George Washington Papers

General Orders, 14 September 1777

General Orders

Head Quarters, [ ] Septr 14th 1777.

Parole: Vigilance.Countersign: Safety.

The army is to march to morrow morning as soon as it is well light.1

Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

Muhlenberg’s orderly book includes the following general orders from “German Town” on this date: “The Troops are to march to Sweeds Ford in the follg Order by subdivisions from the right, the first two Thirds of the light Dragoons from which the Comm[andin]g Officers will detach small parties to Reconnoitre in the Front on the Flanks to a Considerable distance 2d A. Capts Command from Genl Smallwoods Brigade 800 yards in the Rear 3d 1 Regt from Smallwoods Brigade 200 yards in their Rear 4th the Residue of that Brigade 500 yds in their Rear, 5th 500 yards in the Rear of that Brigade, the main Body of the Army in the following order. Vizt.

“1st The Remaining Brigade of Genl Sullivan’s Division, 2d Ld Sterling, 3d Wayne, 4th Park of Artillery, 5th Nash’s Brigade, 6th Stephen’s Division, 7th Green’s, 6th then the Waggons with Tents Hospital and Commissaries Stores, 7th then a rear Guard of 2 Regts from Genl Weedon’s Brigade, 8th then a Capts Command from the Two Regts at the distance of 200 yards, 9th then the remaining third of the Dragoons 500 yards from the Foot, 10th then a Subaltern’s Commd from the Dragoons, the distance of 500 yards, the Guards in Front and Rear, and each Brigade to send out small Flanking parties on their left. The rear Guards of Foot and Dragoons to pick up all Stragglers. An active Officer from each Brigade to go to the City and meet at the Conestagoe Waggon in order to agree upon a plan how they may Collect all the Straggling Soldiers together, those that are not able to march to be delivered to the Surgeon Genl, the rest the Officers to furnish with 40 Rounds of Cartridges and march tomorrow morning in good order and join the Army” (“Muhlenberg’s Orderly Book,” description begins “Orderly Book of Gen. John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg, March 26–December 20, 1777.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 33 (1909): 257–78, 454–74; 34 (1910): 21–40, 166–89, 336–60, 438–77; 35 (1911): 59–89, 156–87, 290–303. description ends 34:467–68). Only the last three sentences of these orders, concerning stragglers, appear in Weedon’s Orderly Book description begins Valley Forge Orderly Book of General George Weedon of the Continental Army under Command of Genl George Washington, in the Campaign of 1777–8: Describing the Events of the Battles of Brandywine, Warren Tavern, Germantown, and Whitemarsh, and of the Camps at Neshaminy, Wilmington, Pennypacker’s Mills, Skippack, Whitemarsh, & Valley Forge. New York, 1902. description ends , 45.

1Lt. James McMichael of Greene’s division wrote in his diary entry for this date: “At 9 A.M. we marched from camp near Germantown, N.N.W. for a few miles, up the great road from Philadelphia to Reading, then turning W.S.W., we crossed the Schuylkill in the centre between Philadelphia and Swedes Ford, 8 miles from each. We reached the great road to Lancaster, at Merion Meeting house, and proceeded up that road, when we encamped in an open field, being denied every desirable refreshment” ((“McMichael’s Diary,” description begins William P. McMichael. “Diary of Lieutenant James McMichael, of the Pennsylvania Line, 1776–1778.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 16 (1892): 129–59. description ends 150–51).

Adj. Gen. Timothy Pickering says in his journal entry for this date: “The army, having yesterday cleaned their arms, and received ammunition to complete forty rounds a man, this day marched up a few miles and recrossed the Schuylkill at Levering’s Ford, the water being nearly up to the waist. We lost here much time, by reason of the men’s stripping off their stockings and shoes, and some of them their breeches. It was a pleasant day, and, had the men marched directly over by platoons without stripping, no harm could have ensued; their clothes would have dried by night on their march, and the bottom would not have hurt their feet. The officers, too, discovered a delicacy quite unbecoming soldiers; quitting their platoons, and some getting horses of their acquaintances to ride over, and others getting over in a canoe. They would have better done their duty, had they kept to their platoons and led in their men. We advanced about five or six miles that night” (Pickering and Upham, Life of Pickering description begins Octavius Pickering and Charles W. Upham. The Life of Timothy Pickering. 4 vols. Boston, 1867–73. description ends , 1:158–59).

Levering’s Ford was about two miles above the falls of the Schuylkill. GW lodged on the evening of 14 Sept. at the Buck Tavern about nine miles northwest of Philadelphia on the road to Lancaster, Pa., and seven miles south of Swede’s Ford (see GW to William Rumney, this date, in Patrick Henry to GW, 5 Sept., n.2, and GW to Hancock, 15 Sept.). Mary Miller operated the tavern at this time.

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