Today, the Bicentennial Quarter Coin tells the tale of three gentlemen and their activities in support of the revolution 238 years ago.
In December 1776, the Continental Congress moved from Philadelphia to Baltimore. Three members chose to stay in Philadelphia to gather and provide information about the British — Robert Morris and George Clymer of Pennsylvania and George Walton of Georgia.
In early January, they provided the following to John Hancock, president of the Second Continental Congress:
Sir Philada. Jany 6th. 1777 12 oClock
We wrote you a few lines yesterday by Mr Murdock stating the Current reports as they then appeared to us. Since some alterations appear & we shall give you the present State of intelligence as we have just received it from Mr John Brown a Young Man of good Credit who was in the Action near Prince Town.
He says that on Thursday Evening Genl Washington took post as mentioned in our former letters on the Heights on this side Trenton Bridge, that about 12 oClock that night, Genl Cadwalladers Brigade (to which Brown belongs) had orders to march, the rest followed, that they took a Circle & came into the Prince Road & about a mile on this side of that Town they found a party of the Enemy had posted themselves very advantageously, behind a Fence, their artillery in an orchard & a large part of their number so covered by a Hill that they cou’d not be hurt.
The Philada associators being in Front were exposed to the first Fire of the Enemy. They were very eager & run up a Hill before they were formed. The artillery played so hot on them that they got into Confusion & retreated down the Hill again, there formed, marched up in good order, attacked & broke them, they pursued into Prince Town & found this party Consisted of 600 men.
We took 140 Prisoners there, killed in the action & on the Road & at Prince Town about 100 Men & the Rifle Men who pursued the scattered remains of the Enemy brought in about 40 Prisoners. We took five Field pieces, a Howitzer, a Considerable Number of Blankets & as many stores of different kinds as our Waggons cou’d carry off.
The Genl. did not think proper to make any stay at Prince Town knowing the Force of the Enemy left in his Rear to be very considerable and fearing to bring on a general Action whilst his Troops were so extreamly fatigued.
They had neither Victuals nor Sleep from the time they quitted Trenton, & all their bagage left behind so that they were suffering extreamly with Cold, Hunger & Fatigue.
In this Condition they pushed on untill they Crossed Mill Stone Creek & then leaving the Brunswick Road, they crossed to Somerset Court House a place distant about 7 to 9 Miles from Brunswick where they halted & staid that Night (Friday Night).
On the March to this place a good many of our People got scatterd & parted from the army. Mr Brown was one of these, got lost in the Woods & almost famished & at length after meeting relief at some Country House he found some of the Enemy had got between him & our People, therefore he made back for this place.
He says Genl Mercer & a Colo Yates of Virginia are killed, also a Capt Shippen of Mari[land]. These are the only officers of distinction lost on our side that he knows off & about 15 Privates. The Enemy had killed a Colo, a major, two or three Captains & about a dozen officers taken as he was told.
He says that our army were in excellent Spirits notwithstanding their Fatigue and he understood that Genl Heath was at Morris Town with a considerable number of Troops and was to join Genl Washington on Saturday, when they were to Surround Brunswick & attack it in all quarters.
This is nearly the substance of Mr Browns account. You may fully depend that what he relates is exactly what he has seen & heard being a Young Man of Veracity.
Capt James Nicholson has also just returned from Trenton again, he confirms all the above particulars having heard them at Trenton from other persons that had come in there. He adds also that an Express was come down from Genl. Washington to Genl. Putnam & pushed on from Trenton to Bordentown where he expected to meet him yesterday, & by the enclosed letter from Genl Putnam you will perceive he Crossed yesterday to Burlington & the Force he has with him; more are following constantly.
Capt Nicholson further says that the Enemies Troops that lodged in Trenton on Thursday night, pushed for Prince Town soon as they missed our army, that they were greatly fatigued & harrassed & that the Country between Trenton & Prince Town was full of Stragglers that cou’d not get on fast enough that they generally quitted the Road, got into the Woods and lost themselves & were divided into small parties of threes & fours, some of which came into Trenton & surrendered whilst he was there & the Country Militia having begun to rise was picking them up & bringing them in very fast.
Those that surrendered said great Numbers of their Countrymen wou’d come in if they knew how well they wou’d be treated. It is now said that Ld Cornwallis Commands the Main Body of the Enemy consisting of between 4 & 5000 that was at Trenton & that Genl Howe is at Brunswick with about 3 or 4000.
Genl. Washingtons Force we do not know but it was judged by Mr Brown to be 12,000. We think that is impossible, however he says the Country is undoubtedly rising & that he will gather Strength every day.
Genl Heath is said to have from 3 to 7000 but we have no Certainty respecting him. The bearer of this who came express from Boston says he heard Genl. Heath was at Pecks Kill.
Upon the whole, we are in a state of much uncertainty & anxiety, but hope soon to be agreably relieved from it, our Militia come in daily.
Colo Flemings Battalion is near at hand, part of Cooks is already here, the Jersey Militia turning out and our army will grow too formidable for the Enemy be the Event at Brunswick what it may.
We know Congress will be anxious & soon as we can give it, they shall have information of what happens.
We opened the dispatches from Boston but finding our interposition unnecessary we send on the Express with these dispatches & this letter. You will find enclosed the Copy of a letter from Major Hubley & thereby learn the success of Major Mifflins expedition.
You have also enclosed a letter from J. Trumbull, D. paymaster Genl. at Albany.
Capt Hallock & his officers will go down to day to the Lexington but they must not go out in her unless an exchange is made.
We are in haste having detained the Express whilst we wrote this account but always, Sir, Your & the Congresses, most Obedt Servants,
Robt Morris Geo Clymer Geo Walton
The three gentlemen, who also signed the Declaration of Independence, are remembered by the Bicentennial Quarter coin showing against a view of early independence circa 1839.