George Washington Papers

General Orders, 27 December 1776

General Orders

Head Quarters: Newton [Pa.],1 Dec. 27, 1776.

The General, with the utmost sincerity and affection, thanks the Officers and soldiers for their spirited and gallant behavior at Trenton yesterday.2 It is with inexpressible pleasure that he can declare, that he did not see a single instance of bad behavior in either officers or privates; and that if any fault could be found, it proceeded from a too great eagerness to push forward upon the Enemy. Much! very much, indeed, is it to be lamented that when Men are brought to play the part of Soldiers thus well, that any of them, for the sake of a little temporary ease, should think of abandoning the cause of Liberty and their Country at so important a crisis.—As a reward to the officers and soldiers for their spirited behavior in such inclement weather, the General will (in behalf of the Continent) have all the Field pieces, the Arms, Accoutrements, Horses and everything else which was taken yesterday, valued and a proportionate distribution of the Amount made among the Officers (if they choose to partake) and the Men who crossed the River.

The Commissary is strictly ordered to provide Rum for the Troops that it may be served out as Occasion shall require.

Col. Bradley’s Reg’t or such part of them as have overstayed the time for which they were engaged, and are still in Camp, have the General’s thanks for so doing, and may be dismissed if they choose it; But as we have begun the glorious work of driving the Enemy, he hopes they will not now turn their backs upon them, and leave the business half finished at this important Crisis, a Crisis, which may, more than probably determine the fate of America. The General therefore not only invites them to a longer continuance, but earnestly exhorts the Officers and Soldiers of all those Regiments whose term of service expires in a few days, to remain.

The Col’s and Commanding Officers of each Regiment are, without delay, to have the Plunder of every kind (taken by his Reg’t) collected and given in to the Quar. Master Gen’l that the men may receive the value of it.

Powell, Leven Powell description begins Robert C. Powell, ed. A Biographical Sketch of Col. Leven Powell, including His Correspondence during the Revolutionary War. Alexandria, Va., 1877. description ends , 44–45. Maj. George Johnston enclosed a copy of these orders with a copy of the general orders of 25 Dec. in the letter that he wrote to Leven Powell on 29 Dec. from McConkey’s Ferry. No manuscript of that letter or either of its enclosures has been found.

Capt. William Hull of the 19th Continental Regiment wrote Andrew Adams on 1 Jan. 1777, and after giving a brief account of the Battle of Trenton on 26 Dec., Hull said: “The Resolution and Bravery of our Men, their Order and Regulariety, gave me the highest Sensation of Pleasure. Genl. Washington highly congratulated the Men on next day in Genl. Orders, and with Pleasure observed, that he had been in Many Actions before, but always perceived some Misbehaviour in some individuals, but in that Action he saw none” (Stryker, Battles of Trenton and Princeton description begins William S. Stryker. The Battles of Trenton and Princeton. 1898. Reprint. Spartanburg, S.C., 1967. description ends , 375–76).

1GW’s headquarters from 26 to 29 Dec. was at Newtown, Pa., about five miles west of McConkey’s Ferry. During this time he apparently lodged in “the old yellow house” owned by Hannah Stewart Harris, widow of John Harris (c.1717–1773), who had been a merchant before his death (see Davis, Bucks County description begins W. W. H. Davis. The History of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, from the Discovery of the Delaware to the Present Time. Doylestown, Pa., 1876. description ends , 234). The house no longer stands.

2For detailed accounts of the Battle of Trenton on 26 Dec., see GW to Hancock, this date.

Index Entries