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1776. - 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.
Cambridge, 4 January, 1776.
Since my last of the 31st ultimo, I have been honored with your favor of the 22d, enclosing sundry resolves, which shall, in matters they respect, be made the rule of my conduct. The resolution relative to the troops in Boston, I beg the favor of you, Sir, to assure Congress, shall be attempted to be put in execution the first moment I see a probability of success, and in such a way as a council of officers shall think most likely to produce it; but if this should not happen as soon as you may expect, or my wishes prompt to, I request that Congress will be pleased to advert to my situation, and do me the justice to believe, that circumstances, and no want of inclination, are the cause of delay.
It is not in the pages of history, perhaps, to furnish a case like ours. To maintain a post within musket-shot of the enemy, for six months together, without1NA, and at the same time to disband one army, and recruit another, within that distance of twenty-odd British regiments, is more, probably, than ever was attempted. But if we succeed as well in the last, as we have heretofore in the first, I shall think it the most fortunate event of my whole life.
By a very intelligent gentleman, a Mr. Hutchinson from Boston, I learn, that it was Admiral Shuldham that came into the harbor on Saturday last; that two of the five regiments from Cork are arrived at Halifax; two others have sailed for Quebec (but what was become of them could not be told); and the other, the fifty-fifth, has just got into Boston. Certain it is, also, that the greater part of the seventeen regiments is arrived there. Whether we are to conclude from hence, that more than five regiments have been sent out, or that the companies of the seventeen, arrived at Boston, are part of the regiments destined for Halifax and Quebec, I know not. We also learn from this gentleman and others, that the troops, embarked for Halifax, as mentioned in my letter of the 16th, were really designed for that place, but recalled from Nantasket Road, upon advice being received of the above regiments there. I am also informed of a fleet now getting ready, under the convoy of the Scarborough and Fowey men-of-war, consisting of five transports and two bomb-vessels, with about three hundred marines, and several flat-bottomed boats. It is whispered, that they are designed for Newport, but generally thought in Boston that they are meant for Long Island; and it is probable they will be followed by more troops, as the other transports are taking in water, to lie, as others say, in Nantasket Road, to be out of the ice. A large quantity of biscuit is also baking.
As the real design cannot with certainty be known, I submit it with all due deference to the superior judgment of Congress, whether it would not be consistent with prudence to have some of the Jersey troops thrown into New York, to prevent an evil, which would be almost irremediable, should it happen, I mean the landing of troops at that place, or upon Long Island near it.1 As it is possible you may not yet have received his Majesty’s “most gracious” speech, I do myself the honor to enclose one of many, which were sent out of Boston yesterday. It is full of rancor and resentment against us, and explicitly holds forth his royal will to be, that vigorous measures must be pursued, to deprive us of our constitutional rights and liberties. These measures, whatever they be, I hope will be opposed by more vigorous ones, and rendered unavailing and fruitless, though sanctioned and authorized by the name of majesty, a name which ought to promote the happiness of his people, and not their oppression.1 I am, Sir, &c.
TO JOSEPH REED.
Cambridge, 4 January, 1776.
Since my last I have received your obliging favours of the 19th and 23d ulto., and thank you for the articles of intelligence therein contained, as I also do for the buttons which accompanied the last letter, although I had got a set better, I think, made at Concord. I am exceeding glad to find that things wear a better face in Virginia than they did some time ago; but I do not think that any thing less than the life or liberty will free the colony from the effects of Lord Dunmore’s resentments and villainies.
We are at length favored with a sight of his Majesty’s most gracious speech, breathing sentiments of tenderness and compassion for his deluded American subjects; the echo is not yet come to hand; but we know what it must be, and as Lord North said, and we ought to have believed (and acted accordingly,) we now know the ultimatum of British justice. The speech I send you. A volume of them was sent out by the Boston gentry, and, farcical enough, we gave great joy to them, (the red coats I mean,) without knowing or intending it; for on that day, the day which gave being to the new army, (but before the proclamation came to hand,) we had hoisted the union flag in compliment to the United Colonies.1 But, behold, it was received in Boston as a token of the deep impression the speech had made upon us, and as a signal of submission. So we learn by a person out of Boston last night. By this time I presume they begin to think it strange, that we have not made a formal surrender of our lines. Admiral Shuldham is arrived at Boston. The 55th and the greatest part, if not all, of the 17th regiment, are also got in there. The rest of the 5 regiments from Ireland were intended for Halifax and Quebec; those for the first, have arrived there, the others we know not where they are got to.
It is easier to conceive than to describe the situation of my mind for some time past, and my feelings under our present circumstances. Search the vast volumes of history through, and I much question whether a case similar to ours is to be found; to wit, to maintain a post against the flower of the British troops for six months together, without —, and at the end of them to have one army disbanded and another to raise within the same distance of a reinforced enemy. It is too much to attempt. What may be the final issue of the last manœuvre, time only can tell. I wish this month was well over our heads. The same desire of retiring into a chimney-corner seized the troops of New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, (so soon as their time expired,) as had worked upon those of Connecticut, notwithstanding many of them made a tender of their services to continue, till the lines could be sufficiently strengthened. We are now left with a good deal less than half raised regiments, and about five thousand militia, who only stand ingaged to the middle of this month; when, according to custom, they will depart, let the necessity of their stay be never so urgent. Thus it is, that for more than two months past, I have scarcely immerged from one difficulty before I have [been] plunged into another. How it will end, God in his great goodness will direct. I am thankful for his protection to this time. We are told that we shall soon get the army completed, but I have been told so many things which have never come to pass, that I distrust every thing.
I fear your fleet has been so long in fitting, and the destination of it so well known, that the end will be defeated, if the vessels escape.1 How is the arrival of French troops in the West Indies, and the hostile appearance there, to be reconciled with that part of the King’s speech, wherein he assures Parliament, “that as well from the assurances I have received, as from the general appearance of affairs in Europe, I see no probability that the measures, which you may adopt, will be interrupted by disputes with any foreign power”? I hope the Congress will not think of adjourning at so important and critical a juncture as this. I wish they would keep a watchful eye to New York. From Captain Sears’ account, (now here,) much is to be apprehended from that quarter.
A fleet is now fitting out at Boston, consisting of five transports and two bomb-vessels, under convoy of the Scarborough and Fowey men-of-war. Three hundred, some say, others more, troops are on board, with flat-bottomed boats. It is whispered, as if designedly, that they are intended for Newport; but it is generally believed that they are bound either to Long Island or Virginia; the other transports are taking in water and a good deal of bisquet is baking, some say for the shipping to lay in Nantasket Road, to be out of the way of ice, whilst others think a more important move is in agitation. All, however, is conjecture. I heartily wish you, Mrs Reed and family, the compliments of the season, in which the ladies here and family join.1
TO GOVERNOR COOKE.
Cambridge, 6 January, 1776,
I received your favor of the 1st instant, and return you my thanks for the blankets and your promise of having more procured, as they are much wanted. I did not see Mr. Hale, who brought them, nor the account, or the money should have been transmitted to you by his return. You will be pleased to draw on the quartermaster-general, and it shall be immediately paid. I have seen General Lee since his expedition, and hope Rhode Island will derive some advantage from it.
I am told that Captain Wallace’s ships have been supplied for some time by the town of Newport, on certain conditions stipulated between him and the committee. When this truce first obtained, perhaps it was right; then there might have been hopes of an accommodation taking place; but now, when every prospect of it seems to be cut off by his Majesty’s late speech; when the throne, from which we had supplicated redress, breathes forth vengeance and indignation, and a firm determination to remain unalterable in its purposes, and to prosecute the system and plan of ruin formed by the ministry against us, should not an end be put to it, and every possible method be fallen upon to prevent their getting necessaries of any kind? We need not expect to conquer our enemies by good offices; and I know not what pernicious consequences may result from a precedent of this sort. Other places, circumstanced as Newport is, may follow the example, and by that means their whole fleet and army will be furnished with what it highly concerns us to keep from them.1
I received a letter from Governor Trumbull of the 1st instant, by which I am informed, that the Connecticut Assembly are very unanimous in the common cause; and, among others have passed an act for raising and equipping a fourth of their militia, to be immediately selected by voluntary enlistments; with such other able, effective men, as are not included in their militia rolls, who incline to enlist, to act as minute-men for their own or the defence of any of the United Colonies, and this under proper encouragements;—another act for restraining and punishing persons inimical to us, and directing proceedings therein;—no person to supply the ministerial army or navy, to give them intelligence, to enlist, or procure others to enlist, in their service, to pilot their vessels, or in any way assist them, under pain of forfeiting his estate, and an imprisonment not exceeding three years;—none to write, speak, or act against the proceedings of Congress, or their acts of Assembly, under penalty of being disarmed, and disqualified from holding any office, and be further punished by imprisonment, &c.;—for seizing and confiscating, for the use of the colony, the estates of those putting or continuing to shelter themselves under the protection of the ministerial fleet or army, or assist in carrying on their measures against us;—a resolve to provide two armed vessels, of sixteen and fourteen guns, with a spy-schooner of four, and four row-galleys;—an act exempting the polls of soldiers from taxes, for the last and ensuing campaigns;—another for encouraging the making of saltpetre and gunpowder, a considerable quantity of both Mr. Trumbull hopes to make early in the spring. He says the furnace at Middletown is smelting lead, and likely to turn out twenty or thirty tons, and that ore is plenty. They have also passed an act empowering the Commander-in-chief of the Continental army, or officers commanding a detachment, or outposts, to administer an oath and swear any person or persons to the truth of matters relative to the public service. The situation of our affairs seems to call for regulations like these, and I should think the other colonies ought to adopt similar ones, or such of them as they have not already made. Vigorous measures, and such as at another time would appear extraordinary, are now become absolutely necessary, for preserving our country against the strides of tyranny making against it.
Governor Trumbull, in his list, has not mentioned an act for impressing carriages, &c., agreeable to the recommendation of Congress. This, I hope, they have not forgotten. It is highly necessary, that such an authority should be given, under proper restrictions, or we shall be greatly embarrassed, whenever the army, or any detachment from it, may find it necessary to march from hence. I am, &c.
TO GOVERNOR TRUMBULL.
Cambridge, 7 January, 1776.
Your favor of the 1 inst. I received and heartily thank you for your kind salutations — I was happy to hear of the great unanimity in your Assembly, & of the general salutary laws they passed; which shew them to be well attached to the common cause & to have taken proper measures for supporting it.
Inclosed you have the amount of lead from Crown Point, agreeable to your request. The account of the smelting furnace and your expectations to make a considerable amount of saltpetre and powder, please me much. I wish your most sanguine endeavors may be more than answered.
As to gun locks it is not in my power to furnish any. The information you had was groundless, for there were no spare ones in the Ordnance Stores, which fell into our hands, none were ever found that I have heard of, nor is there mention of them in the Invoice.
Having undoubted intelligence of the fitting out a fleet at Boston—and of the embarkation of troops from thence, which from the season of the year and other circumstances, must be destined for some expedition South of this; and having such information as I can depend upon, that the Inhabitants of Long Island, in the Colony of New York, or a great part of them are inimical to the rights and liberties of America, and from their conduct and professions have discovered an apparent inclination to assist in subjugating their fellow citizens to ministerial tyranny; there is the greatest reason to believe that this armament if not immediately designed against the City of New York, is nevertheless intended for Long island; and as it is of the utmost importance to prevent the Enemy from possessing themselves of the City of New York and the North River, which would give them the command of the country and the communication with Canada, I shall dispatch Major General Lee with orders to repair thither, with such Volunteers as are willing to join and can be expeditiously raised (having no troops to spare from hence) to put the City and fortifications on the North River in the best posture of defense the season and circumstances will admit of; and for disarming all such persons upon Long Island, and elsewhere whose conduct and declarations have rendered them justly suspected of designs unfriendly to the views of Congress.1 I have directed him to call upon the commanding officer of the Jersey troops for such assistance as he can afford, and being Informed by Captain Sears, and Mr. Woodward, who will deliver you this, and whom Genl Lee will follow in a day or two, that he apprehends 1000 or 1100 Volunteers may be readily raised in your government in the town through which Mr. Lee will pass, I beg the favor of you to interpose your good offices and interest in the matter, to encourage men to go on this important service and as expeditiously as possible for counteracting any designs our Enemies may have against us in that Quarter.—Every necessary expence attending their march and stay will be borne by the public.2 I have just receivd. advice from Chelsea, about 9 or 10 miles from this, that several ships have sailed from Nantasket road that were lying there. I shall write to the Honorable the Convention of New York by General Lee and direct his instructions to be laid before them, praying their assistance to facilitate the purposes of his going; I am, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL CHARLES LEE.1
Having undoubted intelligence of the fitting out of a fleet at Boston, and of the embarkation of troops from thence, which, from the season of the year and other circumstances, must be destined for a southern expedition; and having such information as I can rely on, that the inhabitants, or a great part of them, on Long Island in the colony of New York, are not only inimical to the rights and liberties of America, but, by their conduct and public profession, have discovered a disposition to aid and assist in the reduction of that colony to ministerial tyranny; and as it is a matter of the utmost importance to prevent the enemy from taking possession of the city of New York, as they will thereby command the country, and the communication with Canada; it is of too much consequence to hazard such a post at so alarming a crisis, since we find by his Majesty’s speech to Parliament, that, disregarding the petition of the united voice of America, nothing less than the total subversion of her rights will satisfy him.
