George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel Joseph Reed, 12 December 1776

From Colonel Joseph Reed

Dec. 12. 1776

Dear Sir

The Gentlemen of the Light Horse who went into the Jersey have returnd safe—they proceeded into the Country till they met an intelligent Person directly from Trenton who informd them that Gen. Howe was there with the main Body of his Army—that the Flying Army consisting of the light Infantry & Grenadiers under Ld Cornwallis still lay at Penny Town & there was no Appearance of a Movement—that they are certainly waiting for Boats from Brunswick—that he believed they would attempt a Landing in more Places than one—That their Artilly Park has 30 Peices of Cannon—all Field Peices—They are collecting Horses from all Parts of the Country. Some Movement was intended yesterday Morning but laid aside—what it was & why they did not proceed he does not know.

I sent off a Person to Trenton yesterday Morning with Directions to return by Penny Town—I told him to go to ⟨mutilated⟩ & get what Intelligence he could from him—he is not yet returned[.] I expect him every Moment—I charged him to let ⟨mutilated⟩ know that if he would watch their Motions & could inform us of the Time & Place of their proposed Landing he should receive a large Reward for which I would be answerable.

I cannot but think their Landing will be between this & Trenton for these Reasons. 1. That Ld Cornwallis with that Part of the Army which will lead, keeps at Penny Town within 4 Miles of the River. 2. They will by that Means avoid the Ferry at Shaminy [Neshaminy Creek] & the Fords which at this Season of the Year must be disagreeable to their Troops. 3. They will derive much more Assistance from the Country which is but too favourable to them. 4. They know our principal Artillery is near Trenton & the Passage thro the Woods to Bristol must be unfavourable to them—on the Road above they will find all clear & the Distance nearly the same.

The River is not nor I believe cannot be sufficiently guarded[.] we must depend upon Intelligence of their Motions—to ⟨obtain⟩ which no Expence must be spared—If it were possible to fix Signals answering to their different Movements that would be most speedy & effectual.

The Militia are crossing over in Parties—I fear they do not mean to return[.] I do not know by whose Orders—but if their Colonels have Power to give Permission in a little Time there will be none left.

I do not like the Situation of Things at & above Coryells Ferry—the Officers are quite new & seem to have little Sense of the Necessity of Vigilance—I shall wait a little to see my Man return & then unless your Excelly thinks my Stay here of Service I will return to Head Quarters.

I inclose you a Proclamation which I got from the other Side—I suppose it is one of the same kind Gen. Dickinson saw.1 I am in Haste most respectfully D. Sir Your Obed. Hbble Ser.

Jos: Reed

Mr Moylan desires me to mention to your Excelly the Propri[e]ty of his meeting Gen. Lee to inform him of the State of Things & wishes to know your Pleasure by the Return of the Light Horse.2

ALS, DLC:GW. The context of this letter indicates that Reed wrote it from Coryell’s Ferry or some place nearby.

1Reed probably inclosed a copy of Howes’s proclamation of 30 Nov. offering pardons to any rebelling American who took an oath of allegiance to the king during the next sixty days (see Force, American Archives, 5th ser. description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 3:927–28).

2Moylan was at Morristown, N.J., on 15 Dec. when he wrote General Heath: “I had hopes of meeting you or Gates at this place, but am informd that you are at or about Topan [Tappan] that Genl Gates is passd across the Country higher up, my business was to push on Lee’s & Gates armies to join with General Washington, I have hopes that they will both effect it, tho I must own I have my apprehensions of those under Sullivan being intercepted except, he puts in execution what I reccommended to him which was to make a forced march yesterday to get to the ferry Last evening, if he did the troops Coud be got across in the night, as it was but eighteen miles from the place he was at, it might have been executd & he Coud have sent his baggage higher up the river to the place where Gates will Cross—I had no orders for you, what the General gave me in Command, was to proceed to General Lee, to push him forward, the day I Came up with his Army was the day when he was So unfortunately taken prisoner [13 Dec.]—I was to proceed from him to push on Greatons, Bonds, Porters, Pattersons Starks, Poors & Reads, which I suppose are with Gates & Arnold, I will follow this day if I can find out their Rout, which is a very difficult matter—shoud you Come this way with your troops, it will be necessary to send some person two days before you, to provide bread & other provisions for you, without this you will find this place very destitute of all Sorts of necessaries, there is neither hay or grain for your horses” (MHi: Heath Papers; see also Alexander McDougall to Heath, 17 Dec., MHi: Heath Papers).

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