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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - 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.
Camp atCambridge, 11 November, 1775.
I had the honor to address myself to you the 8th inst. by Captain Macpherson, since which I have an account of a schooner laden chiefly with fire wood being brought into Marblehead, by the armed schooner Lee, Captain Manly. She had on board the master, a midshipman, two marines, and four sailors, from the Cerberus, man of war, who had made a prize of this schooner a few days before, and was sending her into Boston.
Enclosed you have a copy of an act passed this session, by the honorable Council and House of Representatives of this province.1 It respects such captures as may be made by vessels fitted out by the province, or by individuals thereof. As the armed vessels, fitted out at the Continental expense, do not come under this law, I would have it submitted to the consideration of Congress, to point out a more summary way of proceeding, to determine the property and mode of condemnation of such prizes, as have been or hereafter may be made, than is specified in this act.
Should not a court be established by authority of Congress, to take cognizance of prizes made by the Continental vessels? Whatever the mode is, which they are pleased to adopt, there is an absolute necessity of its being speedily determined on; for I cannot spare time from military affairs, to give proper attention to these matters.
The inhabitants of Plymouth have taken a sloop, laden with provisions, from Halifax, bound to Boston; and the inhabitants of Beverly have, under cover of one of the armed schooners, taken a vessel from Ireland, laden with beef, pork, butter, &c., for the same place. The latter brings papers and letters of a very interesting nature, which are in the hands of the honorable Council, who informed me they will transmit them to you by this conveyance. To the contents of these papers and letters I must beg leave to refer you and the honorable Congress, who will now see the absolute necessity of exerting all their wisdom, to withstand the mighty efforts of our enemies.
The trouble I have in the arrangement of the army is really inconceivable. Many of the officers sent in their names to serve, in expectation of promotion; others stood aloof to see what advantage they could make for themselves; whilst a number, who had declined, have again sent in their names to serve. So great has the confusion, arising from these and many other perplexing circumstances, been, that I found it absolutely impossible to fix this very interesting business exactly on the plan resolved on in the conference, though I have kept up to the spirit of it, as near as the nature and necessity of the case would admit of. The difficulty with the soldiers is as great, indeed more so, if possible, than with the officers. They will not enlist, until they know their colonel, lieutenant-colonel, major, captain, &c.; so that it was necessary to fix the officers the first thing; which is, at last, in some manner done; and I have given out enlisting orders. You, Sir, can much easier judge, than I can express, the anxiety of mind I must labor under on this occasion, especially at this time, when we may expect the enemy will begin to act on the arrival of their reinforcement, part of which is already come, and the remainder daily dropping in.1 I have other distresses of a very alarming nature. The arms of our soldiery are so exceedingly bad, that I assure you, Sir, I cannot place a proper confidence in them. Our powder is wasting fast, notwithstanding the strictest care, economy, and attention are paid to it. The long series of wet weather, which we have had, renders the greater part of what has been served out to the men of no use. Yesterday I had a proof of it, as a party of the enemy, about four or five hundred, taking the advantage of a high tide, landed at Lechmere’s Point, which at that time was in effect an island; we were alarmed, and of course ordered every man to examine his cartouch-box, when the melancholy truth appeared; and we were obliged to furnish the greater part of them with fresh ammunition.
The damage done at the Point was the taking of a man, who watched a few horses and cows; ten of the latter they carried off. Colonel Thompson marched down with his regiment of riflemen, and was joined by Colonel Woodbridge, with a part of his and a part of Patterson’s regiment, who gallantly waded through the water, and soon obliged the enemy to embark under cover of a man-of-war, a floating battery, and the fire of a battery on Charlestown Neck. We have two of our men dangerously wounded by grape-shot from the man-of-war; and by a flag sent out this day, we are informed the enemy lost two of their men.1 I have the honor to be, &c.2
[1 ]This act is remarkable as having been the first, which was passed by any of the colonies, for fitting out vessels of marque and reprisal, and for establishing a court to try and condemn the captured vessels of the enemy. See the Act, and some interesting remarks on the subject, in Austin’s Life of Gerry, vol. i., pp. 92, 505. See also Acts and Resolves of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, v., 436, 515.
[1 ]“These N. England men are a strange composition. Their commonalty is undoubtedly good, but they are so defective in materials for officers that it must require time to make a real good army out of ’em. Enclosed I send you the address of the generals to the soldiers. You must know that some officers who are discarded from the service are suspected of exerting themselves to dissuade the soldiers from reenlisting. To counteract their machinations was the design of this paper.”—Charles Lee to Robert Morris, 22 November, 1775. “We were some time apprehensive of losing every thing from the backwardness of the men in enlisting. It is supposed that the discarded officers labored to render the soldiers disaffected; but the men really have public spirits and recruiting goes on most swimmingly.”—Same to same, 9 December, 1775. “The zeal and alacrity of the militia who were summon’d on the supposition that our lines would be degarnished, prognosticate well, and do much honor to these Provinces. There is certainly much public spirit in the bulk of the people and I think they merit public eulogium. The N. England delegates I am told have lately received so many rubs that they want a cordial. I beg therefore that you will administer one to those who are of your acquaintance in my name. I never saw a finer body than this militia.”—Charles Lee to Benjamin Rush, 12 December, 1775.
[1 ]In writing to Colonel Reed a few days afterwards, Washington spoke in the following manner of this affair. “The alacrity of the riflemen and officers upon that occasion did them honor, to which Colonel Paterson’s regiment and some others were equally entitled, except in a few instances; but the tide, at that time, was so exceedingly high as to compel a large circuit before our men could get to the causeway, by which means the enemy, except a small covering party, distant from the dry land on this side near four hundred yards, had retreated or were about to embark. All the shot, therefore, that passed were at a great distance; however, the men went to and over the causeway spiritedly enough. This little manœuvre of the enemy is nothing more than a prelude. We have certain advice of a scoundrel from Marblehead, a man of property, having carried to General Howe a true state of the temper and disposition of the troops towards the new enlistment, and given him the strongest assurances of the practicability of making himself master of these lines in a very short time, from the disaffection of the soldiers to the service. I am endeavoring to counteract him; how effectually, time alone can show. I began our bomb battery at Lechmere’s Point last night; the working party came off in the morning without having met with any interruption. The weather favored our operations, the earth being clear of frost. There is not an officer in the army, who does not look for an attack. This has no effect upon the Connecticut regiments; they are resolved to go off.”
[2 ]Received by Congress, November 19th, and read the next day.