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To George Washington from Joseph Reed, 23 September 1777

From Joseph Reed

Norrington Meeting House [Pa.]
Tuesday [23 September 1777]—4 oClock P.M.1

Dear Sir

I stayed at my House as long or perhaps rather longer than was prudent—the Enemy came there in about 15 Minutes after—I have collected a small Party here at the Meeting House about 1 Mile above my own House—& soon after we took two Prisoners whose Information is on the other Leaf2—Your Excelly will judge of its Value—They are so ignorant of the Transactions of their Army that I could get nothing else from them tho’ I ask’d every Question I could think of. I shall remain here at present & watch their Motions tho’ I am puzzled to get Persons to carry the Intelligence I collect. I am obliged to write in a Hurry & on such Paper as I can get3—but am with the greatest Respect & Affection D. Sir Your most Obed. & very faithful

J. Reed

I have a Colonel Crawford with me a very good Officer but we cannot muster more than 50 or 60 Men.4


1Although the manuscript is docketed “Colo. Reed 11th Septr 1777,” the context of the letter indicates that it was written on Tuesday, 23 September.

2This intelligence report reads: “James Frazer a Private in the 4th Regt taken at 2 oClock this Afternoon says that he was one of the Baggage Guard which moves in the Centre—that this Morning they recd Orders to cross the River—the Troops he is with are the lowest that have cross’d as he believes—does not know where Gen. Howe is—who commands the Body that passd at the Flat Land Ford—or what Number—nor where the flying Army is—the Hessians are above this—it is expected that all their Army will cross to day at different Fords—great Quantity of Baggage with this Body of Troops.

“William Connor of the sam[e] Regimt taken at the same Time says examined apart from Frazer—the follo. Regiments are with the Body which cross’d this Morning at the Flat Land Ford: the 4th the 39, 28th, 48th, 20th—he believes Ld Cornwallis commands the Body which pass’d this Morning but is not sure. Several Regiments which lay above the Baggage to which the Informant belongs came down this Morning to cross at the Flat Lands—thinks the Hessians are above this—he heard yesterday Morning that some Troops were to cross above this—The Body which has cross’d he understands are to proceed immediately to Philada. he thinks this Body is what is called the Flying Camp. he is sure Gen. Grants Brigade makes a Part of it. they parted with Gen. Howe on the Lancaster Road but whether he is gone up or down does not know” (DLC:GW).

3This letter is written on what appears to be a leaf from a student’s copybook. Part of the manuscript includes the sentence “Self estimation is Commonly punishd with contempt” carefully written thirteen times by someone other than Reed.

4Reed may be referring to GW’s personal friend William Crawford (1732–1782) of the District of West Augusta, Va., who had surveyed lands for GW on the Youghiogheny, Ohio, and Kanawha rivers before the war (see Valentine Crawford to GW, 24 June 1775). Having been appointed lieutenant colonel of the 5th Virginia Regiment in February 1776 and colonel of the 7th Virginia Regiment in August 1776, Crawford resigned his commission in March 1777, apparently to administer the estate of his recently decreased brother Valentine Crawford (see Crawford to GW, 12 Feb. 1777). Crawford remained active in the defense of the western frontier, however, and in August 1777 he apparently marched a detachment of levies to Washington’s army (see Butterfield, Washington-Crawford Letters description begins C. W. Butterfield, ed. The Washington-Crawford Letters. Being the Correspondence between George Washington and William Crawford, from 1767 to 1781, Concerning Western Lands. Cincinnati, 1877. description ends , x). On 11 Oct. 1777 GW appointed Crawford to command a brigade composed of recently arrived Virginia militia (see General Orders, that date), and in late November 1777 GW, acting at the request of Congress, sent Crawford to Pittsburgh “to take command, under Brigadier General [Edward] Hand, of the continental troops and militia in the western department” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 9:944; see also Henry Laurens to GW, 22 Nov. 1777, DNA:PCC, item 13, and GW to Laurens, 26–27 Nov. 1777, DNA:PCC, item 152). In the spring of 1782 Crawford commanded an expedition of about five hundred mounted volunteers that marched from Fort Pitt against the Indians on the Sandusky River. Surprised and defeated by the Indians on 5 June 1782, most of Crawford’s force escaped to safety, but Crawford himself was captured, and he subsequently was tortured to death.

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