George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Militia of Certain New Jersey Counties, 20 November 1777

To the Militia of Certain New Jersey Counties

[Whitemarsh, Pa., 20 November 1777]

Freinds and Fellow Soldiers

The Enemy have thrown a considerable Force into your State, with intent to possess themselves of the post at Red Bank, and after clearing the obstructions in Delaware, make incursions into your Country.1

To prevent them from effecting either of these purposes, I have sent over such a number of Continental Troops as I trust will, with the spirited exertions of the Militia, totally defeat their designs, and oblige them to return to the City and Suburbs of Philadelphia, which is the only ground they possess upon the Pennsylvania Shore, and in which they cannot subsist, if cut off from the supplies of the plentiful State of New Jersey.2

I therefore call upon you, by all that you hold dear, to rise up as one man, and rid your Country of its unjust invaders. To convince you that this is to be done, by a general appearance of all its Freemen armed and ready to give them opposition, I need only to put you in mind of the effect it had upon the British Army in June last, who laid aside their intention of marching through the upper part of your State, upon seeing the hostile manner in which you were prepared to receive them.3 Look also at the glorious effects which followed that Spirit of Union which appeared among our Brethren of New York and New England, who, by the brave assistance which they afforded to the Continental Army, obliged a royal one flushed with their former Victories to sue for Terms, and lay down their Arms in the most submissive manner.4

Reflect upon these things, and I am convinced that every Man who can bear a Musket, will take it up, and without respect to turn or Class give his Service in the Feild for a few Weeks, perhaps only for a few days. I am Your sincere Freind and Countryman

Go: Washington

LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, ViLxW; Df, DLC:GW; copy, NjMoHP; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The heading on the LS reads: “To the Officers and Soldiers of the Militia in the Counties of Hunterdon, Burlington, Gloucester, Salem and Cumberland.” This letter was printed as a broadside, with New Jersey governor William Livingston’s extra exhortation of 23 Nov.: “Gentlemen, COULD I persuade myself that you wanted any farther Inducement to exert yourselves on the present Occasion, besides the animating Motives pointed at in His Excellency’s Address, I would conjure you by the Remembrance of the Laurels you have lately gained, by the Love of your Country, your Posterity and the Honour of New-Jersey, to turn out with Alacrity at a Time when Providence seems to have presented you with a glorious Opportunity for defeating the common Enemy” (Early American Imprints description begins American Antiquarian Society. Early American Imprints, 1639–1800. New Canaan, Conn., 1983. Microfiche. description ends , 15465).

1Lord Cornwallis, with a strong British force from Philadelphia including Gen. Thomas Spencer Wilson’s reinforcements which recently had arrived from New York, crossed the Delaware into New Jersey on 18 November.

2The Continental army troops included the brigades in Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene’s division, that is, Muhlenberg’s and Weedon’s, as well as Varnum’s, Huntington’s, and Glover’s brigades and 170 riflemen from Daniel Morgan’s regiment (see GW to John Glover, 19 Nov., to James Mitchell Varnum, 19 Nov. [two letters] [1] [2], and to Henry Laurens, 23 Nov.). The New Jersey militia reinforcements included the regiments commanded by Joseph Haight, Benoni Hathaway, and Joseph Ellis (see GW to Varnum [first letter], 19 Nov.).

3For GW’s comments on how the New Jersey militia’s rapid assembly had previously affected Gen. William Howe’s plans, see his letters to John Hancock and to Philip Schuyler, both 20 June 1777.

4GW is referring to the recent surrender of Gen. John Burgoyne’s forces at Saratoga, New York.

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