George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Horatio Gates, 20 March 1778

To Major General Horatio Gates

Head Quarters Valley Forge 20th March 1778


I am honored with yours of the 7th 11th & 14th instants.1 As soon as General Green enters upon the Office of Qr Mr General he will attend to the Stores at Reading and have all, that are not immediately or soon wanted for the Army, removed to a place of greater safety—I am obliged for your attention to the Article of Paper with which I hope we shall be in future better supplied2—I do not think much credit is to be given to the intelligence communicated in yours of the 14th because the number of Horse mentioned is more than the Enemy have at present, and if they had them, they would not risque them so great a distance. They cannot possibly march any Body of Horse or Foot from Philada upon the Rout mentioned in the information without being discovered by our patrolls—But that we may be prepared, should such a scheme be in agitation, I have strengthned our advanced picket w[it]h 200 Men.

A few days ago one of our scouting Parties fell in with and took four fine teams going into Philadelphia two of them belonged to one Evan Griffith who lived about one mile from York Town. The other two belonged to one Dorsey who was killed in the Skirmish. Griffith made his Escape and went into Philada. Inclosed you have the examination of two of the Waggoners who were taken.3 By enquiring who are Griffith’s acquaintance some further discoveries may be made. From what we have found out in several late instances the Enemy are attempting by all ways and means to procure a recruit of Horses. I am obliged by the full information of the State of our Arms, Artillery, Ammunition and other Stores given in yours of the 14th If there are not Bayonets and Cartouch Boxes to the Muskets returned servicable, there will be found a great deficiency of the first, and almost a total want of the latter as appears from the return transmitted.4 You must be sensible that not a moments time is to be lost in providing these necessary Articles and I therefore take it for granted that no exertions on your parts will be wanting to procure them. I am endeavouring to have the deficient Bayonets for the Army made up by Armourers drawn from the line.

I perfectly agree with you as to the necessity of collecting a battering train of Artillery, and I think Springfield & Carlisle the places mentioned by you, very proper to deposit them. Springfield is also the proper place to deposit the spare Stores to the Eastward, but as it appears that all the Arms and Tents from all the Magazines will be wanted by the Army, they should without loss of time be moving towards Carlisle. Nine or ten of the 9 Inch Mortars should also be brought forward. The Field Artillery, heavy twelves and the twenty four pounders that were at Albany and such other military Stores as will not be immediately wanted down the River, will be ordered on by General Knox and what are not wanted here sent to Carlisle. That place will then be the grand Arsenal of all Artillery & Stores on this side of Hudsons River as Springfield will be of those on the East side. I am getting the heavy Cannon that were saved out of the shipping upon Delaware mounted upon travelling Carriages, they are very fine Iron 18 and 24 pounders and I suppose will amount to about twelve. If we should take a post below the City, they, with the heavy Brass Artillery and the Mortars will be of the greatest use to us, but the Cannon will be too heavy to move any great distance. I have the honor &c.

P.S. I shall be much obliged to you for hurrying on those Levies towards the Camp, who march thro’ York. We have hitherto found that a vast many of them have stragled and have been lost before they have reached the Army by making repeated Halts.

Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1These letters have not been found.

2GW had written Gates on 27 Feb. about the procurement of writing paper.

3The enclosure has not been identified. Adj. Gen. Alexander Scammell gave a report of the incident in a letter to Timothy Pickering of 17 Mar.: “Some of Morgan’s Corps made a fine Hawl upon a Tory from near York Town who had arriv’d within a mile of the enemy’s Lines when the Riflemen under Lt [John] Harden attack’d them, the Horses being exceeding smart push’d over, & evaded the footmen, when Harden alone persued them; attack’d six of them, kill’d one, and took 4 fine Waggons loaded with flower & Forrage—drawn by four excellent Horses each with a Chest of Cloathing &c. The Villain who own’d them by means of a spry Horse made his Escape. Two of the drivers were brought in—The whole Booty is estimated at 3000£” (MHi: Timothy Pickering Papers; see also Boyle, Writings from the Valley Forge Encampment description begins Joseph Lee Boyle, ed. Writings from the Valley Forge Encampment of the Continental Army, December 19, 1777–June 19, 1778. 3 vols. Bowie, Md., 2000–2002. description ends , 2:83). The incident was noticed in newspapers: a letter from camp of 14 Mar., printed in the New London Connecticut Gazette; and the Universal Intelligencer, 10 April, indicates that the capture took place on 13 Mar., and another, more widely reprinted account, appeared in an “Extract of a letter from Camp. (Valley Forge) March 19, 1778,” printed in the Continental Journal, and Weekly Advertiser (Boston) of 9 April. Christopher Marshall at Lancaster also recorded in his diary for 18 Mar. a report that “Our people in the fray lost two men” (Duane, Marshall’s Diary description begins William Duane, ed. Extracts from the Diary of Christopher Marshall, Kept in Philadelphia and Lancaster, during the American Revolution, 1774–1781. 1877. Reprint. New York, 1969. description ends , 172). Evan Griffith later accompanied the British army to New York, where he served in the quartermaster’s department and kept a public house on Long Island. After the war Griffith, who settled in Nova Scotia, received compensation from the Loyalist Claims Commission for his loss in this incident.

4The return has not been identified.

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