George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major John Clark, Jr., 28 December 1777

From Major John Clark, Jr.

Mr Lewis’s [Newtown, Pa.]
28th Decr 1777–8 o Clock A.M.


Early this morning, a Spy came to me from Philadelphia, which place he left late last Evening, at that time, Sr Wm Howe had just arrived, & the Van of his Army had got over Schuylkill, a great many Troops were marching from this side the ferry towards the City, so that e’er this, I immagine they’ve all returned from Derby, ’twas the common talk in the City, that the Army was returning—I shall instantly dispatch a person to Derby, & as soon as he returns, will give you further information, if they remain—if you dont hear from me this Evening, you may rely they have returned1—I expect another Spy from the City, so soon as he arrives, if the Enemy are all got in to quarters, I will write you—& then, with your permission will embark for York—During my absence Yesterday my Boy ran away, I suspect he is lurking about Camp in hopes of getting over Schuylkill, & making his escape to Germantown—& from thence to Philada, where his Father lives; I must beg the favor to have the inclosed Advertisement put at the bottom of General Orders & perhaps I may get him taken. I am your Excellency’s Very Obedt

Jno: Clark Junr

P.S. The impossibility of putting an advertisemt in the papers at present I hope will plead my excuse.2

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

1British officer Archibald Robertson wrote in his journal on this date that “This Forenoon Sir William Howe with the army return’d over the Schuylkill. A Party of the Rebels under Mr. [Daniel] Morgan Endeavoured to harrass the Rear, but being discovered were attacked by the Light Dragoons. 34 were taken with 3 Officers and 2 or 3 Killed” (Lydenberg, Robertson Diaries description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends , 162). Lt. Samuel Armstrong of the 8th Massachusetts Regiment gave his account of the action in his diary entry for this date: “This morning all Except Invalids was to march down to the Lines, but not finding the Enemy, they proceeded on to Darby and finding none there they Detached out Small parties of Thirty men, properly Officer’d to go down to the Ferrey, but o[ne] party being deceived by the Enemies Light Horse they got trapan’d, the whole was taken Except two privates that made their Escape, the party Consisted of 3 Leiunt. 2 Sergt. 2 Corpl. & 80 privates” (Boyle, “Armstrong’s Diary,” description begins Joseph Lee Boyle. “From Saratoga to Valley Forge: The Diary of Lt. Samuel Armstrong.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 121 (1997): 237–70. description ends 260–61; for other accounts of this engagement, see Stirling to GW, 29 Dec. 1777; Pickering and Upham, Life of Pickering description begins Octavius Pickering and Charles W. Upham. The Life of Timothy Pickering. 4 vols. Boston, 1867–73. description ends , 1 : 199–200; 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; Muenchhausen, At General Howe’s Side description begins Friedrich von Muenchhausen. At General Howe’s Side, 1776–1778: The Diary of General William Howe’s Aide de Camp, Captain Friedrich von Muenchhausen. Translated by Ernst Kipping. Annotated by Samuel Smith. Monmouth Beach, N.J., 1974. description ends , 46; André, Journal description begins John André. Major André’s Journal: Operations of the British Army under Lieutenant Generals Sir William Howe and Sir Henry Clinton, June 1777 to November 1778. 1930. Reprint. New York, 1968. description ends , 73).

2Clark’s advertisement, which does not appear in existing copies of the general orders, reads: “twenty Shillings reward, exclusive of what’s allowed for taking Deserters. Deserted from Major John Clarks quarters at Newtown Square on the 27th Inst. Martin Nicholls, a Soldeir, about 5 Feet 2 Inches high, 18 Years of age, a barber to Trade, wears his hair tied, is of a yellowish complexion, & much pitted with the small pox—had on & took with him, an old felt hat cocked, a blue Cloth coat with metal buttons, almost new, a whiteish colour’d round waistcoat buckskin breeches, white yarn Stockings—a pair of half worn Shoes with yellow buckles, a good blanket Coat without buttons, two good white linen Shirts, an old Knap sack with some old Shirts & Ca he some time ago waited on General Mercer & last Winter on Col: Biddle, ’tis probable he may endeavor to go to Philada, as his Father lives there, all Officers & Soldiers are requested to apprehend him & give notice to Jno. Clark. Aid de Camp to Major Genl Greene” (DLC:GW).

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