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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. 1 - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. III (1775-1776) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1889). Vol. III (1775-1776).
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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.1
Camp atCambridge July 10, 1775.
I arrived safe at this Place on the 3d inst., after a Journey attended with a good deal of Fatigue, and retarded by necessary Attentions to the successive Civilities which accompanied me in my whole Rout. Upon my arrival, I immediately visited the several Posts occupied by our Troops, and as soon as the Weather permitted, reconnoitred those of the Enemy. I found the latter strongly entrench’d on Bunker’s Hill about a Mile from Charlestown, and advanced about half a Mile from the Place of the last Action, with their Centries extended about 150 Yards on this side of the narrowest Part of the Neck leading from this Place to Charlestown; 3 floating Batteries lay in Mystick River, near their camp; and one 20 Gun Ship below the Ferry Place between Boston and Charlestown. They have also a Battery on Copse Hill, on the Boston side, which much annoyed our Troops in the late attack. Upon the Neck, they are also deeply entrenched and strongly fortified. Their advanced Guards ’till last Saturday morning, occupied Brown’s Houses, about a mile from Roxbury Meeting House and 20 roods from their Lines: But at that Time a Party from General Thomas’s Camp surprized the Guard, drove them in and burnt the houses.2 The Bulk of their Army commanded by Genl. Howe, lays on Bunker’s Hill, and the Remainder on Roxbury Neck, except the Light Horse, and a few Men in the Town of Boston. On our side we have thrown up Intrenchments on Winter and Prospect Hills, the Enemies camp in full View at the Distance of little more than a Mile.1 Such intermediate Points, as would admit a Landing, I have since my arrival taken care to strengthen, down to Sewall’s Farm, where a strong Entrenchment has been thrown up. At Roxbury General Thomas has thrown up a strong Work on the Hill, about 200 Yards above the Meeting House which with the Broken-ness of the Ground and great Number of Rocks has made that Pass very secure.2 The Troops raised in New Hampshire, with a Regiment from Rhode Island occupy Winter Hill. A Part of those from Connecticut under General Puttnam are on Prospect Hill. The Troops in this Town are intirely of the Massachusetts: The Remainder of the Rhode Island Men, are at Sewall’s Farm: Two Regiments of Connecticut and 9 of the Massachusetts are at Roxbury. The Residue of the Army, to the Number of about 700, are posted in several small Towns along the Coast, to prevent the Depredations of the Enemy: Upon the whole, I think myself authorized to say, that considering the great Extent of Line, and the nature of the Ground we are as well secured as could be expected in so short a Time and under the Disadvantages we labour. These consist in a Want of Engineers to construct proper Works and direct the men, a Want of Tools, and a sufficient Number of Men to man the Works in Case of an attack. You will observe by the Proceedings of the Council of War, which I have the Honor to enclose, that it is our unanimous Opinion to hold and defend these Works as long as possible. The Discouragement it would give the Men and its contrary Effects on the ministerial Troops, thus to abandon our Incampment in their Face, form’d with so much Labor, added to the certain Destruction of a considerable and valuable Extent of Country, and our Uncertainty of finding a Place in all Respects so capable of making a stand, are leading Reasons for this Determination: at the same Time we are very sensible of the Difficulties which attend the Defence of Lines of so great extent, and the Dangers which may ensue from such a Division of the Army.
My earnest Wishes to comply with the Instructions of the Congress in making an early and complete Return of the State of the Army, has led into an involuntary Delay in addressing you, which has given me much Concern. Having given orders for this Purpose immediately on my Arrival, and unapprized of the imperfect Obedience which had been paid to those of the like Nature from General Ward, I was led from Day to Day to expect they would come in, and therefore detained the Messenger. They are not now so complete as I could wish, but much Allowance is to be made for Inexperience in Forms, and a Liberty which has been taken (not given) on this subject. These Reasons I flatter myself will no longer exist, and of Consequence more Regularity and exactness in future prevail. This, with a necessary attention to the Lines, the Movements of the Ministerial Troops, and our immediate Security, must be my Apology, which I beg you lay before the Congress with the utmost Duty and Respect.
