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TO RICHARD HENRY LEE. - 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 RICHARD HENRY LEE.
Camp atCambridge, 29 August, 1775.
Your favor of the first Inst. by Mr. Randolph1 came safe to hand—the merits of this young Gentleman added to your recommendation, and my own knowledge of his character induced me to take him into my Family as an aid de camp in the room of Mr. Mifflin, whom I have appointed Quarter Master Genel. from a thorough perswasion of his Integrity—my own experience of his activity—and finally, because he stands unconnected with either of these Governments; or with this that, or t’other man; for between you and I there is more in this than you can easily immagine.
As we have now nearly compleated our Lines of Defence, we have nothing more, in my opinion to fear from the Enemy, provided we can keep our men to their duty and make them watchful and vigilant; but it is among the most difficult tasks I ever undertook in my life to induce these people to believe that there is, or can be, danger till the Bayonet is pushed at their Breasts; not that it proceeds from any uncommon prowess, but rather from an unaccountable kind of stupidity in the lower class of these people which, believe me, prevails but too generally among the officers of the Massachusets part of the Army who are nearly of the same kidney with the Privates, and adds not a little to my difficulties; as there is no such thing as getting of officers of this stamp to exert themselves in carrying orders into execution—to curry favor with the men (by whom they were chosen, & on whose smiles possibly they may think they may again rely) seems to be one of the principal objects of their attention.
I submit it therefore to your consideration whether there is, or is not, a propriety in that Resolution of the Congress, which leaves the ultimate appointment of all officers below the Rank of Generals to the Governments where the Regiments originated, now the Army is become Continental?—To me it appears improper in two points of view; first, it is giving that power and weight to an Individual Colony, which ought, of right, to belong only to the whole, and next it damps the spirit and ardor of volunteers from all but the four New England Governments as none but their people have the least chance of getting into office.—Would it not be better therefore to have the warrants which the Commander-in-Chief is authorized to give Pro-tempore, approved or disapproved, by the Continental Congress, or a Committee of their body, which I should suppose in any long recess must always sit? In this case every Gentleman will stand an equal chance of being promoted according to his merits; in the other all officers will be confined to the Inhabitants of the 4 New England Governments which in my opinion is impolitick to a degree. I have made a pretty good slam among such kind of officers as the Massachusets Government abound in since I came to this Camp having Broke one Colo. and two Captains for cowardly behavior in the action on Bunkers Hill,—two Captains for drawing more provisions and pay than they had men in their Company—and one for being absent from his Post when the Enemy appeared there and burnt a House just by it. Besides these, I have at this time—one Colo., one Major, one Captn., & two subalterns under arrest for tryal—In short I spare none yet fear it will not all do as these People seem to be too inattentive to every thing but their Interest.1
I have not been unmindful of that part of your Letter respecting Point Alderton—before the receipt of it, it had become an object of my particular enquiry, but the Accts. of its situation differ exceedingly in respect to the command it has of the ship channel but my knowledge of this matter would not have been confined to enquiries only if I had ever been in a condition, since my arrival here, to have taken possession of such a Post; but you well know, my good Sir, that it becomes the duty of an Officer to consider some other matters, as well as a situation,—namely, What number of men are necessary to defend a place—how it can be supported—& how furnished with ammunition.—
In respect to the first I conceive our defence of this place (point alderton) must be proportioned to the attack of Genl. Gage’s whole force, leaving him just enough to man his Lines on Boston & Charles-Town Necks—& with regard to the second, and most important, as well as alarming object we have only 184 Barls. of Powder in all (including the late supply from Philadelphia) wch is not sufficient to give 25 muskets cartridges to each man, and scarcely to serve the artillery in any brisk action one single day—Under these circumstances I dare say you will agree with me, that it would not be very eligible to take a post 30 miles distant (by Land) from this place, when we have already a line of circumvallation round Boston of at least 10 miles in extant to defend any part of which may be attacked without our having (if the Enemy will keep their own Council) an hours previous notice of it; and that, it would not be prudent in me, to attempt a measure which would necessarily bring on a consumption of all the ammunition we have, thereby leaving the Army at the mercy of the Enemy, or to disperse; and the Country to be ravaged and laid waste at discretion—to you, Sir, I may Account for my conduct, but I cannot declare the motives of it to every one, notwithstanding I know by not doing it, that I shall stand in a very unfavorable light in the opinion of those who expect much, and will find little done, without understanding or perhaps giving themselves the trouble of enquiring into the cause.—Such however is the fate of all those who are obliged to act the part I do, I must therefore submit to it, under a consciousness of having done my duty to the best of my abilities.