You will, therefore, with such volunteers as are willing to join you, and can be expeditiously raised, repair to the city of New York; and calling upon the commanding officer of the forces of New Jersey for such assistance as he can afford, and you shall require, you are to put that city into the best posture of defence, which the season and circumstances will admit, disarming all such persons upon Long Island and elsewhere, (and if necessary otherwise securing them,) whose conduct and declarations have rendered them justly suspected of designs unfriendly to the views of Congress.1
You are, also, to inquire into the state and condition of the fortifications up the North River, and as far as shall be consistent with the orders of Congress, or not repugnant to them, to have the works guarded against surprises from a body of men, which might be transported by water near the place, and then marched in upon the back of them.
You will also endeavor to have the medicines, shirts, and blankets, now at New York, belonging to the ministerial troops, secured, and forwarded to this army. Captain Sears can give you particular information concerning them.2
In all other matters relative to the execution of the general plan you are going upon, your own judgment (as it is impossible with propriety to give particular directions), and the advice of those whom you have reason to believe are hearty in the cause, must direct you; keeping always in view the declared intentions of Congress.
I am persuaded I need not recommend despatch in the prosecution of this business. The importance of it alone is a sufficient incitement. I would advise a dismission of the volunteers, whose necessary expenses will be borne, so soon as the service will admit of it; and that you endeavor as much as possible at all times to be in readiness to join the army, if the exigency of our affairs here should call for it. Given under my hand, at Head-Quarters, Cambridge, this 8th day of January, 1776.1
TO THE COUNCIL OF MASSACHUSETTS BAY.
Cambridge, 10 January, 1776.
In the confused and disordered state of this army, occasioned by such capital changes as have taken place of late, I have found it almost impossible to come at exact returns of the strength of our lines. Not till last night was I able to get in the whole, since the dissolution of the old army. By these I find myself weaker than I had any idea of, and under the necessity of requesting an exertion of your influence and interest to prevail upon the militia of this government, now in the pay of the Continent, to continue till the last of the month and longer, if requisite. I am assured that those of New Hampshire will not stay any longer than they engaged for, notwithstanding our weak state and the slow progress we make in recruiting, which by the last week’s report, amounts to but little more than half of our usual complement, owing it is said to the number of men going or expecting to go into the provincial service at or near their own homes.
I am more and more convinced that we shall never raise the army to the new establishment by voluntary enlistments. It is, therefore, necessary that the neighboring governments should consider in time and adopt some other expedient for effecting it.
The hurry I was in the other day, when your committee did me the honor to present a petition from a person, (whose name I have forgot,) wanting to be employed in the Continental army, prevented me from being so full on the subject as I wished.
I shall beg leave, therefore, at this time to add, that I hope your honorable Board will do me the justice to believe, that it will give me pleasure at all times to pay a proper respect to any recommendation coming from them, and that the reason why I do not now encourage such kind of applications, as was then made, is, that the new army was arranged, as near the plan and agreeable to the orders of Congress, (although some unavoidable departures and changes have taken place,) as it was in my power to comply with; and the officers thus constituted ordered to recruit. Every attempt, therefore, of others not of this appointment must counteract, and has been of infinite prejudice to the service. They infuse ideas into the minds of men they have any influence over, that, by engaging with them, or, which is tantamount, not engaging with others, they shall be able to force themselves into the service. Of this we have numberless instances. I am, therefore, anxious to discourage every attempt of the kind, by convincing such persons, that their engaging a company will not bring them in. If such persons could once be convinced of this, the business of this army would go on more smoothly, and with much more regularity and order. In short, gentlemen, it is scarce possible for me to convey to you a perfect idea of the trouble and vexation I have met with, in getting this matter fixed upon some settled footing. One day an officer would serve; another, he would not, and so on, till I have hardly known what steps to pursue for preserving of consistency, and advancing the good of the service, which are the only objects I have in view. I have no friend whom I want to bring in, nor any person with whom I am in the least connected, that I wish to promote. I am, gentlemen, with much esteem, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Cambridge, 11 January, 1776.
Every account I have out of Boston confirms the embarkation of troops mentioned in my last, which, from the season of the year and other circumstances, must be destined for some expedition to the southward of this. I have therefore thought it prudent to send Major-General Lee to New York. I have given him letters recommendatory to Governor Trumbull, and to the Committee of Safety at New York. I have good hopes that in Connecticut he will get many volunteers, who, I have some reason to think, will accompany him on this expedition, without more expense to the continent than their maintenance. But should it be otherwise, and should they expect pay, I think it is a trifling consideration, when put in competition with the importance of the object, which is to put the city of New York, with such parts of the North River and Long Island, as to him shall seem proper, in that state of defence, which the season of the year and circumstances will admit of, so as, if possible, to prevent the enemy from forming a lodgment in that government, which, I am afraid, contains too many persons disaffected to the cause of liberty and America. I have also written to Lord Stirling to give him all the assistance that he can, with the troops under his command in the Continental service, provided it does not interfere with any orders he may receive from Congress relative to them.1
I hope the Congress will approve of my conduct in sending General Lee upon this expedition. I am sure I meant it well, as experience teaches us, that it is much easier to prevent an enemy from posting themselves, than it is to dislodge them after they have got possession. The evening of the 8th. instant a party of our men under the command of Major Knowlton were ordered to go and burn some houses which lay at the foot of Bunker’s Hill, and at the head of Charlestown; they were also ordered to bring off the guard which we expected consisted of an officer and 30 men. They crossed the milldam about half after eight o’clock and gallantly executed their business, having burnt eight houses, and brought with them a sergeant and four privates of the 10th Regiment. There was but one man more there, who making some resistance they were obliged to despatch. The gun that killed him was the only one that was discharged by our men, tho’ several hundreds were fired by the enemy from within their works, but in so confused a manner, that not one of our people was hurt. Our inlistments go on very heavily.1
TO COLONEL BENEDICT ARNOLD.
Cambridge, 12 January, 1776.
Your favor of the 5th ultimo from before Quebec, enclosing the returns of your detachment, is come to hand. From the account you give of the garrison, and the state of the walls, I expect soon to hear from you within them, which will give me vast pleasure.
I am informed that there are large quantities of arms, blankets, clothing, and other military stores in that city. These are articles, which we are in great want of here; I have, therefore, written to General Montgomery, or whoever is commanding officer in that quarter, to send me as many as can be spared from thence. If you can assist in expediting them, you will much oblige me.
I understand that the Congress have it under their consideration to raise an army for the defence of Canada, on a new establishment. When I received this information, I applied to Congress to know whether it was their intention, that you and the officers in your detachment were to be appointed there, or remain as you were appointed in this army as newly arranged; to which I have not yet received their answer.
The want of so many good officers is felt here, especially in the recruiting service, which does not go on so briskly as I could wish. I think it will be best for you to settle for the arrearages, due to your men since October last, with the paymaster of the army at your place. I do not know any better way for you or them to receive it. I am, Sir, yours, &c.1
TO JAMES WARREN, SPEAKER ETC.
Cambridge, 13 January, 1776.
It is exceedingly painfull to me to give you so much trouble as I have, and am like to do, in the support of our lines and the arrangement of the new Army; but my difficulties must in their consequences devolve trouble on you.
To my very great surprize I find, that the whole number of arms, which have been stopped from the discharged soldiers amount to no more than 1620 and of that number no more than 120 are in store, the rest being redelivered to the recruits which have come in. I also find from the report of the recruiting officers, that few men are to be inlisted, who have arms in their hands, and that they are reduced to the alternative of either getting no men or men without arms. Unhappy situation! What is to be done, unless these governments will exert themselves in providing arms from the several Towns, or in such other manner as to them, shall seem speedy and effectual.
To account for this great deficiency would be tedious and not much to the purpose. Suffice it generally to say, that it has arisen from two causes: the badness of the arms of the Old Army, which the Inspectors and valuers of, did not think fit to detain: And to the disobedient Regiments, which in spite of every order I could issue to the contrary (even to a solemn threat of stopping the pay for the months of November and December of all those, who should carry away their arms) have, in a manner by stealth borne them away.
I am glad to hear by a Gentleman of your Honorable body, who does me the honor to be the bearer of this letter, that you have for some time past been collecting arms at Watertown, whilst a good deal of dispatch has been used in making them elsewhere. I beg to know how many I can rely upon; as the recruits now coming in from the country will be useless without.
It is to no purpose I find, to depend upon imported arms—What you can furnish I must take in behalf of the Continent; and will upon notice, send some gentleman to receive them. Will it be prudent to apply to such of the Militia as are going away, for their arms? leaving it optional in them cannot be amiss, but will the necessity of the case justify the policy of detaining them? I ask for Information—being with great truth and esteem &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Cambridge, 14 January, 1776.
I am exceedingly sorry, that I am under the necessity of applying to you, and calling the attention of Congress to the State of our Arms, which is truly alarming. Upon the dissolution of the old Army, I was apprehensive that the new, would be deficient in this instance, and that the want might be as inconsiderable as possible, I gave it in orders that the arms of such men as did not reinlist, should be (or such of them as were good) retained at the prices which should be affixed by persons appointed to Inspect and value them: and that we might be sure of them, I added, that there would be a Stoppage of pay of the months of Nov. and Decr. from those, that should carry their Firelocks away, without their being first examined.—By these precautions I hoped to have procured a considerable number; But, Sir, I find with much concern, that from the badness of the arms, and the disobedience of too many in bearing them off without a previous inspection, that very few were collected.—Neither are we to expect that many will be brought in by the new recruits—the officers who are out inlisting having reported that few men who have Arms will engage in the Service, and that they are under the disagreeable alternative of taking men without arms, or of getting none.—Unhappy situation indeed and much to be deplored! Especially when we know that we have to contend with a formidable Army, well provided of every necessary, and that there will be a most vigorous exertion of Ministerial vengence against us, as soon as they think themselves in condition for it. I hope it is in the power of Congress to afford us relief; If it is not, what must, what can be done?
Our Treasury is almost exhausted and the demands against it, very considerable; a constant supply of money to answer every claim and exigency, would much promote the good of the Service; In the common affairs of life, it is useful; in War, it is absolutely necessary and essential.—I would beg leave too, to remind you of Tents, and of their importance; hoping if an opportunity has offered, you have procured them.
I fear that our Army will not be raised to the new establishment in any reasonable time, if ever; the Inlistments go on so very slow, that they seem almost at an end.
In my letter of the 4 Inst., I wrote you, that I had received certain Intelligence from a Mr. Hutchinson and others, that 2 of the 5 Regimts from Cork, now arrived at Hallifax 1 at Boston, and the other 2 had sailed for Quebec, and had not been heard of.—I am now assured as a matter to be relyed on by four Captains of Ships who left England about the 2d of Novr, and who appear to be men of veracity, that the whole of these Regiments (except the three Companies, which arrived at Boston some time ago) when they sailed, were at Milford Haven, where they had been obliged to put in by a violent storm the 19th of October,—that they would not be able to leave it for a considerable time, being under the necessity of repairing their Vessels and taking some new ones up.—Such is the Incertainty and contradiction in what I now hear that it is not possible to know, what to believe or disbelieve.
I wrote to the General Court yesterday and to the Convention at New Hampshire immediately on being acquainted with the great deficiency in our Arms, praying that they would Interest themselves in the matter and furnish me with all in their power. Whether I shall get any or what quantity, I cannot determine having not received their answers. the same application will be made to the Governments of Connecticut and Rhode Island.
I do myself the honor to send you Sundry Newspapers I received from the above mentioned Captains, as they may be later than any you have seen, and contain some Interesting Intelligence.1
TO JOSEPH REED.
Cambridge, 14 January, 1776.
The bearer presents an opportunity to me of acknowledging the receipt of your favor of the 30th ultimo, (which never came to my hands till last night,) and, if I have not done it before, of your other of the 23d preceding.
