Original Document
Original Document
Elias Boudinot's account of the spying of Lydia Darragh in Autumn, 1777.

Lydia Darragh (1729-1789) lived in Philadelphia during the British occupation of 1777-78. General Howe used one of her neighbor's homes as his headquarters and British officers commandeered a room in her residence for special meetings. During one of those special gatherings, Darragh reportedly overhead plans to launch a surprise assault on the Continental Army encampment at Whitemarsh, where the army stayed prior to its relocation in Valley Forge. Darragh later claimed that she walked out of the city toward the Rising Sun Tavern, where she encountered along the way a family friend named Thomas Craig, who received the information from her and passed it along to General Washington, thus saving the army. Elias Boudinot, a local philanthropist and lawyer, offered a different version of the story in his journal. Historians have debated the validity of the tale, but most now accept that Darragh was one of several patriot spies from Philadelphia who helped inform Washington of the impending British action.

"In Autumn of 1777 the American Army lay some time at White Marsh. I was then Commissary Genl of Prisoners, and managed the Intelligence of the Army. --I was reconoitering along the Lines near the City of Philadelphia.--I dined at a small Post at the Rising Sun abt three miles from the City.--After Dinner, a little poor looking insignificant Old Woman came in & solicited leave to go into the Country to buy some flour – While we were asking some Questions, she walked up to me and put into my hands a dirty old needle book, with various small pockets in it. suprised at this, I told her to return, she should have an answer--On opening the needlebook, I found not find any thing till I got to the last Pocket, Where I found a piece of paper rolled up into the form of a pipe shank-- on unrolling it I found information that Genl Howe was coming out the next morning with 5,000 men, 13 pieces of cannon, baggage wagons, and 11 Boats on Waggon Wheels. On comparing this with other information, I found it true and immediately rode Post to head Quarters--According to my usual custom & agreeable to orders rec from Genl W. I first related to him the naked facts without comment or Opinion--He rec. it with much thoughtfulness, I then gave himmy opinion, that Genl Howe's design was to Cross the Delaware under pretense of going for New York.--Then in the Night to reross the Delaware above Bristol & come suddenly on our rear..."

Credit:  Elias Boudinot, Journal of the Events in the Revolution. Philadelphia: Frederick Bourquin, 1894.

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