We labor under great Disadvantages for Want of Tents, for tho’ they have been help’d out by a Collection of now useless sails from the Sea Port Towns, the Number is yet far short of our Necessities. The Colleges and Houses of this Town are necessarily occupied by the Troops which affords another Reason for keeping our present Situation: But I most sincerely wish the whole Army was properly provided to take the Field, as I am well assured, that besides greater Expedition and Activity in case of Alarm, it would highly conduce to Health and discipline. As Materials are not to be had here, I would beg leave to recommend the procuring a farther supply from Philadelphia as soon as possible.1
I should be extremely deficient in Gratitude, as well as Justice, if I did not take the first opportuny to acknowledge the Readiness and Attention which the provincial Congress and different Committees have shewn to make every Thing as convenient and agreeable as possible: but there is a vital and inherent Principle of Delay incompatible with military service in transacting Business thro’ such numerous and different Channels. I esteem it therefore my Duty to represent the Inconvenience that must unavoidably ensue from a dependence on a Number of Persons for supplies, and submit it to the Consideration of the Congress whether the publick Service will not be best promoted by appointing a Commissary General for these purposes. We have a striking Instance of the Preference of such a Mode in the Establishment of Connecticut, as their Troops are extremely well provided under the Direction of Mr. Trumbull, and he has at different Times assisted others with various Articles. Should my Sentiments happily coincide with those of your Honors, on this subject, I beg leave to recommend Mr. Trumbull as a very proper Person for this Department. In the Arrangement of Troops collected under such Circumstances, and upon the Spur of immediate Necessity several Appointments are omitted, which appear to be indispensably necessary for the good Government of the Army, particularly a Quartermaster General, a Commissary of Musters and a Commissary of Artillery. These I must Earnestly recommend to the Notice and Provision of the Congress.1
I find myself already much embarrassed for Want of a Military Chest; these embarrassments will increase every day: I must therefore request that Money may be forwarded as soon as Possible. The want of this most necessary Article, will I fear produce great Inconveniences if not prevented by an early Attention. I find the Army in general, and the Troops raised in Massachusetts in particular, very deficient in necessary Cloathing.2 Upon Inquiry there appears no Probability of obtaining any supplies in this Quarter. And the best Consideration of this Matter I am able to form, I am of Opinion that a Number of hunting Shirts not less than 10,000, would in a great Degree remove this Difficulty in the cheapest and quickest manner. I know nothing in a speculative View more trivial, yet if put in Practice would have a happier Tendency to unite the Men, and abolish those Provincial Distinctions which lead to Jealousy and Dissatisfaction. In a former part of this Letter I mentioned the want of Engineers; I can hardly express the Disappointment I have experienced on this Subject. The Skill of those we have, being very imperfect and confined to the mere manual Exercise of Cannon: Whereas—the War in which we are engaged requires a Knowledge comprehending the Duties of the Field and Fortifications.1 If any Persons thus qualified are to be found in the Southern Colonies, it would be of great publick Service to forward them with all expedition. Upon the Article of Ammunition I must re-echo the former Complaints on this Subject: We are so exceedingly destitute, that our Artillery will be of little Use without a supply both large and seasonable: What we have must be reserved for the small Arms, and that managed with the utmost Frugality.
