Appendix II: Pennsylvania
Archives; Series 5, Vol. 7
PENNSYLVANIA RIFLE REGIMENT
COLONEL SAMUEL MILES. MARCH 6, 1776 (a.)
PENNSYLVANIA RIFLE REGIMENT. (a.)
The Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment, and the Pennsylvania Battalion of Musketry, were embodied strictly for the defense of the Province of Pennsylvania, by the prudent foresight of its House of Representatives, at the suggestion of the 1776 Committee of Safety
Among the minutes of the latter of the 20th of February, 1776, appears inter alia—
“The committee taking into consideration what further measures are necessary for the defense of this Province, came to the following resolution.
“That application be made to the Honorable, the House of Representatives, praying that they will take order for the raising of two thousand men to act in the defense of this Province, and this Board will represent it as their opinion, that it will be most for the public service, that one battalion of regular troops be formed out of that number, and the remainder be a body of riflemen.”
The House acted promptly in considering the matter, and on the 4th of March appointed a committee to prepare an estimate of the expense of levying a body of fifteen hundred men, victualing and paying them for one year.
On the 5th of March, the committee, Col. Miles being one, reported a carefully detailed estimate, which amounted to $172,772, 64, 789 10s. Penn’a currency.
On the same day, the House resolved to levy and to take into pay fifteen hundred men, officers included; and that the men be enlisted to serve until the 1st day of January, 1778, subject to be discharged at any time, upon the advance of a month’s pay to each man.
On the 6th they determined that one thousand of the levies should be riflemen, divided in two battalions of five hundred men each, the remaining to be a battalion of musketmen. The two rifle battalions to have one colonel; each battalion to consist of six companies, to be officered with one lieutenant colonel one major, six captains, eighteen lieutenants, and to have twenty-four sergeants, six fifes, six drums, one adjutant, two surgeon, one quarter-master, each company to number seventy-two rank and file. The battalion of musketmen to consist of eight companies, officered by a colonel, lieutenant colonel, major, eight captains, eight lieutenants, eight ensigns, and to have sixteen sergeants, sixteen corporals, eight fifes, eight drums, one adjutant, two surgeons, and one quarter-master, each company to have fifty-two privates.
Capt. John Murray, of Paxtang township, Lancaster county (now Dauphin), was the first captain appointed on the 7th of March, followed by John Marshall, of the same county, on the same day. The other captains were appointed on the 9th, and the field officers on the 14th. Col. John Cadwalader was appointed colonel of the battalion of musketmen; but as under the arrangement of the House, he would be second colonel, he declined, and on the 21st Samuel Atlee, Esq., of Lancaster county, was appointed. LA committee of the House reported the respective ranks of the line officers on the 28th of March. On the 5th of April, rules and regulations for the better government of the military associations in Pennsylvania were adopted, and the Speaker directed to sign the commissions, which were all dated on the 6th of April. Nearly the whole of the rifle regiment, according to Col. Miles’ statement, was raised in about six weeks, and rendezvoused at Marcus Hook.
On the 2nd of July the regiment was ordered up to Philadelphia, and on the 4th, one battalion, under Lieut. Col. Brodhead, ordered to Bordentown, N.J., and on the 5th, the whole regiment marched for Trenton, whence it marched to Amboy, under orders to join General Mercer, which it accomplished on the 16th. Col. Atlee’s battalion arrived on the beach at Amboy oil the 21st.
On the 24th, according to a general return, there were eight hundred and sixty-seven officers and men of the rifle regiment present; of the battalion of musketry, four hundred and six officers and men. Col. Miles ordered over to New York on the 10th of August, and Col. Atlee on the 11th; on the 12 they were brigaded with Glover’s and Smallwood’s regiments, under the command of Brigadier Lord Sterling.
For the part taken by the three battalions reference is made to Cols. Miles and Atlee’s journals, Pennsylvania Archives, vol. I, 2d series, 512 et sequitur; Col. Broadhead’s letter, vol. V, 1st series, page 21.
