George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Lafayette, 26 November 1777

From Major General Lafayette

haddonfield [N.J.] the 26 november 1777

Dear General

I went down to this place since the day before yesterday in order to be acquainted of all the roads and grounds arround the ennemy—I heard at my arrival that theyr Main body was betwen great and little timber creek since the same evening—Yesterday morning in recconnoitring about I have been told that they were very busy in crossing the delaware—I saw them myself in theyr boats and sent that intelligence to general greene as soon as possible as every other thing I heard of— but I want to acquaint your excellency of a little event of last evening which tho not very considerable in itself will certainly please you on account of the bravery and Alacrity a small party of ours showed in that occasion—After having spent the most part of the day to make myself vell acquainted with the certainty of theyr motions I came pretty late into the glocester road betwen the two creeks1—I had ten light horse with mr lindsey, almost hundred an fifty riflemen under colonel buttler, and two piquets of the militia commanded by colonel hite, and ellis. My whole body was not three hundred—colonel armand, colonel laumoy, the chevaliers du plessis and gimat were the frenchmen who went with me—a scout of my men with whom was Mr du plessis to see how near were the first piquets from glocester found at two miles and a half of it a strong post of three hundred and fifty hessians with field pieces (what number I did know by the unanimous deposition of theyr prisoners) and engaged immediately—as my little recconnoitring party was all in fine spirits I supported them—we pushed the hessians more than an half mile from the place were was theyr main body, and we made them run very fast—british reinforcements came twice to them but very far from recovering theyr ground they Went alwaïs back—the darkness of the night prevented us then to push that advantage, and after standing upon the ground we had got I ordered them to return very slow to haddonfield—the ennemy knowing perhaps by our drums that we were not so near came again to fire at us—but the brave major moriss with a part of his riflemen sent them back and pushed them very fast—I understand that they have had betwen twenty five and thirty wounded, at least that number killed amonghs whom I am certain is an officer some say more, and the prisoners told me that the have lost the commandant of that body—We got yet this day fourteen prisoners—I send you the most moderate account I had from themselves—We left one single man Killed a lieutenant of militia and only five of ours were wounded—Colonel armand’s, chevalier du plessis’s and major brice’s horses have been wounded—Such is the account of our little entertainement, which is indeed much too long for the matter, but I take the greatest pleasure to let you know that the conduct of our soldiers is above all praises—I never saw men so merry, so spirited, so desirous to go on to the ennemy what ever forces they could have as that little party was in this little fight.2 I found the riflemen above even theyr reputation and the militia above all expectations I could have—I returned to them my very sincere thanks this morning—I wish that this little succès of ours may please you—tho’ a very trifling one I find it very interesting on account of the behaviour of our soldiers.3

Some time after I came back Gral varnum arrived here—general greene is too in this place since this morning—he engaged me to give you myself the account of that little advantage of that small part of the troops under his command—I have nothing more to Say to your excellency about our business on this Side because he is wraïting himself4—I should have been very glad if circumstances had permitted me to be useful to him upon a greater scale—as he is obliged to march slow in order to attend his troops, and as I am here only a volonteer, I’l have the honor to wait on your excellency as soon as possible, and I’l set out to day—it will be a great pleasure for me to find myself again with you. With the most tender affection and highest respect I have the honor to be dear general Your excellency’s the most obedient humble servant


I must tell too that the riflemen had been the whole day running before my horse without eating or taking any rest.

I have just now a certain assurance that two british officers besides those I spocke you of have died this morning of theyr wounds in an house—this and Some other circumstances let me believe that theyr loss may be greater than I told to your excellency.5

ALS, PEL; ADf, Lafayette Papers, LaGrange, France. The cover indicates that this letter was sent “pr Express.”

1An ink and watercolor map of the engagement at Gloucester, N.J., on 25 Nov. made by Lafayette’s aide-de-camp Michel Capitaine du Chesnoy gives the names of these creeks as Timber and Newton (Lafayette Papers description begins Stanley J. Idzerda et al., eds. Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution: Selected Letters and Papers, 1776–1790. 5 vols. Ithaca, N.Y., 1977-83. description ends , 1:157). Newton Creek rises on the south border of Newton Township in Gloucester County and flows northwest about five miles before emptying into the Delaware River about two miles above Little Timber Creek.

2Hessian private Johann Conrad Döhla says in his journal entry for 25 Nov. that “this evening the Jaegers, which were the rear guard and were posted on a bridge one-half hour from Gloucester, were attacked and surrounded by the enemy. However, two companies of light infantry hurried to their assistance and saved them from captivity. Lieutenant [Georg Hermann] Heppe was killed, and Lieutenant Hagen and a few jaegers wounded, in the affair” (Döhla, Hessian Diary description begins Johann Conrad Döhla. A Hessian Diary of the American Revolution. Translated and edited by Bruce E. Burgoyne. Norman, Okla., and London, 1990. description ends , 60). Two men named Hagen served as lieutenants in the Hesse-Cassel jäger corps at this time, Erich Karl and Johann Wilhelm, but it is not known which one was wounded.

3Lafayette is referring to Col. Richard Butler and Lt. Col. Joseph Haight of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey militia. Lafayette wrote to Haight on 29 Nov.: “His Excellency Genl Washington ordered me to acquai⟨nt⟩ you that he desires his thanks should be made ⟨to⟩ all the Officers and Soldiers of the Puquett of Militia under your Command—who engaged t⟨he⟩ 25th Instt—The Genl is very sensible of their bravery and alacrity in having attacked and repulsed with a great Loss an Enemy much superior in number and Force” (DNA: RG 15, Revolutionary War Pension Files). Lafayette also conveyed GW’s thanks to Butler in a similar letter of the same date (Pa. Mag. description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. 139 vols. to date. 1877–. description ends , 14 [1890], 83).

5British officer Archibald Robertson wrote in his diary that on the evening of 25 Nov. “the Jagers were Attack’d. They had 1 Officer and 4 or 5 Killed and about 20 Wounded and 1 Officer. The loss of the Rebels uncertain” (Lydenberg, Robertson Diaries description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends , 157). Another British source says that there were “31 Jagers killed, wounded, and missing” (Scull, Montresor Journals description begins G. D. Scull, ed. The Montresor Journals. New York, 1882. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vol. 14. description ends , 479).

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