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General Gray Attacks Wayne

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol I. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

September 22. –Yesterday, the British having received intelligence of the situation of General Wayne, and his design of attacking their rear, should they attempt to pass the Schuylkill, a plan was concerted for surprising him, and the execution intrusted to Major-General Gray. The troops for this service were the fortieth and fifty-fifth regiments, under Lieutenant-Colonel Musgrave, and the second battalion of light infantry, the forty-second and forty-fourth regiments, under the general. This last detachment marched at ten o’clock last night, the other at eleven. No soldier of either were suffered to load; they that could not draw their pieces, took out the flints! The general knew nearly the spot where the rebel corps lay, but nothing of the disposition of their camp. He represented to the men that firing would discover them to the enemy, kill their own friends, and cause a confusion favorable to the escape of the rebels, and perhaps productive of disgrace to the British. On the other hand, by not firing, they would know the foe to be wherever fire appeared, and a charge insured his destruction; that amongst the enemy, those in the rear would direct their fire against whoever fired in front, and consequently destroy each other.

General Gray marched by the road leading to the White Horse, and took every inhabitant with him as he passed along. About three miles from camp he turned to the left, and proceeded to the Admiral Warren,1 where, having forced intelligence from a blacksmith, he came in upon the out sentries, pickets, and camp of the rebels! The sentries fired and ran off, to the number of four, at different intervals; the picket was surprised, and most of them killed in endeavoring to retreat. On approaching the right of the camp, the line of fires were perceived, and the light infantry being ordered to form to the front, rushed along the line, putting to the bayonet all they came up with, and overtaking the main herd of fugitives, stabbed great numbers, and pressed on their rear till it was thought prudent to order them to desist. The forty-fourth regiment, advancing in line likewise, closed up in support of the light infantry, putting to the sword such of the rebels as in the heat of the pursuit had escaped that corps, whilst the forty-second came on in a third line as a reserve. Upwards of two hundred were killed, many more wounded. Seventy-one prisoners were brought off; forty of them being badly wounded were left at different houses on the road. The British loss consisted of Captain Wolfe, and one or two men killed; Lieutenant Hunter, and five men wounded! It was about one o’clock this morning when the attack was made, and the rebels were then assembling to move towards the King’s forces.2

 

1 White Horse and Admiral Warren were two taverns on the Lancaster road. Washington’s camp on the 16th of September, was situated between them.
2 Gaine’s Mercury, December 1.

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