George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Hancock, 17 September 1777

From John Hancock

Philada Sept. 17th 1777.


I have the Honour to transmit the enclosed Resolves, conveying the most extensive Powers to you, in Order that the Army under your Command may be more effectually supplied with Provisions and other Necessaries; & that the same may be prevented from falling into the Hands of the Enemy. The Congress have likewise empowered you to suspend all Officers for Misbehaviour, and to fill up all Vacancies in the Army, under the Rank of Brigadiers General, until their Pleasure shall be known.1

In Consequence of your Letter advising that the Provisions in this City should be removed to some Place of Safety, & requesting a Supply of Blankets, the Congress came to the enclosed Resolves, which were immediately communicated to the Executive Council of this State. In obedience to the Order of Congress, I enclose you a Copy of their Answer on the Subject2—and have the Honour to be with the greatest Respect Sir, your most obed. & very hble Servt

John Hancock Presidt

P.S. In Consequence of the Resolution of Congress transmitted some Time ago, two Thousand of the Virginia Militia have rendevouzed at Fredericksburg, where they wait only for your Orders, to march as you shall think proper to direct.3

This Morning Genl De Coudray, in attempting to cross the Schuylkill, was unfortunately drowned; and was this Afternoon interred at the public Expence.4

LS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 12A.

Hancock also on this date wrote GW a brief letter in his own handwriting that reads: “I have only time just to Inclose you a Letter I have Rec’d this moment from Govr Livingston inclosg one from General Dickinson by which you will See the State of Affairs in the Jersies” (DLC:GW).

Livingston’s letter to Hancock from Haddonfield, N.J., on 17 Sept., reads: “I inclose you Copy of a Letter I received last Night from General Dickinson by Express; to convince Congress as well of the Impracticability of furnishing them with any of our Militia from the Eastern parts of this State to reinforce General Washington; as of the just Ground I had for apprehending an Irruption into this State, when I lately applied to that august Assembly for 1500 of General Putnam’s Division, of whose Arrival in this State I am sorry I have not yet received any authentic Intelligence. Of about 130 Tories on their way to the Enemy from the Counties of Hunterdon & Sussex, but principally the former, our Militia have taken 61 & were in Expectation of apprehending more when the Express came away” (DLC:GW).

Dickinson’s letter to Livingston, written at Trenton on 16 Sept., reads: “A Gentleman this moment arrived from Morris Town informs me, that it was expected the Enemy would be in possession of that Town very soon—that meeting with little opposition from the Country, they had divided their forses into three Divisions, and intend to Ravage the Country—under those Circumstances & agreable to the inclinations of the Officers belonging to Col. [Joseph] Philips’s Battalion (the only one here) I have ordered him to the Eastward—Tis said confidently, that the Enemy are 4000 strong in this State—the apprehensions of the Inhabitants are great.

“I wish the Council would reconsider the Order they sent me, respecting the Western Militia—I believe the Detachment woud be very small, were they ordered to Philada as matters are circumsta[n]ced—I beg an answer to this Letter with the utmost Dispatch that I may know what orders to leave for those Troops, that assemble at this place—Your Excelly will give orders to Genl Newcombs Brigade; If they march Eastward, be pleased to write a line by this Express to Col. [Bowes] Reed at Burlington whose Battalion is ready to march—Genl Washingtons orders to me, were discretional, as circumstances vary daily I must inform your Excelly all the Continental Stores from Philadelphia are sent to this Place. This the Enemy will soon receive information of from their Friends.

“When Philips’s Battalion paraded yesterday Evening not a single man from the Trenton Company appeared. his Battn consists of about 200 men—Col. Reed ⟨told⟩ me his woud not exceed 100 men—I wish the Council were not so distant at this critical Time.

“We now feel in the most Sensible manner, the effects of the Militia Law, not a moment shoud be lost in forming a new One, that will compel the Men to turn out.

“Your Excelly mentioned the green Coats from Statin Island, there are three or four Times their number of Red coats, tis said. . . . P.S. I have sent to Philada for Amunition, expect it up this night” (DLC:GW).

1These resolutions of this date, which were passed in anticipation of the impending British occupation of Philadelphia and Congress’s necessary adjournment “to some Place more remote . . . from the Scene of Action,” confer on GW powers to impress and remove private property as well as the indicated powers to suspend and appoint officers with the provisos that they “shall be exercised only in such Parts of these States, as may be within the Circumference of seventy Miles of the Head Quarters of the American Army, and shall continue in Force for the Space of sixty Days, unless sooner revoked by Congress” (DLC:GW; see also 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 , 8:751–52).

2These resolutions of 16 Sept., which were passed in response to GW’s letter to Hancock of 15 Sept., are in DLC:GW. See also ibid., 747–48; Hancock to the Pennsylvania Council, 16 Sept., in Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 7:671; and the Pennsylvania Council to Hancock, 17 Sept., DLC:GW.

3See Congress’s resolution of 22 Aug. in 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 , 8:667; see also Patrick Henry to GW, 5 September.

4John Adams says in his diary entry for 18 Sept. that Du Coudray “was drowned in the Schuylkill, in a strange manner. He rode into the Ferry Boat, and road out at the other End, into the River, and was drowned. His Horse took fright. . . . He was carried into the Romish Chappell, and buried in the Yard of that Church” (Butterfield, Adams Diary and Autobiography description begins L. H. Butterfield, ed. Diary and Autobiography of John Adams. 4 vols. Cambridge, Mass., 1961. description ends , 2:263).

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