George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General John Armstrong, 23 December 1777

From Major General John Armstrong

23d Decr 1777—Near Bartholomews [Pa.]

Dear Sir

Yesterday, prior to your Excellens. favour which came to hand last night, I had dispatch’d an Express to the Council of this State in regard to a Continued Succession of the Militia thro’ the Winter—this I had in effect done by a former letter, but Yesterday have been explicit.1

About 200 fine Cattle are gone forward to you, with these I have Sent a Guard & thro the hurry of business forgot to keep Six of them which wou’d have been necessary as in a Short time it will be hard to feed these troops. The Cloathing from the Northward otherwise bound for Lancaster, I have order’d by Paulings Ford & to Call on you.2 This Night I shall have Seven Battns distributed to different roads—Have brought Some Cattle from near Frankfort—Taken Some Market Truck—this I order to the party who takes it, and have this morning got two men who were carrying down Articles to Market those it will be proper to Send to you, but have not yet examined, nor heard what they have to Say—In two days I hope to have my distribution or arrangement done according to the present Strength And have yesterday Wrote General Potter, which letter I have desired to be produced to you, as it expresses my wishes that Gl Potter may come Over here, which is Submitted to yr Excellency. I can only express my real concern for the Observations too generally made, on the halt of the troops on this Side Scuylkill, that that day the Troops marched from White Marsh—Cutting the Bridge &c.—If any Exchange Shou’d take place, perhaps there might be a parity betwixt Genl Irwin & McDonald taken in No. Carolina. I am Dear General most respectfully Yours

John Armstrong

ALS, DLC:GW. The cover indicates this letter was sent “By Express.”

1GW’s letter to Armstrong has not been found. Armstrong’s letter to supreme executive council president Thomas Wharton, Jr., of 22 Dec. reads in part: “General Washington has requested me to write to Council, that the same number of Militia may be kept up throughout the Winter as are at present in the field, or as thro’ the Course of the Campaign, of these with me, I look for a return this evening, but shall not detain the Express for it. I take the number to be about sixteen hundred, and with Genl [James] Potter, yet in Chester County, four or five hundred; of these a considerable number will be free in the beginning of January.

“I make no doubt but that my last letters will fully suggest . . . the much exposed situation of the Eastern parts of the State, but in a particular manner, the extensive Country on this side the Scuylkill. The Winter possition of the Continental Army, at what is called the Forge or Valley Hill, will, we hope, chiefly preserve the County of Chester, with several other good effects, whilst the attempt for the defence of the Counties of Philadelphia & Bucks, appears to remain chiefly, or rather wholly with the Militia of the State; an effort as arduous as it is laudible, and if attended with only a partial degree of success, will be all that the most sanguine reason can expect.

“The Winter arrangement on this side Scuylkill, the General has thought proper, at the same time adding his own instructions, to commit to me. This I have digested in the best manner I can, which hath met with his Excellency’s approbation. The essential parts or outlines whereof, are none other than taking a variable station on every leading road, betwixt Scuylkill and Delaware, of which I find there are to the number of nine, that may be called Capitol roads—the general service on each can only be to compete with smaller partys of the enemy, prevent such from proceeding into the Country, & intercept the business of marketing, or any other intercourse of the disaffected with the Enemy, as far as circumstances will admit. Standing Picquets must be placed on every road, and Patroles aided by a few light Horse to proceed as near the Enemy as may be reasonable. This mode will necessarily throw the troops into detachments—in that way they must be employed, if employed to any good purpose at all. This method will be subject to its inconveniencies, particularly, feeding the Men, changing the Battalions when some are free, delivery of Arms, &c, but in a choice of difficulties, we have nothing for it but the least” (Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 1st ser., 6:122–23).

2Pawling’s Ford was near Pawling’s Mill, about a mile below Richardson’s Ford and two miles above Fatland Ford.

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