The James McMichael Journal, December 29, 1777–May 12, 1778

Primary Sources

April 13, 2018
by Joseph Lee Boyle Also by this Author


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Editor’s Note: This is the final part of a five-part series. Part one. Part two. Part three. Part four.

The final portion of the McMichael journal covers December 29, 1777, through May 12, 1778. When the journal opens, McMichael is not among those at Valley Forge having received a “leave of absence” on December 22. He returned from leave on January 8. Poetry and bits of philosophy fill a good amount of the journal during this time, as well as some interesting descriptions of events at the encampment including two officer’s funerals. He was present at Valley Forge for the May 6 feu de joie but fails to mention it was for the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and the Treaty of Alliance, both of which were signed on February 6, 1778, between the United States and France. McMichael leaves Valley Forge on May 11, and ends his journal with a recap of the campaign of 1777. He was then back again at Valley Forge by May 28 in time to take the Oath of Allegiance, which was witnessed by General Muhlenberg.

Decr. 29th. At 10 oClock A.M. the time having Commenced which I had appropriated for My Departure for Camp I took leave of all friends at Stony Brook and Accompanied by My Dear Susanna we proceeded thro’ Pennington to the house of Mr. Large in Amwell where we past the evening in Jollitry tho’ the Weather was Excessive Cold—

30th. At 10 oClock A.M. accompanied with My Susanna and divers other friends we proceeded to Corryells ferry where we remained for sometime whilst I used all possible endeavours to Cross the river but all attempts proved Abortive, when we (to use a Millitary expression) faced to the right about whilst my Susanna and I Returned to Mrs. Wilson’s in Amwell, where we remained all night—

31st. At 10 oClock A.M. we Departed from Amwell and proceeding thro’ Pennington we arived at Stony Brook at 3 oClock P.M.–where notwithstanding my friends were sorry for my Disappointment, yet they all express[ed] much pleasure in seeing me return–here I remained for Some days as before.

1778 Jany. 5th. I this morning again took my leave of all friends at Stony-Brook being all sorry at my Departure but none so much grieved as Susanna. I proceeded thro’ Pennington and Steering my Course for Coryell’s ferry an unfortunate accident befel me. In consequence of which I was necessitated to return to Mrs Wilson’s in Amwell, where I remained that night, but as an account of my Difficulties at this time wou’d be no Embellishment to my Journal I shall pass it over without any Enumeration thereof—

6th. At 10 oClock A.M. accompanied with Mr. F. Wilson I Departed from Amwell we Cross’d the Delaware at Stack’s ferry and proceeded to Newtown in Buck’s County where Mr. Wilson & I parted he returning home whilst I proceeded to the Bear, in Northampton

7th. At Dawn of Aurora I departed from the Bear and proceeding past the Crooked Billet, Mc.Lean’s Tavern the Broad Ax & Hickery Town I Crossed the Schuylkill at Swedesford when being much fatigued it growing Dark and Morphus demanding his dues I took to rest, with Lt: Lewis 13th. Virga. Regt.[1]

Jany. 8th. At 8 oClock A.M. I departed from Swedes ford and at 10 I arived at Camp near the Valley forge where I was a welcome guest to the Officers and Soldiers of the 13th. Penna. Regt.—here I began to assist at building a Hutt for the Winter Quarters of Captn. Robt. Gray Mr. Gorman and Myself and without anything worthy of record sometime revolved.

14th. At the request of Colo Stewart the officers of the Regt. were Summoned to dine with him where we passed the Day in Civil Jolitry—and in this manner several Days were spent passing by a rotation from the Senr. to the Junr. Officers—

Thus and in many other Desirable enjoyments we past some part of the Winter Campaign making ourselves as happy as Circumstances wou’d possibly admit, whilst Confined to Camp we past many Hours in recreation viewing the Environs thereof—whilst we surveyed the most advantageous posts in Case of an attack—

Feby. 2nd.

