George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Hancock, 22 August 1777

From John Hancock

Congress Chamber [Philadelphia] 22d Augst 1777
½ past 1 oClock P.M.


This moment an Express is Arriv’d from Maryland with an Accott of near Two hundred Sail of Mr Howe’s Fleet being at Anchor in Chesapeak Bay, a Copy of the Letter brought by the Express I inclose you, & to which I Refer you1—In consequence of this Advice Congress have order’d the immediate Removal of all the Stores & Prisoners from Lancaster & York in this State to places of greater Safety.2

Congress have this moment come to the Inclos’d Resolution to which I beg leave to Refer you, & indeed I need not Add, as the whole matter is submitted to you3—I will not Detain the express only to Say that I am with every Sentiment of Esteem & Respect, Sir Your very hume Servt

John Hancock, Presidt

LS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 12A; copy, enclosed in GW to William Livingston, this date, MHi: William Livingston Papers.

1Dr. William Bordley of Kent County, Md., began writing the enclosed letter to Maryland delegate William Paca at 4:00 P.M. on 21 Aug.: “I embrace the earliest moment of giving you the most authentic account of the enemies fleet and their motions since their arrival in Chesapeak bay, the fleet arrived this morning between the hours of seven & eight oclock off Swan Island, which lies directly between Rock hall and the river Potapseco and dropt anchor[.] From the best information we have been able to procure their number is upward of 100 sail. It is uncertain as the tide is strong ebb whether they intend to Baltimore or further up the bay; their number is continually encreasing; there are a great number of cattle which I am afraid must fall into the enemys hands.

“50 minutes past 4 P.M. This moment recd a letter from a gentlemen of veracity & attachment to the country from Swan point 2 oclock P.M., he had just then returned from viewing the fleet, which he is certain is near 200 in number. He says they all came to agst Swan point about 1 oclock P.M. and is certain they will land on this shore to night or to morrow morning as they are very near the land; there is a number of small craft around them and they seem crouded with men[.] Cannon are continually firing at Baltimore[.] Our militia is in a very disordered state our law relating to it not yet executed. Nothing but speedy relief from Congress can save us” (DLC:GW).

Bordley was commissioned colonel of the 13th Regiment of Kent County militia on 8 May 1777, and on 1 July 1777 he became county lieutenant.

2For this resolution of this date, see JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 8:665.

3In this resolution of this date, Congress resolved “That general Washington be informed by express of the intelligence Congress hath this day received of the british fleet being advanced high up the bay of Chesapeak and therefore that it is probable the enemy have the city of Philadelphia in contemplation as the distance from the head of the said bay is so small. Congress wish the general in consequence of this information to proceed in such manner as shall appear to him most conducive to the general interest notwithstanding the resolution of yesterday concerning his progress to the north river” (DLC:GW; see also ibid., 666).

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