The hints you have communicated from time to time not only deserve, but do most sincerely and cordially meet with my thanks. You cannot render a more acceptable service, nor in my estimation give a more convincing proof of your friendship, than by a free, open, and undisguised account of every matter relative to myself or conduct. I can bear to hear of imputed or real errors. The man, who wishes to stand well in the opinion of others, must do this; because he is thereby enabled to correct his faults, or remove prejudices which are imbibed against him. For this reason, I shall thank you for giving me the opinions of the world, upon such points as you know me to be interested in; for, as I have but one capital object in view, I could wish to make my conduct coincide with the wishes of mankind, as far as I can consistently; I mean, without departing from that great line of duty, which, though hid under a cloud for some time, from a peculiarity of circumstances, may nevertheless bear a scrutiny. My constant attention to the great and perplexing objects, which continually rise to my view, absorbs all lesser considerations, and indeed scarcely allows me time to reflect, that there is such a body in existence as the General Court of this colony, but when I am reminded of it by a committee; nor can I, upon recollection, discover in what instances (I wish they would be more explicit) I have been inattentive to, or slighted them. They could not, surely, conceive that there was a propriety in unbosoming the secrets of an army to them; that it was necessary to ask their opinion of throwing up an intrenchment, forming a battalion, &c., &c. It must, therefore, be what I before hinted to you; and how to remedy it I hardly know, as I am acquainted with few of the members, never go out of my own lines, or see any of them in them.
I am exceeding sorry to hear, that your little fleet has been shut in by the frost. I hope it has sailed ere this, and given you some proof of the utility of it, and enabled the Congress to bestow a little more attention to the affairs of this army, which suffers exceedingly by their overmuch business, or too little attention to it. We are now without any money in our treasury, powder in our magazines, arms in our stores. We are without a brigadier (the want of which has been twenty times urged), engineers, expresses (though a committee has been appointed these two months to establish them), and by and by, when we shall be called upon to take the field, shall not have a tent to lie in. Apropos, what is doing with mine?
These are evils, but small in comparison of those, which disturb my present repose. Our enlistments are at a stand; the fears I ever entertained are realized; that is, the discontented officers (for I do not know how else to account for it) have thrown such difficulties or stumbling-blocks in the way of recruiting, that I no longer entertain a hope of completing the army by voluntary enlistments, and I see no move or likelihood of one, to do it by other means. In the last two weeks we have enlisted but about a thousand men; whereas I was confidently bid to believe, by all the officers I conversed with, that we should by this time have had the regiments nearly completed. Our total number upon paper amounts to about ten thousand five hundred; but as a large portion of these are returned not joined, I never expect to receive them, as an ineffectual order has once issued to call them in. Another is now gone forth, peremptorily requiring all officers under pain of being cashiered, and recruits as being treated as deserters, to join their respective regiments by the 1st day of next month, that I may know my real strength; but if my fears are not imaginary, I shall have a dreadful account of the advanced month’s pay. In consequence of the assurances given, and my expectation of having at least men enough enlisted to defend our lines, to which may be added my unwillingness of burthening the cause with unnecessary expense, no relief of militia has been ordered in, to supply the places of those, who are released from their engagements to-morrow, and on whom, though many have promised to continue out the month, there is no security for their stay.
Thus am I situated with respect to men. With regard to arms I am yet worse off. Before the dissolution of the old army, I issued an order directing three judicious men of each brigade to attend, review, and appraise the good arms of every regiment; and finding a very great unwillingness in the men to part with their arms, at the same time not having it in my power to pay them for the months of November and December, I threatened severely, that every soldier, who carried away his firelock without leave, should never receive pay for those months; yet so many have been carried off, partly by stealth, but chiefly as condemned, that we have not at this time one hundred guns in the stores, of all that have been taken in the prize-ship and from the soldiery, notwithstanding our regiments are not half complete. At the same time I am told, and believe it, that to restrain the enlistment to men with arms, you will get but few of the former, and still fewer of the latter, which would be good for any thing.
How to get furnished I know not. I have applied to this and the neighboring colonies, but with what success time only can tell. The reflection on my situation, and that of this army, produces many an uneasy hour when all around me are wrapped in sleep. Few people know the predicament we are in, on a thousand accounts; fewer still will believe, if any disaster happens to these lines, from what causes it flows. I have often thought how much happier I should have been, if, instead of accepting of a command under such circumstances, I had taken my musket on my shoulder and entered the ranks, or, if I could have justified the measure to posterity and my own conscience, had retired to the back country, and lived in a wigwam. If I shall be able to rise superior to these and many other difficulties, which might be enumerated, I shall most religiously believe, that the finger of Providence is in it, to blind the eyes of our enemies; for surely if we get well through this month, it must be for want of their knowing the disadvantages we labor under.
Could I have foreseen the difficulties, which have come upon us; could I have known, that such a backwardness would have been discovered in the old soldiers to the service, all the generals upon earth should not have convinced me of the propriety of delaying an attack upon Boston till this time. When it can now be attempted, I will not undertake to say; but thus much I will answer for, that no opportunity can present itself earlier than my wishes. But as this letter discloses some interesting truths, I shall be somewhat uneasy until I hear it gets to your hands, although the conveyance is thought safe.
We made a successful attempt a few nights ago upon the houses near Bunker’s Hill. A party under Major Knowlton crossed upon the mill-dam, the night being dark, and set fire to and burnt down eight out of fourteen which were standing, and which we found they were daily pulling down for fuel. Five soldiers, and the wife of one of them, inhabiting one of the houses, were brought off prisoners; another soldier was killed; none of ours hurt.1
Having undoubted information of the embarkation of troops, somewhere from three to five hundred, at Boston, and being convinced they are designed either for New York government (from whence we have some very disagreeable accounts of the conduct of the Tories) or Virginia, I despatched General Lee a few days ago, in order to secure the city of New York from falling into their hands, as the consequences of such a blow might prove fatal to our interests. He is also to inquire a little into the conduct of the Long-Islanders, and such others as have, by their conduct and declarations, proved themselves inimical to the common cause.
To effect these purposes, he is to raise volunteers in Connecticut, and call upon the troops of New Jersey, if not contrary to any order of Congress.
By a ship just arrived at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, we have London prints to the 2d of November, containing the addresses of Parliament, which contain little more than a repetition of the speech, with assurances of standing by his Majesty with lives and fortunes. The captains (for there were three or four of them passengers) say, that we have nothing to expect but the most vigorous exertions of administration, who have a dead majority upon all questions, although the Duke of Grafton and General Conway have joined the minority, as also the Bishop of Peterborough. These captains affirm confidently, that the five regiments from Ireland cannot any of them have arrived at Halifax, inasmuch as that by a violent storm on the 19th of October, the transports were forced, in a very distressful condition, into Milford Haven (Wales) and were not in a condition to put to sea when they left London, and the weather has been such since, as to prevent heavy loaded ships from making a passage by this time. One or two transports, they add, were thought to be lost; but these arrived some considerable time ago at Boston, with three companies of the 17th regiment.
Mr. Sayre has been committed to the Tower, upon the information of a certain Lieutenant or Adjutant Richardson (formerly of your city) for treasonable practices; an intention of seizing his Majesty, and possessing himself of the Tower, it is said in “The Crisis.”1 But he is admitted to bail himself in five hundred pounds, and two sureties in two hundred and fifty pounds each.
What are the conjectures of the wise ones with you, of the French armament in the West Indies? But previous to this, is there any certainty of such an armament? The captains, who are sensible men, heard nothing of this when they left England; nor does there appear any apprehensions on this score in any of the measures or speeches of administration. I should think the Congress will not, ought not, to adjourn at this important crisis. But it is highly necessary, when I am at the end of a second sheet of paper, that I should adjourn my account of matters to another letter. I shall, therefore, in Mrs. Washington’s name, thank you for your good wishes towards her, and with her compliments, added to mine, to Mrs. Reed, conclude, dear Sir, your sincere and affectionate servant.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL SCHUYLER.
Cambridge, 16 January, 1776.
Your favor of the 5th instant, enclosing copies of General Montgomery’s and General Wooster’s letters, I received; for which I return you my thanks.1
It was from a full conviction of your zealous attachment to the cause of our country, and abilities to serve it, that I repeatedly pressed your continuance in command; and it is with much concern, Sir, that I find you have reason to think your holding the place you do, will be of prejudice and incompatible with its interest. As you are of this opinion, the part you are inclined to take is certainly generous and noble. But will the good consequences you intend be derived from it? I greatly fear they will not. I shall leave the matter to yourself, in full confidence, that in whatever sphere you move, your exertions for your country’s weal will not be wanting.
Whatever proof you may obtain, fixing or tending to support the charge against Mr. Prescott, you will please to transmit to me by the first opportunity.1 I am apt to believe the intelligence given to Dr. Wheelock, respecting Major Rogers, was not true2 ; but being much suspected of unfriendly views to this country, his conduct should be attended to with some degree of vigilance and circumspection.
I confess I am much concerned for General Montgomery and Colonel Arnold; and the consequences which will result from their miscarriage, should it happen, will be very alarming; I fear, not less fatal than you mention. However, I trust that their distinguished conduct, bravery, and perseverance will meet with the smiles of fortune, and put them in possession of this important fortress. I wish their force was greater; the reduction would then be certain.
I am sorry that Ticonderoga and Fort George should be left by the garrisons, and that your recruiting officers meet such ill success. It is too much the case in this quarter, and from the slow progress made in enlisting, I despair of raising an army to the new establishment. Should it be effected, it will be a long time first.
Our Caghnawaga friends are not arrived yet. I will try to make suitable provision for them during their stay, and use every means in my power to confirm their favorable disposition towards us. They will not, I am fearful, have such ideas of our strength, as I could wish. This, however, shall be strongly inculcated.1
If Quebec is in our possession, I do not see that any inconvenience will result from Mr. Gamble’s going there upon his parole2 ; but if it is not, however hurtful it may be to him, however disagreeable to me, to prejudice the interest of an individual, I cannot consent to his return. I am much distressed by applications of a like nature. If Mr. Gamble’s request is granted, others in the same situation will claim the same indulgence. Further, I think a partial exchange should not be made, and my proposition for a general one was rejected by Mr. Howe, or, what is the same, it was unnoticed. I could wish that his application had been to Congress. They might have complied with it, had they thought it reasonable. * * *
I am much pleased that the artillery was like to be got over the river, and am in hopes that Colonel Knox will arrive with it in a few days. It is much wanted. On reading the copy of General Wooster’s letter, I was much surprised to find, that he had granted furloughs to the Connecticut troops under his command, in preference of discharges. What advantage could he imagine they would be of to the continent, when they were at their own homes? If he could not continue them in the service they were upon, their discharges would certainly have eased the country of a considerable expense. Giving you in return, the compliments of the season, and wishing you every happiness.
I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO THE GENERAL COURT OF MASSACHUSETTS BAY.
Cambridge, 16 January, 1776.
Your several resolves, in consequence of my letters of the 10 and 15 instant have been presented to me by a committee of your honorable body. I thank you for the assurances of being zealously disposed to do every thing in your power to facilitate the recruiting of the American army; and, at the same time I assure you I do not entertain a doubt of the truth of it, I must beg leave to add, that I conceive you have mistaken the meaning of my letter of the 10th, if you suppose it ever was in my idea, that you should offer a bounty at the separate expense of this colony.
It was not clear to me, but that some coercive measures might be used on this as on former occasions, to draft men to complete the regiments upon the Continental establishment. But as this is thought unadvisable, I shall rely on your recommending to the selectmen and committees of correspondence, &c. to exert themselves in their several towns, to promote the enlistments for the American army.1
In the mean while, as there is no appearance of this service going on but slowly, and it is necessary to have a respectable body of troops here as soon as possible, to act as circumstances shall require, I must beg that you will order in, with as much expedition as the nature of the case will admit of, seven regiments, agreeable to the establishment of this army, to continue in service till the 1st of April, if required. You will be pleased to direct, that the men come provided with good arms, blankets, kettles for cooking, and if possible with twenty rounds of powder and ball.
With respect to your other resolve relative to arms, I am quite ready to make an absolute purchase of such as shall be furnished either by the colony or individuals. I am also ready to engage payment for all the arms, which shall be furnished by the recruits, if lost in the public service; but I do not know how far I could be justified in allowing for the use of them, when I know it to be the opinion of Congress, that every man shall furnish his own arms, or pay for the use of them if put into his hands. To do otherwise is an indirect way of raising the pay. I again wish, that the honorable Court could advise some method of purchasing.
I beg leave to return my thanks for the kind offer of fifty thousand pounds for the Continental use. I will accept of a loan, upon the terms mentioned, of half that sum to secure payment of the militia, whose time of service will be up the last of this month; till when I shall not have occasion to make use of the money.
I am, with great respect, &c.1
TO MATTHEW THORNTON.1
Cambridge, 16 January, 1776.
The alarming and almost defenceless state of our lines, occasioned by the slow progress in raising recruits for the new army, and the departure of a great number of the militia, which had been called in for their support until the 15th instant, rendered it necessary for me to summon the general officers in council, to determine on proper measures to be adopted for their preservation. For this purpose they met at Head Quarters yesterday and to day, and finding that it was with the utmost difficulty and persuasion, that such of the latter as are now here, have been prevailed on to continue till the last of the month, after which there is not the remotest probability of their staying a moment, they have judged it expedient and absolutely necessary, that thirteen regiments should be forthwith raised, equal to those of the new establishment, to be officered according to the usual mode of their respective governments; which are to repair to this camp by the last instant if possible, to be in readiness to act in such manner, till the 1st of April, as circumstances may require. Of this number they apprehend the Massachusetts should furnish seven, Connecticut four, and your government two, being agreeable to the proportion settled by Congress.