A large degree of Solitude, I have for sometime had
If longer it with me remains, the result must sure be bad
The reason of my present grief riding to such a height
Was the denying me of that in which I had delight
This was a letter from her hand, that now has got my heart
Firmly possessed by herself none other has a part
Yet tho’ I did impatiently Wish to receive a letter
I to my grief got none at all, Tho it wou’d please me better
To have it from her Dear pen, to ease me of my grief
Wou’d to me very pleasing be, and grant me much relief
The Wars have all my labour got, But they have not my mind
That is reserved for another of a Temper more refined
My opposite Competitors, Are Venus fair and Mars
The one Solicits to stay at home, The other prefers the Wars
Between them, both, I am perplex’d, scarce knowing which to please
Whether to please alarming Mars, or enjoy Domestic ease
The Consectary of the dispute, wou’d go in favour of Mars
Because to help his Argument, The Country calls for Wars
Yet, were the mind but gratified, they both wou’d Silenced be
And Venus far wou’d be embraced, by many and by one
But now it must fully suffice, to give to her my heart
And for sometime in that of Mars, must have an active part.

Dear Creature I must from you go
But yet my heart is filled with woe
I wish you in my absence may
Have all the bliss love can display
Your Jamey must stay in the Wars
And try the labours of bold Mars
But yet I hope before I die;
In your sweet bosom I shall Lye;
There whilst I am in your dear Arms
Resting secure from Wars Allarms
This will our absence Recompense
By the sweet Joy at Love’s Expence

J. M. Lt.
Camp Valley Forge

4th Feby. 1778 Wrote when the penman was almost Delirious

Feby. 7th

The look’d for day is come at last: letters are come to hand
I now recd. intelligence from my friends in Jersey land
This rais’d my spirits very much, my sorrow was forgot
Which in my Mellancholy hours was to my memory brought
I thought I then had almost seen the Joy of all my heart
This was by letter from herself, which now has got my heart
I read it once I read it twice I lockd it in my Chest
And thought of all the things therein, that it was much the best
I then said surely there is love that’s called Complacency
Or thiscou’d not my spirits raise, to such a high Degree
As Solitude for sometime past, had all my cares Engross’d
Yet by this late Enjoyment I have all the same quite loss’d
Now gaity has got a place for sometime in my mind
I hope it may continue long, which to me will be kind
Because my Mind wou’d suit it best, whilst I am in the Wars
For surely I have work enough to please great thundering Mars
Therefore I now shall quiet rest, thinking that all is well.
With all my friends o’er Delaware, or else they wou’d me tell
Then seeing they are happy now, My anxiety is Done
But surely were it otherwise to see them I wou’d have gone
Wishing they may be happy still, and live in Unity
My muse is gone I must have done hoping them soon to see

Feby. 8th. At 6 oClock this Evening Captn. Jno. Speer[2] made his Exit to the Eternal World after an indisposition of two Weeks, he was a Gentlemen possessed not only of a Patriotic Spirit but also of a large Degree of Fortitude, and yet after escaping in many Dangerous Engagements, he at last died of an Intermitting Fever in the 27th. Year of his Age. He was interred in Upper Merryen with all the Honours of War accompanied with a great number of the Officers in Genl. Greens Division. Having returned to Camp I wrote the following Sollilloquy Viz.

Surely Mans life is limited, when that is up he Dies
Whether he be in Battle Slain, Or on his bed he lyes
At Brandywine he acted like in: officer in the field
And shew’d he willingly wou’d fight and not to Tyrants yield
But now he is gone whilst he no more, participates times Woe
And yet his soul must happy be, or else in Chains below
The former I wou’d fondly hope, Now for to be his case
Which if it’s so the praise as Due, unto redeeming Grace
May; I live so, that when I die, My Soul may be at rest
And in fruition of the Lamb, Eternally be blest—
Feby. 20th. Having for some time lived all alone
Because my company is from me gone
I employ’d my time in reading several Books
Either of History that like Philosophy looks
Or what was better still, even sound Divinity
A study sometime much admired by me
But allas! at present it is not deem’d Polite
Either to study it, or thereon to write:
This is the Grand objection I have to the War
Or in it I wou’d happier be by far.
That I can be at present, the reason why
One is not thought Polite if they Deny
The common customs that prevail at Camp
Tho’ it does frequently my Spirits Damp
To think I must with such associate
That offers violence to the book of fate
But still I know that God does superintend
Even Secret faults, or what time we public spend
This rests upon my mind, when I might be seduced
To Evil practices, but I beg to Excused
Yet of Civil Jolitry I still participate
But when mirth is otherwise, that is what I hate
May I still think, I am before Gods Eye
And do as I wou’d wish, when I do come to Die—

March 4th This being the Anniversary of My Nuptials my thoughts were much employed in meditating on the happiness which I then promised myself when I embraced Hymen–This had such an Effect that a Poetic muse insinuated a Verse ought to be the result of such pleasing reflexions–when I wrote as follows Viz.

