Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VI (1777-1778)
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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. VI (1777-1778) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. VI (1777-1778).
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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I have the honor to inform you, that in the course of last week, from a variety of intelligence, I had reason to expect that General Howe was preparing to give us a general action. Accordingly, on Thursday night he moved from the city with all his force, except a very inconsiderable part left in his lines and redoubts, and appeared the next morning on Chesnut Hill, in front of, and about three miles distant from, our right wing. As soon as their position was discovered, the Pennsylvania militia were ordered from our right, to skirmish with their light advanced parties; and I am sorry to mention, that Brigadier-General Irvine, who led them on, had the misfortune to be wounded and to be made prisoner. Nothing more occurred on that day.
On Friday night the enemy changed their ground, and moved to our left, within a mile of our line, where they remained quiet and advantageously posted the whole of the next day. On Sunday they inclined still further to our left; and, from every appearance, there was reason to apprehend they were determined on an action. In this movement, their advanced and flanking parties were warmly attacked by Colonel Morgan and his corps, and also by the Maryland militia under Colonel Gist. Their loss I cannot ascertain; but I am informed it was considerable, having regard to the number of the corps who engaged them. About sunset, after various marches and countermarches, they halted; and I still supposed, from their disposition and preceding manœuvres, that they would attack us in the night or early the next morning; but in this I was mistaken. On Monday afternoon they began to move again, and, instead of advancing, filed off from their right; and the first certain account that I could obtain of their intentions was, that they were in full march towards Philadelphia by two or three routes. I immediately detached light parties after them to fall upon their rear; but they were not able to come up with them.
The enemy’s loss, as I have observed, I cannot ascertain. One account from the city is, that five hundred wounded had been sent in; another is, that eighty-two wagons had gone in with men in this situation. These, I fear, are both exaggerated, and not to be depended upon. We lost twenty-seven men in Morgan’s corps, killed and wounded, besides Major Morris, a brave and gallant officer, who is among the latter. Of the Maryland militia there were also sixteen or seventeen wounded. I have not received further returns yet. I sincerely wish that they had made an attack; as the issue, in all probability, from the disposition of our troops, and the strong situation of our camp, would have been fortunate and happy. At the same time I must add, that reason, prudence, and every principle of policy, forbade us quitting our post to attack them. Nothing but success would have justified the measure; and this could not be expected from their position.
The constant attention and watching I was obliged to give the enemy’s movements would not allow me to write before; and this I believe was the less material, as I have reason to think your committee, who were in camp most of the time, and who are now here, transmitted an account of such occurrences as they deemed important in any degree. The first cause, too, Sir, and my engagements with the committee previous to the coming out of the enemy, will, I trust, sufficiently apologize for my not acknowledging before the honor of your favors of the 13th ultimo and the 1st instant, which came to hand in due order and time. I have the honor to be, &c.1
[1 ]On November 28th, Robert Morris, Elbridge Gerry, and Joseph Jones were appointed a committee of Congress, to go to headquarters, and “in a private confidential consultation with General Washington, to consider of the best and most practicable means for carrying on a winter’s campaign with vigor and success—an object which Congress has much at heart.”—Journals, 28 November, 1777. A letter written by the committee to Washington, dated at Whitemarsh, 10 December, 1777 (in Morris’ MS) is important:—“Among them any reasons offered against a winter’s campaign we were sorry to observe one of the most prevalent was a general discontent in the army, and especially among the officers. These discontents are ascribed to various causes, and we doubt not many of them are well founded and deserve particular attention, and in the course of the present winter, will be taken into consideration by Congress, and we hope effectually remedied. That a reform may take place in the army, and proper discipline be introduced, we wish to see the military placed on such a footing as may make a commission a desirable object to the officer, and his rank preserved from degradation and contempt; for these purposes we intend to recommend to Congress: That an half pay establishment be formed and adopted in the American service; That a pensionary establishment take place in favor of officers’ widows; That a new regulation of rank, confining it as far as possible to the line of the army be adopted; That an equitable mode of paying for back rations be ordered. Should these several regulations be approved and established by Congress (and we have reason to suppose they will), we trust the prevailing discontents will subside and a spirit of emulation take place among the gentlemen of the army to promote the public service and introduce that order and discipline amongst the troops so essential to the military character. As a further inducement the committee have it also in contemplation to propose in Congress that the officers be permitted to dispose of their commissions under such regulations as may render the measure eligible.” The Committee formally reported to Congress the need of completing the army before an active movement could be made.