George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Brigadier General William Smallwood, 1 June 1778

To Brigadier General William Smallwood

Head Quarters Valley Forge 1st June 1778

Dear Sir

I recd yours of the 30th May. A person, who I sent down to Chester to observe the Movement of the Fleet, left that place on Sunday at dusk,1 he informs me that upwards of one hundred sail had come down from Philada and that they had not stopped near Wilmington, but proceeded towards the Capes. If this is so, it is a plain proof that they have no design to land any body of Men to molest our Stores. Capt. McLane who commands a scouting Party upon the Enemy’s lines has been this Morning as near Philada as Kensignton, from whence he has a full view of the Harbour, he says very few ships remained and those cheifly armed Vessels.2 If therefore, upon sending an Officer to Chester and another to Wilmington you find that the Vessels have gone down and are below New Castle, you are immediately to join me with your whole continental force. I am &c.

P.S. Bring up your Tents with you and your ligh[t]est Baggages as you will probably march immediately Northward.

Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; LS, sold by Libbie, 8 Feb. 1881, item 698; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1Sunday was 31 May.

2British captain John Peebles noted in his diary on 29 May: “The Baggege Ships & others dropping down the River, they are to assemble at Reedy Island, our ships gone today” (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 , 185).

GW’s aide James McHenry wrote Capt. Allen McLane from Valley Forge on 31 May: “You have his Excellency’s permission to employ the dragoon on your special command. No doubt you have properly considered how far you may trust to the intelligence of your spies, and by compairing their different accounts found out the most faithful. You will continue to watch the enemies motions with your usual industry and forward your discoveries as soon as possible to head Quarters” (DLC:GW). For more on McLane’s activities, see GW to Philemon Dickinson, 24 May, n.2.

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