At Lancaster this was the Day, I first got my Consent
For to embrace fair Hymen, for which I then was bent
I secondly got the Consent, of her that’s now my Wife
That in Cohabitation with me she would sped [sic] her life
We then into the Arms of each other sweetly Clung
And soon remove’d that Solitude which on our minds then hung
We spent some happy time, before that we did part
But Mars soon us both parted, which griev’d us to the heart
Yet in a short time after, we hopped for to meet,
And some few days of pleasure, that unto us were sweet
Revolv’d whilst we together, were all posses’d of Joy
But fortune very suddenly, did our bliss destroy
By calling me unto the Camp, to please great thundring Mars
There to remain exposed to the Allarm of Wars—

March 15th I this morning proceeded to the Grand Parade, where I was a Spectator at the Drumming out of Lt. Enslin[3]of Colo. Malcom’s Regt. for, Crimes shocking to any of the human Species to be guilty of—My pen trembles to write them, it being nothing less that Sodomy and Perjury. he was first Drummed, from right to left of the Grand Parade, then to the Left Wing of the Army, from that to the Center, and lastly transported over the Schuylkill with Orders never to be seen in Camp in future—This Shocking Scene was performed by all the Drums and fifes in the Army with the Coat of the Delinquent turn’d rong side out—

I then concluded that the humane heart
Is surely Vile, not excepting any part
Of all mankind, who by Nature now are in,
A State of Darkness, Ignorance and Sin
Yet Some there are, that is renew’d by grace
From such position, and seeks a better place
Even Heaven itself that Holiness above
To which they’re brought, by the redeeming love
Of Christ to Sinners of the human Race
At length in Glory, brought to see his face.

March 20 th. Phoebus having now reached the [       ] part of [        ] and consequently [      ] ing an equal Share of light and Darkness in all parts of the Teraqueois Globe, our weather now grew very agreeable and [          ] enjoyment [     ] grew more desirable [    ] which we had been for sometime [         ] Everything in nature now appeared in as Different Aspect and seemed to indicate that Summer wou’d shortly Commence [                         ] the pleasure it [               ] the banks of Schuylkill Yet the thoughts of happiness which we shou’d have Enjoyed in peacable possession of Philada raised a considerable degree of [        ] in my breast to [     ] that [   ] City shou’d not be in possession of our cruel and intolerable Enemies. However relying on the prudence of Military Skill of our worty Genl. I endeavoured to dispel the Gloomy clouds and lay hold of Tranquillity which in all cases and at all times proves a successful Antidote against every such indisposition, this together with the Civil gallantrys to be enjoyed about the Environs of the Camp removed from time its seeming tediousness in its revolution and left me possessed of a Considerable degree of happiness.


Now Time at Camp seem’d slow, whilst in its resolution
Because to live thereat Displeas’d my Constitution
The reason of the Contrast was, I long’d to be at home
And to possess the various Joys, that waiting till I come
But O! such thoughts disquiets me, when e’er I think thereon
For I must now remain in Camp, whilst that my Captns gone
Yet when to Camp he does return, I hope to get away
And go to Jersey, where some time I’ll with my Dearest Stay
With Anxiety reciprocal, we both impatient wait
To see if it shou’d prove so kind, being ordered by fate
That I a visit so on may pay, to her that is my Wife
And byme most she is Esteem’d, of all things now in life
Yet orders here must be obey’d, be that result what it will
Tho’ oftentimes it does my breast, with grief and sorrow fill
To rest in Camp not seeing her, which now has got my heart
Closely confined in her breast, none other has a part
This frequently makes me to wish, that the Allarm of Wars
Wou’d Cease to Venus and that he, Might drive away great Mars
Yet wait I must to see the time, when this may be the case
But probably before that time, I may be in another place
Where no such Jarring can remain, whose Joy abounds all o’er
If I so happy a change wou’d make, I then cou’d ask no More

