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Fight at the Crooked Billet

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

May 1.—This morning, at daylight, the American camp, which lay near the Crooked Billet,1 was surrounded with a body of the enemy, who appeared on all quarters. The scouts neglected last night to patrol the roads as they were ordered, but lay in camp till near day, though their orders were to leave it by two o’clock in the morning. On the disobedience of some officers of the scouts we have to lay our misfortunes.

The alarm was so sudden, we had scarcely time to mount our horses before the enemy was within musket shot of our quarters. We observed a party in our rear had got into houses and behind fences; their numbers appearing nearly equal to ours, we did not think it advisable to attack them in that situation, especially as another body appeared in our front to the east of the Billet; and not knowing what numbers we had to contend with, we thought it best to open our way under cover of a wood to the left of our camp, towards Colonel Hart’s, for which our little party moved in columns, the baggage following in the rear. We had not passed far before our flanking parties began to change shot with the enemy, but kept moving on till we made the wood, when a party of both foot and horse came up the Biberry road, and attacked our right flank; the party from the Billet fell upon our rear; the horse, from the rear of our camp, came upon our left flank. A body of horse appearing in our front, we made a stand in the wood, and gave them some warm fires, which forced them to retire; their horse suffered considerably as they charged us, and were severely repulsed; their strength gathering from all quarters, we thought it best to move on, which we did with the loss of our baggage, the horse giving way in the front as we advanced. We continued skirmishing for upwards of two miles, when we made a turn to the left, which entirely extricated us from them. We came into the York road near the cross roads, and moved slowly down toward the Billet, in hopes to take some advantage of them on that quarter, where they must least expect us, but we found they retired toward the city. Our people behaved well; our loss is upwards of thirty killed and wounded; some were butchered in a manner the most brutal savages could not equal; even while living some were thrown into buckwheat straw, and the straw set on fire; the clothes were burnt on others, and scarcely one without a dozen wounds with bayonets and cutlasses. Fifty-eight are missing. The enemy’s loss is not known, but it is currently reported one field officer is among the slain; we took three of their horse, five were left dead on the field, the riders either killed or wounded.2


1 Near Neshaminy Bridge.
2 New York Journal, June 1.