In order that each regiment may consist of a proper number of officers and men, I have enclosed you a list for their regulation, and of the Continental pay.
I must earnestly solicit your attention and regard to arms, ammunition, blankets, kettles, and clothing, that they may come as well provided with these necessaries as possible, particularly the first; as from the amazing deficiency here I shall not have it in my power to supply them.
The situation and exigency of our affairs calling for this assistance, I have the most pleasing assurance that your honorable body will exert themselves for complying with all possible despatch.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL SCHUYLER.
Cambridge, 18 January, 1776.
I received your favor of the 13th instant with its enclosures, and am heartily sorry and most sincerely condole with you upon the fall of the brave and worthy Montgomery, and those gallant officers and men, who have experienced a like fate.
In the death of this gentleman, America has sustained a heavy loss, having approved himself a steady friend to her rights, and of ability to render her the most essential services. I am much concerned for the intrepid and enterprising Arnold, and greatly fear, that consequences of the most alarming nature will result from this well intended but unfortunate attempt.
It would give me the greatest pleasure, if I could be the happy means of relieving our fellow citizens now in Canada, and preventing the ministerial troops from exulting long, and availing themselves of the advantages arising from this repulse. But it is not in my power. Since the dissolution of the old army, the progress in raising recruits for the new has been so very slow and inconsiderable, that five thousand militia have been called in for the defence of our lines. A great part of these have gone home again, and the rest induced to stay with the utmost difficulty and persuasion, though their going would render the holding of them truly precarious and hazardous, in case of an attack. In short I have not a man to spare.
In order that proper measures might be adopted, I called a council of general officers, and upon Mr. John Adams, and other members of influence of the General Court to attend, and laid before them your letter and proposition.1 After due consideration of their importance, they determined that the Colonies of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut should each immediately raise a regiment to continue in service for one year, and to march forthwith to Canada, agreeably to the route proposed in your letter to Congress. This determination, with a copy of your letter and the several enclosures, will be immediately transmitted to the different governments for raising these regiments, which I have reason to believe will be directly complied with, from the assurances I have received from such of the members of the General Court as attended in council, and the general officers promising to exert their utmost interest and influence in their respective colonies. If these regiments should not be raised so soon as I could wish, yet I would willingly hope, from the accounts we have received, that Colonel Arnold and his corps will be joined by a number of men under Colonel Warner, and from Connecticut, who, it is said, marched immediately on getting intelligence of this melancholy affair. If this account be true, I trust they will be in a situation to oppose and prevent Mr. Carleton from regaining possession of what he has lost, and that, upon the arrival of the reinforcement, to be sent from these colonies, the city of Quebec will be reduced to our possession. This must be effected before the winter is entirely over, otherwise it will be exceedingly difficult, if not impracticable, as the enemy will undoubtedly place a strong garrison there. Should this desirable work be accomplished, our conquest in that quarter will be complete; but yet the loss of the brave Montgomery will ever be remembered.
It gives me pleasure to find, that you will continue in service, and afford your assistance to relieve your country from the distresses, which at present threaten her in the North.1 * * *
None of the letters gives an account how this unfortunate affair ended. In Colonel Campbell’s letter of the 31st ultimo, the division which Col. Greene was in he seems to think was in a very disagreeable situation; and drawing it off at night, or throwing in a party to sustain it, was an object he had much in view. Here his information stops. In his letter of the 2d instant he says nothing about it; but I dread further intelligence of the matter.1
General Putnam is of opinion, that it will be better for the troops, which may be raised in the western part of Connecticut, to go to Albany, than the route you have mentioned by Number Four,2 and that you pointed out this way upon a supposition, that the reinforcement would be detached from this army. If you concur in sentiment with him, please to inform Governor Trumbull of it by letter, that he may give the necessary orders. I am, dear Sir, yours, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Cambridge, 19 January, 1776.
Taking it for granted, that General Schuyler has not only informed you of the fall of the brave and much-to-be-lamented General Montgomery, but of the situation of our affairs in Canada, (as related by General Wooster, Colonel Arnold, Colonel Campbell, and others,) I shall not take up much more of your time on this subject, than is necessary to enclose you a copy of his letter to me, with the result thereon, as appears by the council of war, which I immediately summoned on the occasion, and at which Mr. Adams, by my particular desire, was good enough to attend.
It may appear strange, Sir, as I had not men to spare from these lines, that I should presume, without first sending to Congress, and obtaining an express direction, to recommend to the governments of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, to raise each a regiment, on the Continental account, for this service. I wish most ardently, that the urgency of the case would have admitted of the delay. I wish, also, that the purport of General Schuyler’s letter had not, unavoidably as it were, laid me under an indispensable obligation to do it; for, having informed you in his letter, (a copy of which he enclosed me,) of his dependence on this quarter for men, I thought you might also have some reliance on my exertions. This consideration, added to my fears of the fatal consequences of delay, to an information of your having designed three thousand men for Canada, to a belief, founded chiefly on General Schuyler’s letters, that few or none of them were raised, and to my apprehensions for New York, which led me to think, that no troops could be spared from that quarter, induced me to lose not a moment’s time in throwing in a force there; being well assured, that General Carleton will improve to the utmost the advantages gained, leaving no artifices untried to fix the Canadians and Indians, (who, we find, are too well disposed to take part with the strongest,) in his interest.
If these reasons are not sufficient to justifie my conduct in the opinion of Congress, if the measure contravenes any resolution of theirs, they will please to countermand the levying and marching of the regiments as soon as possible, and do me the justice to believe, that my intentions were good, if my judgment has erred.1
The Congress will please also to observe, that the measure of supporting our posts in Canada appeared of such exceeding great importance, that the general officers, (agreeing with me in sentiment, and unwilling to lay any burden which can possibly be avoided, although it may turn out an ill-timed piece of parsimony,) have resolved, that the three regiments for Canada shall be part of the thirteen militia regiments, which were requested to reinforce this army, as appears by the minutes of another council of war, held on the 16th instant.1 I shall, being much hurried and fatigued, add no more in this letter, than my duty to Congress, and that I have the honor to be, &c. P. S. I enclose you a copy of my letter to the governments of Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire, also a copy of a resolution of this colony in answer to an application of mine for arms.
Since writing the above I have been informed by a message from the General Court of Massachusetts that they have a resolution upon the raising of a regiment for Canada, and appointed the field officers for it in the western parts of this government. I am also informed by express from Governor Trumbull that he and his Council of Safety had agreed upon the raising of a regiment for the same purpose which was anticipating my application to that government.
If commissions (and they are applied for) are to be given by Congress to the three regiments going to Canada, you will please to have them forwarded, as I have none by me for the purpose.1
TO THE NEW ENGLAND GOVERNMENTS.
Cambridge, 19 January, 1776.
The enclosures, herewith sent, convey such full accounts of the sad reverse of our affairs in Canada, as to render it unnecessary for me, in my present hurry, to add aught to the tale.
Your spirited colony will, I have no doubt, be sufficiently impressed with the expediency of a vigorous exertion to prevent the evils, which must follow from the repulse of our troops. It does not admit of a doubt, but that General Carleton will improve this advantage to the utmost; and, if he should be able to give another current of sentiments to the Canadians and Indians, than those they seem inclined to adopt, words are unnecessary to describe the melancholy effect, which must inevitably follow.
I am persuaded, therefore, that you will exert yourselves to the utmost to throw in the reinforcements, by the route mentioned in General Schuyler’s letter, that is now required of your colony; as the doing of it expeditiously may prove a matter of the utmost importance.
You will perceive, by the minutes of the council of war enclosed, that the regiment, asked of you for Canada, is one of the seven applied for in my letter of the 16th instant, and that the only difference, with respect to the requisition, is the length of time, and place of service; as no good would result from sending troops to Canada, for a shorter period than the Continental army is raised for, to wit, till the 1st of January, 1777. I am, Gentlemen, &c.
TO GOVERNOR TRUMBULL.
Cambridge, Jany 21st, 1776.
In the hurry of my last dispatches to you of the 19 Instt. I forgot to Intimate, that for the Encouragement of the Regimt destin’d for Canada, a months advanced pay will be allowed Officers and Soldiers by me, in behalf of the Congress—At the same time I think it but right that you should be Apprized of the Intention of this Government to advance their Regiment another month’s pay to enable the men to provide for so long and fatiguing a march, and in the mean time have something for their Families to subsist on during their absence.
I have no doubt but that this last advance will be pleasing to Congress and that the money will be speedily refunded, but as I have no authority to direct, and would not appear by any act of mine, to put those three Regmts for Canada, upon a different footg from those, which have been raising for this Army, I only give you a hint of the Intention of this Government, if you think proper, that the Regiment from your Colony may be placed upon the same footing, as I know all kind of distinctions are considered by troops with an evil and jealous Eye.
Such necessaries as are absolutely requisite for the March of this Regiment you will please to have provided upon the best terms you can, and a regular account with vouchers thereof kept, that payment may be made.
The importance of dispatch will I am persuaded, appear in so urgent and pressing a light to you, that I need add nothing on this head, but shall be glad to hear what progress you make in the business, being with the sincerest regard and esteem &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL LEE.
Cambridge, 23 January, 1776.
I received your favor of the 16th instant, and am exceedingly sorry to hear, that Congress countermanded the embarkation of the two regiments intended against the Tories on Long Island.1 They, I doubt not, had their reasons; but to me it appears, that the period is arrived, when nothing less than the most decisive and vigorous measures should be pursued. Our enemies, from the other side of the Atlantic, will be sufficiently numerous; it highly concerns us to have as few internal ones as possible.
As Congress seem to have altered their views in this instance, and the men, which went with you from Connecticut, are upon a very different footing from what I expected, it will be right to give Congress the earliest notice of your proceeding, and to disband your troops as soon as you think circumstances will admit of it.2
In consequence of the melancholy reverse of our affairs in Canada, an application was made to me for succour, and happy should I have been, if the situation of this army could have afforded it. All I could do was to lay the matter before this and the governments of Connecticut and New Hampshire, and urge the expediency and necessity of their sending thither a reinforcement of three regiments there immediately. Mr. Trumbull and his Council of Safety had anticipated my request. The other two colonies have adopted the measure. The three regiments are now raising, and, I would willingly hope, will arrive in time to reinstate matters in that quarter, and give them a more agreeable aspect than they now have.
I shall be much obliged by your pressing Colonel McDougall to forward the shells mentioned in his letter of the 2d instant, as they are much wanted, and also to spare me some powder if he possibly can.1 You know our stock of this necessary article is small and inconsiderable, and you know, too, that we have a demand for a further supply.
The progress in raising recruits for the new army being very slow, I have applied to this colony, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, for ten regiments of militia, to continue in service till the 1st of April next, which they have granted me. As soon as they come in, and I can get provided with proper means, I am determined to attempt something. Of this I would have you take no notice.
Within a few days past several persons have come out of Boston. They all agree, that General Clinton has gone upon some expedition. Some say he has between four and five hundred men, others, part of two regiments. What his force consists of is not precisely known; but I am almost certain he has gone with some. His destination must be south of this, and very probably for New York. I thought it necessary to give you this information, that you may be on your guard, and prepared to receive him as well as you can.
I shall be glad to hear from you frequently, and to be informed of any occurrences you may think material. I am, dear Sir, with great regard, &c.
TO JOSEPH REED.
Cambridge, 23 January, 1776.
Real necessity compels me to ask you, whether I may entertain any hopes of your returning to my family? If you can make it convenient, and will hint the matter to Colonel Harrison, I dare venture to say, that Congress will make it agreeable to you in every shape they can. My business increases very fast, and my distresses for want of you along with it. Mr. Harrison is the only gentleman of my family, that can afford me the least assistance in writing. He and Mr. Moylan, whose time must now be solely employed in his department of commissary, have heretofore afforded me their aid; and I have hinted to them in consequence of what you signified in some former letter, that, (as they have really had a great deal of trouble,) each of them should receive one third of your pay, reserving the other third contrary to your desire for yourself. My distress and embarrassment are in a way of being very considerably increased by an occurrence in Virginia, which will, I fear, compel Mr. Harrison to leave me, or suffer considerably by his stay. He has wrote, however, by the last post to see if his return cannot be dispensed with. If he should go, I shall really be distressed beyond measure, as I know no persons able to supply your places, (in this part of the world,) with whom I would choose to live in unbounded confidence. In short for want of an acquaintance with the people hitherward, I know of none which appear to me qualified for the office of secretary.