30th. Aprl. I this day accompanied the Corpse of Lt. Green to Upper Merryen where he was Interred with the honours of War he was a Gentlemen of an Amiable disposition, who unfortunately got mortally wounded in a Deuel with Lt. White, our procession was honourable being accompanied by the most of the Officers of Genl. Greens Division—[4]

1st. May Having Now an opportunity I thought proper to send part of my superfluous baggage and some of My Books to Jersey and but previous to parting with My Journal I wrote the following Verse—

Farewell my Journal, we must part
which contains some nature but no Art
The Companion of my sore fatigues
Throughout the Wars, but not Intrigues
Therefore adieu, My Ambiguous book
May you be pleasing to them that on you look—

6th May Agreeable to the General orders of Yesterday we paraded at 9 oClock A.M. when a suitable discourse were delivered to each Brigade by the Chaplains, at 10 there was a Signal given by the discharge of a Field-piece from the Artillery Park for the whole to load and Ground Arms. at ½ after 11 a Signal of the same kind were given upon which we immediately proceeded to our alarm post; this done the Commander in Chief reviewed us beginning at the right of the front line and Proceeding to its left then turning to the left of the rear line he passed along to the right when he attended with all his aids & Guards took post upon an Eminence to the right in rear — Immediately afterward a Signal was given for the Commencement of the Feux-De-Joy when a Discharge of 13 Pieces of Cannon followed by a running fire of the Infantry from right to left of the Front line and continuing to the left with a like discharge from left to right of the rear, were performed, then a Signal for three Cheers—This was followed with a Discharge of 13 Pieces of Artilery, with the same Ceremonies as in the former fire—

This was followed by the Discharge of 13 Fildpieces with the firing from the Infantry in the same manner as before—we afterwards retired by Brigades to our Encampment, when all the Officers in General were desired to Dine with his Excellency Genl. Washington, to which we immediately repaired, and spent the afternoon enjoying all desirable mirth & Jolity many Patriotic Toasts were unanimously Drank and at evening we all Dispersed.

11th. May. Just when the feathered Quarristers[5] had Departed from their place of refuge during the Absence of Phoebus in North Latitude and had betaken themselves to their Notes of Melody in the highest branches of the lofty Cedars, I took my Departure from Camp Valley-Forge. I proceeded over the Schuylkill at Sullivan’s Bri[dge] past North wales meeting house, Bartholomew’s Tave[rn] Doils-Town over the Delaware at Corryell’s fery thence to the house of Mr. Large in Amwell, when being some little fatigued I betook me to rest—

12th. May At 10 oClock A.M. I Departed from Amwell and calling a few minutes at Mrs. Wilson’s proceed to Stony-Brook where I arived at 1 oClock P.M—

Where having remain’d for sometime I having nothing of Consequence to do with respect to the literary Department, I took Pen, Ink and Paper and penned a Brief account of the Campaign in 77 In some kind of Rhyme

The Reader upon indulging me with turning this leaf will be favour’d with a sight thereof what he may therein see Incorrect he will please attribute to inattention and haste as it was performed without any previous Study.

