George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General William Smallwood, 10 January 1778

From Brigadier General William Smallwood

Wilmington [Del.] January 10th 1778

Dear Sir,

I received your Favors of the 7th Inst., & am peculiarly embarrassed, by a Proposition, which I am induced to think you did not mean to extend to an absolute order, as in that Instance you wou’d have been more pointed & precise, & must beg your excuse for not complying wth it, till the following Considerations were submitted, & your further Direction taken.

I am persu[a]ded it wou’d be the wish & Desire of every Officer here, to furnish the Officers at large, in the Continental Army with a Proportion of the Prize Goods, if there were a Quantity sufficient to afford a distribution, but it cannot be supposed that the Baggage, in part of 4 Regiments, will yield that General distribution, or that it will even furnish the Officers of 10 Regiments here.

The Officers viewing the insufficiency are much dissatisfied on the proposed Removal, & tho not possessed with the Resolutions of Congress heretofore made respecting the allowance to Captors in cases similar, yet they will most chearfully acquiesce to them, even shou’d they direct a general distribution, tho this they believe has been unprecedented in most, if not in every Instance, & wou’d not a Removal subject great Waste.1

The Goods are mostly Inventoried & sorted into Lots of 4 Shirts, 4 pr Stokgs, 4 Stocks & 1 Handf per Officer & its not ascertained, but even doubted, that they will yield that Proportion, & the Officers thro me, beg Leave to suggest that no Division in the Army has been more harrassed, or perhaps want Cloathing so much as the Officers of this Division.

In case of Alarm the Division Waggons are sufficient to remove what Goods remain, which are held ready to move at a minutes Warning, the Arms Tents & heavy Stores being already sent to Foggs Man. Meetg House.2

The Soldiers Cloathing was distributed two Days before I received your Ltr & falls infinitely short of their Necessary Cloathing.

The Sale of Officers Restriction or Lot of Goods, was to have begun this Morng at 8 Oclock, but is postponed ’till your Pleasure is further known.

Most of the Articles you wrote for can be had, and good of the kind, which shall be forwarded to you as soon as Colo. Biddle sends me a cover’d Waggon wch I directed him to send down Tomorrow.

The Brig is carried up to Newport, is not in the least damaged—I have sent for such Blocks & Takles &c., as you ordered, if any they shall be immediately forwarded, I shou’d be glad to be favored with your Direction respecting the Sale of her, £3,000 was offered when a Ground in the River, now she is removed & at no great risque, she will sell for more.

I have inclosed you a List of Goods taken out of a Vessel stranded near Reedy Island,3 which have been taken in large Quantities by particular Persons in N. C. County, & exclusive of the inclosed List, large Quantities out of the same Vessell have been carried over to Jersy, I have had an Officer and a Detatchment out two Days in pursuit of such of those Articles as are essentially necessary for the Army, instructing him to direct the Persons having them to make application & their claims will be considered & to Inventory & Store such of these Articles securely, as he may meet with ’till further Orders, concerning which shall be glad of your Instructions, have just heard the Officer has fallen in with Sundry Parcells of the Goods.

Shou’d be glad to be favored wth the New or latest Articles of War, as our Cts Martial in particular Instances, are at a loss for want of them, & also such Resolutions of Congress as Respect Captures; your determination & Orders, I hope will be forwarded by return of this Express, which shall be strickly complied with. I have the Honor to be Yr Excellys most Obedt Hble Sert

W. Smallwood

P.S. the Intrenching Tools have not yet been sent which prevent the works being carried on briskly. I wou’d be extremely glad of there being forwarded.


1See Officers of General Smallwood’s Division to GW, this date. For the congressional resolutions relating to the disposition of prize vessels and cargo, see GW to Henry Laurens, 12 Jan., n.2.

2Fagg’s Manor, a land grant originally belonging to Letitia Penn, included several townships along Octoraro Creek in southwestern Chester County, Pa., as well as part of New Castle County, Delaware. Fagg’s (sometimes called Fogg’s, or Fog’s) Manor Presbyterian Meeting House, built in 1775 to replace an older building dating from the 1740s, was situated in the northwestern part of Fagg’s Manor in Londonderry Township, Chester County, about eleven miles west of Kennett Square.

3The enclosed list in Smallwood’s writing, dated 10 Jan., reads: “47 Hhds Jamaica Spirits[,] 67 [Hhds] old [Jamaica Spirits,] 51 pr of lining for Soldiers or more[,] 18 Bales of broad Cloath or more[,] A Vast number of Shaloons[,] 17 Chests of Tea, Wet if dried will be tolerable[,] Needles & pins a Waggon load[,] 60 dozen Stokings Silk worsted & Cotton[,] 24 doz. laced hats gold & Silver[,] some Boxes of Grass[,] 100 doz. of Claret & port[,] some pieces of ozenbrigs[.] N.B. The above are said to be taken by a few Persons but it is not fixed howe[ve]r Capt. Kirkwood has found 28 Hhds Rum wth one Whitehead Jones & says that some more Hhds were Stole of from there just before he discovered those” (DLC:GW). In a letter of this date to Caesar Rodney, Brig. Gen. Samuel Patterson of the Delaware militia wrote: “A Schooner drove a shore in the Ice the other day at Reedy point near white head Jones. Not a person on board and encloses you a list of part of her Cargo, worth £100,000. She in my oppinion is a prise to our poor state. If so you can command, if Mr. Read is not here. As you know, I am here [Wilmington] commanded, and no troops as Usual. Ordered Col.o [Thomas] McDonogh to send a Comp. down to secure Effects &c. One Continental also went from here to bring all thats fit for the army.” Patterson wrote Rodney again on 28 Jan. concerning the schooner that “She is not unloaded all yet. turns out better & better. as we come lower down. Some fine old Maderia” (Ryden, Rodney Letters description begins George Herbert Ryden, ed. Letters to and from Caesar Rodney, 1756–1784. Philadelphia, 1933. description ends , 251–52). See also George Read’s letter to GW of 5 February.

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