George Washington Papers
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To George Washington from Major General John Sullivan, 13 December 1776

From Major General John Sullivan

Germantown [N.J.]1 Decemr 13. 1776

My dear General

It gives me the most pungent pain to inform your Excellency of the sad Stroke America must feel in the loss of General Lee, who was this morning taken by the Enemy near Veal Town.2 He ordered me yesterday morning to march for this place early, which I did—and by some fatality he was induced to go to Barnell’s Town, nearer the Enemy by three Miles than we were. Some Tories doubtless gave information, and this morning 70 of the Light Horse surrounded the House, and after a gallant resistance by him and his Domesticks, he was made a prisoner.

I have taken every step to regain him, but almost despair of it. I received your Excellency’s Letters to him of the 10th & 11th instant, and shall endeavour to join the Army as soon as possible. A french Gentleman whose name is wrote on the Cover that incloses this, (Capt. De Vernejoul,) behaved with great bravery in defending the General, & had his advice been taken, the General would have escaped.3

Dear General I most heartily sympathize with you and my Country in this affecting Loss, and am Your most Obedient Servant

Jno. Sullivan

Copy, in John Fitzgerald’s writing, enclosed in GW to Hancock, 15 Dec. 1776, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, enclosed in GW to the Pennsylvania Council of Safety, 15 Dec. 1776, PHarH: Records of Pennsylvania’s Revolutionary Governments, 1775–90; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169.

1Germantown, N.J., located about two miles north of Lamington on the Black (now Lamington) River, was on the road to Easton, Pa., about twenty-five miles to the west.

2Vealtown (now Bernardsville), N.J., is about two miles northeast of Basking Ridge, where Gen. Charles Lee was captured early this morning by a detachment of the 16th Light Horse under the command of Lt. Col. William Harcourt. For a more detailed account of Lee’s capture, see Alden, General Charles Lee description begins John Richard Alden. General Charles Lee: Traitor or Patriot? Baton Rouge, La., 1951. description ends , 155–58.

3Capt. Jean-Louis de Virnejoux, a French volunteer, defended the front door of the tavern in which Lee was staying. Virnejoux and Lee’s aides-de-camp William Bradford and James Wilkinson escaped capture because the British failed to search the tavern after capturing Lee.

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