George Washington Papers

Orders to the Colonels of the Bucks County Militia, 19 December 1776

Orders to the Colonels of the Bucks County Militia

[Bucks County, Pa., 19 December 1776]


The Honble the Council of Safety of the State of Pensylvania having by a Resolve passed the 17th day of this Inst. December, authorized me to call forth the Militia of the County of Bucks to the assistance of the Continental Army under my Command,1 I hereby require You immediately to issue Orders to the Captains of Your Regiment, to summon the Officers & privates of their Companies to Meet on the 28th day of this Instant, at the usual Place for their Joining in Battalion, with their Arms & Accoutrements in good Order, and when so met, march immediately to the City of Philadelphia & there put yourself under the Command of Major Genl Putnam. And you are further required to make me an exact return, of the Names & places of abode, of Such Officers & privates as refuse to appear with there Arms & Acoutrements at the time & place appointed, that they may be dealt with as the resolve above referred to directs.2 Given under my hands at Head Quarters this 19th Decr 1776.

Df, in George Lewis’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The draft is addressed to “Colo. [Joseph] Kirkbride[,] Colo. [Joseph] Hart[,] Colo. Andw Kachlein[,] Colo. Arthur Ewing[,] Colo. Jos. Sabitts [Sackett].” A typescript of Erwin’s copy of these orders, which was made in 1893 from the original document then in the possession of Mrs. Henry N. Paul of Philadelphia, is in the Washington Manuscripts at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Although the typescript is dated erroneously 17 Dec., it contains only minor differences in wording in comparison to the draft.

GW issued similar orders to the colonels of the Northampton County militia on 22 December. The principal difference between these two sets of orders is that the orders to the Northampton County colonels do not specify a particular date of assembly for their militia. “I hereby require you,” GW tells the Northampton colonels, “immediately to order the Captains of your Battalion to issue Orders to the Officers and privates of their respective Companies to meet and join in Battalion, with their Arms & Accoutrements in good Order, at such time and place as you shall judge most convenient for that purpose. Taking Care that it may be as soon as you think such order can reasonably and conveniently be conveyed to the People” (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW).

The orders to the Northampton County colonels are not addressed to specific colonels because GW did not know who they were. Six copies of those orders were sent to Lewis Gordon, chairman of the Northampton County committee of safety at Easton, under the cover of a letter from GW to Gordon of 22 Dec. that reads: “The Council of Safety for this State, have by their Resolve of the 17th instant, impowered me, to call out the Militia of the County of Northampton, to the Assistance of the Continental Army under my command, that by our joint Endeavours, we may put a Stop to the progress of the Enemy who are making preparations to advance to Philada as soon as they can cross the Delaware, either by Boats or upon the Ice. As I am unacquainted with the Names of the Colonels of your Militia, I have taken the Liberty to inclose you six Letters, in which you will please to insert the Names of the proper Officers, and send them immediately to them, by persons in whom you can confide for the Delivery. If there are not as many Colonels as Letters, you may destroy those that are not wanted. I most earnestly intreat you Sir, and the rest of the Gentlemen of your Committee, to exert your Influence among the people of the County and endeavour to make them turn out generally, in defence of their Capital, which will most assuredly fall a Sacrafice, unless the Militia of the province contribute largely to its defence—Those who are so far lost to a love of their Country, as to refuse to lend a hand to its support, at this critical time, may depend upon being treated, as their baseness and want of public Spirit, will most justly deserve. . . . P.S. Please to make me a Return of the Names of the different Colonels” (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW).

2Col. Joseph Hart on 29 Dec. sent GW a list of the names of 213 delinquent associators in five companies of his regiment. At the end of the document, Hart writes: “The Preceeding return is the best I am capable to make, of the respective Companies before mentioned. . . . I am not yet enabled to make returns of Delinquents in Captain Roberts’s & Capt. Mckonkeys Companies” (DLC:GW).

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