Conclusion Of The Revolutionary War
after spiking the cannons and setting fire to the barrack, withdrew without firing a gun.1 The force under Stirling is stated by Col. Bradford to have been Highlanders and marines from the man-of-war. Capt. Montressor says the troops were the Seventy-first Highlanders. On October 4th the enemy retired, excepting three hundred men, after they had made some unsuccessful efforts to remove the obstructions sunk in the river there, and on October 6th the British set fire to all the works and house, and the men who had been left to garrison the fort were withdrawn. The same evening Commodore Hazelwood of the Pennsylvania navy came down the river with the row-galleys, and attacked the British vessels of war between Fort Island and Chester. The firing "was almost a constant cannonade," and resulted in the British vessels getting under way, retiring to Chester, where nine of his Majesty's war ships were then lying.2 The same evening the Forty-second and Tenth British Regiments, with two howitzers and two mortars, marched to Philadelphia to protect a large quantity of provisions landed at Chester for the use of the army, which were then being transported to the city. In the evening of October 11th, about three hundred American militia entered the town of Chester and captured the loyal sheriff of Sussex County, Del., who had sought shelter there under the British authorities. The night after the battle of the Brandywine, Governor McKinley, of that State, was taken from his bed and made a prisoner. In retaliation for that act the Governor offered a reward of three hundred dollars for the arrest of the sheriff, at whose instance it is said McKinley had been apprehended. The day previous to this bold movement of the milita, Col. Boyd, sub-lieutenant of Chester County, was instructed to call out the fifth class of the militia to defend the inhabitants from foraging parties, and that a troop of fifty horsemen should be organized for that purpose. The ammunition required for these hastily-assembled forces was ordered to be placed at Col. Boyd's immediate disposal. On the 13th of October it was reported that Gen. Proctor, with sixteen hundred men, was then in Newtown township, almost sixteen miles from Philadelphia.3 Potter had been ordered to keep a sharp lookout for parties of English foragers, and if possible prevent any provisions from being taken from the west side of the Schuylkill to Philadelphia for the use of the British troops. Congress had also by resolution declared that any one who should furnish provisions or certain other designated supplies to the British forces, or who should be taken within thirty miles attempting to convey such interdicted articles to any place then occupied by his Majesty's soldiers, would be subject to martial law, and if found guilty of the offenses, should suffer death.4 Gen. Armstrong, on the 14th, informed Council that his division had been separated, that Gen. Potter with his brigade had been "sent to Chester County to annoy the Enemies' small parties, whether Horse or foot, that may be found on the Lancaster or Darby roads, prevent provisions going to the Enemy, &c. I have heard," he continued, "of a fifth class of the militia of that County being ordered to remain for its own defence, which is very proper, the Commander of that Class ought to communicate with General Potter & occasionally take his instructions."5 On the 15th the British fleet moved up the river and joined the "Roebuck" and "Vigilant," that then lay at anchor off Little Tinicum Island, the latter having the day before come up the Delaware sufficiently near to exchange shots with Fort Mifflin. The Americans were still confidently relying on the strength of the chevaux-de-frise, being entirely unaware of the fact that Robert White, who had been employed to sink the obstructions, was a traitor, as his subsequent base conduct showed, and had designedly left the channel near the Pennsylvania side open.6 Yet even after the forts were in the hands of the British, the approach to the city of Philadelphia was regarded as so hazardous that most of the English vessels lay in the river below the Horse-Shoe, making the town of Chester the port where they discharged supplies for the army.
1 Marshall's "Life of Washington," vol. iii. p. 176.|
2 Penna. Archives, 1st series, vol. v. p. 648.
3 Penna. Mag. of Hist., vol. i. p. 18.
4 Marshall's "Life of Washington," vol. iii. p. 172.
5 Penna. Archives, 1st series, vol. v. p. 673.
6 Penna. Mag. of Hist., vol. vi. p. 192, note.
|Richard Peters, as secretary of the United States Board of War, on Oct. 18, 1777, called President Wharton's attention to information received, that a great number of the inhabitants of Chester County had furnished intelligence to and supplied the enemy with provisions while they were in that county, without which assistance it was believed the British would not have succeeded in the capture of Philadelphia. The authorities of the United States were determined to render such service impossible, and to that end urged upon the State that "the great principle of self Preservation requires that the most effectual means should be forthwith pursued to put it out of their Power to persist in their former Mal-Practices, by taking from them such Articles of Cloathing &: Provisions, & of the former particulary shoes, stockings & Blankets, as might serve for the comfort & subsistence of the Enemy's Army, & the Acquisition whereof is of absolute Necessity to the existence of our own." The War Department, therefore, urged on Council that "spirited and determined militia," commanded by discreet and active officers, should be immediately sent to Chester County to collect blankets, shoes, and stockings from all of the inhabitants that had not taken the oath or affirmation of allegiance to the State of Pennsylvania, and that all provisions and stock which might be useful to the enemy should be removed to a point beyond the latter's incursions.|