George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General James Mitchell Varnum, 3 November 1777

From Brigadier General James Mitchell Varnum

Woo[d]berry [N.J.] 3d Novr 1777.1


We arrived at this Place Yesterday. I have taken a View of the Forts, and think them in a good State of Defence. The Want of Confidence between the Commodore and Colo. Smith, is very great.2 I shall do every Thing in my power to cause that mutual Support between the Land and Water Forces, which appears very essential for the Security of Fort Mifflin. I am not yet fully acquainted with the Ground, so as to give your Excellency that Satisfaction w’ch I cou’d wish. Have ordered four Capts. Eight Subs., Twelve Serjeants, Twelve Corporils and Two Hundred Privates into Fort Mifflin. I shall give that Post a still greater Support, by relieving the Invalids. The Enemy are in Possession of Billingsport: Some of their Shipping lay above that Place, about Two Miles below Fort Mifflin. In this Situation it is impossible for the Commodore to drag for the Cannon &c. as mentioned in your Orders of the 31st Ulto. There are no more Cannon in the Forts than are really necessary. There are no Militia of Consequence in force here. General Newcomb has perhaps between one and two Hundred. General Foreman is not upon the Ground. I am Sir, with great Respect, your Excellency’s most obdient Servant

J. M. Varnum

P.S. Colo. Durkee’s Surgeon Mate was ordered by him, to tarry at Camp a few Hours After the March of the Troops, and bring forward Medicine, Bandages &c.—Doctr Cockran upon Application, discharged him from the Service. This has given the Colo. great Uneasiness, & he chose me to make Mention of it.3 I am &c.



1Varnum headquartered at Ladd’s Castle while at Woodbury.

2Commo. John Hazelwood gave an account of his disagreement with Lt. Col. Samuel Smith in a letter to Pennsylvania supreme executive council president Thomas Wharton, Jr., on 8 Feb. 1778: “I have been informed by Capt. Blewer & some others That a Coll Smith, who was in Fort Miffln for some time, has made free with my character, which surprizes me much. He received some hurt in his arm in the Fort, came over to Red Bank, & another officer sent to take the Command at the Fort in his place. One day Genl Varnom sent for me on shore to meet him at Col. Green’s, at Red Bank Fort. I went, & after doing my business with him, Col. Smith mention’d something to me about the Galleys that I knew to be false. I told him he was a lying scoundrel, with that he made a stroke at me, & nothing prevented me for treating him as he deserved but Gen’l Vernom & a number of other officers who interfered, & I was determined to take an opportunity to call him to account for it, but Gen’l Vernom constantly begging me to make the matter up, & even brought him on board the Province Sloop one night after dark, where part of our board was present, & insisted that we should be friends. After a great deal of persuasions of both sides, the matter was settled; we drank together & parted friends. I heard no more of it until lately, but I cannot find any person who heard him say it, or I should call him to a proper account for it” (Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 1st ser., 6:246–47).

3Thomas Gray (1749–1792) of Windham, Conn., served as the surgeon’s mate for Col. John Douglas’s Connecticut state regiment from December 1775 to March 1776 and for John Durkee’s 4th Connecticut Regiment from 1 Jan. 1777 to his resignation on 31 Oct. 1777. Jonathan Knight (1758–1829) became the new surgeon’s mate for the 4th Connecticut Regiment in late December 1777.

Index Entries