George Washington Papers

To George Washington from General Matthias Williamson, 8 December 1776

From General Matthias Williamson

Morris Town [N.J.] December 8th 1776


I had the honour of receiving your Excellency’s two Letters of the fifth & seventh inst.1—I can declare to your Excellency with the greatest Truth, that with the utmost punctuality & dispatch on receiving Govr Livingston’s Orders, I wrote Letters to the commandg Officers of the Militia of this State, to draw out their Batallions, & join the Army under your immediate Command, or the Corps under my care, as most contiguous. I am sorry to say, that altho there was great necessity for them to exert themselves at this important Crisis, very few of the Counties of Essex or Bergen join’d my Command.

At this Time, I have no Influence in either of those Counties, but have it from good Intelligence, that many who bore the Character of warm Whigs have been foremost in seeking protection from Genl Howe and forsaking the American Cause.

Coll Thomas of Essex County is with us, but has no command of Men, I dont think he has more than fifty Men of his whole Battn.2

Not above twenty Privates from Newark have joind us, not one from Acquacanunck—nor a field Officer from either Place.

Coll Fords Regiment makes up the principal Part of the Troops here, and it is chiefly owing to his zeal in the American Cause, as well as his great influence with the People, that the Appearance of Defence at this Post has been kept up.

Coll Simes of Sussex has join’d us, but his number of Privates is inconsiderable.3 I shou’d be glad to have made out a Return of the Brigade to your Excellency, but my Indisposition puts it out of my Power. Collo. Ford has had the Command, since we arrived here[.] I took so great a Cold on the late March, which fell into my Limbs, as has in a great Measure confined me to my Room, & disabled me from joining the Brigade.

I rode out Yesterday about four Miles to Passaick, our chief Post & taking fresh cold, am now entirely confined to my Room.

I feel sensible Pain at some Expressions in your Excellency’s last Letter, which imply that I had not done all in my power to assemble the Militia under my Command. Coud your Excellency be possest of a Knowledge of my Solicitousness and Endeavours to bring them out, I am sure, You woud conclude, that the Man who had informed, or insinuated otherwise, had used me very cruelly. I can declare, before God, I have worried myself to the Heart, in endeavouring to serve my Country to the extent of my Power. General Mercer is knowing to many Difficulties I laboured under to keep the Militia together, while he had the Command at Elizabeth Town. Upon the whole I am so entirely disabled from doing my Duty in the Brigade, by my Lameness, that I have wrote to Governor Livingstone, to request his Acceptance of my Resignation, and have ventured to recommend Colo. Ford as the properest to succeed in that Command. I am with the greatest Truth, Sir, Your most obedt & most hume Servant

Matthias Williamson

P.S. Enclosed is a Copy of the Orders I sent Colo. Ford, the Moment I recd Governor Livingstons Command to call out the Militia &c.—Similar to this was sent to all the commanding officers of the different Counties, in the Eastern Division of this State.4

LS, DLC:GW. The cover is addressed: “To His Excellency General Washington &c. At Trenton.”

1Neither of these letters has been found.

2Edward Thomas (1736–1794) of Elizabeth, N.J., had become a colonel of the 1st Essex County militia regiment in February 1776. Thomas was tried and acquitted on charges of cowardice and neglect of duty by a court-martial in May 1779 (see William Livingston to William Maxwell, 9 Jan. 1779, in Livingston Papers description begins Carl E. Prince et al., eds. The Papers of William Livingston. 5 vols. Trenton and New Brunswick, N.J., 1979–88. description ends , 3:16–17, and the court-martial proceedings, 20 May 1779, ibid., 95).

3John Cleves Symmes (1742–1814) of Walpack, N.J., colonel of the 3d Sussex County militia regiment, was a member of the New Jersey convention, and he served on the state’s legislative council from 1776 to 1777 and 1780 to 1785. On 14 Feb. 1777 Symmes became an associate justice of the state supreme court, a position that he held for the next ten years. He also was a member of the Continental Congress from 1785 to 1786. In 1788 Congress named Symmes one of the three judges for the Northwest Territory, an appointment that GW renewed as president in 1789.

4Williamson’s letter to Col. Jacob Ford, Jr., of 26 Nov., which was written at Elizabeth, directs Ford immediately to call out all the militia in Morris County and march them properly equipped to Elizabeth. In a postscript Williamson instructs Ford “to send two Men off, to your County Express, with your Orders, to have these Orders, immediately put into Execution, Order the Express to Call on me, to take A Letter to Sussex” (DLC:GW).

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