George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Colonel Christopher Greene, 15 October 1777

To Colonel Christopher Greene

Head Quarters [Towamencin Township, Pa.]
11 O’Clock at night, October 15, 1777.

Sir: I am persuaded by intelligence from different quarters, that the enemy are determined to endeavour by a speedy and vigorous effort to carry Fort Mifflin, and for this purpose are preparing a considerable force. Their attempt will probably be sudden and violent, as they are hardly in a situation to delay a matter so essential to them as that of removing the River obstructions. It is of infinite importance to disappoint their intentions in this instance, as their keeping or evacuating Philadelphia materially depends upon their having the communication with their shipping immediately open, and it is not unlikely they may dispair of effecting it, if they should fail in the push, I imagine they are now about to make. Col. Smith’s present force is not as great as could be wished and requires to be augmented, to put him in a condition to make an effectual opposition. I would therefore have you to detach immediately as large a part of your force as you possibly can in aid of his garrison. I cannot well determine what proportion: This must be regulated by circumstances and appearances but my present idea is that the principal part should go to his assistance. To enable you the better to spare a respectable reinforcement, I have directed General Newcomb to send his brigade of militia to Red-bank, or as many of them as he can prevail upon to go.1 Colonel Angell will also march early to-morrow morning to join you, with his regiment. The Garrisons and fleet may be informed of these succours by way of keeping up their spirits.

I would not have you trust to the houses in the neighborhood of your post, as these in case of an investiture will fail you; which makes it prudent to have a sufficient number of huts before hand prepared within the fort.

I hope, and doubt not, you will keep fully in mind the prodigious importance of not suffering the enemy to get entire possession of the Delaware, and will spare no pains, nor activity to frustrate their efforts for that purpose. Be watchful on every quarter, and industrious in stopping every avenue by which you are assailable. Be cautious not to pay too much attention to anyone part of your works, and neglect the others; but take every precaution to strengthen the whole; for otherwise the greatest danger may be where you least expect it. I am etc.

Fitzpatrick, Writings description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed. The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745–1799. 39 vols. Washington, D.C., 1931–44. description ends , 9:375–76; Df, written as being from Alexander Hamilton, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, , written as being from Hamilton DLC:GW.

Fitzpatrick says that his transcription was made “from the text in the collection of Frederick S. Peck, of Providence, R.I.,” and that the manuscript is “in the writing of Richard Kidder Meade.” A note at the end of that text reads: “N.B. The above letter was written by His Excellency’s orders; but as he went to bed before it was finished it will be handed you without his signature” (ibid., 376). The draft, which is also in Meade’s writing, is written in the third person, and the initials “A.H. A.D.C.” appear after the closing as if GW’s aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton wrote and signed this letter at GW’s command (see Syrett, Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 1:340–42). Neither the draft nor the Varick transcript, which was copied from the draft, includes the note at the end of Fitzpatrick’s text.

1GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman wrote Brig. Gen. Silas Newcomb at 10:00 P.M. on this date: “Colonel Green who is at present at Red Bank has orders to send the greatest part of his Force to Fort Mifflin, as it is expected, from accounts received this day that the Enemy have an intention of making a sudden attack upon that post. His Excellency [GW] therefore desires that you would immediately upon the Rect of this march with all the militia under your command to Red Bank and remain in the fort as long as Colo. Greens Men are at Fort Mifflin. That you may not have occasion to be absent Night or day the General desires that your Men may make up Huts and lay within the fort, the Officers to be particularly careful to be there of Nights lest the Enemy should cross at Night and carry the place by surprise. Wherever the Banks of the River are accessible good guard should be kept. Colo. Angell will march from hence tomorrow morning with another Regiment of Continental Troops to reinforce you, and his Excellency therefore expects if the Enemy should approach that you will not give the place up but endeavour to hold it to the last extremity” (DLC:GW).

Index Entries