Margaret Hill Morris, the eighth daughter of Dr. Richard and Deborah Moore Hill of Maryland was raised by her older sister Hannah in Philadelphia. At twenty-one, she married William Morris, Jr., a dry-goods merchant, who died in 1765, leaving her with three small children and expecting another. After struggling for some years to provide for her family, Margaret decided to move in with her sister Sarah Moore Dillwyn, wife of the Quaker preacher George Dillwyn, who lived in Green Bank, New Jersey. The house overlooked the Delaware River. Another sister Milcah Martha Hill Moore lived nearby. As warring factions approached Philadelphia, people fled their homes seeking safety. Milcah Moore moved her family north of Philadelphia. Margaret began a Journal to amuse her sister, commenting on events that were unfolding around her. The Journal begins in early December 1776, as General Cornwallis and his army marched through New Jersey, the British fleet blockaded the Delaware, and General Washington and his troops fled into Pennsylvania. On the river near Margaret Morris’s house “galleys” or “gondolas” of the Pennsylvania navy were positioned to prevent the crossing of British troops. Here are several entries from Morris’s Journal in late December.
. . . to day (the 22d) we hear Gen: Howe is at trenton, & it is thought there will be an engagement soon. . . . We hear this afternoon that our Officers are afraid thier Men will not fight & wish they may all run home again. A peaceable Man ventured to Prophesy to day, that if the War is continued thro the Winter, the British troops will be scard at the sight of our Men, for as they Never fought with Naked Men, the Novelty of it, will terrify them & make them retreat, faster than they advanced to meet them, for he says, from the present appearance of our ragged troops, he thinks it probable, they will not have Cloaths to cover them a Month or 2 hence. . . .
26th—the Weather very stormy. . . . a great Number of flat Bottom Boats gone up the River, we cant learn where they are going to
27th—a letter from Gen [Joseph] Read to his br[other: Bowes Reed]—informing him that Washington had had an engagement with the Regulars on the 25th early in the Morning, taking them by surprize, killd fifty, & took 900 prisoners. The loss on our side not known, or if known, not sufferd to be publick.—It seems this heavy loss to the Regulars was oweing to the prevailing custom among the Hessians of getting drunk on the eve of that great day which brought peace on Earth & good Will to Men—but oh, how unlike Christians is the Manner in which they Celebrate it, can we call ourselves Christians, while we act so Contrary to our Masters rules—he set the example which we profess to follow, & here is a recent instance that we only profess it; instead of good will, envy & hatred seem to be the ruling passions in the breasts of thousands. This evening the 27th about 3000 of the Pensylvania Militia, & other Troops landed in the Neck, & marchd into Town with Artillery, Baggage &c, & were quarterd on the inhabitants, one Company were lodged at J Vs & a guard placed between his house & ours, We were so favord as not to have any sent to our House. An Officer spent the Evening with us, & appeard to be in high spirits, & talkd of engaging the English as a very triffling affair, Nothing so easy as to drive them over the North River &c—not considering there is a God of Battle, as well as a God of peace, who may have given them the late advantage, in order to draw them out to meet the Chastisement that is reservd for them.