Head of Elk: American Revolutionary War: 1779

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    On the 9th May, British forces had destroyed one hundred and thirty-seven vessels at Portsmouth, Virginia, including stores of provisions. [1] In the event that the British might attack Stores along the coast, Washington directed Jeremiah Wadsworth, Commissary General of Purchases, to remove all such Stores to "other Places of greater Security," noting, in particular, "The Head of Elk appears to be an unsafe deposit for any considerable quantity, and should be attended to, without delay." [2]

    To the Board of War, Washington expressed the wish that he had it in his power "to give the Stores at Trenton, Philadelphia and the Head of Elk the protection suggested by the Board." Other demands made on his Troops meant that he could not spare "even a small detachment for the above purpose." [2]

    Washington issued marching orders to Colonel Thomas Clarke, commanding the 1st and 2nd North Carolina Regiments, to take the following route: "from West Point to South Carolina: New Windsor, Ringwood, Pompton, Morris Town, Coryell's ferry, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Head of Elk, Baltimore, George Town, Colchester, Fredericksburg, Richmond, Petersburg, Hallifax. North Carolina, and from thence to South Carolina by the Route best supplied with Provision and Forage." Four days later, Washington directed Clarke to "lose no time but proceed with all expedition to Trenton, instead of Coryell's ferry, where you will find every thing necessary to forward you on to the Head of Elk." [2]



Pollock, Edward. Sketch Book of Portsmouth, Va. Portsmouth, Va.: Edward Pollock, 1886 (pg. 115).


United States Government. George Washington Papers, 1741–1799. Library of Congress. Online at https://memory.loc.gov/ammem/gwhtml/gwhome.html (accessed 2015-12-09 to -17). Synopsis and extracts by Alison Kilpatrick.

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