On Saturday night last we took possession of a Hill advanced of our Lines, & within point blank shot of the Enemy on Charles Town neck.—We worked incessantly the whole night with 1200 men, & before morning got an Intrenchment in such forwardness as to bid defiance to their Cannon; about nine o’clock on Sunday they began a heavy cannonade which continued through the day without any injury to our work, and with the loss of four men only two of which were killed through their own folly—The Insult of the cannonade however we were obliged to submit to with impunity, not daring to make use of artillery on acct. of the consumption of powder, except with one nine pounder placed on a point, with which we silenced, & indeed sunk, one of their Floating Batteries—
This move of ours was made to prevent the Enemy from gaining this Hill, and we thought was giving them a fair challenge to dispute it as we had been told by various people who had just left Boston, that they were preparing to come out, but instead of accepting of it, we learn that it has thrown them into great consternation which might be improved if we had the means of doing it—Yesterday afternoon they began a Bombardment without any effect, as yet.—
There has been so many great, and capital errors, & abuses to rectify—so many examples to make—& so little Inclination in the officers of inferior Rank to contribute their aid to accomplish this work, that my life has been nothing else (since I came here) but one continued round of annoyance & fatigue; in short no pecuniary recompense could induce me to undergo what I have especially as I expect, by shewing so little countenance to irregularities & publick abuses to render myself very obnoxious to a greater part of these People.—But as I have already greatly exceeded the bounds of a Letter I will not trouble you with matters relative to my own feelings.1
As I expect this Letter will meet you in Philadelphia I must request the favor of you to present my affecte. & respectful compliments to Doctr. Shippen, his Lady and Family, my Brothers of the Delegation, and any other enquiring friends—& at the same time do me the justice to believe that I am with a sincere regard.
[1 ]Edmund Randolph.
[1 ]That Washington exercised this prerogative freely is shown by the record of the courts martial of the next few days. On September 2d, Captain Edward Crafts was ordered to be reprimanded for “using abusive language to his Major”; on the 5th, Captain Moses Hart was found guilty of “drawing for more provisions than he was entitled to, and for unjustly confining and abusing his men”; Captain Perry, on the 8th, was found guilty of “permitting persons to pass the lines on Boston Neck”; on the 11th, Ensign Brown was convicted of “absenting from his regiment without leave”; on the 13th, thirty-three men were tried for “disobedient and mutinous behavior” and found guilty, while on the 5th, a Col. Mansfield was convicted for “remissness and backwardness in the execution of his duty on the late engagement on Bunkers hill” and a soldier was sentenced to receive thirty lashes for “disobedience of orders and damning his officers.” On the following day Sergeant Finley was found guilty of “expressing himself disrespectfully of the Continental association, and drinking General Gage’s health,” and was to be “deprived of his arms and accoutrements, put in a horse cart, with a rope round his neck, and drummed out of army and rendered forever incapable of serving in the Continental army.”
[1 ]For a perfect copy of this interesting letter I gladly acknowledge my indebtedness to Mr. Joseph Packard, Jr., of Baltimore, who communicated it to me voluntarily, making the favor the more acceptable. A curious use is made of a part by Pollard in his First Year of the War, 1862, 383, 384. R. H. Lee is probably to be held accountable for the mutilated version of the letter that Sparks used, as in his life of Richard Henry Lee he omitted nearly all that Sparks did.