George Washington Papers

General Orders, 8 August 1777

General Orders

Head-Quarters, Roxboro’—August 8th 1777.

Parole: Germantown.Countersigns: Roxboro’

The morning being foggy and dewy, the Brigadiers will postpone parading their brigades ’till six o’clock and longer if necessary, ’till the fog and dew are chiefly dissipated.1

At two o’clock P.M. the army is to march to a new encampment, about [ ] miles from hence, on the way to Coryell’s ferry, at the ground appointed by the Quarter Master General.2

Col. Moylan will leave proper detachments of horse, as has already been proposed to him, to search all houses in the neighbourhood of the late encampment, and on the roads towards Philadelphia, for all straggling soldiers, whom they will secure3—And to morrow morning he will move forwards, to join the main army, previously making application to the Quarter Master General and Commissary General of forage, for direction as to the ground, that such a post may be taken, as shall be most convenient for the army, and getting a supply of forage.

Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The Varick transcript contains the following note after the general orders for this date: “Original Orders lost up to the 13th instant” (DLC:GW). Other manuscript copies for those general orders have survived, however.

1An orderly book kept for the Pennsylvania State Regiment contains a copy of the “Orders of Review” for the parade, issued on 7 Aug.:

“The men are to parade on the open ground on the left of the Encampment, to front as the tents are now pitched, the Captains and subalterns to dress in a line from right to left, four paces in front of the men; the Colonel on foot advanced six paces in front of the officers; the Lieut. Colonel three paces in the rear of the Colonel and the Majors only on horseback in a line with the Lieut. Colonel.

“When the General comes in front of the Brigade the Exercising Officer will give a signal for salutes by dropping his sword, at which time the Drums are to beat, and the Officers as the General passes along towards the right to salute in the manner directed by His Excellency the 16th of June, viz. the Captains and subalterns standing with their Fusees over their left arms, are to bring them to an order and take off their hats, carefully bring their arms down close to their left until the General passes, when they return to their former position. The Field Officers are to salute by dropping the points of their swords, which are to be drawn. All the officers and soldiers are to face as the General goes round the flanks of the Brigades, and when he comes again in the centre of the front, a General Salute is to be performed by a signal as before. The Artillery to be upon the right and left of the Brigades, and the officers to salute in the same manner with the Captains and subalterns of the regiments in the Brigade” (“Pa. State Regiment Orderly Book,” 314).

Lt. James McMichael describes the parade of the Continental army in his journal entry for this date: “We received orders to hold ourselves in readiness to pass a grand review at 10 A.M., upon which we all got into uniform, with our hair dressed and powdered. At noon His Excellency Gen. Washington with a number of General officers passed us; we received them with a General salute, both officers and soldiers, when we were afterwards ordered to our encampment” (“McMichael’s Diary,” 146–47).

The parade offered the marquis de Lafayette an opportunity to inspect the American army for the first time, which he later recalled in his memoirs: “A few miles from Philadelphia, the army waited until the enemy’s movements were determined. The general reviewed his army, and M. de Lafayette arrived there the same day. About eleven thousand men, poorly armed and even more poorly clothed, offered a singular spectacle. In that motley and often naked array, the best garments were hunting shirts, large jackets of gray linen commonly worn in Carolina. As for tactics, it suffices to say that, for a regiment formed in battle order to advance on its right, instead of a simple turn to the right, the left had to begin an eternal countermarch. They were always formed in two ranks, with the small men in the front; no other distinction as to height was ever observed. Despite these disadvantages, they were fine soldiers, led by zealous officers. Virtue took the place of science, and each day added to their experience and their discipline. Lord Stirling, who was more courageous than judicious; a general ⟨Stephen⟩ who was always drunk, and Greene, whose talents were, as yet, known only to his friends, commanded as major generals. General Knox, who had transformed himself from bookseller to artillery expert, was there also. He trained the other officers, and created an artillery unit. ‘We should be embarrassed,’ said General Washington, ‘to show ourselves to an officer who has just left the French army.’ ‘I am here to learn, and not to teach,’ replied M. de Lafayette, and that tone produced a good effect, because it was unusual for a European” (Lafayette’s Memoir of 1776, Lafayette Papers description begins Stanley J. Idzerda et al., eds. Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution: Selected Letters and Papers, 1776–1790. 5 vols. Ithaca, N.Y., 1977-83. description ends , 1:91; see also Lafayette, Mémoires, 1:20–21).

2Lt. James McMichael confirms this march in his journal entry for this date: “At 4 P.M. we marched from the plains and proceeded thro’ Germantown to White Marsh, where we encamped” (“McMichael’s Diary,” 147).

3Directions concerning the apprehending of stragglers from the army were sent to Col. Stephen Moylan by Adj. Gen. Timothy Pickering in two letters of 7 Aug. 1777, the first of which reads: “His Excellency the Commander in Chief desires that to-morrow morning you would post careful officers, with proper commands of men, on all the roads leading from any part of the camp to Philadelphia, in such manner as to intercept every soldier who shall attempt to straggle from the camp towards Philadelphia; and all such stragglers are to be taken up, secured, & brought on after the army. The whole army is to parade to-morrow morning at 5 o’clock, & march as soon after as possible to a new encampment about 9 miles back: but of this movement you will make no mention, but to the officers whom you shall detach for the purpose aforesaid; nor to them till you deliver them their orders when you send them off. The whole body of horse is to bring up the rear of the army, for the business of picking up all stragglers” (DLC: William A. Oldridge Collection). Pickering’s second letter to Moylan reads: “I have mentioned to the General [GW] your proposal as to the time of detaching the parties for the roads—He approves it. But desires you only to have the detachments made, & no orders given them till the General sees you in the morning at Head Qurs if you should be well enough to come thither. If not you will please to send word to his Excellency, & the messenger will carry back his further orders” (DLC: Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection, Philip Lansdale).

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