George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Nathanael Greene, 25 November 1777

To Major General Nathanael Greene

Head Qrs [Whitemarsh, Pa.] 25 Nov. 1777 8 OClock P.M.

Dr Sir

Colo. Mead delivered me Yours this Morning as I was upon my way to reconnoitre the Enemy’s Lines from the West side of Schuylkill.1 I had a full view of their left and found their works much stronger than I had reason to expect from the Accounts I had received. The Enemy have evacuated Carpenters Island and seem to be about doing the same by province Island. Accounts from the City say Lord Cornwallis was expected back to day or tomorrow, which corresponds with the information sent you by Genl Weedon.2 All those movements make me suspicious that they mean to collect their whole force while ours is divided, and make an Attack on the Army on this side. I therefore desire (except you have a plan or prospect of doing something to advantage) that you will rejoin me with your whole force as quick as possible. I have ordered All the Boats down to Burlington to give you dispatch and when you have crossed, All those not necessary for the common use at the Ferries should be immediately sent up to Coriels again.3 Your’s of yesterday that appears to have been written before that sent by Colo. Meade has reached me since I got Home.4 The Hospital at Burlington deserves your consideration; If you leave it uncovered and Lord Cornwallis should detach a party, the patients will certainly be made prisoners, I therefore beg you would endeavour to have them removed, or think of some way of giving them protection by posting some Militia or leaving some Other Troops while the Enemy remain in that Quarter. The Hospital at princeton also will be left naked, if the Enemy should move farther up, you will therefore leave them some cover, if you think there will be occasion.5 I am Dr Sir Yours.

P.S. As leaving a Guard at princetown will still divide our force if the patients could be removed further from thence, I think it would be for the better. I told Dor shippen when he fixed it there it would be dangerous.

Df, in the writing of Robert Hanson Harrison and Tench Tilghman, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The postscript of the draft is in Tilghman’s writing.

1See Greene’s second letter to GW, 24 November. GW’s survey of the British works at Philadelphia convinced several of the generals who in their written opinions of this date supported an attack that such a course was unwise (see Lord Stirling to GW, 3 Dec., Charles Scott to GW, 4 Dec., and William Woodford to GW, 4 Dec.).

2GW is referring to George Weedon’s letter to Greene of 24 Nov., which GW’s aide-de-camp Richard Kidder Meade apparently conveyed to him along with Greene’s second letter of 24 November. Weedon’s letter, written at “Hatenfield Novr 24th 7 oClock,” reads: “We only arived here a few minutes ago, Some of Our parties have taken Nine prisoners, which will get to you Early tomorrow, From them we have had I beleive pretty Exact Accounts of their Numbers, which the Marquis [Lafayette] will inclose you a particular Accot of, They amount to 4250, Sixteen pieces of Artillery, & One hundred Light Horse The Infantry & Artillery may be Nearly Right, but doubt the information respecting their Horse, They have this Day Advanced on this side Great Timber Creek with their main Body, and have pitched on this side of Little Timber Creek Also, Some of the prisoners were taken within two Miles of this Town, They have no Troops at Red Bank, and but few at Billingsport The prisoners say they intend Crossing the Delaware at Coopers Ferry. We shall look about us in the Morning and shall Communicate any thing of Importance” (PHi: Gratz Collection). On the letter’s cover, which is addressed to Greene at Mount Holly, N.J., and is located in DLC:GW along with William B. Sprague’s nineteenth-century transcript of the letter, Weedon added, “I have this moment recd your Orders to return, Myself & Horse is so much fatigued, that cant get further than Moors Town to night, Shall joine you Early in the Morning.”

3No written orders concerning boats have been identified.

5For Greene’s response to GW’s concerns about the hospitals at Burlington and Princeton, see his letter to GW of 27 November.

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