The business, as I hinted to you before, is considerably increased, by being more comprehensive, and at this time, (from the great changes which are happening every day) perplexed; so that you would want a good writer and a methodical man, as an assistant, or copying clerk. Such a one I have no doubt will be allowed, and the choice I leave to yourself, as he should be a person in whose integrity you can confide, and on whose capacity, care, and method you can rely. At present, my time is so much taken up at my desk, that I am obliged to neglect many other essential parts of my duty. It is absolutely necessary, therefore, for me to have persons that can think for me, as well as execute orders. This it is that pains me when I think of Mr. White’s expectation of coming into my family if an opening happens. I can derive no earthly assistance from such a man, and my friend Baylor is much such another, although as good and obliging a person as any in the world.
As it may be essential that the pay of the undersecretary should be fixed, that you may, if you incline to return and should engage one, know what to promise him, I have wrote to Colonel Harrison and Mr. Lynch on this subject.
The interruption of the post has prevented the receipt of any letters from the southward since this day week, so that we have but little knowledge of what is passing in that quarter. The unfortunate repulse of our troops at Quebec, the death of the brave and much to be lamented General Montgomery, and wounding of Col. Arnold, will, I fear, give a very unfavorable turn to our affairs in that quarter, as I have no opinion at all of W[ooste]r’s enterprising genius.1
Immediately upon the receipt of the unfortunate intelligence, and General Schuyler’s intimation of his having no other dependence than upon me for men, I addressed Massachusetts, Connecticut, and N. Hampshire (in behalf of the Continent) for a regiment each, to be marched forthwith into Canada, and there continued, if need be, till the 1st. of January, upon the same establishment as those raising for these lines. It was impossible to spare a man from hence, as we want eight or nine thousand of our establishment, and are obliged to depend upon militia for the defence of our works: equally improper did it appear to me to wait (situated as our affairs were) for a requisition from Congress, after several day’s debate, perhaps, when in the meantime all might be lost. The urgency of the case, therefore, must apologize to Congress for my adoption of this measure. Governor Trumbull, indeed, anticipated my request, for he and his Council of Safety had voted a regiment before my request had reached him. The General Court here have also voted another, and I have no doubt of New Hampshire’s doing the like, and that the whole will soon be on their march. I have this instant received a letter from New Hampshire, in answer to mine, informing me that they have fully complied with my request of a regiment, appointed the field-officers, and will have the whole in motion as soon as possible. Col. Warner, and others, we are told, are already on their march, so that it is to be hoped, if these bodies have but a good head, our affairs may still be retrieved in Canada, before the king’s troops can get reinforced.
They are pulling down the houses in Boston as fast as possible, and we have lately accounts from thence which it is said may be relied on, that General Clinton is actually sailed from thence with a detachment (no accounts making it more than 500) for the southward; some say Virginia, others New York, but all in conjecture. Whether this is the fleet that has been making up for some time at Nantasket, or another, I cannot with certainty say. In my last I informed you, I think, of the expedition I had sent General Lee on to New York. Should Clinton steer his course thither, I hope he will meet with a formidable and proper reception. I shall conclude with informing you that we should have had a formidable work on Letchmore’s Point long ago, if it had not been for the frost, and that if Congress mean that we should do any thing this winter, no time must be lost in forwarding powder. I have ordered in militia to take advantage of circumstances, but I see no appearances as yet of a bridge. I am, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Cambridge, 24 January, 1776.
The Commissary General being at length returned from a long and painful illness, I have it in my power to comply with the requisition of Congress in forwarding an estimate of the expence attending his office, as also that of the Quartermaster General. You will please to observe that the Commissary, by his account of the matter, has entered into no special agreement with any of the persons he has found occasion to employ (as those to whose names sums are annexed are of their own fixing) but left it to Congress to ascertain their wages: I shall say nothing therefore on this head further than relates to the proposition of Mr. Miller, to be allowed ⅛ for his trouble and the delivery of the other ⅞ of provisions, which to me appears exorbitant in the extreme, however, conformable it may be to custom and usage. I therefore think that reasonable stipends had better be fixed upon. Both the Quartermaster and Commissary generals assure me that they do not employ a single person uselessly, and as I have too good an opinion of them to think they would deceive me, I believe them.
I shall take the liberty of recommending the expediency, indeed the absolute necessity, of appointing fit and proper persons to settle the accounts of this army. To do it with precision requires time, care, and attention. The longer it is left undone, the more intricate they will be, the more liable to error, and difficult to explain and rectify; as also the persons in whose hands they are, if disposed to take undue advantage, will be less subject to detection. I have been as attentive, as the nature of my office would admit of, in granting warrants for money on the pay-master; but it would be absolutely impossible for me to go into an examination of all the accounts incident to this army, and the vouchers appertaining to them, without devoting so large a portion of my time to the business, as might not only prove injurious, but fatal to it in other respects. This ought, in my humble opinion, to be the particular business of a select committee of Congress, or one appointed by them, who, once in three months at farthest, should make a settlement with the officers in the different departments.
Having met with no encouragement from the governments of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, as to my application for arms, and expecting no better from Connecticut and Rhode Island, I have, as the last expedient, sent one or two officers from each regiment into the country, with money to try if they can buy. In what manner they succeed, Congress shall be informed as soon as they return. Congress, in my last, would discover my motives for strengthening these lines with the militia; but whether, as the weather turns out exceedingly mild, (insomuch as to promise nothing favorable from ice,) and as there is no appearance of powder, I shall be able to attempt any thing decisive, time only can determine. No man upon earth wishes more ardently to destroy the nest in Boston, than I do; no person would be willing to go greater lengths than I shall, to accomplish it, if it shall be thought advisable. But if we have neither powder to bombard with, nor ice to pass on, we shall be in no better situation than we have been in all the year; we shall be worse, because their works are stronger.
I have accounts from Boston, which I think may be relied on, that General Clinton, with about four or five hundred men, has left that place within these four days. Whether this is part of the detachment, which was making up (as mentioned in my letter of the fourth instant, and then at Nantasket) or not, it is not in my power to say. If it is designed for New York or Long Island, as some think, throwing a body of troops there may prove a fortunate circumstance. If they go farther south, agreeably to the conjectures of others, I hope there will be men to receive them. Notwithstanding the positive assertions of the four captains from Portsmouth, noticed in my letter of the 14th, I am now convinced from several corroborating circumstances, the accounts of deserters and of a Lieut. Hill of Lord Percy’s regiment, who left Ireland the 5 of November, and was taken by a privateer from Newburyport, that the 17th and 55th regiments are arrived in Boston, and other troops at Halifax, agreeable to the information of Hutchinson and others. Lieut. Hill says that the transports of two regiments only were forced into Milford Haven.
Congress will think me a little remiss, I fear, when I inform them, that I have done nothing yet towards raising the battalion of marines; but I hope to stand exculpated from blame, when they hear the reason, which was, that already having twenty-six incomplete regiments, I thought it would be adding to an expense, already great, in officers, to set two entire corps of officers on foot, when perhaps we should not add ten men a week by it to our present numbers. In this opinion the general officers have concurred, which induced me to suspend the matter a little longer. Our enlistments, for the two last weeks, have not amounted to a thousand men, and are diminishing. The regiment for Canada, it is thought, will soon be filled, as the men are to choose all but their field-officers, who are appointed by the Court.
On Sunday evening, thirteen of the Caghnawaga Indians arrived here on a visit. I shall take care that they be so entertained during their stay, that they may return impressed with sentiments of friendship for us, and also of our great strength. One of them is Colonel Louis, who honored me with a visit once before.1 I have, &c.2
TO MAJOR-GENERAL SCHUYLER.
Cambridge, 27 January, 1776.
Your favor of the 22d enclosing Colonel Arnold’s letter of the 2d, explaining the doubt we were in respecting his detachment, is received. Happy would it have been for our cause, if that party could have got out of the city of Quebec3 ; as I am much afraid by the complexion of the letters from that place, that there is little hope of Arnold’s continuing the blockade without assistance from Wooster, which he is determined not to give, whether with propriety or not, I shall not at this distance undertake to decide.
The sad reverse of our affairs in that quarter calls loudly for every exertion in your power, to restore them to the promising aspect they so lately wore. For this reason, notwithstanding you think the necessity of troops from hence is in some measure superseded, I will not countermand the order and appointment of officers, which are gone forth from this government, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, for raising a regiment each, till Congress, (who are informed of it,) shall have decided upon the measure.
I consider, that the important period is now arrived, when the Canadians and consequently their Indians must take their side. Should any indecisive operations of ours, therefore, give the bias against us, it is much easier to foresee, than to rectify, the dreadful consequences, which must inevitably follow from it. I consider, also, that the reinforcement, under the command of Colonel Warner, and such other spirited men as have left the western parts of the New England governments, is only temporary, and may fail when most wanted; as we find it next to impossible to detain men, (not fast bound,) in service, after they get a little tired of the duties of it and homesick.
These, my dear Sir, are the great outlines which govern me in this affair. If Congress mark them as strongly as I do, they will not wish to starve the cause at so critical a period. If they think differently, they will direct accordingly, and I must stand corrected for the error my zeal hath led me into.
Colonel Porter, said to be an exceedingly active man, is appointed to the command of the regiment from this government; Colonel Burrell to the one from Connecticut; and Colonel Bedel to that from New Hampshire. The two last are represented to me as men of spirit and influence; so that, from these accounts, I have no doubt of their getting into Canada in a very short time, as I have endeavored to excite the spirit of emulation. I wish most ardently, that the state of your health may permit you to meet them there. The possession of Quebec, and entire reduction of Canada this winter, so as to have leisure to prepare for the defence of it in the spring, is of such great and extensive importance to the well-being of America, that I wish to see matters under the direction,—but I will say no more, you will come at my meaning.
I am a little embarrassed to know in what manner to conduct myself with respect to the Caghnawaga Indians now here. They have, notwithstanding the treaty of neutrality, which I find they entered into with you the other day (agreeably to what appears to be the sense of Congress), signified to me a desire of taking up arms in behalf of the United Colonies. The Chief of them, and who I understand is now the first man of the nation, intends, as it is intimated, to apply to me for a commission, with the assurance of raising four or five hundred men when he returns. My embarrassment does not proceed so much from the impropriety of encouraging these people to depart from their neutrality, (accepting their own voluntary offer rather), as from the expense, which probably may follow. I am sensible that, if they do not desire to be idle, they will be for or against us. I am sensible, also, that no artifices will be left unassayed to engage them against us. Their proffered services, therefore, ought not to be rejected; but how far, with the little knowledge I have of these people’s policy and real intentions, and your want of their aid, I ought to go, is the question that puzzles me. I will endeavor, however, to please them by yielding in appearance to their demands; reserving, at the same time, the power in you to regulate their numbers and movements, of which you shall be more fully informed when any thing is fixed.1 At present what they have mentioned is a kind of out door talk. They expect and are waiting to see Col. Bedel (who promised to meet them here), before they open themselves fully.
What can you do in compliance with Arnold’s request of mortars, &c? If Knox disfurnished you, I am almost sorry for it, as I believe I shall never get wherewithal to feed them here.
I congratulate you upon the success of your expedition into Tryon county. I hope General Lee will execute a work of the same kind on Long Island, &c. It is high time to begin with our internal foes, when we are threatened with such severity of chastisement from our kind parent without. That the Supreme Dispenser of every good may bestow health, strength, and spirit on you and your army, is the fervent wish of, dear Sir, your most affectionate and obedient servant.
TO COLONEL BENEDICT ARNOLD.
Cambridge, 27 January, 1776.
On the 17th instant I received the melancholy account of the unfortunate attack on the city of Quebec, attended with the fall of General Montgomery and other brave officers and men, and your being wounded. This unhappy affair affects me in a very sensible manner, and I sincerely condole with you upon the occasion; but, in the midst of distress, I am happy to find, that suitable honors were paid to the remains of Mr. Montgomery; and our officers and soldiers, who have fallen into their hands, were treated with kindness and humanity.1
Having received no intelligence later than the copy of your letter of the 2d to General Wooster, I would fain hope, that you are not in a worse situation than you then were; though, I confess, I have greatly feared, that those misfortunes would be succeeded by others, on account of your unhappy condition, and the dispirited state of the officers and men. If they have not, I trust, when you are joined by three regiments now raising in this and the governments of Connecticut and New Hampshire, and two others ordered by the Congress from Pennsylvania and the Jerseys, with the men already sent off by Colonel Warner, that these misfortunes will be done away, and things will resume a more favorable and promising appearance than ever.
I need not mention to you the great importance of this place, and the consequent possession of all Canada, in the scale of American affairs. You are well apprized of it. To whomsoever it belongs, in their favor, probably, will the balance turn. If it is in ours, success I think will most certainly crown our virtuous struggles. If it is in theirs, the contest at best will be doubtful, hazardous, and bloody. The glorious work must be accomplished in the course of this winter, otherwise it will become difficult, most probably impracticable; for administration, knowing that it will be impossible ever to reduce us to a state of slavery and arbitrary rule without it, will certainly send a large reinforcement there in the spring. I am fully convinced, that your exertions will be invariably directed to this grand object, and I already view the approaching day, when you and your brave followers will enter this important fortress, with every honor and triumph attendant on victory. Then will you have added the only link wanting in the great chain of Continental union, and rendered the freedom of your country secure.
