George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Stirling, 24 December 1777

From Major General Stirling

Radnor [Pa.] Decembre 24th 1777 6 oClock

Dr Sir

Since I wrote you this Morning Nothing very Material has happened; I found Col: Morgan with His Corps & Six Companies of the 15, detached parties and the Militia have posted themselves in the front and on the left-flank of the Enemy, in Sight of them I therefore sent off Colonel Malcolm with the Lt Cols. Barber & Harmer with 300 Men to the Vicinity of Marshalls Mill,1 which will Cover our foorageing parties, and be Sufficient to destress any of theirs which may Venture out; what is become of the Rest of those 15 parties I know not; but had they been formed under three feild Officers & put under the direction of Col: Morgan they might have been of Use. The light Horse taken Yesterday with Several Light Infantry, Negroes, &c. I have orderd to be sent to head Quarters tomorrow Morning; the Arms & Boots of the light Horse I have Allowed Capt. Lee to retain for the Benefit of his Troop till your further order, the Horses (13 in Number with every thing Else) are to go to Head Quarters in the Morning. Col: Morgans opinion is that the Enemy mean Nothing more than to forage the Neck & Islands I mentioned in my last,2 that our forces are well posted, and sufficient to Answer every purpose, till they Adopt other Measures. I am of his opinion, and that with our whole Army, it would be imprudent to Attack them in their present possition, indeed from what I know of the Ground I think they have taken a post of defiance; yet I am in hopes of picking up some of their Straglers on their Right as I hear they behave Carelessly there, we are now well Supplyed with Bread & Meat and Notwithing what I was told yesterday I belive we shall make a very good forrageing tomorrow Morning with all the Waggons of my division,3 I wish some more Waggons were sent, I will find loads for them which may otherwise fall into the hands of the Enemy your Excellency may be Assured that no force will be Used, While linetive Measures will Answer the purpose. I am your Excellency’s Most Obt Humble Servt


I write in a Noisy Crowd, therefore Excuse this Scrawl.


GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman wrote a reply to this letter on 25 Dec. (see Stirling to GW, 25 Dec., n.1).

1John Marshall (d. 1749) of Chester County, Pa., established several mills on properties he owned in Darby Township, including a gristmill about six miles from Philadelphia near the township’s border with Blockley Township, Philadelphia County.

3Massachusetts lieutenant Samuel Armstrong recorded the results of one such foraging expedition in his journal: “Thursday 25th: Christmas Day. We was without provisions therefore I was sent out to procure some, but could not get Enough ’till three or four in the afternoon, when I got [49 wt.] of Salt Beef & 110 wt. of fresh Beef and two hundred & a half of flower and as soon as I returned, I was call’d out to go upon Scout & did not return ’till about 10 OC. in the Evening. This was my Christmas frolick” (Boyle, “Armstrong’s Diary,” description begins Joseph Lee Boyle. “From Saratoga to Valley Forge: The Diary of Lt. Samuel Armstrong.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 121 (1997): 237–70. description ends 259–60).

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