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February 3, 2015: Scott Randolph

The Battle of the Crooked Billet
Scott Randolph talk

In spite of the cold, icy weather, Scott Randolph had a full house for his talk on the little-known battle of Crooked Billet. Scott, the producer of an award-winning DVD on the confrontation, shared many interesting facts and stories about Crooked Billet. A delightful reception with several delicious birthday cakes – for the February birthdays of Gen. John Lacey and the better known Gen. George Washington – followed the presentation.

Some highlights of the talk:

  • Scott relied on three historians (Gen. William W.H. Davis, Charles Harper Smith, and Dennis Cook) to ensure accuracy in his DVD and presentation.
  • The battle of the Crooked Billet, on May 1, 1778, took place during the Valley Forge encampment.
  • A “billet” is a small chunk of wood. “Crooked Billet” was the name of an 18th century tavern, located near present day Hatboro.
  • Washington did not want supplies to get to the British in Philadelphia; he relied on militia under Gen. John Lacey to patrol north of Philadelphia between the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers.
  • To keep the British guessing, the PA militia moved its headquarters from place to place during the war, setting up camp on April 27 near the Crooked Billet.
  • A group of British Dragoons, Queens Rangers, and British regulars moved out from Philadelphia the night of April 30, intent on eliminating Lacey and the militia.
  • Militia numbered about 300; British forces about 850.
  • The militia scouting party was negligent: the runner never got to camp and the soldiers hid when they saw the redcoats coming towards them.
  • Lacey himself was at the home of a Mrs. Gilbert – she alerted him that British snipers were in the trees.
  • Lacey escaped, got his men together, and moved north, away from the British.
  • But Lacey’s baggage train was slow and ponderous; it was viciously assaulted by the Dragoons and Queens Rangers. Terrible atrocities committed by the British against American militia.
  • Although American supplies were captured, and 26 militia killed and 58 prisoners taken into Philadelphia, the battle of Crooked Billet was considered a British failure... for the British never destroyed the militia nor captured Lacey, their commander.
  • PA militia returned to action the next day. Lacey court martialed the scout leaders.
  • British Commanders include Major John Graves Simcoe and Lt. Col. Robert Abercromby.
  • The Revolution War is considered America’s first Civil War: several in Lacey’s family fought on the side of the British.
  • Pennsylvania militia served a term of eight weeks, including walk time (time necessary to travel to/from militia headquarters from their homes). Consequently, militia men did not receive a lot of training.