Wishing you a speedy recovery, and the possession of those laurels, which your bravery and perseverance justly merit, I am, dear Sir, yours, &c.1
TO COMMODORE JOHN MANLY.
Cambridge, 28 January, 1776.
I received your agreeable letter of the 26th instant, giving an account of your having taken and carried into Plymouth two of the enemy’s transports. Your conduct in engaging the eight-gun schooner, with so few hands as you went out with, your attention in securing your prizes, and your general good behavior since you first engaged in the service, merit my own and your country’s thanks.1
You may be assured, that every attention will be paid to any reasonable request of yours, and that you shall have the command of a stronger vessel of war; but as it will take up some time before such a one can be fitted out, my desire is, that you continue in the Hancock until the end of the cruise. When that is out, you will come to Head-Quarters, and we will confer together on the subject of the other ship. I wish you could engage men at Plymouth to make your complement at least forty strong. It would enable you to encounter the small tenders, that may fall in your way; though I would rather have you avoid an engagement, until you have a ship, that will place you upon a more equal footing with your enemy. I need not recommend to you to proceed again and pursue your good fortune.
I wish you could inspire the captains of the other armed schooners under your command with some of your activity and industry. Can you not appoint stations for them, where they may have the best chance of intercepting supplies going to the enemy? They dare not disobey your orders, as it is mentioned in the instructions I have given to each of them, that they are to be under your command as commodore; and as such I desire that you will give them such instructions in writing, as to you will appear proper for the good of the service. I am, Sir, wishing you a continuance of success, yours, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Cambridge, 30 January, 1776.
Your favors of the 6th and of the 20th instant I received yesterday, with the several resolves of Congress alluded to; for which I return you my thanks. Knowing the great importance Canada will be of to us, in the present interesting contest, and the relief our friends there stand in need of, I should be happy, were it in my power, to detach a battalion from this camp; but it cannot be done. On the 19th instant, I had the honor to write to you a letter, which will fully convey the resolutions of a council of war, and the sentiments of the general officers here, as to the propriety and expediency of sending troops from these lines, for the defence of which we have been and now are obliged to call in the militia; to which I beg leave to refer you.1 You may rest assured, that my endeavors and exertions shall not be wanting, to stimulate the governments of Connecticut and New Hampshire to raise and forward reinforcements as fast as possible; nor in any other instance that will promote the expedition.2
I shall, in obedience to the order of Congress, though interdicted by General Howe, propose an exchange of Governor Skene1 for Mr. Lovell and his family, and shall be happy to have an opportunity of putting this deserving man, (who has distinguished his fidelity and regard to his country to be too great for persecution and cruelty to overcome,) in any post agreeable to his wishes and inclination. I do not know, that there is any particular rank annexed to the office of aid-de-camp. Generally they are captains, and rank as such; but higher rank is often given on account of particular merit and particular circumstances. Aids to the King have the rank of colonels. Whether any distinction should be made between those of your Commander-in-chief, and the other generals, I really know not. I think there ought.1
You may rely, that Connolly had instructions concealed in his saddle. Mr. Eustis,2 who was one of Lord Dunmore’s family, and another gentleman, who wishes his name not to be mentioned, saw them cased in tin, put in the tree, and covered over. He probably has exchanged his saddle, or withdrawn the papers when it was mended, as you conjecture. Those that have been discovered are sufficiently bad; but I doubt not of the others being worse, and containing more diabolical and extensive plans. I hope he will be taken proper care of, and meet with rewards equal to his merits.
I shall appoint officers in the places of those, who are in Canada, as I am fully persuaded they will wish to continue there, for making our conquest complete in that quarter. I wish their bravery and valor may be attended with the smiles of fortune.
It gives me great pleasure to hear of the measures Congress are taking for manufacturing powder. I hope their endeavors will be crowned with success. I too well know and regret the want of it. It is scarcely possible to describe the disadvantages an army must labor under, when not provided with a sufficient supply of this necessary. It may seem strange after having received about 11 tons, added to about 5 tons which I found here, and no general action has happened that we should be so deficient in this article and require more. But you will please to consider besides its being in its nature subject to waste, and whilst the men lay in bad tents was unavoidably damaged by severe and heavy rains (which could not have been prevented, unless it had been entirely withdrawn from them, and an attack hazarded against us without ammunition in their hands), that the armed vessels, our own occasional firings, and some small supplies I have been obliged to afford the seaport towns threatened with destruction, to which may be added the supply to the militia, and going off of the old troops, have occasioned and ever will a large consumption of it, and waste, in spite of all the care in the world. The king’s troops never have less than 60 rounds a man in their possession, independent of their stores. To supply an army of 20,000 in this manner would be near 400 barrels, allowing nothing for stores, artillery &c. I have been always afraid to place more than 12 or 15 rounds at a time in the hands of our men, lest any accident happening to it, we should be left destitute and be undone. I have been this particular not only to show our poverty, but to exculpate myself from even a suspicion of unnecessary waste.
I shall inform the Paymaster general of the resolution of Congress, respecting his drafts, and the mode and amount of them.
The companies at Chelsea and Malden are and have always been regimented. It was not my intention to replace with Continental troops the independent companies at Hingham, Weymouth and Braintree. These places are exposed, but not more so than Cape Ann, Beverly, Salem, Marblehead, &c. &c. &c.
Is it the intention of Congress that the officers of the army should pay postage? They are not exempted by the resolve of the 9th. inst.
The Congress will be pleased, I have no doubt, to recollect that the 500,000 dollars now coming are but little more than enough to bring us up to the first day of this month, that tomorrow will be the last of it, and by their resolve the troops are to be paid monthly.
I wish it was in my power to furnish Congress with such a general as they desire, to send to Canada.1 Since the unhappy reverse of our affairs in that quarter, General Schuyler has informed me, that, though he had thoughts of declining the service before, he would now act. My letter of the 11th will inform them of General Lee’s being at New York. He will be ready to obey their orders, should they incline to send him; but, if I am not greatly deceived, he or some other spirited, able officer will be wanted there in the spring, if not sooner; as we have undoubted intelligence, that General Clinton has sailed with some troops. The reports of their number are various, from between four and five hundred to nineteen companies of grenadiers and light infantry. It is also imagined, that the regiments, which were to sail the 1st of December, are intended for that place or Virginia. General Putnam is a most valuable man, and a fine executive officer; but I do not know how he would conduct in a separate department. He is a younger major-general than Mr. Schuyler, who, as I have observed, having determined to continue in the service, will, I expect, repair into Canada. A copy of my letter to him on this and other subjects, I enclose to you, as it will explain my motives for not stopping the regiments from these governments.
When Captain Cochran arrives, I will give him every assistance in my power, in obedience to the orders of Congress; but I fear it will be the means of laying up our own vessels, as these people will not bear the distinction.1 Should this be the consequence, it will be highly prejudicial to us, as we sometimes pick up their provision-vessels, and may continue to distress them in this way. Last week Captain Manly took a ship and a brig bound to Boston from White Haven, with coals chiefly and some potatoes for the army. I have, for his great vigilance and industry, appointed him commodore of our little squadron; and he now hoists his flag on board the schooner Hancock.
I congratulate you upon the recovery of Smith,1 and am exceedingly glad to hear of the measures Congress are taking for the general defence of the continent. The clouds thicken fast; where they will burst, I know not; but we should be armed at all points.
I have not succeeded in my applications to these governments for arms. They have returned for answer, that they cannot furnish any. Whether I shall be more lucky in the last resource left me in this quarter, I cannot determine, having not received returns from the officers sent out to purchase of the people. I greatly fear, that but very few will be procured in this way, as they are exceedingly scarce, and but a small part of what there are, fit for service. When they make their port, you shall be informed.
The Quarter master general has just received from General Schuyler clothing for the soldiery, amounting to about £1700 York currency. It has come very seasonably, as they are in great want, and will contribute a little to their relief.
Since writing the above, I have seen Mr. Eustis; and mentioning that nothing had been found in the tree of Connolly’s saddle, he told me there had been a mistake in the matter; that the instructions were artfully concealed on the two pieces of wood, which are on the mail-pillion of his portmanteau-saddle; that, by order of Lord Dunmore, he saw them contrived for the purpose, the papers put in, and first covered with tin, and over that with a waxed canvass cloth.2 He is so exceedingly pointed and clear in his information, that I have no doubt of its being true. I could wish them to be discovered, as I think they contain some curious and extraordinary plans. In my letter of the 24th instant, I mentioned the arrival of thirteen of our Caghnawaga friends. They honored me with a talk to-day, as did three of the tribes of St. John’s and Passamaquoddy Indians, copies of which I beg leave to enclose you. I shall write to General Schuyler respecting the tender of service made by the former, and not to call for their assistance, unless he shall at any time want it, or be under the necessity of doing it to prevent their taking the sides of our enemies.
I had the honor of writing to you on the 19th of November, and then I informed you of having engaged two persons to go to Nova Scotia on the business recommended in your letter of the 10th; and also that the state of the army would not then admit of a sufficient force being sent, for carrying into execution the views of Congress respecting the dock-yards, &c. I would now beg leave to mention, that, if the persons sent for information should report favorably of the expediency and practicability of the measure, it will not be in my power to detach any men from these lines. The situation of our affairs will not allow it. I think it would be advisable to raise them in the eastern parts of this government. If it is attempted, it must be by people from the country. A Colonel Thompson, a member of the General Court from the province of Maine, and who is well spoken of by the Court, and a Captain O’Brien have been with me. They think the men necessary may be easily engaged there, and the measure practicable, provided there are not more than two hundred British troops at Halifax. They are willing and ready to embark in the matter, upon the terms mentioned in their plan, which I enclose to you. I wish you to advert to the considerations inducing them to the expedition, as I am not without apprehension, should it be undertaken upon their plan, that the innocent and guilty will be involved in one common ruin. I presume they do not expect to receive more from the Continent, than the five or ten thousand pounds mentioned in their scheme, and to be at every expense. If we had men to spare, it might be undertaken for less than either, I conceive. Perhaps, if Congress do not adopt their proposition, they will undertake to raise men for that particular purpose, who may be disbanded as soon as it is effected, and upon the same terms that are allowed the Continental troops in general. Whatever may be the determination of Congress upon the subject, you will please to communicate it to me immediately; for the season most favorable for the enterprise is advancing fast; and we may expect in the spring, that there will be more troops there, and the measure be more difficult to execute. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL LEE.
Cambridge, 30 January, 1776.
I wrote to you the 23d instant, and then informed you, that General Clinton had gone upon some expedition with four or five hundred men. There is good reason to believe, that Tryon has applied for some troops, and that he would join them with a great number of inhabitants; so that you will see the necessity of your being decisive and expeditious in your operations in that quarter. The Tories should be disarmed immediately, though it is probable that they may have secured their arms on board the King’s ships, until called upon to use them against us. However, you can seize upon the persons of the principals. They must be so notoriously known, that there will be little danger of your committing mistakes, and happy should I be if the Governor could be one of them.
Since writing the above, your favor of the 24th has come to hand, with the sundry enclosures, which I have with attention perused, and very much approve of your conduct. I sincerely wish that the letter you expect to receive from Congress may empower you to act conformable to your own and my sentiments on this occasion. If they should order differently, we must submit, as they doubtless will have good reasons for what they may determine.1
The Congress desire I should send an active general to Canada. I fancy, when they made the demand, that they did not think General Schuyler would continue in that station, which he has given me to understand, in some late letters from him, that he would. Should they not approve of the New York expedition, and think another general necessary for the northern department, it is probable they will fix on you to take the command there. I should be sorry to have you removed so far from this scene; but if the service there requires your presence, it will be a fine field for the exertion of your admirable talents. There is nothing new here. Let me hear often from you, and believe me, &c.2
TO JOSEPH REED.
Cambridge, 31 January, 1776.
In my last, (date not recollected) by Mr. John Adams, I communicated my distresses to you on account of my want of your assistance. Since this I have been under some concern at doing of it, lest it should precipitate your return before you were ripe for it, or bring on a final resignation which I am unwilling to think of, if your return can be made convenient and agreeable. True it is, that from a variety of causes my business has been, and now is, multiplied and perplexed; whilst the means of execution is greatly contracted. This may be a cause for my wishing you here, but no inducement to your coming, if you hesitated before.
