George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General William Maxwell, 9 December 1777

From Brigadier General William Maxwell

White Marsh [Pa.] 9th Decmr 1777


The Enemy having returned ingloriously and the season far advanced makes it necessary that the Troops should be fixed to some place for the Winter.1 I have now thought proper to mention to Your Excellency, a subject that I once tuched on before, which was, that it was absolutely necessary to relieve the Jersey Militia from their constant duty, by Continental Troops to enable them to fill up their full quotas for the Continental service. and it would give life and spirit to the Militia when called on more pressing occasions.2 I would likewise beg leave to mention some of the difficulties, the Jersey State Laboured under in filling up her quota last winter. Viz. that almost every State was recruiting her Troops, the Artillery many, the light Horse, the 16 Regiments, Artificers, and Waggoners, &ca. Besides this her Troops was sent into the field by Companys or less as they could be raised, and the Seat of War in their state. Notwithstanding all these inconveniencies I do presume to say, that the Jersey State had it’s quota as near compleat as some of the first States in the Continent and I think I may venture to say that if they are not harrased this winter, they will compleat their quota; and Cloath them well. The necessaty of sending some Continental Troops to the Jersey, I dar say appear to your Excellency verry reasonable; but whether it shall be her own Troops or that of a nother state is the question. I must allow that for any other duty save that of recruiting and Cloathing I would prefer the Troops of another State in General. but for these most necessary articles of recruiting Cloathing and recovering the sick, I must give the preferance to their own Troops, and if there was a little indulgence in it, I do not think Your Excellency will think the Jersey State undeserving. I submit the affair to Your Excellencys better Judgment and am Your Most Obedient Humble Servant

Wm Maxwell


1British officers Archibald Robertson and John André both describe the British army’s march to Philadelphia on 8 Dec. in their journal entries. Robertson writes that “at 11 o’clock they [the British troops] were ordered under Arms. The Waggons and heavy Artillery turn’d to the Right About and the Whole Army were off their ground by 1 o’clock on their Return to Philadelphia, and from the Regularity and goodness of the Disposition the Rebels never fired a Shot at our Rear or dared to follow us. The Whole Army got into Philadelphia about 9 o’clock in the Evening. How far this move of the Army may be considered as good or bad I shall not take upon me to determine, as much maybe said for as against it” (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). André says, however, that the Americans “were soon aware of our retreat, and their Light Troops watched the rear of General Grey’s Column, whose march was much retarded by the insufficiency of the horses and the badness of the roads, over which two 12–pounders he had with him were carried with some difficulty. At the crossroad leading from Abingdon to German Town, a body of Horse and Foot pressed on the rearmost parties and drove them in. The Jägers who had successively formed on each height and filed off to the next, were at this time drawn up on very good ground, in posture of defence. The Rebels formed to a fence and delivered a very brisk fire, but the Light Infantry of the Guards, posting themselves with great readiness, returned their fire and drove them back. Two or three shot from the Jägers’ cannon contributed not a little to rid us of them; not a man on our side was hurt. The march was continued without further inconvenience, and the Troops returned to their several encampments behind the redoubts at Philadelphia” (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 , 70–71). The journal account of Lt. Heinrich Carl Philipp von Feilitzsch of the Hessian jägers confirms that the Americans attacked the rear guard of the retreating British army (Burgoyne, Diaries of Two Ansbach Jaegers description begins Bruce E. Burgoyne, ed. and trans. Diaries of two Ansbach Jaegers: Lieutenant Heinrich Carl Philipp von Feilitzsch and Lieutenant Christian Friedrich Bartholomai. Bowie, Md., 1997. description ends , 29), and Hessian captain Johann Ewald says the jägers suffered two casualties (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 , 109–10).

Index Entries