George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General John Armstrong, 19 December 1777

From Major General John Armstrong

Camp near Spring Tavern [Pa.]1 19th Der 1777

Dear General

This day or tomorrow I design moving Over to the Bethlehem or rather the Eastown Road & near the Shamany & Shou’d have moved Sooner, had the weather & Other impediments permitted2—the removal of Sick Soldiers & fragments of Continental Stores, with the Scarcity of Waggons to procure Our provisions have Stood in the way.

Coll Pickering writes me that two or three hundred Arms, Tents &c. were left & yet remains at Mr Morris’s (where Head Quarters Once was) by the Pennsylvania Militia3—That those Arms may have been Occupied by the Militia of Maryland or Virginia or both, as both recd Arms the property of this State, is very probable, but by Pennsylvanians they were not left there, or if they had shou’d not have remaind I shall early attend to & remove them—I’m told there are Several good Waggons lies on your last encamping ground near Mr Emlens, and also at or near Mr Morrises, and no doubt at Various other places, things of importance have been left in the Quarter master Generals department, without any after notice—these in the two places mention’d will be carried off by the neighbours if not Sent for, and it’s not in my power to attend to them without neglecting things of greater importance, except yielding a Guard from the Battn which will be at or not far from the Bridge on the Egypt Road.4

There are also ten or fifteen Waggon Loads of Entrenching Tools, Horse Shoe’s &c. for Major Ricees, near Major Henrys, about which Rice is uneasy, they will be easily moved over by Paulings to the rear of the Army.5

The people are now begining to Crowd upon me from the Delaware Side, particularly from the Whiggs of Neshamany & near the Cross Roads—I must immediately attend to these parts—And Shall at the next Quarters, attempt the best General arrangement or dispossition for the Winter in my power, being So far happy as to be able firmly to believe, that a possession of every Capitol Road (of which I find there are Nine) & perhaps Some by-roads too, is the only elligible measure in Our Circumstances—The next Idea will be their common duty & Station of their respective Pickquets. Beside these there must be Some kind of Centeral Camp or Head Quarters, from which Occasional Orders & Supplys must issue & to which reports will be made: but how to ⟨fe⟩ed or Supply these various detachments with any regularity & certainty I cannot yet ⟨we⟩ll devise—I design before the troops are dispersed as above, to make a report or two to bring off Some Cattle convenient to the Enemy if any Such are to be found.

I have Sent off a Battn to the Newtown Road6—Shall leave another here who must maintain the Picquet at the White Marsh Church Patrole &c. The Picquet at Barren Hill Church must be held from the Regimt at the Bridge.7 When leisure admits I shall be greatly Obliged by yr Excellencies thoughts & Correction of the Outlines above—The Hyde-Master has not called on me—I shall Send an Officer to Germantown, to beat the Bush about the number of the Tan fats, State of the leather &c. & write You again—Inclosed the Examination of Young Bush on his acct to be kept Secret.8 I am Most respectfully Your Excellencys Most Obedt Servt

John Armstrong

ALS, DLC:GW. The text in angle brackets is mutilated. The cover indicates that this letter was sent “By a Horseman.” Someone also wrote on the cover “Declaration of Rights belonging to America.”

1Spring House tavern was on the Ridge Road in present-day Gwynedd Township, Montgomery County, Pa., about sixteen miles from Philadelphia. Albrick Bird owned the house in 1773.

2The road running from near Philadelphia to Bethlehem, known as the King’s Highway and later as the Old Bethlehem Road, continued on to Easton in Northampton County, Pennsylvania.

3Armstrong apparently means James Morris’s house, known as Dawesfield, where GW headquartered from 20 Oct. to 2 Nov. (see General Orders, 20 Oct., and note 1).

4Egypt Road is a section of the Ridge Road, which ran westward from Philadelphia to Reading, as it passed through Norristown, Pennsylvania. Egypt Road was also known as the New Reading Road.

5Major Rice may be John Rice of the Northern Liberties, who became lieutenant colonel of the 5th Philadelphia city militia in 1779. Henry Pawling operated a ferry on the Schuylkill River at his plantation in Providence Township, Philadelphia (now Montgomery) County, Pa., where the post road that ran through Germantown, Plymouth, Norrington, and Providence crossed the river into Chester County. Pawling was named one of the commissioners “for clearing and rendering the River Schuylkill navigable” in 1761 and a manager of a lottery formed to finance the building of a bridge on the Manatawny Road across the Skippack Creek in 1762. Pawling also served as a justice of the peace in the 1750s and early 1760s and as a representative in the Pennsylvania general assembly in the 1760s and early 1770s.

6Armstrong is referring to the road that ran from Philadelphia through Newtown in Buckingham Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

7St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, constructed in 1761 and 1762, lay near the Ridge Road at Barren Hill in Whitemarsh Township, Philadelphia (now Montgomery) County, Pa., about a mile and a half east of the Schuylkill River and twelve miles from Philadelphia, or about twelve miles east of Valley Forge and seven miles southeast of Norristown. Major General Lafayette narrowly escaped capture in the area in May 1778.

8The enclosed examination of Solomon Bush, written by Armstrong at Chestnut Hill, Pa., on 13 Dec., concerns British sources of intelligence: “Declaration of Major Bush—That on Saturday the 6th Inst. in the afternoon, He saw a letter delivered (by a plain Dress’d Man with a flap’d Hat & Cloath Coloured great Coat) to a Major [Nisbet] Balfluer [Balfour], who carried the letter into Genl Howe’s Room—immediately afterward came into the Room where Major Bush lay and at a little distance said to Major [Capt. Friedrich von] Minichousen [Muenchhausen], this is a damn’d Clever fellow, his intelligence from time to time has been of great use to us—Upon which Minickhousen asked where that letter came from—Balfluer replied from Washingtons Head Quarters—The Major declares he knows nothing farther & that he does not know the person who deliver’d the letter—In consequence of the Deserter from Coll [Thomas] Proctor (who gave an Account of all our Canon) a Second Son of Mr [Mathias] Bushes was made prisoner—has escaped—friends at Germantown Captn [James] Hazlet, Captn [Noah] Townsend—Captn [Jacob] Summers” (DLC:GW). Armstrong added the following note to the examination: “19th I took this in person on the date above, but forgot to send it sooner—in which there is nothing determinate.” Solomon Bush (1753–1795), who had become a first lieutenant and an adjutant in the Pennsylvania flying camp in July 1776, was named deputy adjutant general with the rank of major for the state militia in July 1777. Wounded severely during a skirmish between militia and British troops on 18 Sept. 1777, Bush was carried to his father’s plantation “situated in the Fork of the two Main Roads leading to Reading and Bethlehem, on the top of Chesnut-Hill” (Pennsylvania Gazette [Philadelphia], 2 Mar. 1791). There, Bush wrote, “he fell into the hands of the British Army, when it moved up to Whitemarsh, in December . . . took his Parole; That he has ever since been Confined with his Wound, and incapable of performing any Military duty, or acquiring a livelihood” (Pa. Col. Records description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 12:140). Bush apparently recovered by October 1779, when he was promoted to lieutenant colonel of the militia. He unsuccessfully petitioned GW for a federal appointment in 1789 and again in 1793. Mathias Bush (1722–1790) operated a store from a large building next to his home on Chestnut Hill.

Index Entries