George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Colonel John Cadwalader or Brigadier General Thomas Mifflin, 1 January 1777

To Colonel John Cadwalader or Brigadier General Thomas Mifflin

Trenton 9 Oclock P.M. Janry 1st 177[7].1

Dear Sir

Some pieces of Intelligence renders it necessary for you to March your Troops immediately to this place2—I expect your Brigade will be here by five O’clock in the Morning without fail.3 at any rate do not exceed 6. I am very sincerely Yr Most Obedt Sert

Go: Washington

Bring your Baggage—at least let it follow under a guard.

ALS, owned (1994) by Mr. Joseph Rubinfine, West Palm Beach, Florida. Although the manuscript is docketed “to B. Genl John Glover,” the context of the letter indicates that it was sent to Cadwalader or Mifflin, both of whom were ordered by GW on this night to bring their troops to Trenton to assist in opposing Cornwallis’s anticipated attack of the next day (see GW to Hancock, 5 January). Cadwalader was at Crosswicks about eight miles southeast of Trenton, and Mifflin was at Bordentown about seven miles to the southeast. Both officers probably received similar letters from GW.

Benjamin Rush, who was visiting the army at Trenton on this date, says in his autobiography: “In the evening an account was received that the British army then at Princeton intended to attack our posts at Trenton and Crosswicks. A council of war was held at General Washington’s quarters to determine what steps should be taken to oppose them. A division took place in the council upon the question whether the troops at Crosswicks should be drawn to Trenton, or left where they were to occasion a diversion of the British forces. General Knox proposed [that] as I was connected with Genl. Cadwallider’s corps, I should be called into the council, to give an opinion upon the question. I was accordingly sent for, and heard from General Washington a brief state of the controversy. He then asked my advice. I said that I was not a judge of what was proper in the business before the council, but one thing I knew well, that all the Philadelphia militia would be very happy in being under his immediate command, and that I was sure they would instantly obey a summons to join his troops at Trenton. After this information I retired, and in a few minutes was called in again and requested by Genl. Washington to be the bearer of a letter to General Cadwallider. I readily consented, and set off for Crosswicks at ten o’clock accompanied by Wm. Hall, one of the Philadelphia troop of horse.” At Crosswicks, Rush says, he was “conducted to Genl. Cadwallider’s quarters, to whom in his bed I delivered Genl. Washington’s letter. It was then about 1 o’clock. He instantly rose, and set his brigade in motion. We reached Trenton about 7 o’clock in the morning” (Corner, Rush’s Autobiography description begins George W. Corner, ed. The Autobiography of Benjamin Rush: His “Travels Through Life” together with his Commonplace Book for 1789–1813. Princeton, N.J., 1948. description ends , 126–27).

Joseph Reed, who apparently attended the council of war this evening, gives the following account of its discussions in his narrative of events: “It was then considered whether we should join Gen. Cadwallader at Crosswicks 7 Miles distance or order him to join the main Body at Trenton or keep the Troops divided & order the Division under Gen. Cadwallader to fall upon Brunswick by Way of Cranbury at which Place it must be supposed they were very weak by the Draught of the Troops to Princeton; the Troops at Trenton to govern themselves by Events [to] follow Genl Cadwallader if he should proceed or if he did not, the whole to retire before the Enemy untill they could be covered in their embarkation across the River by the Gallies which more moderate Weather now permitted to act again. The Danger of acting in Detachment agst the whole Force of the Enemy, the Possibility of cutting off the two Bodies from each other while acting separately & the Necessity of supporting the Militia with more regular Troops were offered as Reasons for ordering a Junction, on the other Hand the taking the Enemy in an unguarded & unexpected Point capturing their whole baggage & releasing Gen. Lee then a Prisoner at Brunswick were offered as Reasons for the March to that Place, but the former Opinion failed & Orders were sent to Gen. Cadwallader on the last of December to join the main Body at Trenton as soon as possible” (“Reed’s Narrative, 1776–77,” description begins “General Joseph Reed’s Narrative of the Movements of the American Army in the Neighborhood of Trenton in the Winter of 1776–77.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 8 (1884): 391–402. description ends 400–401; see also GW to Hancock, 5 January).

1On the manuscript GW inadvertently dated this letter “Janry 1st 1776.”

2On the manuscript GW wrote the word “particular” in front of “pieces” and then struck it out. Joseph Reed says in his narrative of events that on this date he and seven Philadelphia light horsemen captured twelve British dragoons and a British commissary near Princeton and obtained from them “a very perfect Account that Ld Cornwallis with a Body of pickd Troops & well appointed had the Day before reinforced Grant at Princeton & that his Party was pressing Waggons to begin their March the next Morning in order to dislodge us from Trenton. That their whole Force could not be less than 7 or 8000 but if it had been less it was still much superior to our whole Force” (ibid., 400; see also John Cadwalader to GW, 31 Dec., n.5).

3On the manuscript GW wrote the word “shall” in front of “expect” and then struck it out.

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