Phoebus had scarcely got to Cancer when Orders we received
To march from Philada. to Camp as we perceived
We steer’d our Course to Middlebrook, where we one day did stay\
And then went on Detachment to Matuchan was the way
To Head Quarters we returned, and encamped in a Valley
Near Middlebrook in readiness shou’d the Enemy on us Sally
We next went unto Morristown, from that unto the Clove
Where in a lonely Desert, we sometime there did rove
Then facing to the right about, the Army did return
And on our march through Jersey, we at fatigue did spurn
Then Crossing o’er the Delaware, we Encamp’d at Germantown
On our Journey to the Enemy, we then were marching down
But they then did not come on shore, which turned us about
And Warwick in Buck’s County, we made the nearest rout
Where we remain’d until our foes, had got themselves on Shore
Near Elk. in Pennsylvania, where they were not before
Our Spirits now were roused, we march’d without delay
Thro’ Philada. Chester & Wilmington Straightway
We took our Post near red Clay Creek, upon a pleasant field
Where we thought we wou’d rather fight, then unto Tyrants yield.
But soon they took a Different rout, they march’d to Brandywine
Where they with all their forces, Encamped in a line—
We marched unto Ched’s ford, on the East thereof took post
On the 11th. of September, they attacked us with their hosts
The right wing of our Army they forced to retreat
Supperior in numbers far, on the Enemy’s side were great
Whilst Greens Division the left were marched to the right
When soon we did our foes engage with valour and with might
We fought from five oClock till Dark, whilst our ground maintain’d
Then night did End the battle, neither having conquest gain’d
We then were ordered for to march, our Army being gone
Whilst we to cover the retreat, were by ourselves alone
To Chester we our Course did take, thro’ which we marched next day
Nor long at which we did remain, till we did march away
To Germantown we did return, but short time did stay there
Our business of an active kind, called for us elsewhere
We near to Whitehorse did proceed, when the Inclement weather
Did put a stop to an attack, which we wou’d have much rather
Descided by the force of Arms, who shou’d have victors been
Fair Liberty or Tyrany, which then cou’d not be seen
But fortune on us seem’d to frown, our bodies sorely toild
Through much fatigue with the heavy rain, our Ammunition spoil’d
This forced us over the Schuylkill, till we were reinforced
With Ammunition of all kinds, our former was all lost
Previous to which the Enemy, to Philada. Went
There to possess themselves of what, seemed their whole intent—
When Ammunition we had got, we Perkyomen Cross’d
And day and night for some Short time, with marching we were toss’d
When Phoebus unto Scorpio came, our Army drew together
Council of War then thought it to attack the Enemy rather
Than let them then Entrench themselves, for to live at their ease
Possess’d of Philadelphia, as long as they might please
We then to Germantown did march, our conduct seemed sober
And at day break attacked our foes the 4th. Day of October
From 6 till 10 oClock we fought our Enemy in the field
Whilst nothing us did then oppose, able to make us Yield
One of our Generals misbehaved, in ordering a retreat
And we not knowing the reason why, were in Confusion great
We then were marched to the rear, thinking a foe to see
But unto our great surprize we found nor there to be
To Rally then was much too late, the Enemy flank’d us fast
We then had for to leave the field, and march away with haste
To Perkyomen we return’d, our Bodies sorely tired
But worse afflicted in the mind, which was with Liberty fired
To think when Conquest we had made, we all shou’d run away
By obeying the misconduct of Genl. Stephens that day
Or else we wou’d have drove them out, of all their lines with speed
And for to fight In that Campaign, no more we wou’d had need.


[1]Probably 1st. Lt. Thomas Lewis of the 15th Virginia.

[2]John Spear had been wounded and taken prisoner in 1776 on Long Island, He was promoted to captain of the 13th Virginia in 1777. This burial is one of the very few at Valley Forge for which there are any details.

[3]At a brigade court martial on February 27, Ens. Anthony Maxwell of Malcom’s Regiment was tried and found innocent of “propagating a scandalous report prejudicial to the character of Lieutt Enslin.” But on March 10, a general court martial found Frederick Gotthold Enslin guilty “for attempting to commit sodomy, with John Monhort a soldier; Secondly, For Perjury in swearing to false Accounts, found guilty of the charges exhibited against him, being breaches of 5th Article 18th Section of the Articles of War and do sentence him to be dismiss’d the service with Infamy3—His Excellency the Commander in Chief approves the sentence and with Abhorrence & Detestation of such Infamous Crimes orders Lieutt Enslin to be drummed out of Camp tomorrow morning by all the Drummers and Fifers in the Army never to return; The Drummers and Fifers to attend on the Grand Parade at Guard mounting for that Purpose.”;

[4]1st. Lt. John Green of the 1st Virginia appears as “Died” on the April muster roll. 1st. Lt. Elisha White appears as “absent without leave” on the same roll. On July 31, Patrick Henry wrote to Washington about the affair and that White desired to rejoin the regiment. Washington’s reply on October 14 was somewhat ambiguous. On November 21, Col. Richard Parker of the 1st Virginia wrote to Richard Kidder Meade that White had rejoined the regiment, but Parker wanted Washington’s permission for White to continue. Meade replied on November 25: “I have it in command from him to desire you will have that Gentleman arrested for having killed Lieut. Greene in a Duel, when the charge is to be transmitted to the Adjut. Genl.” However no records have been found of White being charged. As LieutenantGreen’s father was Col. John Green of the Tenth Virginia, is seems odd that the matter does not seem to have been pursued.

[5]An old term for birds.

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