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Skirmish at Whitemarsh

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

December 10. –On the night of the fourth instant, the British army, distressed for want of “elbow room,” marched from Philadelphia with an avowed intention of obliging the American army to quit their post at White-marsh, and driving them back into the country. Early on Friday morning, they posted themselves strongly on the heights of Chestnut hill, about two miles in front of the right wing of our army. While they lay here, General Irvine, with a body of militia, attacked a party of their light troops which were a little advanced in front of their encampment. The skirmish was pretty warm, and the enemy being reinforced, our militia were obliged to retreat in some confusion. Unfortunately General Irvine was wounded in the hand and thrown from his horse, by which means he was made prisoner. The enemy had a number killed and wounded, among the latter was Sir James Murray, a captain of the light infantry. Having reconnoitred our right sufficiently, and not liking its appearance of strength, on Saturday night they silently filed off to our left, leaving a party behind them to keep up their fires. On Sunday morning they took post on Edge Hill, in front of our left. In the afternoon, Colonel Morgan with his light corps fell in with a large body of the enemy, attacked them with spirit, and did great execution. Burgoyne’s grasshoppers1 galled them extremely. The next day the enemy suddenly retired, and before we could expect such a thing from these braggadocios, they were on full march forPhiladelphia.

This expedition has only served to discover the weakness and cruelty of the British army. Whenever they inarched it was in the night; whenever they halted they took post on the strongest grounds; wherever they came they plundered the miserable inhabitants without respect of persons. Those merciful considerations which should influence us in our treatment of our worst enemies, found no place among them. The poor, the widow, the fatherless children were stripped of their all, even without leaving them bread to eat, or clothes enough to cover them. Did they who talk of British mercy and protection but see those unhappy sufferers!2


1 These are two light three-pounders, made of wrought iron, and manageable with a very few hands. They were taken atSaratoga.
2 New Jersey Gazette, December 24.

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