George Washington Papers

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

From Brigadier General John Lacey, Jr.

Camp Billit [Pa.] April 27th 1778.


Inclosed is a return of the Militia under my Comand. I hear that more are on their way to join me.1

I moved from Norwales, (where I had retired to discharge the Northampton Militia) last Saturday2 about twelve oClock. on hearing a party of the Enemy had filed off from the Germantown Road toward the York Road. I proceed as far as edge Hill hoping to fall in with them, but found on my Arival to that place, they were returned to the City. I incamped with my Little handfull the following Night at the Billit, where I still remain I sent orders for the Provisions and Stores I had left at Norwales to be Moved, and for the Baggage Waggons belonging to the Militia to Come to the Billit3 the Same Night Some of the Waggoners belonging to a part of the Northampton peopple whose times did not expire till Last Evening following the Common Custom of Disobediance, among the Militia Neglected Moving till Next Morning. when they were met By a party of the Enemy’s Horse, just after they Started, Who took one Waggon & Eight Horses, also five or Six prisoners, and Wounded Several More, those fellows the Day before when the Brigade left the Camp. being either too Lazy or Cowardly to March with them. Chose to Stay with the Baggage, and being not fond of fattigue had for their own ease Carfully depossited their armes in the Baggage Waggons, and in this Situation they were met by the Enemy.4

I hope in a few days to be able to annoy the Enemy should they continue their late practice in coming through the Country.5

P.S. the times of the Militia Horse are all expired except three who yet remain with me.

ADf, NHi: Miscellaneous Manuscripts.

1The return has not been found, but Lacey recapitulated the numbers in a letter to Maj. Gen. John Armstrong of 28 April. His report for 27 April was “Fifty three present, fit for duty—none on command” (Register of Pennsylvania, 30 May 1829, p. 142 [342]). On 25 April, Col. Joseph Kirkbride, the Bucks County lieutenant, wrote Lacey: “In consequence of orders from his Excellency, our President, I have ordered out the first class of the Militia of this county. The 5th, or lower Battalion, has turned out exceeding thin indeed—not more than two offering to march to camp. I hope the other Battallions may do something better. My orders given them are, to march from each Battallion immediately, and join your Camp, to be disposed of as you may think fit” (ibid.).

2The previous Saturday was 25 April.

3At this point Lacey wrote “which was Complyd with in part,” but he crossed the words out.

4The Royal Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), 28 April, reported: “Another party under the command of Captain De Lancey went out on Sunday last, and fell in with a number of the Northampton militia, killed twelve, took six prisoners, and put the rest to flight.—The troops returned the same day with their prisoners, and two waggons loaded with canteens and camp-kettles, taken at the same time.” British engineer Capt. John Montresor recorded that the British forces involved were “2 troops of the 17th Dragoons” and located the engagement “at North Wales meeting house” (Scull, Montresor Journals description begins G. D. Scull, ed. The Montresor Journals. New York, 1882. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vol. 14. description ends , 487; see also Gruber, Peebles’ American War description begins Ira D. Gruber, ed. John Peebles’ American War: The Diary of a Scottish Grenadier, 1776–1782. Mechanicsburg, Pa., 1998. description ends , 177).

5Lacey first wrote “I hope in a few Days to have a Clip with the Enemy if they follow the practice they have persued this last Weak in Coming out into the Country,” but he replaced that text.

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