Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO DEPUTY GOVERNOR COOKE, OF RHODE ISLAND. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. III (1775-1776)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
TO DEPUTY GOVERNOR COOKE, OF RHODE ISLAND. - 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
TO DEPUTY GOVERNOR COOKE, OF RHODE ISLAND.
Camp atCambridge, 4 August, 1775.
I was yesterday favored with yours of the 31st July. We have yet no certain account of the fleet, which sailed out of Boston on the 25th; but if our conjectures and information are just, we may expect to hear of it every hour.
I am now, Sir, in strict confidence, to acquaint you, that our necessities in the articles of powder and lead are so great, as to require an immediate supply. I must earnestly entreat, you will fall upon some measures to forward every pound of each in the colony, which can possibly be spared. It is not within the propriety or safety of such a correspondence to say what I might upon this subject. It is sufficient, that the case calls loudly for the most strenuous exertions of every friend of his country, and does not admit of the least delay. No quantity, however small, is beneath notice, and, should any arrive, I beg it may be forwarded as soon as possible.1
But a supply of this kind is so precarious, not only from the danger of the enemy, but the opportunity of purchasing, that I have revolved in my mind every other possible chance, and listened to every proposition on the subject, which could give the smallest hope. Among others, I have had one mentioned, which has some weight with me, as well as the general officers to whom I have proposed it. One Harris is lately come from Bermuda, where there is a very considerable magazine of powder in a remote part of the island; and the inhabitants well disposed not only to our cause in general, but to assist in this enterprise in particular. We understand there are two armed vessels in your province, commanded by men of known activity and spirit; one of which, it is proposed to despatch on this errand with such assistance as may be requisite. Harris is to go along, as the conductor of the enterprise, and to avail ourselves of his knowledge of the island; but without any command. I am very sensible, that at first view the project may appear hazardous; and its success must depend on the concurrence of many circumstances; but we are in a situation, which requires us to run all risks. No danger is to be considered, when put in competition with the magnitude of the cause, and the absolute necessity we are under of increasing our stock. Enterprises, which appear chimerical, often prove successful from that very circumstance. Common sense and prudence will suggest vigilance and care, where the danger is plain and obvious; but, where little danger is apprehended, the more the enemy will be unprepared, and consequently there is the fairest prospect of success.1
Mr. Brown2 has been mentioned to me as a very proper person to be consulted upon this occasion. You will judge of the propriety of communicating it to him in part or the whole, and as soon as possible favor me with your sentiments, and the steps you may have taken to forward it. If no immediate and safe opportunity offers, you will please to do it by express. Should it be inconvenient to part with one of the armed vessels, perhaps some other might be fitted out, or you could devise some other mode of executing this plan; so that, in case of a disappointment, the vessel might proceed to some other island to purchase.
My last letter from the honorable Continental Congress recommends my procuring, from the colonies of Connecticut and Rhode Island, a quantity of tow cloth, for the purpose of making Indian or hunting-shirts for the men, many of whom are very destitute of clothing. A pattern will be sent you; and I must request you to give the necessary directions throughout your government, that all the cloth of the above kind may be bought up for this use, and suitable persons set to work to make it up. As soon as any number is made, worth the conveyance, you will please to direct them to be forwarded. It is designed as a species of uniform, both cheap and convenient.
We have had no transactions in either camp since my last, but what are in the public papers, and related with tolerable accuracy. The enemy still continue to strengthen their lines, and we have reason to believe, intend to bombard ours, with the hopes of forcing us out of them. Our poverty in ammunition prevents our making a suitable return.
Since writing the above, Colonel Porter has undertaken to assist in the matter, or to provide some suitable person to accompany Harris to you, who will communicate all the circumstances. I am, &c.1
[1 ]“The situation of the army as to ammunition is by no means what it ought to be. We have great reason to expect the enemy very soon intends to bombard our lines, and our stock of powder is so small as in a great degree to make our heavy artillery useless.”—To the New Hampshire Committee of Safety, 4 Aug., 1775. At a council held at Cambridge, August 3, 1775, the general communicated letters respecting the state of the ammunition which appears to be far short of the return made some time ago. The whole stock of the army at Roxbury and Cambridge and the adjacent posts consisting of only 90 bbls or thereabouts.
[1 ]“A committee was appointed to act during the recess of the General Assembly, with full powers; and among them they were ‘particularly empowered to employ the two armed vessels in the service of this colony, or either of them, in such a manner, and upon such voyage as they shall think conducive to the public interest.”—Records of the Colony of Rhode Island, vii., 365.
[2 ]Mr. Bancroft says John Brown.
[1 ]“When any plunder is taken from the Enemy (not excepted by the Continental Articles of war) such plunder must be all surrender’d to the Commanding Officer, and as soon as convenient after his arrival at Head Quarters, public Notice must be made, that an Auction will be held in the front of the Encampment for the sale thereof the next day at noon, and the money arising therefrom, is to be equally divided between the Officers and Men, that took it. This Order is not to be construed to extend, to permitting unlawful and irregular plundering; as any Officer, or Soldier, who shall be found guilty thereof, will be punished with the greatest severity.”—Orderly Book, 3 August, 1775.