George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Philemon Dickinson, 23 June 1778

From Major General Philemon Dickinson

Trenton [N.J.] 23th June 1778
½ past 11, OClock P.M.

Dear Sir

I have recieved your Excellency’s favor of this Day—The obstructions thrown in the Enemy’s way, have been, the destruction of Bridges, & the felling of Trees, but those were of such a nature, as have fully satisfied me, their delay, was voluntary.

The whole of General Clinton’s movement, since he came into this State, has convinced me of his wish, to bring on a general action—it does not admit of a doubt with me—tis the constant language, of the intelligent deserters—I do not mention this as a reason—but his Conduct, carries conviction with it.

Unexpectedly, the Enemy made their appearance, about six OClock this Evening, on the other side the Drawbridge—I take this to be, their advanced party, consisting of about seven, or eight hundred Men this is the Column, whh I mentioned to your Excellency, that was advancing on the Bordentown road—but from the best intelligence, their main body, lays on the Allentown road—they were busily employ’d in pulling down a Barn, to rebuild the Drawbridge, but our Artillery & Musketry, effectually put a stop to their Operations, for this Eveng—I have taken the necessary precautions, to prevent a surprize—& to’morrow, shall dispute the passages with them, unless they out flank us.1

I have given your Excellency, my sentiments upon this occasion, at your own request. I have the honor to be, Your Excellency’s Most Ob. St

Philemon Dickinson


1On 8 July the Pennsylvania Packet (Lancaster) printed an extract of “a letter from a gentleman at Camp, dated English Town, June 29th, 1778.” The letter describes the skirmish of 23 June at the drawbridge at Bordentown as follows: “At the drawbridge near Bordentown, when General Dickinson with great propriety had ordered some lines to be thrown up, they appeared anxiously to desire the arrival of the enemy. The continental troops and great part of the militia had however been withdrawn, except those of Colonels Philips and Shreve, who were previously detached to guard a ford one mile further up the creek, and only the three regiments of Colonels Freelinghuysen, Van Dike and Webster remained, when a party of the enemy appeared, and with great zeal began to repair the bridge, which had been cut down. Upon the very news of their approach, the troops rushed down with the greatest impetuosity, and a small party from one of the regiments which happened to be considerably advanced, caused them to retire, after having killed four and wounded several others. In the morning the lines were again manned, but the enemy thought proper to change their rout. This conduct of the militia saved, in my opinion, Trenton and the country adjacent from rapine and desolation.” 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 66–67, and Charles Stewart to GW, this date.

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