George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Colonel John Dockery Thompson, 28 August 1777

To Colonel John Dockery Thompson

Head Quarters Wilmington [Del.] 28th August 1777


I have your favor of yesterday by Lieut. Veazy1 and it gives me pleasure to hear that your people are so unanimously bent upon giving opposition to the Enemy. I wish it was in my power to furnish every man with a firelock that is willing to use one, but that is so far from being the Case that I have scarcely sufficient for the Continental Troops.2 As it is needless to keep Men together without Arms, I wou’d advise you to collect as many Arms as you possibly can and then class your Battalion, let the unarmed go home and at a certain period relieve their companions. It is to be wished that every Man could bring a good Musket and Bayonet into the field, but in times like the present we must make the best shift we can, and I wou’d therefore advise you to exhort every man to bring the best he has. A good fowling piece will do execution in the hands of a marks man.

As the Congress have order’d down Genl Smallwoods & Colo. Gists to arrange the Militia of Maryland, they ought to be drawn together at some certain place, that these Gentn may meet them embodied and the more readily form a disposition. The Militia of Kent and below it will assemble at George Town and the Head of Sarsafras from whence I shall advise party’s to be sent down into sarsafras Neck to prevent the disaffected inhabitants from Trading with the Enemy and supplying them with stock &c.3 I think yours had as well assemble at the Head of Bohemia, or any other place that you may think more convenient, from whence you may keep small party’s along shore under intelligent officers, not only to keep Boats from lan[d]ing, but to observe the motions of the Enemy. Horses & Cattle, but horses in particular sh’d be remov’d from the Shores, & for this purpose some of the unarm’d may be employ’d.

The intent of assembling the Militia of Maryland near the Head of the Bay, is to be ready to fall in upon the rear of the Enemy shou’d they move towards Philadelphia and to answer this end, I think they should be advanced as far as New Castle, from whence the distance to the Head of Elk is but short. If they cou’d cross Elk river, the Heads of Sarsifras and Bohomia wou’d not be inconvenient, but you may depend that the Enemy will throw Vessels in the way to prevent the passage and oblige you to march round by Land. I am Sir Your most Obet Servt

G. W——n

Df, in Richard Kidder Meade’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1William Veazey became a first lieutenant of the Cecil County militia in May 1776 and a captain in September 1778.

2GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman on this date wrote Benjamin Flower, commissary of military stores at Philadelphia: “His Excelly desires you will immediately send down from Five hundred to one thousand Stand of Arms if you have as many in repair. The Bad Weather has damaged many of late and there is no getting them put in order here with any expedition. They must be sent off as soon as possible after the Rec[eip]t of this” (DLC:GW).

GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison wrote Flower later on this date: “It is His Excellency[’s] requist that you send immediately all the rifles in your hands or in the Stores which are in repair to this Army with a proper supply of Bullet moulds suited to them. This he wishes to be done as expeditiously as possible, and also that you forward from five hundred to a thousand Musketts according to the Directions given in Mr Tilghman’s Letter this morning to supply the dificiencies occasioned by many being out of repair and no opportunity to put them in fix at this interesting period.

“I have it also in Command to inform you, that many of the Cartridges sent down are too small for our Musketts. All belonging to the Publick are of the French & English Bore and the Cartridges must be made to fit those sizes. If you have any 16ths & 18t[h]s (Viz. Cartridges which require so many to the pound) now ready you are to Transmit them without a moments Delay” (DLC:GW).

Flower replied to Harrison on 29 Aug.: “Your Order for Rifles & Moulds—and from five hundred to a Thousand Muskets—shall be fullfild as soon as possible—I am very sorry to Inform his Excellancy that the number of those Arms now in the Commissarys possession are very few. . . . all that he has I have Ordered to be sent on Immediately—and have wrote to the Commissaries at Carlisle & Lancaster to hasten from there with all possible dispatch all they can collect from those places—as allso all the musket Cartridges from the Laboratory from Carlisle of those sises you mention—and shall increase the number of hands employ’d in making them and enlarge the supplys as much as possible—Tho’ I hope & believe the Army cannot possibly be in want of them for there has within these three days the following Quantities been sent on to them—in consequence of An Express on tuesday [26 Aug.] I sent, 150,000—by ten Waggons which arrivd yesterday—Deliverd to the Conductor of Genl Sullivans Division 50,000—and yesterday sent on by Capt. French the Comy Stores 50 Waggons loaded with the spare Stores for the Army—in which were 228,390 Musket Cartridges sorted—with a Compleat Assortment and plenty of every kind of necessary Miltary Stores—for the Army—these Waggons I orderd to drive Night & Day til they Joind the Army—I shall send off Immediately 100,000 Musket Cartridges more with sundry other Stores—such as Bellowses & Smiths Tools, Irons &c.—there will then be Musket Cartridges in all sent—528,390—besides upwards of 300,000 the Commy for this State’s Militia has on hand and delivering out to them.

“I have had four Brass Six pounders—& one 8 Inch Howitzer—and their Stores Compleat: two Traveling Forges ready to send on ever since Tuesday and the two Brass twelve pounders (which I have got of this State with great difficulty, the Millitia Officers not being willing to part with them)—but could not possibly send them for want of Horses—No Q.M. Genls Officers here that has power to Empress them, the Executive Council have it under Consideration—I was with them twice yesterday[.] nothing but the Enemys advanceing I believe will induce them to comply and adopt some other measures necessary for the safety or removeal of all the Bells & Coppers—Stills &c. in this City which I want much to get into my possession for the use of our Foundery—I have prevaild on them to Issue an Order to take down al⟨l the⟩ Lead spouts to the Houses in this place ⟨mutilated⟩ immediate supply of our Laboratory—which is ⟨to⟩ be put into execution this day—and will afford me at least twenty Tons.

“I must beg your pardon for troubling you with so long a letter, but they are Circumstances necessary for his Excellancy to be informd of—please to inform him that I shall do every thing in my power to keep up the supply of the Stores wanted from my Department & to execute every Order he may please to send me” (DLC:GW).

3Sassafras Neck is the region of Cecil County, Md., lying between the Sassafras and Bohemia rivers. Georgetown, Kent County, Md., is on the south side of the Sassafras River across from Fredericktown in Cecil County.

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