Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO J. PALMER. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. III (1775-1776)
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TO J. PALMER. - 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 J. PALMER.
Cambridge, 22 Augst., 1775.
In answer to your favor of yesterday I must inform you, that I have often been told of the advantages of Point Alderton with respect to its command of the shipping going in and out of Boston Harbor; and that it has, before now, been the object of my particular enquiries,—That I find the Accts. differ, exceedingly, in regard to the distance of the Ship Channel,—and that, there is a passage on the outer side of the light House Island for all Vessels except Ships of the first Rate.
My knowledge of this matter would not have rested upon enquires only, if I had found myself at any time since I came to this place, in a condition to have taken such a post. But it becomes my duty to consider, not only what place is advantageous, but what number of Men are necessary to defend it; how they can be supported in case of an attack; how they may retreat if they cannot be supported; and what stock of Ammunition we are provided with for the purpose of self defence, or annoyance of the enemy. In respect to the first, I conceive our defence must be proportioned to the attack of Genl. Gage’s whole force (leaving him just enough to Man his Lines on Charles Town Neck & Roxbury); and with regard to the Second, and most important object, we have only 184 Barrls. of Powder in all, which is not sufficient to give 30 Musket Cartridges a Man, & scarce enough to serve the Artillery in any brisk action a single day.1
Would it be prudent then in me, under these Circumstances, to take a Post 30 Miles distant from this place when we already have a Line of Circumvaleation at least Ten Miles in extent, any part of which may be attacked (if the Enemy will keep their own Council) without our having one hours previous notice of it?—Or is it prudent to attempt a Measure which necessarily would bring on a consumption of all the Ammunition we have, thereby leaving the Army at the Mercy of the Enemy, or to disperse; & the Country to be ravaged, and laid waste at discretion?—To you Sir who is a well wisher to the cause, and can reason upon the effects of such a Conduct, I may open myself with freedom, because no improper discoveries will be made of our Situation: but I cannot expose my weakness to the Enemy (tho’ I believe they are pretty well informed of every thing that passes) by telling this, and that man who are daily pointing out this—that—and t’other place, of all the motives that govern my actions, Notwithstanding, I know what will be the consequence of not doing it—Namely, that I shall be accused of inattention to the publick Service—& perhaps with want of spirit to prosecute it—but this shall have no effect upon my mind, and I will steadily (as far as my judgment will assist me) pursue such measures as I think most conducive to the Interest of the cause, & rest satisfied of any obloquy that shall be thrown conscious of having discharged my duty to the best of my abilities.
I am much obliged to you, however, as I shall be to every Gentleman, for pointing out any measure which is thought conducive to the publick good, and chearfully follow any advice which is not inconsistent with, but corrispondant to, the general Plan in view, & practicable under such particular circumstances as govern in cases of the like kind.
In respect to point Alderton, I was no longer ago than Monday last, talking to Genl. Thomas on this head & proposing to send Colo. Putnam down to take the distances &c, but considered it could answer no end but to alarm, & make the Enemy more vigilant, unless we were in condition to possess the Post to effect, I thought it as well to postpone the matter a while. I am, Sir, &c.1
[1 ]“The word Powder in a letter sets us all a tiptoe. We have been in a terrible situation, occasioned by a mistake in a return; we reckoned upon three hundred quarter casks and had but thirty-two barrels—not above nine cartridges to a man to the whole army, but the late supply from Philadelphia has relieved us. All our heavy artillery was useless, and even now we are compelled to a very severe economy. I suppose the Congress have directed a committee to forward any that may arrive. If they have not, those gentlemen who will do this necessary service will perform the most essential their country requires. It damps our spirits; we are just in the situation of a man with little money in his pocket, he will do twenty mean things to prevent his breaking in upon his little stock. We are obliged to bear with the rascals on Bunker’s Hill when a few shot now and then in return would keep our men attentive to their business, and give the enemy alarms.”—Reed to Bradford, 24 August, 1775.
[1 ]From the collection of Dr. John S. H. Fogg, of Boston, to whom I am indebted for a copy.