<br /> Lee Letter: n340_0052

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Committee of Secret Correspondence
Recipient: Commissioners at Paris

Gentlemen

Captain Hammond having been detained longer than we expected, furnishes us
with an opportunity of giving you the information we have since our
last received from the Army, thro a Committee of Congress left at
Philadelphia; for we have yet had no regular accounts from General
Washington.

On the 2d instant, General Washington having received information that the
enemy were on their march to attack him at Trenton, ordered two
brigades of militia to advance and annoy them on the road leading from
Princeton to Trenton, who falling in with the enemy about 3 miles from
the latter place, engaged them, but being overpower’d by numbers, made
a retreating fight until they joined the main body who were drawn up on
the heights west of a bridge that divides the village of Trenton nearly
in two parts. The enemy attempting to force the bridge were repulsed
with loss by a body of men with artillery placed there to receive them.
In the mean time some batteries being opened on the heights soon drove
the enemy from that part of the Town possessed by them. Thus the affair
ended for that evening. But General Washington having received
intelligence that Gen. Howe was in person coming up to join his army
with a strong reenforcement, directing fires to be made on the heights
to deceive the enemy, decampt at midnight and made a forced march in
order to meet Mr. Howe and give him battle before he joined his main
body. About 3 miles short of Prince Town, the van of our army fell in
with 600 British Infantry strongly posted behind a fence, and upon a
hill, with artillery. They were attacked, & after a smart
engagement, routed, having lost 280 killed and taken prisoners; among
whom, one Colonel, one Major, several Captains and subalterns were
slain, and about 20 Officers made prisoner. The fugitives were pursued
thro Princeton where our Army halted a while. In this affair 6 pieces
of artillery with abundance of baggage fell into our hands. At
Princeton, it was learnt that Gen. Howe was not with this party, but
that he remained at Brunswick with 3 or 4 thousand men. There being a
considerable force in the rear, and our Men greatly fatigued with their
march, and their baggage chiefly behind (it having been sent to
Burlington) the General proceeded to Sommerset Court house that
evening, a little to the Westward of the road leading to Brunswick, and
about 7 or 9 miles from that place. Here we understand he expected to
be joined by a body of 1500 or 2000 fresh troops, and that his
intention was to attack Mr. Howe in Brunswick. On Friday morning, when
the enemy at Trenton missed our army, they returned towards Princeton,
but it seems, they left 3000 Hessians behind them, who following
afterwards, were so fatigued with travel, and want of food, that
numbers were left on the road, and were straggling about the country in
threes and fours. Many were taken by the Country people and brought in
prisoners, many came to Trenton and surrendered themselves. The militia
of Jersey are rising generally, and it was thought few of these
Hessians would get back again. This is the present state of our
information, and we hourly expect a well authenticated account of the
whole, and of much greater successes. We shall endeavor to give you the
speediest account of what shall further come to our knowledge from good
authority. The above relation is taken from a Gentleman who was in the
action, and who the Committee write us, is a person of sense and honor.
The General has been too much engaged to write, & we suppose waits
the final issue.

We most earnestly wish you success in your negotiation, and are with
perfect esteem, honorable Gentlemen, your most obedient and very
humble servants,

Benja Harrison
Richard Henry Lee

P.S. In the engagement near Princeton we lost 15 privates, one Colonel, and
Brigadier Gen Mercer, a very good officer & a worthy Gentleman.

In secret Committee.

Notes:

Papers of Benjamin FranklinAmerican Philosophical Society

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 1, 1762 – 1778, pp. 243 – 45. Printed also in Hale, Franklin in France, 1:97. A copy in a clerical hand, endorsed by Benjamin Franklin, contains this note: “Passy, Mar. 21. 1777. The above is a Copy of the Committee’s last Letter. The preceding give an Acct. of the taking Prisoners 3 Battalions of Hessians at Trenton Dec. 26, of which I suppose you have already seen the particulars. B.F.”