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To George Washington from Colonel John Cadwalader, 31 December 1776

From Colonel John Cadwalader

Crosswix [N.J.]1 31st Decr 1776

Sir

A very intelligent young Gentleman is returned, just now, from Prince Town—he left this yesterday Morng & got in about 12 or 1 O’Clock—He would have returned last Night but General Lesley, who commands, & Col: Abercombie would not suffer him to go off2—He made his Escape this Morng early, & informs, that from the best Information he could get, there were about 5000 men—consisting of Hessians & British Troops—about the same Number of each—I have made a rough Draught of the Road from this place; the Situation of the Cannon & Works begun & those intended this Morng3—He thinks there are not so many as they report—He conversed with some of the offic[e]rs & lodged last Night with them (americans)—They enquired what were our Numbers; he mentioned abt 16000, from the best accts—they did not beleive we had more than 5 or 6000—that many were forced into the Service, & that they were deserting in great Numbers every day—No Sentries on the back or East Side of the Town—They parade every Morng an hour before day—and some Nights lie on their Arms—an Attack has been expected for several Nights past—the men much fatigued, &, till last Night, in want of Provisions—when a very considerable number of Waggons arrived with Provisions from Brunswick—All their Baggage sent to Brunswick, where there are but few men—This confirms the Acct I sent you last Night4—About 50 light Horse at Prince Town, one half quartered at Scudders Mill, the other on the West of the Town—He enquired if any Troops were on the Road—they say there are none on this Side Brunswick—some Hessians arrived yesterday (tis said from Brunswic)—I suppose they were those that landed at South Amboy, as I cannot hear any thing of them in this neighbourhood.5

A Party of our light Horse brought in this Morng to Cranberry, about 30 Cattle, left by the Hessians—in general, poor—I recd your Letter last Night, by Express[.] Our Spy was near the Party of Chasseurs, when they were taken, & says an Assistant Qr Master Gen: or Commissary was with them—The Enemy had heard it6—Major Mifflin is just setting off with a Party of 200 from Cumberland.7 I am, Sir, with great Respect, Your Excellencys most obt hble Servt

John Cadwalader

Major Nicholas, of Marines, informs me that Col: Elisha Lawrence (late Sherriff of Monmouth) is now collecting men at Monmouth Court House—he has got together about 70 men—He has put ⟨2⟩o men into prison for refusing to bear Arms[.] The Person who brings the Intelligence flew—Major Nicholas is desirous of going after Lawrence’s Party—I think it is not an object at this Time, & have refused the application till I have your orders.8 yours &c. &c.

J. C.

ALS, DLC:GW.

1For accounts of the march of Cadwalader’s division from Bordentown to Crosswicks on 29 Dec., see Rau, “Smith’s Diary,” description begins Louise Rau, ed. “Sergeant John Smith’s Diary of 1776.” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 20 (1933-34): 247–70. description ends 269; Thomas Rodney to Caesar Rodney, 30 Dec., in Ryden, Rodney Letters description begins George Herbert Ryden, ed. Letters to and from Caesar Rodney, 1756–1784. Philadelphia, 1933. description ends , 150–52; and Rodney, Thomas Rodney’s Diary description begins Cæsar A. Rodney, ed. Diary of Captain Thomas Rodney, 1776–1777. Wilmington, Del. 1888. In Papers of the Historical Society of Delaware, vol. 8. description ends , 25–26.

2Robert Abercromby (1740–1827), lieutenant colonel of the 37th Regiment of Foot, was appointed by General Howe on 23 Oct. 1776 to command the 1st Battalion in Brig. Gen. Alexander Leslie’s light infantry brigade (see Kemble Papers description begins [Stephen Kemble]. The Kemble Papers. 2 vols. New York, 1884-85. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vols. 16–17. description ends , 1:395). During the French and Indian War Abercromby had joined the British army in North America as a volunteer and had risen to the rank of captain in the 44th Regiment. He had become major of the 62d Regiment in 1772, and he had been promoted to lieutenant colonel of the 37th Regiment earlier this year. Abercromby commanded his light infantry battalion until he was captured with Cornwallis’s army at Yorktown in 1781. Promoted to colonel in 1782, Abercromby subsequently served with great distinction in India. In 1790 he became governor and commander in chief at Bombay with the rank of major general. He was made a knight of the Bath in 1792, and the following year he succeeded Cornwallis as commander in chief of all forces in India.

3This map (see fig. 2) is also reproduced in Bill, Campaign of Princeton description begins Alfred Hoyt Bill. The Campaign of Princeton, 1776–1777. Princeton, N.J., 1948. description ends , facing p. 100. Johann Ewald, who arrived at Princetown on 30 Dec., says in his diary that “in the town there were about three hundred and twenty houses besides the college building, in which an entire regiment was quartered. Six redoubts were constructed and mounted with 12- and 6-pounders on the heights toward Trenton” (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 , 44).

