George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Hancock, 15 September 1777

To John Hancock

Buck Tavern [Pa.] Septr 15: 1777. 3. OClock. P.M.


Your favor of Yesterday with its several Inclosures came to hand last night. Though I would willingly pay every attention to the Resolutions of Congress, Yet in the late instance, respecting the recall of Genl Sullivan I must beg leave to defer giving any order about It, till I hear further from that Honble Body.1 Our situation at this time is critical and delicate, and nothing should be done to add to its embarrassments. We are now most probably on the point of Another Action, and to derange the Army by withdrawing so many Genl Officers from it, may & must be attended with many disagreable, if not ruinous, consequences. Such a proceeding at another time might not produce any bad effects—but How can the Army be possibly conducted with a prospect of Success, if the Genl Officers are taken off in the Moment of Battle? Congress may rely upon it, such a measure will not promote, but injure the service. It is not my wish to prevent, or to delay a proper inquiry into Genl Sullivan’s conduct a single instant, when the circumstances of the Army will admit, But now they prohibit it, and, I think the suspension in his command also. The recall of Genl St Clair obliged me to part with Genl Lincoln, whom I could but illy spare—so, that the whole charge of his Division is now upon Genl Wayne, there being no other Brigadr in it than himself.2 The Maryland Troops, if Genl Sullivan is taken away, will not have One Genl Officer, Genl Smallwood being at the Head of the Militia coming from that State, and Genl De Borre suspended—Added to this, Colo. Gist who commands One Regiment of them, is now from it by order. In a word Sir, Whether the charges alledged against Genl Sullivan are true or false—or whether his conduct has been exceptionable or not, I am satisfied the resolution for his recall at this time was unhappily adopted, and if carried into execution, will not fail to add new difficulties to our present distresses. And, I am obliged to observe, in justice to my own Character, that I cannot be answerable for the consequences which may arise from a want of Officers to assist me.3

It gives me great pleasure to find Genl Gates is on so respectable a footing, and I hope, our Affairs in that Quarter in the course of a little time, will be in as prosperous a train, as we could reasonably wish.

The Main body of the Enemy, from the best intelligence, I have been able to get, lies4 near Dilworth Town, not far from the Feild of Action, where they have been busily employed in burying their Dead, which from Accounts amounted to a very considerable number.5 We are moving up this Road to get between the Enemy and the Swedes Ford & to prevent them from turning our right flank, which they seem to have a violent inclination to effect6 by all their movements.

I would beg leave to recommend in the most earnest manner, that some Board or Committee be appointed or some mode adopted for obtaining Supplies of Blankets for the Troops. Many are now without, and the season becoming cold, they will be injured in their health and unfitted for service, unless they are immediately provided with them. Our Supplies in this instance, as well, as in Every Article of Cloathing can not be too great, as there are frequent losses, not easily to be avoided. I would also observe, that, I think, in point of prudence & sound policy, every species of provisions, should be removed from the City, except such, as will be necessary to supply the present demands of this Army. I have been told, there are considerable quantities in private hands, which should not be suffered to remain a moment longer than they can be conveyed away. I have the Honor to be with great respect Sir Yr Most Obedt servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; copy (extract), PHarH: Records of Pennsylvania’s Revolutionary Governments, 1775–90; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. GW franked the addressed cover of the LS. On the draft manuscript nearly all of the third paragraph regarding intelligence of the British army and several draft changes in other parts of the text are in GW’s writing (see notes 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6). The remainder of the draft is in Harrison’s writing. Congress read this letter on 16 Sept. (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 , 8:747).

1On the draft manuscript GW inserted the words: “beg leave to” and “till I hear further from that Honble body.”

2At this place on the draft manuscript GW inserted the words: “there being no other Brigr,” and Harrison inserted the words: “in it than himself.”

3At this place on the draft manuscript GW wrote: “to wch in Justice to my own charactr I am obliged to ansr that I cannot be responsible for consq. with[ou]t Offrs to assist me.”

4At this place on the draft manuscript GW first wrote and then struck out the phrase: “near, between Birmingham Meeting House.”

5Colonel Arendt provided some of this intelligence in a letter that he wrote in French from Chester, Pa., at 11:00 A.M. on this date. Although the letter is unaddressed, its context indicates that it was written to one of GW’s aides-de-camp, probably Alexander Hamilton, in whose writing it is docketed. John Laurens’s translation of the letter, which he apparently made for GW, reads: “Be so good as to inform His Excellency that I arrived here about a quarter of an hour ago, I made my Cavalry pass the Bridge, which immediately engaged with a party of foot. I kept them back fearing with reason that there was an Ambuscade, for from good Information a party of the Enemy consisting of 200 Men is encamp’d opposite the Creek, a mile from hence at a place call’d Georges Mill—from the Same information Their Camp is situated about four miles from hence upon the Road from Nottingham to Chester, and it is thought to contain about 5000 Men—Genl Howes Quarters must be at Dilworthtown, near a mile from the place of our last action, and Galloway must be with him. A man who came to day from Wilmington assures me that yesterday afternoon at 5 OClock, 1500 English & 800 Hessians arrived there, and 100 Waggons with wounded and a great many slightly wounded—my Design was to return from hence by the Edgemont Road to the Lancaster Road, and by the latter to Camp—but I am told that I shall be intercepted in my return—I shall consider therefore what step to take—at a miles distance from hence is a picket of the Enemy consisting of 50 men” (both the ALS in French and Laurens’s translation are in DLC:GW).

6At this place on the draft manuscript GW wrote: “propensity to do.” Harrison than changed the wording to read: “inclination to effect.”

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