George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Livingston, 14 April 1778

To William Livingston

Head Quarters Valley Forge 14th April 1778

Dear Sir

I am honored with yours of the 9th inclosing a petition from a number of respectable inhabitants of the lower Counties of your State. I wish it were in my power immediately to afford them that relief and protection which they look for, but you know I can only make detatchments from the Army proportioned to the Strength of the main Body. I have ordered the few Men of Colo. Formans Regiment who are here, to join Colo. Sh[r]eve, which will make a small addition to his Force,1 and it is my intention, if I can do it consistent with the safety of the Army, to send over another of the Jersey Regiments, but as this is a matter of great uncertainty, and will depend intirely upon my reinforcements; I would not wish that the people should count upon it.2 A few hundred continental troops quiet the minds and give satisfaction to the people of the Country, but considered in the true light, they rather do more harm than good. They draw over the attention of the Enemy, and not being able to resist them, are obliged to fly and leave the Country at the Mercy of the Foe. But as I said before, the people do not view things in the same light, and therefore they must be indulged, tho’ to their detriment. If four or five hundred Militia could be kept together, they, in conjunction with Colo. Shreves Troops, would cover the Country from the incursions of small parties of the Enemy, and would oblige them, if they moved at all, to do it in larger numbers than they chuse to risque across the Delaware, except to accomplish some matter of great importance.

I think Colo. Mawhoods summons with proper comments upon it, and the barbarities really subsequent to it, should be published. Colo. Hands answer does him and the Officers and men under his command great honour.3

Mr Boudinot has taken charge of the prisoners sent over, and has promised to have proper steps taken to p[r]event the private trade carried on by the persons going in the Flag Boats. I have the honor to be &c.

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

2GW ordered additional reinforcements to New Jersey on 7 May (see GW to Israel Shreve, that date).

3See Livingston to GW, 9 April, n.2. The exchange between Charles Mawhood and Elijah Hand was published in the New-Jersey Gazette (Trenton) of 15 April, with a letter to the paper’s printer Isaac Collins criticizing “the most unsoldierly and cruel conduct of the British troops” and praising “the laudable and spirited behaviour of our militia.” The correspondent claimed: “It is surely a perfect novelty in the history of modern war, to treat people the worse for bravely defending themselves; and threatening a whole country with savage devastation, for not tamely submitting to the demands of an enemy, and bowing their necks to the yoke of bondage without any resistance. The proscribing of individuals and dooming them to destruction by the hands of their own countrymen, is another innovation in the laws of arms peculiar to those who boast of their national valour and humanity.”

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