George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major John Clark, Jr., 24 November 1777

From Major John Clark, Jr.

Mr Rees’s [Philadelphia County, Pa.]
24th Novr 1777–7 o’Clock P.M.


I am this moment returned [from] Mr Philip Prices near the lower Ferry,1 at which place I thought to have taken a view of the River, but was prevented by the thickness of the Air occasioned by a Smoak on Province Island, I immagine the Enemy are about to evacuate it, by a Person of distinction from Philadelphia (a Friend) this Evening, I am informed, the Enemy are exceedingly alarmed, Orders were given to all the Guards to take particular notice of all strangers, the Officers were riding about in haste, directing those at the Ferries, to examine & search all persons passing them—& that ’tis currently asserted among them that Lord Cornwallis is taken Prisoner—& that they intend burning Frankford, German Town, & Derby,2 Lieut: Col. Frazer, Colonel Hannum & the Officers are confined in the State House & this Day, Orders were given, not to permit ’em to walk the Yard3—Col. Frazer says their strength don’t exceed 8000, our Friends in the City are in high spirits—My Friend heard an Officer say, that he wished the damn’d City was in flames before they ever came into it—they have received an account that a reinforcement of 8000, from Genl Gates Army joined you two Days ago—they have also turned a number of Tories (who were employed by them) out of all offices, particularly a Mr Garrick at middle Ferry, who is exceedingly disgusted4—I’ve sent you several Letters lately & have received no answers. I am your Excellency’s Obedt

Jno: Clark Junior

P.S. My Friend assures me Genl Howe has appointed two persons who are every Day to visit the Prisoners & have their grievances redressed—Mr Joseph Howell is exceeding kind to them—& a Mr Cunningham has whipped some of ’em exceedingly.5

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

1Clark is referring to Webb’s Ferry, near the mouth of the Schuylkill River. The Price family mansion, which probably was owned at this time by Philip Price, stood near the Swedish Lutheran Church of St. James’s in Kingsessing Township, Philadelphia County, on the east side of Cobb’s Creek about two miles from Darby, and about six miles from Philadelphia, on the road to Chester.

2That such rumors were circulating at this time is confirmed by Germantown magistrate John Miller in his journal: “November 25th and 26th. There was much alarm in Germantown, from reports that it was the purpose of the enemy to burn this place. It was even said, that the party for this purpose was resting at the Rising Sun. In consequence of this fear, he [Miller] conveyed away a trunk of valuables as far as Chestnut hill” (Watson, Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania description begins John F. Watson. Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, in the Olden Time; Being a Collection of Memoirs, Anecdotes, and Incidents of the City and Its Inhabitants, and of the Earliest Settlements of the Inland Part of Pennsylvania, from the Days of the Founders. 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1850. description ends , 2:70).

3John Hannum (c.1743–1799), who became a member of the Chester County, Pa., committee of observation in December 1774, was appointed lieutenant colonel of Chester County’s 1st Regiment of militia in 1776, and he was promoted to colonel in May 1777. Hannum was captured by a detachment of British dragoons on 7 Oct. 1777 and taken to Philadelphia, where he was kept in close confinement until 17 Mar. 1778 when he escaped with fellow officers Lt. Col. Persifor Frazer and Maj. William Williams. Shortly after his escape Hannum reported to Continental army headquarters where he gave GW an account of his imprisonment and escape, and later, when the British charged that the escape had broken his parole, he made a written report about his experience at GW’s request (see Hannum to GW, 17 Sept. 1779; see also Frazer, “Lieutenant-Colonel Persifor Frazer,” 73–74, 78–80, and Frazer, “Reminiscence,” 49). Hannum resumed his militia service following his escape. After the war he served in the Pennsylvania general assembly and the state convention to ratify the federal Constitution.

4Samuel Garrigues, Sr., a prominent Philadelphia trader and merchant, had served as clerk of the market as early as January 1762. Garrigues was among fifty-seven Pennsylvania citizens ordered by the Pennsylvania supreme executive council on 8 May 1778 to stand trial for treason (Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser [Lancaster], 13 May 1778, and Pennsylvania Gazette [Philadelphia], 14 April 1779).

5This informant may be Joseph Howell, Sr., a tanner and farmer who resided in Philadelphia and who held a number of minor offices, including assessor and overseer of the poor.

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