George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Pennsylvania Council of Safety, 13 December 1776

From the Pennsylvania Council of Safety

In Council of Safety Philadelphia 13th December 1776


At the particular desire of General Mifflin we have undertaken to give you a detail of our public affairs as Major General Putnam is otherwise engaged in his very important department and General Mifflin about setting off on a Tour through the Counties to try his Influence with our Militia too Many of whom remain in a state of supineness and infatuation which is altogether unaccountable, especially in the Counties of Philadelphia, Bucks[,] Berks, Lancaster & Northampton. These Counties lye nearest to this City and from them we have but little prospect of drawing much succour, what the Frontier Counties will afford we cannot determine as we have no certain intelligence of their disposition. Our Assembly has offered a Bounty to draw out the Militia. inclosed is a Copy of their resolutions for the purpose1—we know not what effects can be promised from it, Possibly it may influence some—All our sencible men are already drawn from this City who can be prevaild upon to take an active part in our favour, indeed the City is amazingly depopulated by the detachments made to Head Quarters and the fears of the Timid and disaffected who have sought an Assylum in the Country.

General Putnam is preparing to draw out the people which remain to throw up Works of defence, What numbers he will be able to procure cannot as yet be assertained, a day or two perhaps will determine—a Floating Bridge will be finished tomorrow over the Middle Ferry at Schuylkill—Mr Casdrop has been employed by order of this Council for some days about that Business2—We cannot spare or raise men to station at Billingsport, That place is entirely evacuated and in fact we have drawn almost the whole of our force from below this City to reinforce the Army at Head Quarters—Our Stores are in some Confusion and we are uneasy about our Powder Magazine at the Continental Mill which has been filled from Hence, and a great many valuable Stores are at Norrington3 which must inevatibly fall into the Enemies hands should our army retreat to Philadelphia without allowing a few days to prepare for them, as we cannot draw a sufficient number of Waggons from the Country to remove the inhabitants, their effects and those public Stores; our Tenderness to our fellow Citizens had induced us to suffer them to make use of a part of the Waggons to remove their families and Effects.

We fear if our Army retreats to Philadelphia the Militia of this City will not be prevailed upon to leave it again should your Excellency think proper to evacuate the City by which means the Army will be much reduced—General Mifflin desired us to hint this Matter.

The Council have exerted every Nerve to raise the Militia and are Still devising means to support our opposition and shall from time to time give such intelligence as they may think Useful. By order of the Council I am Your Excellencys Very Humble Servant

Owen Biddle, Chairman

LS, DLC:GW. The cover is addressed to “His Excellency General Washington Near Trenton Ferry per Lieut. Dunn.”

Owen Biddle (1737–1799), the older brother of Clement Biddle, was a prominent merchant in Philadelphia and an active member of the American Philosophical Society. Owen Biddle served as a delegate to the Pennsylvania provincial convention in 1775 and the state constitutional convention in 1776, and he was a member of the Pennsylvania committee of safety from June 1775 to July 1776 and the state council of safety from July 1776 to March 1777. On 13 Mar. 1777 Owen Biddle became chairman of the Pennsylvania Board of War. He was appointed a deputy commissary of forage in June 1777, and from April 1779 to 1782 or 1783 he served as assistant commissary general of forage at Philadelphia.

1The Pennsylvania general assembly on 12 Dec. resolved “that over and above all encouragement heretofore offered, the following bounties be given to all Volunteers who shall join General Washington by the several days hereunder mentioned. On or before the 20th day of this month—10 Dollars. Between the 20th and the 25th-7 Dollars. Between the 25th and the 30th-5 Dollars” (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., 9).

2Thomas Casdrop commanded a company of carpenters that Congress had sent from Philadelphia to Ticonderoga the previous July and which since that time had returned to Philadelphia (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 , 6:937).

3Norrington (later called Norristown) is on the Schuylkill River about twenty miles northwest of Philadelphia.

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