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Letter from Cornelius Harnett to Thomas Burke
Harnett, Cornelius, 1723-1781
December 16, 1777
Volume 11, Pages 695-697

[From Executive Letter Book.]

York, Pennsilvania Dec. 16 1777.

Dear Sir:—

This day I received your favor of the 6th of last month, and am glad to hear of your safe return to your family, and have also the pleasing expectation of seeing you again in Congress.

I wish it was in my power, to give you such intelligence, as I know you wish for. Our Army remained almost inactive at White Marsh, since the affair at Germantown, until the 6th instant, when the Enemy marched with almost their whole force in the night and appeared towards noon in the sight of our Army, took post on Chestnut Hill and other strong holds in that neighborhood.

A general battle was daily expected, but neither of the Generals seemed inclined to quit their advantageous posts. In the mean time some small skirmishing ensued. Our Malitia with Gen. Irwin at their head, attacked one of the Enemies advanced parties, and a small fireing followed which lasted about fifteen minutes.

They then retired to our main body, with the loss of ten or twelve men killed and wounded. Among the latter was Gen. Irwin who was taken prisoner, being advanced too far before his men. The Enemy's loss not known. The Enemy, for several days, kept up a show of attacking our lines, but on the 10th filed off in three columns and returned to their Redoubts. Col. Morgan with his riflemen had a very smart action with a party of the Enemy, in which he lost more men than he has lost in the whole campaign, twenty six in number. The Enemy must have suffered exceedingly from the fire of these excellent marksmen. Gen Washington was informed by some deserters that their loss in killed and wounded was five hundred, but this account he thinks, exaggerated. I fear it was. Gen. Howe's intention in this manoeuver was to have attacked our Army expecting to find them

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off their guard, but in this he was disappointcd and then by keeping up a show in front with his Light Troops, he marched off his Artillery and heavy armed troops toward the City; soon after those in front filed off to the right and left and by a precipitate march, outgeneraled us as usual.

A large body of our Light Infantry were ordered to pursue, but could not come up with them until they had got within the Lines: thus ended this affair. They have since sent a large body over the Schulkill to forrage. The Malitia under Gen. Potter were surprised, but maintained a smart action with them for a short time, took several of them prisoners, but lost an equal number, at least, of his men taken by the Enemy. This Account comes not from authority, but is believed. We have as yet no newspaper published in this town, otherwise I should send you some of them. Since the Confederation has been finished, several recommendations to the Legislatures of the States have been sent by Expresses, I need not mention them, they will speak for themselves.

I beg you will inform me of the temper you find our Assembly in. Are they inclined to pursue spirited measures? For God's sake fill up your Battalions, Lay Taxes, put a stop to the sordid and avaricious Spirit which infected all ranks and conditions of men. Regulate the prices of all commodities, at least such as are immediately useful to our Army. The United States will not much longer be able to procure them at the very exorbitant prices they are now sold at.

We have already received an Account from Connecticut, that their State is much dissatisfied with the mode in the Confederation of fixing the quota of each State, by the value of land—Number of Inhabitants, including Slaves, is their favorite plan.

A valuation of all property, throughout the Continent, was allowed to be the most equitable mode for fixing the quota, but this was said to be impracticble.

All our foreign intelligence indicates, that Europe will soon be in a flame. Let us not depend upon this. If we have Virtue, we certainly have power, to work out our own salvation, I hope with out fear or trembling.

I wish I could inform you of a victory obtained over Howe; I fancy we must wait until stern Winter builds a bridge over the Schuylkill. Small parties of our Army however have been successful

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in taking several of the Enemy prisoners. Ninety five arrived in this town the night before the last and three officers of low rank, they go on to Virginia to-morrow.

As to the prospect you wish for, of accommodating Mrs. Burke here, I beg you will not think of it, be assured it is impossible. You will hardly be able to get a bed to sleep in. I should be very sorry to see my country woman in distress, which be assured must be the case, if you bring her here. No my friend, let her remain at your own peaceful mansion, in expectation of better times. Be assured that my expenses, since I arrived in this town, a very little more than two months, have been upwards of $200 Currency, and I never lived in so wretched a manner in my life. I shall be under the necessity of procuring in advance from the Treasury at least 1,000 dollars over and above my allowance from the State, which is very handsome.

I shall be content if this will bring me home with a single dollar in my pocket. Mention not this; if you do I am sure you will not be believed, but it is as true as the Gospel. God only knows what this Country will come to at last.

Mrs. Trist is well at Lancaster. I have had great pleasure in corresponding with her, she is a sweet sensible creature. I shall forward your letter to-morrow. I wish you health, happiness and a good session.

With unfeigned esteem
I am Dear Sir.
Your Affec. and obed't Serv't.

P. S. I am so harassed by attending Congress, the Treasury Board, the Commercial Committee &c, that I can hardly find time to write to my friends—tell Major Hooper and Maclain I shall write to them by the next Post. It is now eleven o'clock at night. I have not time to copy or correct.