson’s and Swede’s fords. Jonathan Robeson (1745–1825) was a blacksmith who lived near the falls of the Schuylkill in Lower Merion Township, Philadelphia (now Montgomery) County. Robeson became superintendent of the Delaware and Schuylkill Canal Company in the 1790s.

2Archibald Robertson gives the British perspective of the day’s events in his journal entry for this date: “At 12 at night Lord Cornwallis with a detachment of about 5000 men cross’d the Schuylkill towards Derby to cover a Foraging Party of Waggons. They fell in with Potter’s Militia and Part of Washington’s Army that had crossed the Schuylkill on their New bridge, and drove them back over the Schuylkill. The Light Horse kill’d and Wounded a good many of them and took 13 Horses of the Rebel Dragoons. This was the 11th in the Forenoon. This night all the Waggons that could be collected were sent over and the whole Detachment return’d by Greys Ferry (where a Bridge of Pontoons had been Thrown over the 10th at night) the 12th at 11 at Night without any Mollestation” (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 , 161). Hessian officer Johann Ewald gives a similar account, adding that “Cornwallis attacked the enemy, beat him after a stubborn resistance, and captured about one hundred and sixty men. The entire area was foraged around for six to eight hours, several plantations of disaffected persons burned, and all the cattle collected for the army” (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 , 110). Cornwallis’s forces consisted of the “Light Infantry, Grenadiers, Guards, 23d, 28th, 49th, 27th and 33rd–100 Chasseurs and Lengerke’s Battalion and the 16th and 17th Light Dragoons” (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 , 71). General Howe’s report of the engagement to Lord George Germain of 13 Dec. says that the British forces under Cornwallis and Gen. James Grant “met the head of their [American] army at a bridge they had thrown over the Schuylkill near to Matson’s Ford. . . . Over this bridge the enemy had passed eight hundred men who were immediately dispersed by his lordship’s advanced troops, obliging part of them to recross it, which occasioned such an alarm to their army that they broke the bridge and his lordship proceeded to forage without meeting with any interruption” (Davies, Documents of the American Revolution description begins K. G. Davies, ed. Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783; (Colonial Office Series). 21 vols. Shannon and Dublin, 1972–81. description ends , 14:272–73; see also the Remembrancer description begins The Remembrancer; or, Impartial Repository of Public Events. 17 vols. London, 1775–84. description ends , 5:504–6). For American accounts of the skirmish, see General Orders, 12 Dec., and note 3, and GW to Henry Laurens, 14–15 December.

Richard Call was appointed a first lieutenant in the 1st Continental Dragoons on 4 June 1776, and he was promoted to captain exactly six months later. He became major of the 3d Continental Light Dragoons on 2 Oct. 1778. Call apparently remained in the Continental service after the consolidation of the 1st and 3d Light Dragoons on 9 Nov. 1782 and served until the coming of peace in 1783.

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