I have now to thank you for your favors of the 15th, 16th, and 20th inst., and for the several articles of intelligence, which they convey. The account given of your navy, at the same time that it is exceedingly unfavorable to our wishes, is a little provoking to me, inasmuch as it has deprived us of a necessary article, which otherwise would have been sent hither; but which a kind of fatality I fear will for ever deprive us of. In the instance of New York, we are not to receive a particle of what you expected would be sent from thence; the time and season passing away, as I believe the troops in Boston also will, before the season for taking the field arrives. I dare say they are preparing for it now, as we have undoubted intelligence of Clinton’s leaving Boston with a number of troops, (by different accounts, from four or five hundred to 10 companies of grenadiers, and nine of light infantry), believed to be designed for Long Island, or New York, in consequence of assurances from Governor Tryon of powerful aid from the Tories there.
I hope my countrymen of Virginia will rise superior to any losses the whole navy of Great Britain can bring on them, and that the destruction of Norfolk, and the threatened devastation of other places, will have no other effect, than to unite the whole country in one indissoluble band against a nation which seems to be lost to every sense of virtue, and those feelings which distinguish a civilized people from the most barbarous savages. A few more of such flaming arguments, as were exhibited at Falmouth and Norfolk,1 added to the sound doctrine and unanswerable reasoning contained in the pamphlet “Common Sense,” will not leave numbers at a loss to decide upon the propriety of a separation.
By a letter of the 21st instant from Wooster, I find, that Arnold was continuing the blockade of Quebec on the 19th, which, under the heaviness of our loss there, is a most favorable circumstance, and exhibits a fresh proof of Arnold’s ability and perseverance in the midst of difficulties. The reinforcements ordered to him will, I hope, complete the entire conquest of Canada this winter; and but for the loss of the gallant chief, and his brave followers, I should think the rebuke rather favorable than otherwise; for had the country been subdued by such a handful of men, it is more than probable, that it would have been left to the defence of a few, and rescued from us in the spring. Our eyes will now be open not only to the importance of holding it, but to the numbers which are requisite to that end. In return for your two beef and poultry vessels from New York, I can acquaint you that our Commodore Manly has just taken two ships from White Haven to Boston, with coal and potatoes, and sent them into Plymouth, and fought a tender (close by the light house where the vessels were taken), long enough to give his prizes time to get off, in short, till she thought it best to quit the combat, and he to move off from the men-of-war, which were spectators of this scene.
In my last I think I informed you of my sending General Lee to New York, with the intention of securing the Tories of Long Island, and to prevent, if possible, the King’s troops from making a lodgment there; but I fear the Congress will be duped by the representations from that government, or yield to them in such a manner as to become marplots to the expedition. The city seems to be entirely under the government of Tryon and the captain of the man-of-war.
Mrs. Washington desires I will thank you for the picture sent her. Mr. Campbell, whom I never saw, to my knowledge, has made a very formidable figure of the Commander-in-chief, giving him a sufficient portion of terror in his countenance.1 Mrs. Washington also desires her compliments to Mrs. Reed, as I do, and, with the sincerest regard and affection, I remain, dear Sir, your most obedient servant.
TO JOSEPH REED.
Cambridge, 1 Feby, 1776.
My Dear Sir,
I had wrote the letter herewith enclosed before your favor of the 21st came to hand. The account given of the behavior of the men under General Montgomery, is exactly consonant to the opinion I have formed of these people, and such as they will exhibit abundant proofs of, in similiar cases whenever called upon. Place them behind a parapet, a breast-work, stone wall, or any thing that will afford them shelter, and, from their knowledge of a firelock, they will give a good account of their enemy; but I am as well convinced, as if I had seen it, that they will not march boldly up to a work, nor stand exposed in a plain; and yet, if we are furnished with the means, and the weather will afford us a passage, and we can get in men, for these three things are necessary, something must be attempted.1 The men must be brought to face danger; they cannot always have an intrenchment or a stone wall as a safeguard or shield; and it is of essential importance, that the troops in Boston should be destroyed if possible before they can be reinforced or removed. This is clearly my opinion. Whether circumstances will admit of the trial, and, if tried, what will be the event, the All-wise Disposer of them alone can tell.
The evils arising from short, or even any limited inlistment of the troops, are greater, and more extensively hurtful than any person (not an eye-witness to them) can form any idea of. It takes you two or three months to bring new men in any tolerable degree acquainted with their duty; it takes a longer time to bring a people of the temper and genius of these into such a subordinate way of thinking as is necessary for a soldier. Before this is accomplished, the time approaches for their dismissal, and you are beginning to make interest with them for their continuance for another limited period; in the doing of which you are obliged to relax in your discipline, in order as it were to curry favor with them, by which means the latter part of your time is employed in undoing what the first was accomplishing, and instead of having men always ready to take advantage of circumstances, you must govern your movements by the circumstances of your Inlistment. This is not all; by the time you have got men arm’d and equip’d, the difficulty of doing which is beyond description, and with every new sett you have the same trouble to encounter, without the means of doing it.—In short, the disadvantages are so great and apparent to me, that I am convinced, uncertain as the continuance of the war is, that Congress had better determine to give a bounty of 20, 30, or even 40 Dollars to every man who will Inlist for the whole time, be it long or short. I intend to write my sentiments fully on this subject to Congress the first leizure time I have.
I am exceeding sorry to hear that Arnold’s wound is in an unfavorable way; his letter to me of the 14th ulto. says nothing of this. I fancy Congress have given some particular direction respecting Genl. Prescott. I think they ought for more reasons than one. I am, &c.
Be so good as to send the enclosed letter of Randolph’s to the Post-office.1
TO GOVERNOR TRUMBULL.
Cambridge, 8 February, 1776.
I received your favors of the 2 and 5 Inst. and agreeable to your request have ordered payment of the ballance of the expences attending the journey of the two French gentlemen to Philadelphia to be made [to] Wm. Bacon Post rider, for your use, which I hope will come safe to hand.
I am happy to hear of your having received 12.500 dollars from Congress for the troops going upon the Canada expedition, and heartily wish that no other difficulties may occur to impede their march and prevent their giving early and timely succor to our friends there, which they certainly stand in great need of.
As to replacing the money advanced by your Colony to the regiments which served the last campain, it is not in my power. It is what I did not expect and therefore have made no provision for it. I should have paid them in the same manner I did others, had I not been prevented by the Colonels, who expressed their inclination to receive the whole at one time, after the expiration of the service and on their return home. This being the case, I always imagined that the sum advanced by you, would be taken in when Congress came to form a general account against the colonies, and be applied to your credit which I presume they will shortly do, as I have wrote to them, and pointed out the necessity of having all the accounts respecting this Army adjusted and liquidated at proper periods. Had I conceived that this application for repayment would have been made to me, I should certainly have included the sum advanced by you in my estimates and taken care to have had a sufficiency of money to discharge it. But I did not. I am unprovided, and have not more than will answer the claims I was apprized of antecedent to the last day of December. They are large and numerous, and in a few days will drain our treasury of every Shilling now in it. I am exceedingly sorry that matters should be so circumstanced as to give you the least disappointment or trouble; But I doubt not Congress upon your application will refund what you have advanced, or settle it in such a way, as shall be perfectly agreeable to you.
I shall take care to have the three battallions of the militia paid which are coming here for the defence of our lines in the same manner, that the rest are when the time of their engagement expires. They certainly might have come thus far without the advance you have been obliged to give.
Having lately examined into the state of our powder and finding the deficiency to be much greater than what I had any idea of, and hearing that the militia from your Colony, and I fear from the others too, are coming without any, or with but very little, I cannot but confess my anxiety and concern to be very great. I therefore again repeat the request I made this morning, and beg and entreat your most strenuous and friendly exertions to procure what we are told is important, or such part as you possibly can, and send it to me with the utmost expedition; I am already much alarmed on account of the scarcity, and the Militia coming in without a proper supply fills me with apprehensions of the most disagreeable nature—this I would mention in confidence, as It might give great uneasiness if it was generally known and trusting that nothing in your power will be wanting to relieve us at this alarming and important crisis, I am, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Cambridge, 9 February, 1776.
In compliance with the resolves of Congress, I have applied to General Howe for the exchange of Mr. Lovell. A copy of my letter and his answer thereto you have inclosed.
Captain Waters and Captain Tucker, who command two of the armed schooners, have taken and sent into Gloucester a large brigantine laden with wood, 150 butts for water and 40 suits of bedding, bound from La Havre in Nova Scotia for Boston. She is one of the transports in the ministerial service. The captain says he was at Halifax the 17th January, and that General Massey was arrived there with two regiments from Ireland.
The different prizes were all libelled immediately on receipt of the resolves of Congress pointing out the mode, but none of them yet brought to trial, owing to a difference between the law passed in this Province, and the resolutions of Congress. The General Court are making an amendment to their law by which the difficulties that now occur will be removed, as I understand it is to be made conformable to your resolves. The unavoidable delay attending the bringing the captures to trial is grievously complained of by the masters of these vessels, as well as the captors. Many of the former have applied for liberty to go away without awaiting the decision, which I have granted them.
I beg leave to call the attention of Congress to their appointing a commissary in these parts, to attend the providing of necessaries for the prisoners who are dispersed in these provinces. Complaints are made by some of them, that they are in want of bedding, and many other things; as I understand that Mr. Franks has undertaken that business, I wish he was ordered to find a deputy immediately, to see that the prisoners get what is allowed them by Congress. Also to supply the officers with money as they may have occasion. It will save me much time and much trouble.
There are yet but few companies of the militia come in. This delay will, I am much afraid frustrate the intention of their being called upon, as the season is slipping fast away when they may be of service.
The demands of the army were so very pressing before your last remittance came to hand, that I was under the necessity of borrowing £25,000 lawful money from this province. They very cheerfully lent it, and passed a vote for as much more if required. I have not repaid the sum borrowed, as I may stand in need of it before the arrival of another supply, which the demands of the commissary general, Quartermaster general, and paying off the arrearages, will very soon require.
Your esteemed favor of the 29th ultimo is just come to hand. It makes me very happy to find my conduct hath met the approbation of Congress. I am entirely of your opinion that should an accommodation take place, the terms will be severe or favorable, in proportion to our ability to resist, and that we ought to be on a respectable footing to receive their armaments in the spring. But how far we shall be provided with the means, is a matter I profess not to know under my present unhappy want of arms, ammunition and I may add men, as our regiments are very incomplete. The recruiting goes on very slow, and will I apprehend be more so, if for other service the men receive a bounty, and none is given here.
I have tried every method I could think of to procure arms for our men. They really are not to be had in these governments belonging to the public, and if some method is not fallen upon in the southern governments to supply us, we shall be in a distressed situation for want of them. There are near 2000 men now in camp without firelocks. I have wrote to the committee of New York this day, requesting them to send me those arms, which were taken from the disaffected in that government. The Congress interesting themselves in this request will doubtless have a good effect. I have sent officers into the country with money to purchase arms in the different towns; some have returned and brought in a few; many are still out, what their success will be, I cannot determine.
I was in great hopes that the expresses resolved to be established between this place and Philadelphia would ere now have been fixt. It would, in my opinion, rather save than increase the expence, as many horses are destroyed by one man coming the whole way. It will certainly be more expeditious and safer than writing by the post, or private hands, which I am often under the necessity of doing. I am, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Cambridge, 9 February, 1776.
The purport of this letter will be directed to a single object. Through you I mean to lay it before Congress, and, at the same time that I beg their serious attention to the subject, to ask pardon for intruding an opinion, not only unasked, but, in some measure, repugnant to their resolves.
The disadvantages attending the limited enlistment of troops are too apparent to those, who are eyewitnesses of them, to render any animadversions necessary; but to gentlemen at a distance, whose attention is engrossed by a thousand important objects, the case may be otherwise.
That this cause precipitated the fate of the brave and much-to-be-lamented General Montgomery, and brought on the defeat, which followed thereupon, I have not the most distant doubt of; for, had he not been apprehensive of the troops leaving him at so important a crisis, but continued the blockade of Quebec, a capitulation, from the best accounts I have been able to collect, must inevitably have followed. And that we were not obliged at one time to dispute these lines, under disadvantageous circumstances, (proceeding from the same cause, to wit, the troops disbanding of themselves before the militia could be got in,) is to me a matter of wonder and astonishment, and proves, that General Howe was either unacquainted with our situation, or restrained by his instructions from putting any thing to hazard, till his reinforcements should arrive.
The instance of General Montgomery—I mention it, because it is a striking one,—for a number of others might be adduced proves, that, instead of having men to take advantage of circumstances, you are in a manner compelled, right or wrong, to make circumstances yield to a secondary consideration. Since the 1st of December, I have been devising every means in my power to secure these encampments; and though I am sensible that we never have, since that period, been able to act on the offensive, and at times not in a condition to defend, yet the cost of marching home one set of men, bringing in another, the havoc and waste occasioned by the first, the repairs necessary for the second, with a thousand incidental charges and inconveniences, which have arisen, and which it is scarce possible either to recollect or describe, amount to near as much, as the keeping up a respectable body of troops the whole time, ready for any emergency, would have done.
