George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Stirling, 26 December 1777

From Major General Stirling

Genl Potters Qrs [Radnor, Pa.]
Decemr 26: 1777 7 oClo. P.M.

Dear Sir

I have Just received your Excellencys letter of this date by Lt Col. Davidson,1 I have sent the three feild down to Col: Morgan to take Command of the three divisions of the 15 detachments according to An Arangement I made of them this Morning & according to their Several States.

In answer to your Excellency’s Querie, I do not see, that any Attempt can be made with a proba[bi]lity of Success unless it be on those troops which are advanced to Knowles’s within a Mile of the White Horse on the Road from Derby to Chester.2 I think a body of fifteen Hundred fresh Chosen Men from Camp Might push in about a Mile below Derby (while the Troops we have here make an Attack on every other part of their line as a feint) and then turn to the Right & briskly Sweep all before them and retreat thro’ Ridley & Upper providence. I think the Experiment might be tried without danger to our Main Army. The Troops I have with me are now all except abt 100 Men Stationed from the five Mile Stone on the Lancaster Road to Near the White Horse at 11 Mile Stone on the Chester Road, but the Enemy keep so Close to their lines, we have no Chance of Catching any of them. Before I received you[r] Excellency last lettr I had made a Memorandum as a draft of a letter but rather than detain the Bearer I will enclose the ruff Sketch, which I hope you will Excuse.3 & am your Excys Most Obt Humble Servt


I wish Col: Harrison would send me some good paper, Wax & Quils by the be⟨arer⟩.


1This letter has not been found. William Lee Davidson (1746–1781) of what is now Iredell County, N.C., was appointed major of the 4th North Carolina Regiment in April 1776, and in November 1777 he became lieutenant colonel of the 5th North Carolina Regiment with a commission dating from the previous month. After serving with the 3d and 1st North Carolina regiments in 1778 and 1779, in the spring of 1780 Davidson became deputy to Brig. Gen. Griffith Rutherford, who commanded the Salisbury militia District of North Carolina. In August 1780 Davidson replaced Rutherford, who had been captured at the Battle of Camden, as brigadier general in command of the Salisbury District. Davidson was serving in that capacity when he was killed while attempting to rally his militia against a British attack at Cowan’s Ford, N.C., on 1 Feb. 1781.

2The mansion house of John Knowles (c.1717–1778) of Ridley Township in present-day Delaware County, Pa., was located on the Chester Road about ten miles southwest of Philadelphia.

3Stirling’s enclosed memorandum of this date reads: “When I came here first I was told that the Country was Exhausted not an Ounce of flower nor a head of Cattle nor a Sheep to be had, that the Country was Starveing because there was nothing left; I am now told that large droves of Cattle & floocks of Sheep go dayly to Enemy by way of Marcus Hook & Grubbs Landing. and I am Convinced there are Still large Stocks of both in those Quarters but fine Speeches & Excuses have Deceived those who have Commanded here, the people of the Country even those who pretend to be our best friends, hide their Stocks from us, and some of them have this day told me what I really belive to be the true Cause of it, vizt from the Enemy they are sure to get hard Money for it, on the Contrary when our Certificates are produced to the Commissary of purchases & forage Master Genl at Camp, they are treated with the Utmost Contempt. the people are told to Call again & again ’till tired of makeing further application & in dispair of payment they go home with a ditermination to Sell to the Enemy rather than to us. this Evil might Surely be Cured by ordering that Commissary & the forrage M.G. to pay of[f] Certificates at first Sight & lay aside that Imperious behaviour which all the World Concerned with our Army Complain of. As a further encouragement to the people of this Quarter It would be expedient immediately to send a D. Commissary of purchases with Money in his pocket to be Stationed at a proper place in this Neighbourhood to recive & pay for all the produce the people bring in wether provision or forrage, this will Cut off all their pretences & Excuses, & then If a Sufficiency of Waggons be sent, I will engage to Glean the Country Compleatly. the Excuses for going into Philadelphia with provissions are innumerable, but I stop them all, & give their provisions to our Troops” (DLC:GW).

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