George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Thomas Mifflin, 26 November 1776

From Brigadier General Thomas Mifflin

Philadelphia 26th November 1776
9 OClock A.M.

My dear General

At 10 O’Clock last Evening I receivd your Letter of the 24th Inst: and will make proper Applications of your Excellency’s Sentiments on the probable Movements of the Enemy.1

I came into this Town at 8 OClock Sunday Evening; and waited on Mr Hancock with your Letter immediately after my Arrival—Yesterday Morning I was admitted to Congress in general Committee and went as far in my Relation of the wretched Appointments of the Army, the dangerous & critical Situation of the Jerseys & pennsylvania & the Necessity of immediate vigorous Exertions to oppose Mr Howe as their Sensibility and my own Delicacy would justify. After some Debate a Requisition was made to the Assembly now sitting & Council of Safety of pennsylvania of their whole Militia, & Resolutions formd for the purpose of establishing wholsome & necessary Regulations for this and the next Campaign.2

I receivd Orders from Congress to remain in this Town untill your Excellency judgd it necessary for me to join the Army3—Those Orders were in Consequence of the divided & Lethargic State of my Countrymen, who appeard to be slumbering under the Shade of Peace and in the full Enjoyment of the Sweets of Commerce.

In the Afternoon I waited on the Committee of Safety and with much Success addressd their Passions—The Assembly are to meet this morning, their Lesson is prepared, by the Committee of Safety and some of their Leading members, who say Matters will now go on well—It is proposd to call on every Man in the State to turn out; such as refuse are to be find £5 mo. the Fines to be distributed among those who enlist.4

To morrow the City militia is to be reviewd. If they appear in such Numbers as we expect I am to give them a Talk well seasond.5 The German Battalion move from hence To morrow[.] Three Regiments from Delaware & Maryland are to follow them to Brunswick as soon as possible6—By which I fear the Shores of Delaware at & near New Castle will be much exposd provided Mr Howe attempts to disembark in this River. Your Excellencys Opinion on the Designs of the Enemy & the best means to oppose them, should they divert your Attention in Jersey and attempt an Impression on this State by means of their Ships, will be necessary from Time to time. The Light Horse of the State of Virginia are orderd to join your Excellencys Army.7 The principal military Stores are to be removd from hence—500000 Musquet Cartridges will be sent to Brunswick[.] A Prize Ship came in Yesterday—she had on board, when taken by a Congress packet, 20,000 hard ⟨dollars,⟩ 9000 of which were lost by an Attempt ⟨to heave⟩ them on board the packet at Sea.8 ⟨I⟩ have orderd 1000 Wagons to be collected if possi⟨ble⟩ near this City; to remove when Occasion requires the most essential Articles belonging to the public. I sent Col. Harrisons Letter to him last Eveng. Mrs W—s Letter is in the post Office & will be forwarded by post at 11’ OClock this day.9 I am my dear General with much Attachmt Y. Ob. St

Thomas Mifflin

The Council of Safety I am just informd open the Campaign this day by siezing the prin[c]ipal Tories in & near the City.

ALS, DLC:GW; copy, NHi: Joseph Reed Papers. The mutilated portions of the text near the end of the ALS are missing also in the contemporary copy in the Reed Papers at the New-York Historical Society. The missing text is supplied within angle brackets from Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 3:852–53.

1This letter has not been found.

2The previous Sunday was 24 November. Mifflin carried with him to Philadelphia GW’s letter to Hancock of 23 November. For Mifflin’s conference with the committee of the whole on 25 Nov. and Congress’s resolutions of that date regarding reinforcements for GW’s army, see Hancock to GW, this date, and note 1.

3For this order of 25 Nov., see 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 , 6:979–80, and Hancock to GW, this date, n.2. Mifflin inadvertently wrote “your Excellencys” on the manuscript of the ALS.

4The proceedings of the Pennsylvania council of safety for 25 Nov. say that on that day it “adjourned to three o’clock; when the following Members met: David Rittenhouse, Vice President, Owen Biddle, John Bayard, Timothy Matlack, Francis Gurney, Joseph Blewer, Samuel C. Morris, George Gray. In consequence of a meeting with as many of the Field-Officers of the Battalions of the City and Liberties of Philadelphia as could be convened, it was upon consideration agreed on to present a Memorial to the General Assembly on the Resolve of Congress with respect to calling out the Militia, and on the present state of the Military Association, and a Committee of this Board was ordered to prepare a draft of such Memorial, to be delivered to the House to-morrow morning” (Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 3:197).