4This account has not been identified.

5Donop’s Hessians arrived at Princeton on 30 Dec., completing their retreat from the posts south of Trenton (see ibid.). Archibald Robertson, who was at New Brunswick where Gen. James Grant had his headquarters, says in his diary entry for this date that “at 11 at night an Express arrived, that the Rebels certainly intended to attack princetown, upon which General Grant gave orders for the two Battalions Grenadiers and one Battalion of the Guards and 3 Regiments of the 4th Brigade also a Regiment of Hessian Grenadiers to hold themselves in readiness To march in the Morning.” Robertson marched with that force on 1 Jan. “at day Break . . . and arrived at Princetown about 1 o’clock where we found the Troops Cantoned there (consisting of 3 Battalions Hessian Grenadiers, 1 Company Jagers, 2 Battalions Light Infantry, the 2d Brigade and 42d Regiment commanded by Brigadier General Leslie) drawn up with their Arms expecting Enemy as a small Skirmish had happened Close to our out Piquets when the Rebels lost 4 men Killed. In the middle of the Night Lord Cornwallis Arrived from [New] York and superceded General Grant in his Command. . . . The 42d and 3 Hessian Battalions of Grenadiers and Jagers Advanced about a mile from Prince Town and Bevak’d it, under Count Donop” (Lydenberg, Robertson’s Diary 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 , 118; see also 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 , 45, 48, and “Reed’s Narrative, 1776–77,” description begins “General Joseph Reed’s Narrative of the Movements of the American Army in the Neighborhood of Trenton in the Winter of 1776–77.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 8 (1884): 391–402. description ends 397–98).

6For the capture of the cattle on the night of 28–29 Dec. and the advance of some of Cadwalader’s troops to Allentown, N.J., on 29 Dec., see Rodney, Thomas Rodney’s Diary description begins Cæsar A. Rodney, ed. Diary of Captain Thomas Rodney, 1776–1777. Wilmington, Del. 1888. In Papers of the Historical Society of Delaware, vol. 8. description ends , 26–27. For the capture of a British commissary with a foraging party near Clarksville, N.J., on 30 Dec. by a party of Philadelphia light horse led by Joseph Reed, see “Reed’s Narrative, 1776–77,” description begins “General Joseph Reed’s Narrative of the Movements of the American Army in the Neighborhood of Trenton in the Winter of 1776–77.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 8 (1884): 391–402. description ends 399–400; “Young’s Journal,” description begins “Journal of Sergeant William Young: Written During the Jersey Campaign in the Winter of 1776-7.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 8 (1884): 255–78. description ends 261; Collins, Ravages at Princeton description begins Varnum Lansing Collins, ed. A Brief Narrative of the Ravages of the British and Hessians at Princeton in 1776–77: A Contemporary Account of the Battles of Trenton and Princeton. 1906. Reprint. New York, 1968. description ends , 30; and Wilkinson, Memoirs description begins James Wilkinson. Memoirs of My Own Times. 3 vols. Philadelphia, 1816. description ends , 1:133–34. The letter that Cadwalader received from GW the previous night has not been found.

7Brig. Gen. Thomas Mifflin says in the brigade orders that he issued on this date at Bordentown: “A party of 200 Men goes out this day to harrass the Enemy, commanded by Majors [John] Mifflin and [Adam] Hubley” (Stryker, Battles of Trenton and Princeton description begins William S. Stryker. The Battles of Trenton and Princeton. 1898. Reprint. Spartanburg, S.C., 1967. description ends , 431). John Mifflin, brother of Thomas Mifflin, was appointed paymaster to the 5th Pennsylvania Regiment on 3 Sept. 1776.

8Samuel Nicholas (c.1744–1790), a tavernkeeper from Philadelphia, was appointed a captain of the Continental marines by Congress in November 1775, and he led the landing party that in March 1776 captured New Providence in the Bahamas, the marines’ first amphibious landing. On 25 June 1776 Congress promoted Nicholas to major. He spent the ensuing summer and fall in Philadelphia recruiting and training four battalions of marines, and late this month he joined Gen. Thomas Mifflin’s corps with about eighty men. During his tour of duty with the Continental army, Nicholas saw action in the second Battle of Trenton and the Battle of Princeton. In March 1777 Nicholas returned to Philadelphia where he served as marine recruiter and muster-master until August 1781 when he retired.

Elisha Lawrence (1740–1811), who had been high sheriff of Monmouth County, N.J., in 1775, raised fifty-seven men for service with the British army and became a lieutenant colonel in the New Jersey Volunteers. Lawrence was captured by the Americans during a skirmish with Gen. John Sullivan’s troops on Staten Island in August 1777. After the war Lawrence moved to Parrsboro, Nova Scotia.

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