George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Horatio Gates, 23 February 1777

To Major General Horatio Gates

Head quarters. Morris Town. 23d Feby 1777


I have inclosed the Warrant for executing the Deserter—The blanks you will fill up, and direct the Ceremony as You please.1

Will it not be adviseable to arrange & equip the Troops under Innoculation in Philada? That, on an Emergency, they may be of some service.

Another skirmish happened Yesterday between Genl Maxwell & about 2000 from Amboy, they came to forage—The Genl writes me that he has secured 7 Prisoners, & spilt much blood.2 I am Yr most Obedient Servant

Go: Washington

LS, in George Johnston’s writing, NHi: Gates Papers; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, , DLC:GW.

1GW enclosed an order requiring Col. Richard Humpton to have the execution of Pvt. Brent Debbadie (1753–1777) of the 10th Pennsylvania Regiment carried out “by shooting...on the 8th day of March—between the hours of Ten in the forenoon and Three in the afternoon” (GW’s orders to Humpton, 24 Feb. 1777, DS, NHi: Gates Papers). Gates had requested the order for Debbadie’s execution in his letter to GW of 15 Feb. 1777. Debbadie was executed at Philadelphia on the common near the Centre House Tavern at Centre Square (see Scharf and Westcott, History of Philadelphia description begins J. Thomas Scharf and Thompson Westcott. History of Philadelphia. 1609–1884. 3 vols. Philadelphia, 1884. description ends , 1:339).

2Maxwell’s letter to GW has not been found. British officers Stephen Kemble and Archibald Robertson both give accounts of this skirmish, but Kemble gives the date of the action as Friday 21 Feb. and Robertson as 23 Feb. 1777. Kemble writes that “[Lieutenant] Colonel [Charles] Mawhood, with 3d. Brigade, and Flank Corps, foraged between Woodbridge and Spanktown; fell in with a party of 900 Rebels, who lay in Ambush and Attacked our flank Corps, by whom they were pushed from their lurking places, but with some loss on our side, one Officer and 5 Men Killed, and about 65 Wounded. 42d. Company Grenadiers had 22 Men Wounded; the Rebels attempted to cut off our Retreat, but dare not stand our Charge, and fled” (Kemble Papers description begins [Stephen Kemble]. The Kemble Papers. 2 vols. New York, 1884-85. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vols. 16–17. description ends , 1:110). Robertson’s account differs slightly from that given by Kemble: “A strong Foraging party consisting of the 3d Brigade and two Flank Corps from Rhode Island went out from Amboy. They fell in with a Body of Rebels whom they drove. They at last retreated to Amboy and the Rebels hung upon their Rear all the way home. We had 4 officers and about 60 men Killed and Wounded. The Major of the 52d Hys [Fra. Richm. Humphreys] is blamed for not supporting Lieutenant Colonel [John] Campbell who was engaged with 3 Companys of Grenadiers” (Lydenberg, Robertson Diaries description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends , 124–25). For other accounts of the skirmishing, see GW to John Augustine Washington, 24 Feb., and Lord Stirling to GW, 26 Feb. 1777.

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