George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Anthony Wayne, 25 February 1778

From Brigadier General Anthony Wayne

Haddenfield [N.J.] 25th Feby 1778


I landed in New Jersey the 19th and proceeded to salem the same Evening—the next Morning I sent out several Detachment to Collect Cattle &ca pursuant to the within Order;1 at the same time Dispatched the enclosed Letter to B. Genl Ellis.2

It was difficult to meet any Cattle, Altho the Country abounded with them; as the Inhabitants had Secreted all such as were fit for our use in the swamps—however I have got together upwards of One hundred and fifty Head, which will be at Mount holly this day at 3 oClock—there is a Number more in the Vicinity of Coopers ferry & the River between this and Dunck’s ferry, which we shall also drive, and doubt not but I shall send to Camp in the course of four days more at least 250 head exclusive of about thirty Capital Horses for Lee’s Troop—Upon hearing that the Enemy were about to land at Burlington,3 I attempted to pass the Cattle over at New Castle with Capt. Barrys Boats, but this failing have sent them by the way of Mount holly—passing with the Main Detatchment between them and the River; and In order to amuse the Enemy and Effect the Destruction of the Forage on the River—I Directed Capt. Barry with a Detatchment in Boats to execute the Order, of which the Enclosed is a Copy—he began the Business yesterday at the Mouth of Racoons Creek at 10 oClock in the morng falling down with the tide4—this drew the Attention of the Enemy that way—and at one oClock this Morng twenty flatt bottomed Boats with a Number of other craft full of Troops, rowed down the River by Glochester Point—but where they have landed, I am not yet Informed—but expect every moment to here—as I have Detatched horse Men both up and down the River—leaste they should amuse us below, whilst they are passing at Dunck’s ferry, in this Case I shall out flank them.5

If the Jersey should not be their Object I fear for smallwood—he is in a feeble Condition—he has not Carriages, sufficient to move his Baggage.

I shall push the Cattle for Trent town, and in Case the Enemy have landed in this State will Remain, with the Militia and part of the Detatchment to prevent the Enemy from Maroding too farr—until I receive your Excellencies further Orders on the Occasion—General Ellis the Commanding Officer here Informs me that the whole of the force he can Collect dont exceed three Hundred. I am Your Excellencies most Obt and very Humble servant

Anty Wayne B.G.

N.B. I have sent you the Originals—not having time to Copy the Different Orders.

LS, DLC:GW; DfS, PHi: Wayne Papers. Wayne wrote on the cover of the LS: “The express char[g]ed with this is to pass & has Direction to Impress fresh Horses if Necessary.”

1Wayne’s enclosed orders to his troops, dated 20 Feb., read: “His Excellency Genl Washington having Received Intelligence that the Enemy are preparing for a Grand forage—in the state of New Jersey, & he wishing to prevent their deriving any Advantage from the Cattle, Sheep, &ca fit for Slaughter, as well as the Horses fit for Cavalry which is one of their mean Objects—and by which they would be Enabled to prosecute the Cruel and unjust [war] now Waging against these States.

“A[nd] Whereas it’s of the Utmost Consequence that these Articles should be Immediately taken and Secured for the use of the American Army—Allowing the people from whom taken a just & Reasonable price for the same.

“You are hereby Commanded to take and drive in all Cattle Sheep & Hoggs fit for use—and all the Capital Horses for Cavalry—(& none else) that you can meet with passing Rects with an Estimate of the Weight of the Cattle and Value of the Horses to the Owners—Mentioning that a day and plan of payment will be publickly Advertisd to the end that the Inhabitants may be put to as little trouble as possible in Recg their pay.

“You are also to keep an Acct of the persons’s names from which any Cattle or Horses are taken with the Size Colour and value of the Horses—and Weight of the Cattle. By order of His Excellency. . . . N.B. You are to be very Careful that no Insult be Offered to any of the Inhabitants through which you pass” (DLC:GW). For the purpose of Wayne’s activities, see GW to Nathanael Greene, 12 Feb., n.2.

2The enclosed copy of a letter from Wayne to Col. Joseph Ellis, dated 20 Feb. from Salem, N.J., reads: “His Excellency Genl Washington having Recd Intelligence that the Enemy were meditating a Grand forage in the State of New Jersey; and wishing to prevent them from deriving any Advantage from the Cattle Sheep &ca fit for Slaughter—as well as the Horses Suitable to mount the Dragoons—has Ordered me with a Strong Detatchment from the main Army—to take and Secure all such Cattle & Horses for the use of his Troops—that may be found in the Vicinity of the River—passing Rects to the Owners with an Estimate of the Weight of the Cattle and the Value of the Horses for which the Inhabitants will be Allowed a Reasonable and just price—and will be notified of the time and place of payment—to the end that they may experience as little delay or trouble in Receving a full Compensation for their property as the Nature of the case will admit.

“A Conduct so widely different from that of the Enemy—that every Inhabitant of this State—(whilst they feel a small Inconveniency for the Immediate want of their Horses or Cattle)—upon a Moments Reflection will be Reconciled to the policy necessity and Justice of the Measure.

“I must therefore Request your Assistance in this Essential buisness—by Immediately executing the Within Order as far as Circumstances will admit—in the Vicinity of Gloster Coopers ferry and your present Quarter’s Collecting the Whole at some secure place for the Immediate passing them aCross the Delaware—which I believe can’t be well Effected short of Trent Town I must also Request you to keep a Watchful eye on the Enemy—and if they should Attempt to pass into this State that, you send me Intelligence thereof with all possible Dispatch—together with the rout they are likely to take—you will hear of me along the Roads that head the Creeks. . . . N.B. in case the Enemy should pass the River—it will be proper to send Intelligence by the Different roads leading to this place—but you will keep my being here as Secret as possible for a Reason which I will Communicate to you in two or three days” (DLC:GW).