The following characteristic letter of Cap. Casper Weitzel to his brother John, furnishes some interesting points concerning this engagement:
“Camp Near King’s Bridge, Sixteen Miles Above New York, September 6, 1776
“Dear Brother: I would have written to you long before this time had anything worth communicating happened me or otherwise since my going into the army. Even now I scarcely know what to say to you, unless it would be to give you an account of the manner of living in the American Army; but that too seems so familiar to me now, that I think myself to have lived in the same way all my life, and imagine it repetition to relate anything concerning it. Amidst the marches and movements of the Army, and the attention I am obliged to pay to my company, I almost forget relatives, friends, former business; yet while I am writing I find myself a little uneasy when I think myself so far removed from home; the Lord only knows for what time. New York is like a wire mouse trap, easy to get in, but hard to get out. You no doubt before now have heard of the drubbing we Pennsylvanians, With the Delaware and Maryland Battolions, got on Long island, on the 27th of August last; we were prettily taken in. The General Sullivan who commanded on Long Island, is much blamed. I saw nothing of him in the engagement or some days before, The little army we had on the Island, of about five thousand men, was surrounded by fifteen or twenty thousand of the English and Hessians when the engagement began; they gave us a good deal of trouble but we fought our way bravely through them. The number of English and Hessians killed is surprising great, and of ours very trifling; but they have taken about seven hundred of our people prisoners, and amongst them more officers then perhaps ever was known in the like number of men. My Lieut. Gray, Sergeant Gordon, Sergeant Price and sixteen privates are missing. I know of only one killed in my company. The poor fellow was wounded in the thigh and unable to walk; his name is Speiss; the d---d savage Hessians and English Light Infantry, run their bayonets thro’ him and two of Captain Albright’s men, who were also badly wounded, and murdered by them. I have this from one of my men who was a prisoner and escaped to me, and imagine the rest are prisoners. James Watt is among them. I came off with whole bones, contrary to my expectation; I was in so much danger that by escaping that, I think it was impossible for them to kill me. Many a brush we shall yet before the campaign is over; we expect every day to have another clip. I wish you would endeavor to send such of my clothes as are worth wearing, my blanket and pillow, in my trunk to Lancaster, and let me know of it when you have sent it, that I may endeavor to have it brought from there to where I may be stationed. There are no clothes to be got here of any kind. I have lost all my shirts and stockings, except two shirts, and two pair of old stockings, what I shall do for more God knows. I have no hopes to get back to Pennsylvania until some time in January or February, unless hard weather and bad quarters kill me before that time. I ought to have written to Mr. Chambers particularly, but have not had time. As he has my papers, I hope he will do every thing he can towards having my business settled. I hear you are one of the great men of the State of Pennsylvania. Can’t you give me a little lift some how or other if there is anything going. I need not give you an account of the officers missing in our regiment; no doubt you know of it before this time. I will mention some, Col. Miles, Col. Piper, two captains and fourteen Lieutenants, three of them killed.
Your faithful and affectionate Brother,
In the action of the 27th of August, the rifle regiment and musketry battalion were so broken up that Gen. Washington ordered the three battalions to be considered as a regiment, under the command of Lieut. Col. Brodhead, until further orders.
On Thursday, September 19, “the three battalions mutinied, and appeared on the parade under arms. After this they deserted in parties with their arms, about two hundred men in the whole, fifty of whom are here now. The rest have taken other roads. Their complaints are want of pay, want of clothes, the want of blankets, the not receiving the particular species of rations. As to their pay, they had the whole to the 1st of August, and some have deserted immediately after having their full pay to the 1st of September. A very great cause of desertion is owing to the loss of their field officers. A party attempted to desert (about thirty) but were prevented by force. A corporal at their head, thrust with his bayonet at Lieut. Lang, which he parried, the corporal is in custody; the same corporal cocked his piece at Ensign Davis, and attempted to fire. One Kelly, of Capt. Brown’s company, and Sergeant Scamell, of Howell’s company, are principal ringleaders.” (Information received from Capt. Farmer, Capt. Erwin, Lieut. Lang, Lieut. Gorley.)
The following petition “of privates in Col. Miles’ and Atlee’s battalion returned from camp without leave,” without date, is probably referable to this period:
“To the Honourable the Committee of Safety of the Province of Pennsylvania:
“We your Petitioners, Soldiers enlisted for the Province of Pennsylvania, now returned from New York Government, being Willing & Desirous of Letting your Honours know the reason of our returning. Our Commanders told us, the subscribers, that if we went out of the Province that we should be used well, and return in six weeks from the time we left the Province. We were out of the half of our Provisions Given us that was allowed to us by the Honourable the Assembly of the Province of Pennsylvania, nor never received any pay for the time we were out of the Province. We lost our Chief Commanders on Long Island, and not knowing who to apply to for Redress when out of the Province we returned to seek Redress, and hope your Honours will take it into your Consideration. Your Petitioners did not leave New York for Cowardice but for bad usage, and we are willing to fight to Defend the Province where we were Inlisted.
