To John Hancock
Brunswick [N.J.] Novr 30th 1776
I have been honoured with your favor of the 26th and with its Inclosures, by which I perceive the measures that have been adopted for forwarding a reinforcement of Militia. Their arrival is much to be wished, the situation of our Affairs being truly alarming and such as demands the earliest aids.1 As Genl Mifflins presence may have a happy influence on the disposition and temper of many of the Associators, I shall not direct his return so long as he can be done without, and till it becomes indispensibly necessary.2
On Thursday morning I left New Ark and arrived here Yesterday with the Troops that were there.3 It was the Opinion of all the Generals who were with me that a retreat to this place was requisite and founded in necessity, as our force was by no means sufficient to make a stand against the Enemy, much superior in number, with the least probability of success, & whose advanced Guards were entering the Town by the time our Rear got out.4 It was the wish of all to have remained there longer and to have halted before we came thus far, but upon due consideration of our Strength, the circumstances attending the inlistment of a great part of our little force, and the frequent advices, that the Enemy were embarking or about to embark another detachment for Staten Island, with a view of landing at Amboy to cooperate with this, which seemed to be confirmed by the information of some persons who came from the Island, that they were collecting and impressing All the Waggons they could find, It was judged necessary to proceed till we came here, not only to prevent their bringing a force to act upon our Front and Rear, but also that we might be more convenient to oppose any Troops they might land at South Amboy, which many conjectured to be an Object they had in view. This conjecture too, had probability and some advices to support it.5
I hoped we should have met with large and early succours by this time, but as yet no great number of the Militia of this State has come in, nor have I much reason to expect,6 that any considerable aid will be derived from the Counties which lie beyond this River and in which the Enemy are.7 Their situation8 will prevent it in a great measure from those parts where they are, provided the inclinations of the people were good. Added to this, I have no assurances that more than a very few of the Troops composing the Flying Camp will remain after the time of their engagement is out. so far from it, I am told that some of Genl Ewing’s Brigade who stand engaged to the 1st of January are now going away. If those go, whose service expires this day, our force will be reduced to a mere handfull.9
From intelligence received this morning, One Division of the Enemy was advanced last night as far as Elizabeth Town, and that some of their Quarter masters had proceeded about four or five miles on this side to provide Barnes &c. for their accomodation. Other accounts say, another division, composed of Hessians are on the Road through Springfield and are reported to have reached that place last night.10 I do not know how far their views extend, but I doubt not they mean to push every advantage resulting from the small number & State of our Troops. I early began to forward part of the Stores from this place towards Philadelphia. many are gone, the rest we are removing and hope to secure. I am Sir very respectfully Yr Most Obedt Servt
P.S. I have wrote to Governr Livingston who is exerting himself to throw in every assistance & to have guards placed at the ferries to prevent the return of the Soldiers who are not discharged.11
LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, in Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter and GW’s letter to the Board of War of this date on 1 Dec. (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 , 6:997). The concluding sentences of the main body of the letter beginning “I early began to forward . . .” and the postscript do not appear in the draft or the Varick transcript. For other differences in the text of the draft, see the notes below.
1. At this place on the draft manuscript, Harrison first wrote “to give us a probable prospect of Success.” He then struck out last three words of that phrase and wrote above the line “checking the progress of the Enemy.” None of this wording appears in the other manuscript copies including the Varick transcript.
2. The draft reads: “I shall attempt to do without him as well as I can, till his return becomes indispensibly necessary.”
4. The draft reads: “whose advanced Guards were entering when our Rear came out.” British officer Archibald Robertson says in his diary entry for 28 Nov.: “At 9 All the Army march’d in two Columns Towards Newark where it was said the Rebels would stand. The Right Column Commanded by Count Donop consisting of Hessian Grenadiers, 1 Battalion Light Infantry 17 Regiment, and some Dismounted Dragoons, and 1 Company of Jagers march by the back neighbourhood, the left with Lord Cornwallis march’d within a mile of the Pissaic keeping the heights. About one o’clock we reached Newark, but found the Rebels were march’d a few hours before towards Elizabeth Town” (Lydenberg, Robertson Diaries 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 , 114; see also 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 , 1:102; Baurmeister, Revolution in America description begins Carl Leopold Baurmeister. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. New Brunswick, N.J., 1957. description ends , 73; and 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 , 22).
5. The draft reads: “this conjecture too was not without some reports to support it.”
6. The draft reads: “to expect from the accounts I have.”
7. On the draft manuscript Harrison first wrote “which lie in our Rear” and then changed the wording to read “which lie beyond this River.” The river is the Raritan.
8. The draft reads: “indeed the situation of the Enemy.”
9. The draft reads: “so far from it, I am told that many of Genl Ewings Brigade who stand engaged to the 1st of January are now going off.” The last sentence of this paragraph does not appear in the draft or the Varick transcript.
10. The draft reads: “One Division of the Enemy are said to have advanced as far as Elizabeth Town and that the Quarter Masters had proceeded as far as Spank Town (four Miles this side) to provide Barnes &c. for their Accomod⟨ation⟩ and that Another Division reported to be composed of Hessians are on the Road thro Springfeild & at that place.”
Hessian jäger Capt. Johann Ewald says in his diary: “at daybreak on the 29th [Nov.] the army marched off, passed Newark and Elizabethtown, and cantoned in and around the latter place. The jäger company under Captain [Carl August von] Wreden covered the highway to Rahway, and I received my post at the country manor of Governor Livingston on the road to Springfield. I received orders to patrol steadily past Springfield” (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 , 22; see also Lydenberg, Robertson Diaries 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 , 114, and Baurmeister, Revolution in America description begins Carl Leopold Baurmeister. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. New Brunswick, N.J., 1957. description ends , 73).