George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Bradford, Sr., and Commodore John Hazelwood, 11 October 1777

From William Bradford, Sr., and Commodore John Hazelwood

Fort Mifflin [Pa.] October 11th 1777


Two days ago the Enemy erected a Battery at the mouth of Schuylkill to secure the passage at Webbs Ferry.1 The Commodore ordered several Galleys to attack it for a considerable time, and after very little firing the Enemy ceas’d having lost several men as we are since inform’d. Last night the Enemy crossed Webb Ferry and erected a redoubt opposite the Fort within two Muskets shots of the Block house.2 Early in the morning it was discover’d, and the Commodore immediately order’d three Galleys and one of the Floating Batteries to attack the redoubt which they did very warmly for a considerable time, when a Flag appeared and the Soldiers were seen on the Bank with the Muskets clubbed. Boats were sent off to take the prisoners on board, and while the Commodore and myself were taking off the prisoners, Colonel Smith from the Blockhouse saw a party coming down from the House of Adam Guyer,3 which he imagin’d were design’d to reinforce the party that had surrender’d (but the Prisoners said they were coming to submit) Colonel Smith from the Block house fired on them, which so alarm’d those that had surrender’d that many ran off and by that means we lost one half of those that had submitted, and we are now oblig’d to continue the attack on the Redoubt. Colonel Smith has sent over a party from the Fort to attack those that remain on the Island which I hope they will bring in. The prisoners taken are One Lieutenant One Ensign and fifty six privates, which we sent over to Red Bank as soon as taken and they are sent on to haddonfield.4 The Commodore is taking every step that a Man can do for the support of Fort Mifflin, and indeed without the Fleet the Fort must very soon be reduced. The Enemys Ships have removed one of the Chevaux de Frize at Billingsport, but I think they are not able to get through unless with the utmost care by warping, and then I think the Commodore will be able to burn them. Your Excellency’s Most Hble Servts

Wm Bradford

John Hazelwood

P.S. Five oClock P.M.5 Col. Smiths Party is returned not able to compleat their design as they were reinforced. The Prisoners sent off are Leut: Finch of 27th Regiment[,] Ensign Hankey of 10 Regiment[,] 54 Rank & File.6

LS, DLC:GW; copy, enclosed in GW to Hancock, 13 Oct. 1777, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169.

Bradford and Hazelwood sent on this date a similarly worded letter, without the postscript, to Thomas Wharton, Jr. (PHarH; see also Naval Documents description begins William Bell Clark et al., eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 11 vols. to date. Washington, D.C., 1964–. description ends , 10:120–21). In another letter to Wharton on 13 Oct., Bradford somewhat revised his account and added that American casualties were “two Men killed and five wounded” (ibid., 146).

2British captain John Montresor says in his journal entry for 10 Oct. that “this night the Engineers constructed a battery unperceived, the battery 250 yards from the enemy’s floating battery, and 500 yards West of the Fort on a dyke in an overflowed meadow. . . . The above, or Middle Battery, constructed on Carpenter’s Island, for one 8 inch Howitzer, and one Eight inch mortar” (Scull, Montresor Journals description begins G. D. Scull, ed. The Montresor Journals. New York, 1882. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vol. 14. description ends , 464).

3Adam Guyer (Geyer), who had supplied the Continental army with cattle earlier in 1777, now found his house on Province Island used as a barracks by British and Hessian troops constructing batteries on that island and adjoining Carpenter’s Island. On 10 April 1779 Guyer petitioned Congress for compensation for the damage done to his property by the American forces during the Delaware River campaign, including “breaking the Banks and laying the Meadows under Water, for the more effectually resisting the Enemy’s Approach to this City [Philadelphia] by Water” (DNA:PCC, item 42; see also GW to Hazelwood, this date, n.3).

4Captain Montresor says in his journal entry for 11 Oct.: “At ½ past 9 this morning the rebels landed about 180 men near the battery built last night, and advanced and summoned it and the Captain of the 10th delivered it up, with his detachment of 50 men and two officers and a medium Bran 12 Pounder and 4 artillery men, which was retaken immediately by Captain James Moncrief Engineer and 50 Hessians, recovered the gun unspiked and all the detachment except 2 subalterns, 5 grenadiers and 2 artillery men. During this day the Rebels fired 3000 Cannon Shot at this battery from the instant day broke. The Troops being few and harassed no work this night” (ibid., 464–65; see also Samuel Smith to GW, this date; Whinyates, Services of Francis Downman description begins F. A. Whinyates, ed. The Services of Lieut.-Colonel Francis Downman, R.A., in France, North America, and the West Indies, between the Years 1758 and 1784. Woolwich, England, 1898. description ends , 40; and Timothy Pickering to Rebecca Pickering, 13 Oct. 1777, in Naval Documents description begins William Bell Clark et al., eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 11 vols. to date. Washington, D.C., 1964–. description ends , 10:144–46).

5The copy that GW enclosed in his letter to Hancock reads: “twelve oClock P.M.” The other copy also includes that time.

6On the LS manuscript “54” is written over the number “56.” The two copies in DNA:PCC contain the number “56.” William Finch became an ensign in the 27th Regiment of Foot in March 1772 and a lieutenant in May 1775. Richard Hankey’s commission as ensign in the 10th Regiment of Foot dated from May 1776.

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