I am sorry to observe that the Appointments of the General Officers in the Province of Massachusetts Bay have by no Means corresponded with the Judgement and Wishes of either the civil or Military. The great Dissatisfaction expressed on this Subject and the apparent Danger of throwing the Army into the utmost Disorder, together with the strong Representations of the Provincial Congress, have induced me to retain the Commissions in my Hands untill the Pleasure of the Congress should be farther known, (except General Puttnam’s which was given the Day I came into Camp and before I was apprized of these Uneasinesses.)1 In such a Step I must beg the Congress will do me the Justice I believe, that I have been actuated solely by a Regard to the publick Good. I have not, nor could have any private Attachments; every Gentleman in Appointment, was an intire Stranger to me but from Character. I must therefore rely upon the Candor of the Congress for their favorable Construction of my Conduct in this Particular. General Spencer was so much disgusted at the preference given to General Puttnam that he left the Army without visiting me, or making known his Intentions in any respect.2 General Pomroy had also retired before my Arrival, occasioned (as is said) by some Disappointment from the Provincial Congress.3 General Thomas is much esteemed and earnestly desired to continue in the service: and as far as my Opportunities have enabled me to judge I must join in the general opinion that he is an able good Officer and his Resignation would be a publick Loss. The postponing him to Pomroy and Heath whom he has commanded would make his Continuance very difficult, and probably operate on his Mind, as the like Circumstance has done on that of Spencer.1
The State of the Army you will find ascertained with tolerable Precision in the Returns which accompany this Letter.2 Upon finding the Number of men to fall so far short of the Establishment, and below all Expectation, I immediately called a Council of the general Officers, whose opinion as to the mode of filling up the Regiments, and providing for the present Exigency, I have the Honor of inclosing together with the best Judgment we are able to form of the ministerial Troops. From the Number of Boys, Deserters, and Negroes which have been inlisted in the troops of this Province, I entertain some doubts whether the number required can be raised here; and all the General Officers agree that no Dependance can be put on the militia for a Continuance in Camp, or Regularity and Discipline during the short Time they may stay.1 This unhappy and devoted Province has been so long in a State of Anarchy, and the Yoke of ministerial Oppression been laid so heavily on it that great Allowances are to be made for Troops raised under such Circumstances: The Deficiency of Numbers, Discipline and Stores can only lead to this Conclusion, that their Spirit has exceeded their Strength. But at the same Time I would humbly submit to the consideration of the Congress, the Propriety of making some farther Provision of Men from the other Colonies. If these Regiments should be completed to their Establishment, the Dismission of those unfit for Duty on account of their Age and Character would occasion a considerable Reduction, and at all events they have been inlisted upon such Terms, that they may be disbanded when other Troops arrive: But should my apprehensions be realized, and the Regiments here not filled up, the publick Cause would suffer by an absolute Dependance upon so doubtful an Event, unless some Provision is made against such a Disappointment.1
It requires no military Skill to judge of the Difficulty of introducing proper Discipline and Subordination into an Army while we have the Enemy in View, and are in daily Expectation of an Attack, but it is of so much Importance that every Effort will be made which Time and Circumstance will admit. In the mean Time I have a sincere Pleasure in observing that there are Materials for a good Army, a great number of able bodied Men, active zealous in the Cause and of unquestionable courage.2
I am now Sir, to acknowledge the Receipt of your Favor of the 28th Inst. inclosing the Resolutions of the Congress of the 27th ult. and a Copy of a Letter from the Committee of Albany, to all which I shall pay due Attention.
General Gates and Sullivan have both arrived in good Health. My best Abilities are at all Times devoted to the Service of my Country, but I feel the Weight Importance and variety of my present Duties too sensibly, not to wish a more immediate and frequent Communication with the Congress. I fear it may often happen in the Course of our present Operations, that I shall need that Assistance and Direction from them which Time and Distance will not allow me to receive.1
Since writing the above, I have also to acknowledge your Favour of the 4th Inst. by Fessenden, and the Receipt of the Commission and Articles of War. The Former are yet 800 short of the number required, this deficiency you will please supply as soon as you conveniently can. Among the other Returns, I have also sent one of our killed, wounded and missing in the late Action, but have been able to procure no certain Account of the Loss of the ministerial Troops, my best Intelligence fixes it at about 500 killed and 6 or 700 wounded; but it is no more than Conjecture, the utmost Pains being taken on their side to conceal it.1
P. S. Having ordered the commanding Officer to give me the earliest Intelligence of every Motion of the Enemy, by Land or Water, discoverable from the Heighths of his Camp, I this inst., as I was closing my Letter received the enclosed from the Brigade Major. The Design of this Manuœvre I know not, perhaps it may be to make a Descent some where along the Coast; it may be for New York, or it may be practised as a Deception on Us. I thought it not improper however to mention the matter to you. I have done the same to the commanding Officer at New York, and I shall let it be known to the Committee of Safety here, so that the Intelligence may be communicated as they shall think best along the Sea Coast of this Government.
