From William MacCreery
Nantes 4 July 1778
Last night arrived here from Baltimore the Brigantine Saratoga, Captn. Murray, who has brought 2 Packets from Congress for the Honble. the Commissioners, and as many for Yourself. My Letters are of the 28th. May, at which time it was generaly understood there, that the Enemy were about embarking from Philadelphia with all haste, and that Genl. Washington was advanceing towards the City in order to annoy them as much as possible. About the 25th. He detached the Marquis de la Fayette with 2500 Men to the East side of the Schuylkill to watch the Enemies motions. As soon as they had Notice of it, Genl. Clinton went out to Attack him in the Night with most of his Army, expecting to surprize him—but the Young noble man having discoverd the Enemy when within about a Mile of him, he made a safe retreat over the River to our Army—upon which Genl. Clinton retreated to Town with great precipitation leaving and few Prisoners and wounded behind.1
All the Men of War have left our Bay (Chesapeak) since the 18 or 19th. May. The People have been made excessively happy by the Publication of the Treaty between us and this Power. They have gone so far as to indulge themselves with Dancing in consequence of it.
I have delivered the above mention’d Packets to Mr. Schweighauser, Continental Agent at this place, to be forwarded to Passi. This Vessel left Chesapeak the 11th. June.2 I am with the greatest Respect Dear Sir Your very Obt. Servt.
RC (PPAmP: Franklin Papers); addressed: “Honorable John Adams at Passi near Paris”; docketed, not by JA: “Wm McCrery Nantes 4 July 1778.”
1. The action at Barren Hill would probably have been a serious American defeat had it developed into a major battle. On 18 May, Lafayette and 2,200 men, fully one-third of Washington’s available troops, crossed the Schuylkill River northwest of Philadelphia and occupied Barren Hill. Gen. Howe soon learned of Lafayette’s movements and on the night of 19 May, in the hope of ending his American service with a victory, sent approximately 7,000 troops to encircle the American position and cut off any retreat to Valley Forge. Through ineptitude, the British left the road to Matson’s Ford unblocked, thus permitting Lafayette to retire on the 20th across the river with minor casualties and his force intact (John W. Jackson, With the British Army in Philadelphia, 1777–1778, San Rafael, Calif., 1979, p. 226–229; Ward, War of the Revolution description begins Christopher Ward, The War of the Revolution, New York, 1952; 2 vols. description ends , 2:562–567).
2. This sentence together with the initial two paragraphs of this letter were translated into French and printed in Affaires de l’ Angleterre et de l’ Amérique, “Lettres,” vol. II, cahier 48, p. xliv–xlv.