York County Deserter Sought
It was April 1777. The Revolutionary War was not going well. Desertion was rampant. General Washington had said as much in a letter he wrote to his brother John on February 24.
Click here to read that letter at the Library of Congress web site.
Deserters were described in detail in the newspapers, along with a call for apprehension and an offered reward. Descriptions of the fugitive soldiers were often detailed, as shown in the following advertisement from the Pennsylvania Gazette for William Murphy of Chanceford Township.
“DESERTED…belonging to Captain Bartholomew’s company, of the 5th Pennsylvania Regiment, commanded by Col. Francis Johnston.
William Murphy, or sometimes calls himself McMurtry; an Irishman, about 5 feet 10 inches high, fair complexion, sandy or rather red short bushy hair, much given to strong liquor and very quarrelsome when in liquor; was inlisted at Mr. Reed’s ferry, 25 years of age, and has a wife living near said ferry, in York county; had on when he deserted, his regimental clothes, viz., a blue coat with white cape and cuffs, white woolen waistcoat, drilling breeches, and fashionable wool hat; but perhaps may sell or hide them, as he has got an old whitish jacket and trowsers with him.
April 17, 1777 Lieut., 5th P. R.
**The above deserters were on their march in Trenton, and it appears that nothing but cowardice induced them to desert.”
The postscript refers to Murphy and the two other soldiers who had left the regiment with him. The reward offered was $30 for all three or $10 each.
Reed’s Ferry, on the Susquehanna River, was later known as Shenk’s Ferry. It was a short distance below the present Safe Harbor dam.
Click here for more information on the York-printed Pennsylvania Gazette.
Click here to read about another York County runaway in 1777.
Click here to read about a 1776 soldier who deserted his family, not the army.
Click here to see what Yorkers were buying in 1777.