[1 ]Read before Congress, July 19th.
[2 ]The house and barn of Mr. Brown stood on the west side of the highway [Washington Street] near the present location of Franklin Square. On the 8th of July a party of volunteers from the Rhode Island and Massachusetts forces, under the command of Majors Tupper and Crane attacked the post and drove in the guard and set fire to the buildings, but two attempts appear to have been necessary to accomplish this. Jos. Trumbull to Eliph. Dyer, 11 July, 1775. “This was the only armed conflict between the opposing armies which took place within the original limits of Boston.” Centennial Anniversary Evacuation of Boston, 12.
[1 ]The original line of American fortification crossed what is now Washington Street, on the line of division between Boston and Roxbury, near the present Clifton Place.
[2 ]“Yesterday, as I was going to Cambridge, I met the Generals [Washington and Lee], who begged me to return to Roxbury again, which I did. When they had viewed the works, they expressed the greatest pleasure and surprise at their situation and apparent utility, to say nothing of the plan, which did not escape their praise.” General Knox to his wife, 6 July, 1775. “General Washington fills his place with vast ease and dignity, and dispenses happiness around him.” 9 July. “The new generals are of infinite service to the army. They have to reduce order almost from a perfect chaos. I think they are in a fair way of doing it.” 11 July.
[1 ]“Ordered, that Mr. Wilson apply to the committee of the city and liberties of Philadelphia, and request them to make diligent enquiry what quantity of duck, Russia sheeting, tow-cloth, oznaburgs and ticklenburgs can be procured in this city, and make return as soon as possible to this Congress.” Journals, July 19th.
[1 ]Trumbull was appointed by Congress; and the naming of the other officers as well as of three brigade majors was left to Washington. Journals, July 19th.
[2 ]General Ward wrote to the Provincial Congress on the 7th, that “great numbers in the army are almost naked for want of shirts, breeches, stockings, shoes, and other clothing; and unless they can be immediately supplied, inconceivable difficulties and distrust will accrue to the army.”
[1 ]“We arrived here on Sunday before dinner. We found everything exactly the reverse of what had been represented. We were assured at Philadelphia that the army was stocked with Engineers. We found not one. We were assured that we should find an expert train of artillery. They have not a single gunner, and so on. So far from the men being prejudiced in favour of their own officers, they are extremely diffident in them, and seem much pleased that we are arrived. The men are really very fine fellows, and had they fair play would be made an invincible army.” Charles Lee to Robert Morris, 4 July, 1775. Lee Papers, i., 188.
[1 ]“At the request of General Washington, Resolved, That no more commissions for the present be delivered to any officers of the Colony Army, those employed more particularly for the protection of the seacoasts, excepted.” Massachusetts Provincial Congress, 3 July, 1775.
[2 ]A remarkable memorial in favor of General Spencer is to be found in Force, American Archives, Fourth Series, ii., 1585. A letter from Samuel B. Webb to Silas Deane, 11 July, 1775, throws some light on Spencer’s conduct. Collections Connecticut Historical Society, ii., 285, 288, 290.
[3 ]“As Pomroy is now Absent, and at the distance of an hundred miles from the Army, if it can be consistent with your Excellencys Trust and the Service to retain his Commission untill you shall receive Advice from the Continental Congress, and we shall be able to prevail with Heath to make a concession Honourable to himself, and advantageous to the publick. We humbly conceive the way would be open to do Justice to Thomas.” Jas. Warren and Joseph Hawley, to Washington, 4 July, 1775.