“Your Petitions Humbly beg that you would take it into your Consideration.
“And your petitioners will ever pray.
By a return, dated September 27, 1776, signed by Ennion Williams, major, the First battalion had, including field, nineteen officers sixteen sergeants, three drummers, and one hundred and eight-two rank and file; the Second battalion had eighteen officers, thirteen sergeants, two drummers, two hundred and sixty-one rank and file; the musketry had eleven officers, seven sergeants, four drummers, and one hundred and forty-one rank and file. The three battalions were then in Gen. Mifflin’s brigade, and stationed at Mount Washington.
On the 5th of October (see Col. Rec., vol. X, page 743), the Council of Safety determined that the three battalions should be arranged as follows: two were to be on the Continental establishment, and to serve during the war, the other to be retained in the service of the State until the 1st of January, 1778, unless sooner discharged, and to consist of ten companies of one hundred men each, officers included. This they intended ordering home as soon as the condition of the Continental army would admit of it, as they were by arrangement to keep twelve complete battalions in the Continental service. This regiment was thereafter known as “The Pennsylvania State Regiment of Foot.” For the arrangement of captains and subaltern officers for the battalion to be kept in pay of the State see Col. Rec., vol. X, page 765.
On the 26th of October, they ordered the men in Capts. Farmer’s, John Murray’s, Anderson’s Marshall’s, Albright’s, Dehuff’s and Christ’s companies to continue under the same captains; Spade’s company to be commanded by Capt. John McGowan, Francis Murray’s by Capt. Morton Garret, Richard Brown’s by Capt. James F. Moore, & c. (see Col. Rec., vol. X, page, 766), and consolidated the companies of Long, Peebles, Weitzel, Erwin, Grubb, Lloyd, Herbert, Nice, Howell and McClellan with the former.
The remains of these battalions thus consolidated followed the fortunes of the Continental army. On the 16th of November part of the musketry battalion was in Fort Washington, and was captured, with the following officers, Capt. Dehuff, Lieuts. Caldwell, Ward and Weidman, and Ensign Whitehead. On the 22nd it was in Hand’s brigade at head-1arters now New Brunswick. It was engaged in the capture of the Hessians at Trenton, 26th December, 1776; in the battle of Princeton January3, 1777; lay part of the winter at Philadelphia, and moved down to Billingsport in March, 1777.
ROSTER OF FIELD AND STAFF OFFICERS. (a.)
Miles, Samuel,* appointed March 13, 1776; taken August 27, 1776; exchanged April 20, 1778.
Lieutenant Colonels—1st Battalion.
Brodhead, Daniel, of Berks county, appointed March 13, 1776; October 26, 1776, transferred to the Fourth Penn’a.
Piper, James, of Bedford
, appointed March 13, 1776; captured August 27, 1776; died in captivity, leaving a widow, Lucinda, who resided in Cumberland county in 1791.
* December 28, 1776, the Council appointed Colonel Miles brigadier general of the State forces. After his exchange, not being able to obtain his rank, he retired from active service, and was appointed auditor for settling public accounts, and Deputy Quarter-Master General for Penn’a, which latter office he held until 1782. In 1783 he was appointed one of the judges of the High Court of Errors and Appeals. In 1790 he was elected mayor of Philadelphia. In October, 1805, was elected member of Assembly; took sick at Lancaster, and died at his place, Cheltenham, Montgomery county, December 29, 1805, aged sixty-six.
above account was copied verbatim from the Pennsylvania Archives. The
Jacob Bickel in the list of petitioners for reinstatement is without
a doubt our ancestor. This was a unit that was raised in the Paxtang
area of Lancaster County (now Dauphin County) which is where our Jacob
Bickel lived. It appears that he was a private in Col. Miles’ and
Col. Atlee’s battalion. This was the above named 1st battalion.
Col. Miles had been taken prisoner during the August 27 action. The
mutiny occurred about September 19, 1776. The three original battalions
took some horrendous casualties. On July 24 their number was reported
as 1273 men. On October 5 there were 777. The 1st battalion was down
to 220 men. (These losses would certainly have included desertions
as well as those killed, wounded or captured.) They were without their
commanding officer and an attempt was being made to assign the survivors
to other units.