George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Colonel Joseph Ellis, 24 February 1778

To Colonel Joseph Ellis

Head Quarters Valley Forge 24th Feby 1778.


I have sent over ⟨Captn Lieut. Symonds⟩1 to take the charge of some peices of heavy Artillery; with which I have directed him, to give the Enemy’s shipping near the City all the annoyance in his power, while the rivers continues in its present situation. He will stand in need of a body of infantry to cover the Artillery in this opperation and to Aid in throwing up some little work that may be necessary to give them greater security and inable them to act with more effect. I have therefore to request, you will give him all the assistance you can afford, from the militia under your command. He may possibly have it, in his power to do something to advantage by means of red hot shot, or otherwise.2 I am Sir Your Most Obedt servant

Go: Washington

Df, in Caleb Gibbs’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Gibbs addressed the draft to the “Commanding Officer of Militia Haddonfield,” who was Col. Joseph Ellis (see Ellis to GW, 8 Feb., and Anthony Wayne to GW, 25 February).

1This name appears on the Varick transcript, but the space is blank on the draft. Jonas Simonds (Symonds, Simmons) served in 1775 as a second lieutenant in Col. Richard Gridley’s Massachusetts artillery regiment and then as a first lieutenant in Col. Henry Knox’s artillery regiment. Simonds became a captain lieutenant in the 2d Continental Artillery Regiment in January 1777, and he was promoted to captain in November 1778. His company became a part of the 4th Continental Artillery Regiment in January 1781. After the war Simonds was a customs inspector in Philadelphia.

2An unsigned draft of the letter of instructions to Simonds, dated 24 Feb., reads: “You are to proceed forthwith into the State of New Jersey, and apply to Capt. Alexander of the navy, who is hereby directed to deliver you the pieces of heavy artillery, at present under his care; with which, you are to give all the annoyance, in your power, by means of red-hot shot, or any other, that may appear to you effectual, to the enemy’s shipping near the city of Philadelphia. The most eligible mode of proceeding to effect this, as to the choice of position, the construction of any necessary work, or other matter whatever, I must leave to your own discretion, to be governed by circumstances. But I must observe to you, the necessity of guarding against a surprise, or the loss of your cannon and party, in case of any attempt for that purpose being made by the enemy: in order to which, I have written to the commanding officer of the Jersey Militia at Haddon field to afford you all the aid he can, from the militia under his command as a security, for your cannon and to assist in raising any little work you may find requisite. You will apply to him accordingly, and enter upon the purposes for which you are sent as speedily as possible. One thing you will have particularly to attend to is, that as you will have to act on a point of land, or kind of peninsula; there will be great danger of the Enemy throwing parties above and below you, and getting into your rear in which case your retreat would be intercepted. This will require a good look out pretty far on both your flanks. Given at Head Qrs at Valley forge, by command of his Excellency, this 24th day of February 1778” (DLC:GW. The body of the letter is in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, but Robert Hanson Harrison wrote the address and closing; the Varick transcript indicates that the letter was from Harrison).

GW wrote to Simonds and Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne on 28 Feb., suggesting that Simonds should return to camp because the warmer weather had made his mission impracticable.

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