George Washington Papers

II: From Lieutenant Colonel James Ross, 11 September 1777

From Lieutenant Colonel James Ross

Sept. 11. ’77. Great Valley Road [Pa.]
Eleven oclock A.M.

Dear General,

A large body of the enemy—from every account 5000, with 16 or 18 field pieces, marched along this Road just now.1 this Road leads to Taylor’s & Jeffries ferries on the Brandy wine, and to the Great Valley at the Sign of the Ship on the Lancaster Road to Philada.2 There is also a road from Brandy wine to Chester by Dilwo[r]th’s tavern3—we are close in their rear with about 70 men. Capt. Simpson lay in ambush with 20 men, and gave them 3 rounds within a small distance, in which two of his men were wounded, one mortally4—I believe Genl Howe is with this party, as Joseph Galloway is here Known by the inhabitants, with many of whom he spoke, and told them that Genl Howe was with him. Yours,

James Ross Lieut. Col.
D. P. Regt

Sprague Transcript, DLC:GW; ALS, sold by Stan V. Henkels, Philadelphia, 3 April 1906, item no. 165.

1Howe’s column was accompanied by “four light twelve-pounders and the artillery of the brigades” (Howe to Germain, 10 Oct. 1777, in Davies, Documents of the American Revolution description begins K. G. Davies, ed. Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783; (Colonial Office Series). 21 vols. Shannon and Dublin, 1972–81. description ends , 14:202–9).

2These fords were on the east branch of the Brandywine. Jeffries Ford was about a mile above the fork, and Taylor’s Ford was about a mile and a half farther upstream. The Sign of the Ship Tavern, which was owned by a Quaker named Robert Valentine, was located at the junction of the Great Valley and Lancaster roads, about a mile west of the place where the Lancaster Road crossed the east branch just above Taylor’s Ford.

3Charles Dilworth (1745–1801) began operating a tavern in the early 1770s at Dilworthtown about two-and-a-half miles northeast of Chadds Ford. A large part of Howe’s army camped near his tavern for four days after the Battle of Brandywine, and in 1782 Dilworth claimed that it had done £820.15.3 of damage to his property (see Futhey and Cope, Chester County description begins J. Smith Futhey and Gilbert Cope. History of Chester County, Pennsylvania, with Genealogical and Biographical Sketches. Philadelphia, 1881. description ends , 105–6).

4Hessian captain Johann Ewald, who was in the vanguard of Howe’s column, says in his diary entry for this date that “I had hardly marched half an hour when I ran into a warning post of the enemy, five to six hundred men strong, who withdrew from one favorable position to another under constant skirmishing until around noontime” (Ewald, Diary description begins Johann Ewald. Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal. Translated and edited by Joseph P. Tustin. New Haven and London, 1979. description ends , 83; see also Muenchhausen, At General Howe’s Side description begins Friedrich von Muenchhausen. At General Howe’s Side, 1776–1778: The Diary of General William Howe’s Aide de Camp, Captain Friedrich von Muenchhausen. Translated by Ernst Kipping. Annotated by Samuel Smith. Monmouth Beach, N.J., 1974. description ends , 31). “Capt. Simpson” may be Michael Simpson (1748–1813), who served as a second lieutenant in Col. William Thompson’s Pennsylvania rifle regiment during 1775 and as a first lieutenant in the 1st Pennsylvania Regiment from January to December 1776 when he was promoted to captain in that regiment. Simpson’s regiment and the 8th Pennsylvania Regiment, of which Ross was lieutenant colonel, were both part of Wayne’s division, and the two officers may have been detached temporarily at this time to serve together in a scouting party. Simpson left the army in 1781, and he eventually became a major general of Pennsylvania militia.

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