George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Brigadier General Caesar Rodney, 24 September 1777

To Brigadier General Caesar Rodney

Camp, Four Miles From Potts’ Grove [Pa.]
September 24, 1777.

—I last night read your favor of the 21st, and am much obliged to you for the book. This, and the one taken in the action at Chadsford, complete general Howe’s orders from April to the 10th inst.1 I am sorry for the captivity of Mr. Berry, whom you mention to be a young man of merit, but no proposition for his exchange can be made at this time, nor can he be exchanged but in due course, which is the only rule by which equal justice can take place. The conduct of the militia is much to be regretted. In many instances, they are not to be roused, and in others they come into the field with all possible indifference, and, to all appearance, entirely unimpressed with the importance of the cause in which we are engaged. Hence proceeds a total inattention to order and to discipline, and too often a disgraceful departure from the army at the instant their aid is most wanted. I am inclined to think, the complaints and objections offered to the militia laws are but too well founded. The interest of the community has not been well consulted in their formation, and, generally speaking, those I have seen are unequal.2

I wish I could inform you that our affairs were in a happier train than they now are. After various manoeuvres and extending his army high up the Schuylkill, as if he meant to turn our right flank, general Howe made a sudden countermarch on Monday night,3 and in the course of it and yesterday morning, crossed the river, which is fordable in almost every part several miles below us; he will possess himself of Philadelphia in all probability—but I think, he will not be able to hold it. No exertions shall be wanting on my part to dispossess him.

Ryden, Rodney Letters description begins George Herbert Ryden, ed. Letters to and from Caesar Rodney, 1756–1784. Philadelphia, 1933. description ends , 236–37.

1The British orderly book that was captured at the Battle of Brandywine on 11 Sept. apparently was the one for Capt. James Wilson’s company of the 49th Regiment that is now in DLC:GW. It begins with the orders issued at Amboy, N.J., on 25 June 1777 and ends with those issued at Kennett Square, Pa., on 10 September. It also includes rolls of Wilson’s company and Capt. George Lewis’s troops of Continental light dragoons. The 49th Regiment was part of Knyphausen’s division at the Battle of Brandywine.

2“No militia can be more contemptible than those of Pennsylvania and Delaware,” Timothy Pickering wrote his brother John Pickering on 25 Sept.; “none can be spoken of more contemptuously than they are by their own countrymen. And how astonishing is it, that not a man is roused to action when the enemy is in the heart of the country, and within twelve miles of their grand capital, of so much importance to them and the Continent! How amazing, that Howe should march from the head of Elk to the Schuylkill, a space of sixty miles, without opposition from the people of the country, except a small band of militia just round Elk! Such events would not have happened in New England” (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 , 1:162–65).

3The previous Monday was 22 September.

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