George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major John Clark, Jr., 23 December 1777

From Major John Clark, Jr.

Newtown [Square, Pa.] 23rd Decr 1777 6 oClock P.M.


One of my Spies has just come from General Howes quarters at Mr Prices, he went down the private Road from Garrets undiscovered ’till he got to the General quarters almost,1 his Troops are encamped all along the Road from the Ferry,2 to the high Ground on this side Derby, at Justice Parkers on Springfield Road,3 their picket on this side, is kept at the intersection of the Providence, & Springfield Roads—& the one on Chester Road, is a Mile & a half from Derby near Mr Swaines House4—they are busy halling Hay from the Marshes about Kingsess, & don’t venture a Mile in the Country from their Pickets—they say they intend to forage all that Country, burn the Fences, plunder the Inhabitants & then return—I fell in with a party of Lees Dragoons to Day, & reconnoitred their picket on the Chester Road, at the White Horse Tavern on that Road,5 I received information that a party of the Enemy in number about 30, unarmed, were plundering in the Neck, I immediately posted two Horsemen in the Road with orders when the Enemy came in sight to fire their pieces & retire—& went of the Road in quest of the plunderers—during my absence the Enemy’s Light Horse came out to my Videtts & being in disguise call’d to them & informed them they belong’d to our Army, & by this means got up within a few Yards of them, & fired their Carbines, they shot one of them, & the other made his escape—they then pursued me with the party but I fortunately knew the Road & came off within a few yards of their picket, a few minutes sooner wou’d have enabled me to have taken the plunderers they had but just gone. Col. Butler I left with 200 Men on that Road. I am in haste Your Excellency’s Most Obedt

Jno. Clark Jun.

P.S. I wrote you by Express last Evening6—The Enemy’s main body crossed at the lower ferry on Schuylkill, & waggons at the middle ferry very few Troops in Philada.7 I’ve just seen two persons from there who confirm the accts transmitted you last Evening.

ALS, DLC:GW. Clark signed a pass on the cover: “ Express permit the bearer to pass.”

1The Garrettford (or Garrett) Road in Chester (now Delaware) County, Pa., connected the Springfield Road in Springfield Township with the West Chester Road in what later became Upper Darby Township by extending northeast across Darby Creek at the south edge of the plantation occupied by the descendants of William Garrett (1643–1724).

2Clark is referring to Gray’s Ferry.

3William Parker, who owned a plantation of about 170 acres in Darby Township, Chester (now Delaware) County, Pa., became a justice of the peace in 1757 and was appointed to the county committee of correspondence in July 1774. The Providence and Springfield roads intersected near the later separation line between Upper and Lower Darby townships, less than two miles southeast of the intersection of the Springfield and Garrettford roads.

4George Swayne (Swain; b. 1752), a militia private and wainwright of Chester (now Delaware) County, Pa., resided southwest of Darby about midway between Glen Olden and Sharon Hill.

5An advertisement in the 11 June 1777 issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia) describes the White Horse Tavern on Chester Road in Ridley Township, Chester (now Delaware) County, Pa., as a three-story house “with stabling, barn, and spring-house; and another small dwelling-house adjoining to it, with about twenty acres of land in the whole. . . . whereon is a fine orchard, with excellent fruit trees.” Located a few miles beyond Darby at Norwood, and about eleven miles from Philadelphia, the White Horse recently had been operated by John Bryan, a Chester County coroner.

6This letter has not been found.

7British engineer captain John Montresor says in his journal entry for 22 Dec. that “Sir Wm. Howe moved out from Philadelphia with 7000 men across the Schuylkill over the 2 floating bridges and so to Darby leaving Lt. General Kniphuysen in command at Philadelphia” (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 , 480). Hessian adjutant general Baurmeister is more specific in his account about the troops left with Knyphausen: “Eight English battalions, the Queen’s Rangers, one officer and twenty-four English dragoons, and Stirn’s and Woellwarth’s brigades remained in the lines before Philadelphia” (Baurmeister, Revolution in America description begins Carl Leopold Baurmeister. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. New Brunswick, N.J., 1957. description ends , 148). The lower ferry is Gray’s Ferry.

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