3Col. Joseph Ellis replied in assent to Wayne’s orders on 21 Feb., appending an intellingence report dated “Saturday 3 O’Clock P.M.” that Wayne enclosed in his letter to GW: “since writing the Letter that accompanys this, I have received certain Intelligence from a person that may be depended upon & who has just made his Escape from Philada That this Day the Enemy had fixed upon to begin their Rout thro this State beginning at Or about Burlington & from thence, throwing a Strong foraging party down the Country—with an Intention to carry away what they could possibly get—but in all probability the inclemency of the weather has prevented them. . . . N.B. The person further mentioned that the Boats intended for the Expedition were all in readiness” (DLC:GW).

4The enclosed copy of a letter from Wayne to Capt. John Barry, dated 23 Feb. from Salem, N.J., reads: “You are to pass up the River, with your Boats and Burn all the Hay along the Shore from Billings Port to this place—taking an Acct of the Persons Names to whom it belongs together with the Quantity.

“On one John Kelleys place at the Mouth of Rackoon Creek there is near One Hundred Tons—and up Mantua Creek there is a Considerable Quantity—it is His Excellencies Wish to Deprive the Enemy from Recg the Benifit of the forage—and at the Same time for such persons as are friends to their Country—to Receive a Recompence at a future day—for Altho’ it is a Maxim that private property must be Sacraficed to publick good—Yet it is not His Excellencies Intention to Distress the Individual for the benifit of the publick; but where prudence and policy, joined to Necessity will justify the Measure—and not even then but with a full Intent that Restitution be made to that Individual.

“You will by the first Oppertunity Transmit to Head Quarters, the Names of the persons together with the Quantity of forage belonging to each that you may have Distroyed pursuant to this Order” (DLC:GW). Raccoon Creek enters the Delaware River opposite Chester, Pa., in Gloucester County, N.J. See also Barry to GW, 26 February.

Wayne also enclosed to GW his letter of 22 Feb. from Salem, N.J., to Lt. Col. Isaac Sherman of the 2d Connecticut Regiment: “You are to March with the Company under your Command Immediately taking under your Charge the Cattle now Collected here—you will Quarter this Night in Wrangle Town—tomorrow Morning you will March by the Road heading the Creeks to Mount Holly where you will Quarter the Next Night—and from thence you will March the next day to Trent Town where you will wait for further Orders.

“You will keep a party well Advanced under the Command of a trusty Officer in Order to give you Intelligence of the Enemy in case they should be out—so that you may either fall back or drive into the Country and avoid them—you will every Night Order as much Hay for the Cattle as they can eat—Giving a Certificate to the Owners for the Quantity & to what use Appropriated.

“You will also keep out small active parties to Collect all such Cattle as may fall in your Rout—that may be fit for use together with the Capital Horses for Cavalry—passing your Receipts for the same—and leaving Directions with the persons to come to Trent-Town after you to get proper Certeficates—you will keep an Acct of the Number of Cattle and Horses you take, with the Owners names—so that there may be no Mistake” (DLC:GW).

Also enclosed was Wayne’s letter of 23 Feb. to 2d Lt. Simeon Jennings of the 2d Rhode Island Regiment: “you are to proceed with the Detachment under your Command being nineteen in number (Belonging to the Regt of Angle, Chandler, Durkee, Pren⟨tice⟩ and Bradley) on board Captn Barreys Boats and after Executing the duty on which he is Sent (which he will Communicate to you) you will be landed on the Pennsa Shore when you will Immediatly march to Camp and Report at Head Quarters as soon As you Arrive. . . . Captn Barrey will land Lieut. jennings on the Pennsa Shore as Soon as the Captn has Effected the Businiss on which he is Ordered” (DLC:GW).

5Upon learning of Wayne’s expedition in New Jersey, Howe decided to make an attempt to cut him off. Howe’s aide Captain Muenchhausen wrote in his diary on 24 Feb.: “At 12 o’clock at night the two English battalions of light infantry under the command of Colonel Abercromby received orders to march at once. They were embarked on flatboats at one o’clock, and were landed at Billingsport. The intention of this operation is probably to have a slap at General Wayne, if possible” (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 , 48). On 25 Feb., Lt. Col. Thomas Stirling’s 42d Highland Regiment crossed the Delaware River at Cooper’s Ferry and marched toward Haddonfield while Lt. Col. Robert Abercromby’s forces headed for Salem. Wayne received intelligence of the British movements, however, and was able to slip away to Mount Holly with his troops and the New Jersey militia (see Wayne to GW, 26 Feb.; 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 , 163; Whinyates, Services of Francis Downman description begins F. A. Whinyates, ed. The Services of Lieut.-Colonel Francis Downman, R.A., in France, North America, and the West Indies, between the Years 1758 and 1784. Woolwich, England, 1898. description ends , 56; the Royal Pennsylvania Gazette printed an account of these movements on 13 March). The British then marched to Cooper’s Ferry where Wayne, assisted by cavalry under Brig. Gen. Casimir Pulaski, skirmished with them before they returned to Philadelphia (see Wayne to GW, 5 Mar., and GW to Wayne, 12 March).

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