George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Elizabeth Williams Philipse, 22 October 1776

To Elizabeth Williams Philipse

Head Qrs at Mr Valentine’s1 Octr 22nd 1776.


The Misfortunes of War, and the unhappy circumstances frequently attendant thereon to Individuals, are more to be lamented than avoided; but it is the duty of every one, to alleviate these as much as possible. Far be it from me then, to add to the distresses of a Lady, who, I am but too sensible, must already have suffered much uneasiness, if not inconvenience, on account of Colonel Philips’s absence.

No special Order has gone forth from me, for removal of the stock of the Inhabitants; but, from the nature of the case, and in consequence of some resolutions of the Convention of this State, the measure has been adopted: However, as I am satisfied it is not meant to deprive Families of their necessary support, I shall not withhold my consent to your retaining such parts of your Stock as may be essential to this purpose; relying on your assurances and promise that no more will be detained. With great Respect, I am, Madam, Your mo. obt hble servt

G. Washington.

Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The manuscript is addressed: “To Mrs Philips. Philipsboro.”

Elizabeth Williams Philipse (c.1732–1817) was the daughter of Charles Williams, naval officer for the port of New York. Following the death of her first husband, Anthony Rutgers, she in 1756 married Frederick Philipse (1720–1786), third lord of Philipse Manor and brother of Mary Eliza Philipse Morris, the “Pretty Miss Polly” who apparently attracted GW’s attention during his 1756 stay in New York (see Joseph Chew to GW, 14 Mar. and 13 July 1757). Frederick Philipse was one of the suspected Loyalists who in August 1776 had been apprehended and sent to Connecticut on GW’s orders (see GW to Frederick Jay, 16 Aug. 1776). After signing a parole on 23 Dec. 1776, Philipse returned to his manor house on the Hudson River, located about five miles north of King’s Bridge in present-day Yonkers, and a short time later he moved with his family to New York City for the duration of the war. The Manor of Philipseborough, usually called Philipse Manor, covered about two hundred square miles between the Hudson and Bronx rivers in western Westchester County, extending north from Spuyten Duyvil Creek to the mouth of the Croton River. Confiscated under an act of attainder passed by the New York assembly in 1779, Philipse Manor was divided and sold in 1785. Frederick and Elizabeth Philipse sailed to England in 1783 and lived there for the rest of their lives.

1The entry for this date in GW’s expense account reads: “To Exps. at Valentines Mile Square—20 Dolls.” (Accounts with U.S., 1775–83, 19). Mile Square was a tract of land of that size on the west bank of the Bronx River in present-day Yonkers. Valentine’s Hill, to which GW’s headquarters had been moved the previous day, was in the northwest corner of Mile Square about a mile west of the Bronx River and about two miles east of the Philipse manor house. Heath says in his memoirs that on the evening of 21 Oct. his division, while marching from the vicinity of King’s Bridge to White Plains, “passed Gen. Lincoln’s quarters on Valentine’s Hill, where the Commander in Chief was to spend the night” (Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs description begins Rufus Rockwell Wilson, ed. Heath’s Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint. New York, 1904. description ends , 84). Elizabeth Valentine (c.1767–1854), a member of the family in whose house GW lodged, said many years later that as a child she was present when GW conducted a brief morning devotional with his staff in the sitting room of the house (see Shonnard and Spooner, Westchester County description begins Frederic Shonnard and W. W. Spooner. History of Westchester County, New York: From Its Earliest Settlement to the Year 1900. 1900. Reprint. Harrison, N.Y., 1974. description ends , 383; see also Lossing, Pictorial Field-Book description begins Benson J. Lossing. The Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution; or, Illustrations, by Pen and Pencil, of the History, Biography, Scenery, Relics, and Traditions of the War for Independence. 2 vols. New York, 1851–52. description ends , 2:831, n.2). Her story cannot be substantiated, and there is no record of such services being held routinely at GW’s headquarters. The headquarters was moved later on this date to White Plains (see General Orders, 23 October).

Index Entries