George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General John Armstrong, 1 December 1777

From Major General John Armstrong

Camp at W: March [Pa.] 1st Decr 1777

May it please yr Excely

I beg leave to recommend, that as early as it may be Safe to make such movement, the Army may pass Over the Scuilkill & take for Some time a position on that Side.

With respect to Winter Quarters for the Army—The longer I consider the measure pointed out in the back Villiages of this State, the more inadmissable that Step appears to be, as by the large lattitude thereby given the Enemy thro’ the Winter & early part of the Spring, every doleful & pernitious consequence must be expected—The hearts of good-men thro’ all the States depressed, and this State in particular, little less than Sacrificed to the whole without real necessity! Amongst the innumerable evils resulting from that Situation, the impossition of the Oaths of Allegiance & an end to Government & the future aids of the Militia thro’ a great part of the State, must inevitably follow.

I’m therefore of opinion that in proper time, part of your Army Take possession of Wilmington, and the residue form a Chain from thence to Downingstown & perhaps the White Horse on the Lancaster road, at these two Some Cover may be had, and Hutts with Some use of Houses in the intermediate Space1—these are the best Out lines that appears to me, which may be corrected and better determined when the Army is on that Side. And am with perfect respect, Yr Excellencys Most Obedt humbe Servt

John Armstrong

P:S: I hear that some part of the Bridge is already broken or carried off.2 G1 Potter is not yet come Over, I suppose Owing to the bad weather I expect him today.


ALS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

This letter is Armstrong’s response to GW’s request at a council of general officers held on the evening of 30 Nov. for opinions from his generals about where to quarter the Continental army for the winter (see the source note to General Orders, that date).

1Downingtown (also Downing’s Town and Mill Town), in East Caln Township, Chester County, Pa., about midway on the turnpike between Philadelphia and Lancaster, was named for Thomas Downing, who settled in the area by the mid–1730s and bought a mill and farm there in 1739.

2This bridge over the Schuylkill River apparently was the same one to which GW referred in his letter to Brig. Gen. James Potter of this date.

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