George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major John Clark, Jr., 22 November 1777

From Major John Clark, Jr.

Mr Rees’s [Philadelphia County, Pa.]
22d Novr 1777. half after 6, P.M.


A few Minutes ago my Spy whom I expected had waited on you Yesterday, came to me, he left Philadelphia after 12, this Day, confirms the account, transmitted you in my Letter of this Date, & says the Troops from Jersey, have not returned, that the Enemy have their Waggons paraded along the line, where they are encamped, that they are busy hauling Fascines up from the Neck, that a number of Boats with Provision & Bales of Cloth came up to the City to Day, by four different persons from the City, I am well informed there is not above 4 or 5000, Troops at most, remaining with General Howe, that the Soldiers say if an Attack is made, they must inevitably be defeated—& am fearful ’twill be attempted, this is also the talk of the Citizens—I think it strange that all my Spies shou’d agree so nearly in their intelligence—A person who left Tinicum Island says 13 Boats with Troops went down the River from Jersey & embarked on board the Transports at Chester—the Shipping was moving up towards the Chevaux de frize to Day—I am just returned from near Province Island with a few Dragoons about 100, of the Enemy came out & plundered a little at Mr Rickets & returned a few Minutes before I arrived—The Enemy informed my Spy that you had tried their Lines this morning to find what their strength was1—I must not omit telling you that they design to destroy German Town, to prevent Troops being quartered in it—there was a little firing on the Jersey shore this morning, & an ammunition sloop burn’t in the River. I am in haste your most Obedt

Jno. Clark Junr

P.S. my Spy wou’d have waited on your Excellency but was met by a person who knew him & told him if he went any further he wou’d bring himself into trouble I inclose you his pass which may be altered & perhaps save some of your Spies—I have several of them.2

ALS, DLC:GW. Clark signed and dated a pass to “all concerned” on the cover: “per Express permit the bearer to pass.”

1Hessian ensign Karl Friedrich Rueffer confirms the spy’s report in his journal entry for this date: “This morning about nine o’clock almost the entire line was alerted. A troop, about 200 strong, was so daring as to attack our right wing, which is about fifty yards from the city, and at once engage our forces. A battalion of Englanders immediately moved out and pursued them for several miles” (Burgoyne, Hesse-Cassel Mirbach Regiment description begins Bruce E. Burgoyne, ed. and trans. The Hesse-Cassel Mirbach Regiment in the American Revolution. Bowie, Md., 1998. description ends , 112).

2The enclosed partly printed British pass, addressed “To all Concerned” and signed by Nisbet Balfour, aide-de-camp to William Howe, reads: “Head-Quarters, 20th Novr 1777 THE Bearer John Foxe has the Commander in Chief’s Permission to pass the out Posts, without Molestation” (DLC:GW). Clark’s spy was actually John Fawkes (1744–1801) of Chester County, Pa., who kept an inn in Newtown Township in the 1780s (see GW to Clark, 25 Nov., Clark to GW, 26 Nov., and GW to Clark, 16 Dec., and note 3).

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