The general assembly achieved a quorum on 28 Nov., and the next day it resolved “that this House will take immediate measures to make effectual the provisions of the late House of Assembly, respecting the collection of fines imposed by that House on all Non-Associators” and “that this House will, as soon as possible, enact a Militia Law, and take such further measures as will put the defence of this State on a just and equitable footing, so as to encourage those worthy Associators, who, freely and virtuously, step forth in the defence of their country.” Copies of those resolutions were ordered to be furnished to the colonels and commanding officers of the artillery and to “be published in the several news-papers in this city, both German and English” (Pa. Gen. Assembly Journals description begins Journals and Proceedings of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia, 1777. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , Nov. 1776-Oct. 1777 sess., 3).

On the morning of 30 Nov. “a Member of the Council of Safety laid before the House the great difficulties which they laboured under in carrying into execution the recommendation of the Honorable Congress, for calling out all the Militia of the city and liberties of Philadelphia, and the counties of Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester and Northampton; and praying the advice and direction of the House on this subject.” The matter was referred to a special committee, and later that day the assembly received the committee’s report and resolved: “WHEREAS this State is threatened with immediate invasion by a powerful British army, and as it is instantly necessary to reinforce the army under General Washington, by drawing forth part of the strength of Pennsylvania. . . . That the Commanding Officer of each battalion in the City of Philadelphia, the Counties of Philadelphia, Chester, Bucks, and Northampton, is hereby directed . . . to draught by lot or otherwise, as the respective companies shall agree, one half part of the said Associators for service as aforesaid, with liberty to any Associator so draughted, whose circumstances at the time shall make his personal service particularly inconvenient or distressful, to find another able bodied and sufficient man in his place.” These draftees were to serve for four weeks, and if the aid of the associators was needed for a longer time, the assembly further provided that “those so drawn out shall be relieved by the division of the Associators who have remained at home; who are accordingly to hold themselves in readiness for that purpose. But as this House do not mean to limit the aid at this time to be given to the Continental Army, this regulation is not intended to prevent any entire battalions or parts thereof exceeding the half from entering into so pressing and necessary a service: On the contrary it is the earnest wishes of this House to see the greatest exertions made on the present occasion” (ibid., 4–6). For the assembly’s militia law of 12 Dec., see the Pennsylvania Council of Safety to GW, 13 December.

5At eleven o’clock on the morning of 28 Nov., “a very large and general town meeting was held in the Statehouse yard. The Members of General Assembly and the Council of Safety were present, Mr. Rittenhouse, Vice-President of the Council, being in the chair. The intelligence which has been received of the probability of General Howe having it in contemplation to invade this state, was laid before the citizens, and they were informed that the Congress requested the militia of the city, and several of the counties, and part of the militia of each of the other counties, to march into New-Jersey, the people expressed their chearful approbation of the measure by the most unanimous acclamations of joy ever observed on any occasion, and the militia are ordered to be reviewed tomorrow at two o’clock in the afternoon. General Mifflin addressed his fellow citizens in a spirited, animating and affectionate address, which was received by them with marks of approbation which shewed their esteem for, and confidence in, the General” (Pennsylvania Evening Post [Philadelphia], 28 Nov.; see also Duane, Marshall’s Diary description begins William Duane, ed. Extracts from the Diary of Christopher Marshall, Kept in Philadelphia and Lancaster, during the American Revolution, 1774–1781. 1877. Reprint. New York, 1969. description ends , 105).

6The Continental Congress on 25 Nov. directed the Board of War “to order the German batallion to march immediately, and join General Washington” (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 , 6:980). Two days earlier Congress had directed the Board of War to order the Eastern Shore (9th Virginia) Regiment to march to Philadelphia and the 8th and 12th Pennsylvania regiments to march to New Brunswick (see Hancock to GW, 24 Nov., n.6).

7Congress on 25 Nov. directed the Board of War to “write to Governor Henry, of Virginia, and request him to order the light horse, in the service of that state, to march, with all possible expedition, to join General Washington” (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 , 6:980).

8The ship Sam, which arrived at Philadelphia on 25 Nov., had been captured by the Continental navy sloop Independence on 25 Oct. while sailing from Barbados to Liverpool with a cargo that included about twenty thousand silver dollars, two-and-a-half tons of ivory, and one hundred bars of iron (see Extract of a Letter from Barbadoes, 20 Nov., in Naval Documents description begins William Bell Clark et al., eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 12 vols. to date. Washington, D.C., 1964–. description ends , 7:227; Pennsylvania Evening Post [Philadelphia], 26 November). Congress on this date directed “the Cannon Committee . . . to enquire what quantity of cannon are on board the prize ship that arrived yesterday in the port of Philadelphia; and, if they are fit for field artillery, to take measures to have them mounted on proper carriages, and sent to General Washington” (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 , 6:982). The ship Sam was mounted with four guns for its protection.

9These letters, which apparently included one from GW to Martha Washington, have not been identified.

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