[1 ]“Resolved, That General Thomas be appointed first brigadier-general in the army of the United Colonies, in the room of General Pomeroy, who never acted under the commission sent to him, and that General Thomas’s commission bear the same date that General Pomeroy’s did.” Journals, July 19th.
[2 ]A general return of the army is printed in Force, American Archives, Fourth Series, ii., 1630.
[1 ]On 10 July General Gates issued an order to be observed by the recruiting officers, who were immediately sent upon that service:—
[1 ]“Resolved, That such a body of troops be kept up in the Massachusetts Bay, as General Washington shall think necessary, provided they do not exceed twenty-two thousand men.”—Journals, July 21st. See note on p. 6.
[2 ]“Upon my soul the materials here (I mean the private men) are [admira]ble; had they proper uniforms, arms, and proper officers, their zeal, youth, bodily strength, good humor, [and dext]erity, must make ’em an invincible army. The Rhode [Islanders] are well off in the article of officers and the young [officers of] the other Provinces are willing, and with a little time do very well. But from the old big wigs [—libera] nos Domine. The abilities of their engineers are not [transcen]dant, I really believe not a single man of them is [capable] of constructing an oven.”—Charles Lee to Benjamin Rush, 20 July, 1775.
[1 ]On the 10th Washington wrote to Benjamin Harrison, but the letter is lost and its contents can only be guessed at by Harrison’s reply, printed in Force, American Archives, Fourth Series, ii., 1697. The more important matters are indicated by the following extracts: “Your fatigue and various kinds of trouble, I dare say are great; but they are not more than I expected, knowing the people you have to deal with by the sample we have here. . . . The want of engineers, I fear, is not to be supplied in America. Some folks here seemed much displeased at your report on that head. They affirm there are two very good ones with you—a Colonel Gridley, I think, is one. I took the liberty to say that they must be mistaken; they were certainly either not in camp, or could not have the skill they were pleased to say they had. This, in my soft way, put a stop to anything more on the subject. Indeed, my friend, I do not know what to think of some of these men; they seem to be exceeding hearty in the cause, but still wish to keep everything amongst themselves. . . . The Congress have given you the appointment of three brigade majors. Mr. Trumbull has the office you proposed for him. The appointments of the commissary of artillery, ditto of musters, and quartermaster-general, are also left to your disposal. . . . We have given the commission of first brigadier to Mr. Thomas. As Putnam’s commission was delivered, it would, perhaps have offended the old gentleman to have superceded him; the other I hope, will still act. The Congress have, from your account, a high opinion of him, and I dare say will grant anything in their power that he may hereafter require. Your hint for a remove of the Congress to some place nearer to you, will come on to-morrow. I think it will not answer your expectations if we should remove; you shall have the result in the close of this. The military chest, I hope, will be supplied soon; they begin to strike the bills this day, so that I hope some may be forwarded to you next week. . . . (21 July). The debate about our remove was taken yesterday, and determined in the negative. I proposed a committee, but could not carry it. I think the last method would have answered your purpose best, but the gentlemen could not think of parting with the least particle of their power.” (23 July.) This letter never reached Washington, being intercepted by the British. It is printed in the Gentleman’s Magazine, 1775. When Washington was in Congress there appears to have been some talk of removing to Connecticut, (Silas Deane to his wife, 16 June, 1775), and again in September (Silas Deane to his wife, September 22).
[1 ]At Bunker’s Hill, on the 17th of June. According to a return published by the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts, the loss was one hundred and forty-five killed and missing, and three hundred and four wounded. About thirty of the first number were wounded and taken prisoners. By General Gage’s official return, the killed and missing of the British were two hundred and twenty-six, and the wounded eight hundred and twenty-eight, in all one thousand and fifty four.—Almon’s Remembrancer, vol. i., pp. 99, 179.