Conclusion Of The Revolutionary War
the city and in rescuing booty from their foraging parties or in driving cattle beyond their reach. So important was it deemed to have such bodies of men in Chester County that Council, October 31st, ordered Cols. Cheyney and Granow, without loss of time, to form three or four troops of light-horse, particularly in the southeastern parts of the county - now Delaware County - and in the formation of such mounted troops the advice and direction of Gen. Potter was to be taken. The militia officers designated immediately set about carrying out the orders they had received, for on November 8th, Gen. Potter, who then had his headquarters at Mr. Garret's, in Newtown, wrote to President Wharton that considering the close approach of winter, he doubted whether the men could be raised and equipped sufficiently early to be of any service in the then campaign, and that he then had volunteers who were acquainted with the country, and answered every purpose of dragoons. If it was necessary to have dragoons for an emergency, Washington would send any number that might be required. The reasons assigned by Gen. Potter seem to have fully satisfied Council, for nothing more appears in reference to the troops of light-horsemen from Chester County.
Meanwhile the British forces were making regular siege to Fort Mifflin, for the scarcity of provisions was such that already many articles of food had so advanced in price in Philadelphia that they had thereby been banished from the tables of all but the wealthier classes, and provender for animals was difficult to procure. Although the city had fallen, on the whole, considering the repulse of the fleet at Fort Mifflin and the defeat at Red Bank, together with the stirring tidings from the North that Burgoyne had been captured, the outlook for the enemy was in nowise promising. For a number of years before the war, the industrious residents of that part of Chester County bordering on the Delaware, at a considerable outlay of labor, time, and money, had constructed dikes or embankments of earth alone the river bank, so that much of the low and swampy ground had been converted into rich meadow land. As a means of defense, Council had determined to cut these banks when necessary, and flood the meadows. Hence we find that on November 1st, Capt. Montressor, who was constructing the batteries on Carpenter's and Providence Islands, and who had effected communication with the fleet by the way of Bow Creek, records on that day that "two hundred of the Rebels employed in cutting up the road to Bow Creek, and breaking down the dam to overflow us." Previous to this, however, the meadows had been flooded, for in a letter to Gen. Potter, dated October 31st, Washington says, I am glad to hear the flood had done so much damage to the meadows. Endeavor by all means to keep the breakers open." Still the engineers strengthened the batteries, the work of reducing the fort and opening the river continued.
The American army even then, before the winter at Valley Forge set in, was miserably deficient in clothing, and as the State authorities were highly indignant at the peaceable position assumed by the Society of Friends, on Nov. 8, 1777, Council appointed collectors in the several counties in the State to collect from those persons who had not taken the oath of allegiance,1 or who had aided the enemy, arms, accoutrements, blankets, woolen and linsey-woolsey, cloth, linen, stockings, and shoes for the army. For Chester County, the following persons were named: Col. Evan Evans, Philip Scott, Esq., Elijah McClenaghan, Capt. John Ramsey, Patterson Bell, Esq., Thomas Boyd, Esq., Capt. Benjamin Wallace, William Gibbons, Col. George Pierce, Capt. McCay (Concord), Maj. Thomas Pierce, Capt. John Gardiner, Samuel Holliday, Col. William Evans, Capt. Israel Whellam, John Wilson, Capt. Samuel Vanlear, Thomas Levis, Esq., Capt. William Brookes, Capt. David Coupland, Col. Thomas Taylor, Capt. Allen Cunningham.
|1 No wonder is it that the society of Friends, as a body, were not zealous in the interest of the Continental authorities, a sentiment that the men most active in the Revolutionary war were mainly responsible for. Washington, usually so just in all his acts and deeds, was eminently unjust to Friends. Even at the time was this patent to a careful observers, for in a letter written from Philadelphia by a British officer, shortly after the capture of that city, he says, in speaking of those who remained when it fell, "Till we arrived I believed it was a very populous city, but at present it is very thinly inhabited, and that only by the canaille and the Quakers, whose peaceable disposition has prevented their taking top arms, and consequently has engaged them in our interests, by drawing opon them the displeasure of their countrymen."|
At this juncture John James, a loyalist, seems to have been especially objectionable to Council, hence on Nov. 13, 1777, all the officers of the commonwealth, both civil and military, were instructed to exert their utmost endeavors to apprehend him, so that he might be dealt with according to law; and the following day Col. Smith, lieutenant of Chester County, was notified that John James had been clandestinely sent out from Philadelphia by Gen. Howe into his territory, and the authorities were particularly desired to secure "that dangerous emissary and to bring him to condign punishment." To that end Col. Smith was instructed to watch the quarterly meetings of the Society of Friends, where, it was believed, he would endeavor to promote the views of the invaders. That he might be more readily detected, Council furnished a personal description of James, setting forth that he was then about thirty-five years of age, five feet ten inches in height, slenderly made, with a stoop in his walk, leans sidewise, and his shoulders falling greatly. His eyes were dark, and his hair, for he wore no wig, was of a dark hue. His apparel, it is stated, was generally a light drab, in "the strictest Quaker fashion, being lengthy in the skirts and without pockets," while his hat was very plain. He was, so the instructions stated, a native of Chester County, and would be better known to the people there personally than by any description Council could give of him. "For this man you have,