George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General John Lacey, Jr., 27 February 1778

From Brigadier General John Lacey, Jr.

Camp Cross Roads [Pa.] Feb. 27th 1778

Dear General.

I have now under Confinement Twelve persons all taken going into Philada at Different times with small parcels of Marketing on their Backs. I have Just reason to Suspect the Greatest part of them, (as they are Young fellows) are going to join the Enemy, in Capt. Thomas Company of Refugees, as they call themselves.1 I am informed that parties are now out in Bucks County Collecting as many of that Stamp as they can find, which in my Opinion will be no inconsiderable Number.

The best way that I can Conceive to put a Stop to that practice and to Apprehend the Villians, is to Confine every person found going with Marketing, to the City and Send them to Eastown or Some Other Distant Jail there to Remain During the War, or untill Exchanged for those Inhabitants the Enemy have Stolen out of their Houses—a few Examples of this kind would in a Great Measure Stop the Intercourse between the Country and City. Whiping Only Aggravates.

If your Excellency should approve of this proposel I should be glad you would Give me Notice, as I may Act Accordingly.

A party of the Enemys Light Horse came into the Country last Monday night and took a Number of Cattle going to Head Quarters and drove them into Philada next Morning. Inteligence came to me about 10 oClock in the morning. I immediately Marched all the Men that had Arms and Ammunition which was Delivered them but the day before to Major Rights,2 the Enemy had passed One Hour before me, a part of Capt. Newmans Company of Chester County Militia whose times were Expired, where On their way home fell in with the party and having no Arms Several of them were made Prisoners.3 the bad weather has hindered my not Approaching nearer the City.4 I Remain Your Excellencys Most Obedient Humble Servent

John Lacey jur

ALS, DLC:GW. The letter was carried “⅌ favour of Parson Vanhorn.” William Van Horne (c.1746–1807), minister of Southampton Baptist Church in Bucks County, was appointed chaplain to Brig. Gen. John Glover’s brigade in June 1779 and resigned in June 1780.

1The British-controlled Pennsylvania Evening Post (Philadelphia) reported on 26 Feb. “instances of barbarous cruelty, which were lately suffered by a couple of harmless men, who fell into the hands of a numerous party of militia, under the command of Mr. Lacy, a brigadier of Pennsylvania.” The “harmless men,” David Coombs and John McKenny, had been “accused of having brought provisions to the Philadelphia market.” William Thomas of Northampton County, Pa., had joined the British in Philadelphia early in 1778 and subsequently served as captain of a company of Bucks County Loyalists; for some of his activities, see Lacey to GW, 19 Feb., n. 1. The Pennsylvania government confiscated and sold Thomas’s property, and he settled after the war in Digby, Nova Scotia.

2By “Major Rights,” Lacey apparently is referring to George Wright’s tavern (see John Jameson to GW, 2 Feb., n. 1).

3Howe’s aide Captain Muenchhausen recorded this British exploit in his diary on 24 Feb.: “Since General Howe has received word that 130 oxen have come across from Jersey and were being driven to Valley Forge to Washington’s army under a weak cover, a detachment of English and the newly created dragoons were to go there late last evening. They managed to sneak completely around them and to drive away these 130 head of cattle” (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; see also 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; Boyle, “Armstrong’s Diary,” description begins Joseph Lee Boyle, ed. “The Israel Angell Diary, 1 October 1777–28 February 1778.” Rhode Island History 58 (2000): 107–38. description ends 266). GW wrote Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne on 28 Feb. that the cattle had originated in New England and ascribed their loss to information given the British light horse by Loyalists in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. William Newman had been exchanged by 1780, when he again was serving as a captain in the 8th Battalion of Chester County militia.

4Henry Melchior Muhlenberg wrote in his diary on 26 Feb. that at Trappe, Pa., “It began to rain heavily early in the morning, and this made the roads utterly impassable.” On the next day he wrote: “The rain continued unabated last night. . . . Today both snow and rain are falling again” (Tappert and Doberstein, Muhlenberg Journals description begins Theodore G. Tappert and John W. Doberstein, trans. and eds. The Journals of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg. 3 vols. Philadelphia, 1942–58. description ends , 3:133).

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