George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Latimer, 3 January 1781

From Henry Latimer

Morris Town [N.J.]
Wednesday Evening 8 OClock ⟨Januar⟩y 3d 1781

In consequence of General Wayne (who I left this Day at 12 OClock at Vaness’s Mill)1 being very much engaged, I have it in command from him to give your Excellency a representation of the March & Disposition of the Troops, since Major Fishborne left us.2

General Wayne, Colonels R. Butler & Stewart proceeded after the Troops yesterday, expecting to come up with them before they reach’d Pluckemin, but passed stragling Parties only (who would not generally attend to any thing which was said to them), untill they arrived at Van victer’s Bridge, where some honest Fellows advised the General not to go to the main Body, as many being intoxicated & very ill disposed;3 this advanced Guard were at this Time arrived at their old Hutts, where they were all to halt for the Night4—As it was Evening, the General considered it most eligible not to go on to them, but request a Serjant or more from each Regiment to be sent to his Quarters to represent the Complaints of the soldiery—They attended accordingly, & among these the serjeant whom they appointed to command5—The Grievances were pointed out, & Mod⟨es⟩ of redress proposed, of the Justice & Propriety of which they were fully satisfied, & returned to the Troops with a determination to prepare the Minds of their Fellow soldiers to attend calmly & dispassionately to such Modes for the redress of their Grievances, as the General would offer to them this Morning.6 It appeared they had accordingly exerted every Influence they possess’d for this purpose, but to very little eff⟨ect⟩ for they took up their Line of march this Morning very early, not waiting for the General, in contradiction to the solicitations of the commanding & other serjeants—however by the Influ⟨ence⟩ of these, the Column were turned off into a Field, formed a Circle, where the General & the Colonels Butler & Stewart had an oppertunity of addrissing them, which had not the wish’d for Influence: the Majority or the most Clamorous were not to be swerved from their Design, they again march’d on; those who were willing to return were directed to proceed with the refractory—supposing they might be capable of convincing some of them of the propriety of the propositions offered, & the fatal tendency of pirsisting in their present Conduct before they arrive at Princeton; where the well disposed serjeants are determined to endeavour to halt them for the Night; & here the last propositions are to be made to them unconnected with Arms—The General & the two Colonels are sanguine in their Expectations of effecting a Disunion among them—Colonel Stewarts Regiment generally & the serjeants formerly mentioned are determined (the Colonel thinks) to proceed with them no further than Princeton, the fifth & ninth appear also favorably disposed.

This Circumstance, the Militia of Somerset & Middlesex being ordered to assemble at Rockey Hill, Colonel Freelinghausen gone to Trenton to assemble the Militia there & send off the Stores & Boats—The Officers of the Line directed to arm themselves & immediately repair to Pri⟨nce⟩ton, affords the general Hopes of an adaquate force, with which (if no other Influence will have the effect) he is determined to attack them & by no means let them proceed to Philadelphia.

A serjeant & twelve were ordered as a Guard for the General last Evening, in this instance & others they treat the General & the other two officers with as much Complisance & respect, as they can consistent with their principle Design—They have between sixty & one hundred Head of Cattle, but no Flour.

The Enemy have not yet appeared in Jersey: the Militia of Morris & Essex are assembling at Chatham—I am with respect—Your Excellency’s very Humble servant

Hy Latimer


Capt. Joseph McClellan of the Pennsylvania line recorded the events of the mutiny in his diary entry for this date: “Small parties of men still continued collecting and marching off. About 8 o’clock in the evening the officers received orders from Gen. Wayne to press horses and arm themselves and push on for Rocky Hill. About 9 o’clock at night the officers mounted horses and moved on to Boundbrook, in a body, armed” (Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds. Pennsylvania Archives. 9 ser., 138 vols. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949. description ends , 2d ser., 11:632). The main body of the mutineers, marching in an ordered column, had left Vealtown, N.J., on the morning of 2 Jan. and arrived at Middlebrook, N.J., that night. After meeting Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne and colonels Richard Butler and Walter Stewart, the mutineers resumed their march toward Princeton, where they arrived on the evening of 3 January.

1The mill of Abraham Van Nest, located on the Millstone River near Somerset Courthouse (now Millstone), N.J., was about eight miles west of New Brunswick in present-day Weston, New Jersey.

2For the initial events of the Pennsylvania line mutiny, see Wayne to GW, 2 Jan., and the source note to that document.

3Van Veghten’s bridge in Somerset County, N.J., spanned the Raritan River about two miles west of Bound Brook, N.J., near the Derrick Van Veghten house.

4The huts of the Pennsylvania regiments during the Continental army’s earlier winter encampment at Middlebrook, N.J., were located just south of Van Veghten’s bridge (see General Orders, 6 Feb. 1779, source note).

5For this board of sergeants, see Van Doren, Mutiny in January description begins Carl Van Doren. Mutiny in January: The Story of a Crisis in the Continental Army now for the first time fully told from many hitherto unknown or neglected sources both American and British. New York, 1943. description ends , 57–58, 244, 249.

6For these complaints and the proposals for their redress, see Wayne, Butler, and Stewart to GW, 4 Jan., n.1.

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