Crooked Billet, Pennsylvania

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Crooked Billet, Pennsylvania

CROOKED BILLET, PENNSYLVANIA. 1 May 1778. When the British occupied winter quarters in Philadelphia, Washington set up a cordon of detachments around the city in an attempt to restrict the flow of supplies to the enemy. One of those outposts was at Crooked Billet in the central part of Bucks County, north-northeast of Philadelphia. Brigadier General John Lacey (a former Continental Army captain) had responsibility for the sector in the spring of 1778 with a military force that fluctuated wildly from week to week but that in late April probably amounted to less than a hundred men. Major John Graves Simcoe worked with Lieutenant Colonel Nisbet Balfour (General Howe's aide charged with intelligence activities) to develop a plan to hit the militia while they were vulnerable as a new rotation of men came into camp. On 30 April Simcoe set out on a twenty-five-mile march with the Queen's Rangers to take Crooked Billet from the rear while a large light infantry force (partly mounted) under Lieutenant Colonel Robert Abercromby set up near Horsham Meeting House. They intended to push any survivors of Simcoe's dawn attack into Abercromby's ambush. Fortunately for Lacey, the two British elements failed to time the attack properly, and an alert militia sentry gave the warning before the trap was sprung. Lacey withdrew through some woods, and his men broke into small parties, most getting away although losing their baggage. Simcoe claimed that he killed fifty or sixty at the cost of a few wounded; Lacey reported about half as many casualties.

SEE ALSO Abercromby, Sir Robert; Balfour, Nisbet; Simcoe, John Graves.


Frantz, John B., and William Pencak, eds. Beyond Philadelphia: The American Revolution in the Pennsylvania Heartland. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998.

                                   revised by Robert K. Wright Jr.