To this may be added, that you never can have a well disciplined army.
To bring men [to be] well acquainted with the duties of a soldier, requires time. To bring them under proper discipline and subordination, not only requires time, but is a work of great difficulty, and, in this army, where there is so little distinction between the officers and soldiers, requires an uncommon degree of attention. To expect, then, the same service from raw and undisciplined recruits, as from veteran soldiers, is to expect what never did and perhaps never will happen. Men, who are familiarized to danger, meet it without shrinking; whereas troops unused to service often apprehend danger where no danger is. Three things prompt men to a regular discharge of their duty in time of action; natural bravery, hope of reward, and fear of punishment. The two first are common to the untutored and the disciplined soldier; but the last most obviously distinguishes the one from the other. A coward, when taught to believe, that, if he breaks his ranks and abandons his colors, will be punished with death by his own party, will take his chance against the enemy; but a man, who thinks little of the one, and is fearful of the other, acts from present feelings, regardless of consequences.
Again, men of a day’s standing will not look forward; and from experience we find, that, as the time approaches for their discharge, they grow careless of their arms, ammunition, camp utensils, &c. Nay, even the barracks themselves have felt uncommon marks of wanton depredation, and lay us under fresh trouble and additional expense in providing for every fresh set, when we find it next to impossible to procure such articles, as are absolutely necessary in the first instance. To this may be added the seasoning, which new recruits must have to a camp, and the loss consequent thereupon. But this is not all. Men engaged for a short, limited time only, have the officers too much in their power; for, to obtain a degree of popularity in order to induce a second enlistment, a kind of familiarity takes place, which brings on a relaxation of discipline, unlicensed furloughs, and other indulgences incompatible with order and good government; by which means the latter part of the time, for which the soldier was engaged, is spent in undoing what you were aiming to inculcate in the first.
To go into an enumeration of all the evils we have experienced, in this late great change of the army, and the expenses incidental to it, to say nothing of the hazard we have run, and must run, between the discharging of one army and enlistment of another, (unless an enormous expense of militia is incurred,) would greatly exceed the bounds of a letter. What I have already taken the liberty of saying will serve to convey a general idea of the matter; and therefore I shall, with all due deference, take the freedom to give it as my opinion, that, if the Congress have any reason to believe, that there will be occasion for troops another year, and consequently for another enlistment, they would save money, and have infinitely better troops, if they were, even at a bounty of twenty, thirty, or more dollars, to engage the men already enlisted (till January next,) and such others as may be wanted to complete the establishment, for and during the war. I will not undertake to say, that the men can be had upon these terms; but I am satisfied, that it will never do to let the matter alone, as it was last year, till the time of service was near expiring. The hazard is too great, in the first place; in the next, the trouble and perplexity of disbanding one army and raising another at the same instant, and in such a critical situation as the last was, are scarcely in the power of words to describe, and such as no man, who has experienced them once, will ever undergo again.
If Congress should differ from me in sentiment upon this point, I have only to beg that they will do me the justice to believe, that I have nothing more in view, than what to me appears necessary to advance the public weal, although in the first instance it will be attended with a capital expense; and that I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO JOSEPH REED.
Cambridge, 10 February, 1776.
Your obliging favors of the 28th ult. and 1st inst. are now before me, and claim my particular thanks for the polite attention you pay to my wishes in an early and regular communication of what is passing in your quarter.
If you conceive, that I took any thing wrong, or amiss, that was conveyed in any of your former letters, you are really mistaken. I only meant to convince you, that nothing would give more real satisfaction, than to know the sentiments, which are entertained of me by the public, whether they be favorable or otherwise; and I urged as a reason, that the man, who wished to steer clear of shelves and rocks, must know where they lay. I know—but to declare it, unless to a friend, may be an argument of vanity—the integrity of my own heart. I know the unhappy predicament I stand in; I know that much is expected of me; I know, that without men, without arms, without ammunition, without any thing fit for the accommodation of a soldier, little is to be done; and, which is mortifying, I know, that I cannot stand justified to the world without exposing my own weakness, and injuring the cause, by declaring my wants, which I am determined not to do, further than unavoidable necessity brings every man acquainted with them.
If, under these disadvantages, I am able to keep above water, (as it were) in the esteem of mankind, I shall feel myself happy; but if, from the unknown peculiarity of my circumstances, I suffer in the opinion of the world, I shall not think you take the freedom of a friend, if you conceal the reflections that may be cast upon my conduct. My own situation feels so irksome to me at times, that, if I did not consult the public good, more than my own tranquillity, I should long ere this have put every thing to the cast of a Dye. So far from my having an army of twenty thousand men well armed, I have been here with less than half of it, including sick, furloughed, and on command, and those neither armed nor clothed, as they should be. In short, my situation has been such, that I have been obliged to use art to conceal it from my own officers. The Congress, as you observe, expect, I believe, that I should do more than others,—for whilst they compel me to inlist men without a bounty, they give 40 to others, which will, I expect, put a stand to our Inlistments; for notwithstanding all the publick virtue which is ascrib’d to these people, there is no nation under the sun, (that I ever came across) pay greater adoration to money than they do—I am pleas’d to find that your Battalions are cloathed and look well, and that they are filing off for Canada. I wish I could say that the troops here had altered much in Dress or appearance. Our regiments are little more than half compleat, and recruiting nearly at a stand—In all my letters I fail not to mention of Tents, and now perceive that notice is taken of yr. application. I have been convinced, by General Howe’s conduct, that he has either been very ignorant of our situation (which I do not believe) or that he has received positive orders (which, I think, is natural to conclude) not to put anything to the hazard till his reinforcements arrive; otherwise there has [not] been a time since the first of December, that we must have fought like men to have maintained these Lines, so great in their extent.
The party to Bunker’s Hill had some good and some bad men engaged in it. One or two courts have been held on the conduct of part of it. To be plain, these people—among friends—are not to be depended upon if exposed; and any man will fight well if he thinks himself in no danger. I do not apply this only to these people. I suppose it to be the case with all raw and undisciplined troops. You may rely upon it, that transports left Boston six weeks ago with troops; where they are gone, unless driven to the West Indies, I know not. You may also rely upon General Clinton’s sailing from Boston about three weeks ago, with about four or five hundred men; his destination I am also a stranger to. I am sorry to hear of the failures you speak of from France. But why will not Congress forward part of the powder made in your province? They seem to look upon this as the season for action, but will not furnish the means. I will not blame them. I dare say the demands upon them are greater than they can supply. The cause must be starved till our resources are greater, or more certain within ourselves.
With respect to myself, I have never entertained an idea of an accommodation, since I heard of the measures, which were adopted in consequence of the Bunker’s Hill fight. The King’s speech has confirmed the sentiments I entertained upon the news of that affair; and, if every man was of my mind, the ministers of Great Britain should know, in a few words, upon what issue the cause should be put. I would not be deceived by artful declarations, nor specious pretences; nor would I be amused by unmeaning propositions; but in open, undisguised, and manly terms proclaim our wrongs, and our resolution to be redressed. I would tell them, that we had borne much, that we had long and ardently sought for reconciliation upon honorable terms, that it had been denied us, that all our attempts after peace had proved abortive, and had been grossly misrepresented, that we had done every thing which could be expected from the best of subjects, that the spirit of freedom beat too high in us to submit to slavery, and that, if nothing else could satisfy a tyrant and his diabolical ministry, we are determined to shake off all connexions with a state so unjust and unnatural. This I would tell them, not under covert, but in words as clear as the sun in its meridian brightness.
I observe what you say, in respect to the ardor of the chimney-corner heroes. I am glad their zeal is in some measure abated, because if circumstances will not permit us to make an attempt upon B[oston], or if it should be made and fail, we shall not appear altogether so culpable. I entertain the same opinion of the attempt now, which I have ever done. I believe an assault would be attended with considerable loss, and I believe it would succeed, if the men should behave well. As to an attack upon B[unker’s] Hill, (unless it could be carried by surprise,) the loss, I conceive, would be greater in proportion than at Boston; and, if a defeat should follow, it would be discouraging to the men, but highly animating if crowned with success. Great good, or great evil, would consequently result from it. It is quite a different thing to what you left, being by odds the strongest fortress they possess, both in rear and front.
The Congress have ordered all captures to be tried in the courts of admiralty of the different governments to which they are sent, and some irreconcilable difference arising between the resolves of Congress, and the law of this colony, respecting the proceedings, or something or another which always happens to procrastinate business here, has put a total stop to the trials, to the no small injury of the public, as well as the great grievance of individuals. Whenever a condemnation shall take place, I shall not be unmindful of your advice respecting the hulls, &c. Would to heaven the plan you speak of for obtaining arms may succeed. The acquisition would be great, and give fresh life and vigor to our measures, as would the arrival you speak of; our expectations are kept alive, and if we can keep ourselves so, and spirits up another summer, I have no fears of wanting the needful after that. As the number of our Inlisted men were too small to undertake any offensive operation, if the circumstances of weather, &c, should favor, I ordered in (by application to this Govt., Connecticut and New Hampshire) as many regiments of militia as would enable us to attempt something in some manner or other.—they were to have been here by the first of the month, but only a few straggling companies are yet come in. The Bay towards Roxbury has been froze up once or twice pretty hard, and yesterday single persons might have crossed, I believe, from Litchmore’s Point, by picking his way;—a thaw, I fear, is again approaching.
We have had the most laborious piece of work at Lechmere’s Point, on account of the frost, that ever you saw. We hope to get it finished on Sunday. It is within as commanding a distance of Boston as Dorchester Hill, though of a different part. Our vessels now and then pick up a prize or two. Our Commodore (Manly) was very near being catched about eight days ago, but happily escaped with vessel and crew after running ashore, scuttling, and defending her.
I recollect nothing else worth giving you the trouble of, unless you can be amused by reading a letter and poem addressed to me by Mrs. or Miss Phillis Wheatley. In searching over a parcel of papers the other day, in order to destroy such as were useless, I brought it to light again. At first, with a view of doing justice to her great poetical genius, I had a great mind to publish the poem; but not knowing whether it might not be considered rather as a mark of my own vanity, than as a compliment to her, I laid it aside, till I came across it again in the manner just mentioned. I congratulate you upon your election, although I consider it as the coup de grace to my expectation of ever seeing you a resident in this camp again.1 I have only to regret the want of you, if that should be the case; and I shall do it the more feelingly, as I have experienced the good effects of your aid. I am, with Mrs. Washington’s compliments to Mrs. Reed, and my best respects, added, dear Sir, your most obedient and affectionate servant.
TO THE GENERAL COURT OF MASSACHUSETTS.
Cambridge, 10 February, 1776.
Notwithstanding I have taken every method my judgement could suggest to procure a sufficient number of firelocks for the soldiers of this Army, by application to the Assemblies and Conventions of those Governments, as well as by sending Officers out with money to purchase, I am constrained by necessity to inform you, that the deficiency is amazingly great, and that there are not nigh enough to arm the troops already here— It is true that all the officers gone upon the business are not yet returned, but from the small success of those who have made report, I cannot promise myself many more. I must therefore beg leave to sollicit your kind attention to this interesting and important concern, and would submit it to your consideration whether if your honorable Court were to depute some of their Members to make applications to the different towns, they might not procure a considerable quantity. I will most cheerfully furnish them with money for the purpose or pay for them on their delivery here, as you shall think most advisable— I shall only add that I hope the exigency of our Affairs at this critical crisis will excuse this request, and my confidence of your readiness and zeal to do every thing in your power for promoting the public good and am, &c.
P. S. I have heard that there are several King’s Muskets in the Country—for every good one with a Bayonet that have not been abused I will give 12 Dollars, and in proportion for other Guns fit for service.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Cambridge, 14 February, 1776.
Through you, I beg leave to lay before Congress the enclosed letter from Lord Drummond to General Robertson, which came to my hands a few days ago, in order to be sent into Boston.
As I never heard of his Lordship’s being vested with power to treat with Congress upon the subject of our grievances, nor of his having laid any propositions before them for an accommodation, I confess it surprised me much, and led me to form various conjectures of his motives, and intended application to General Howe and Admiral Shuldham for a passport for the safe conduct of such deputies, as Congress might appoint for negotiating terms of reconciliation between Great Britain and us. Whatever his intentions are, however benevolent his designs may be, I confess that his letter has embarrassed me much; and I am not without suspicion of its meaning more than the generous purpose it professes.1
I should suppose, that, if the mode for negotiation, which he points out, should be adopted (which I hope will never be thought of), it ought to have been fixed and settled previous to any application of this sort; and at best, that his conduct in this instance is premature and officious, and leading to consequences of a fatal and injurious nature to the rights of this country. His zeal and desire, perhaps, of an amicable and constitutional adjustment taking place, may have suggested and precipitated the measure. Be that as it may, I thought it of too much importance to suffer it to go in without having the express direction of Congress for that purpose; and that it was my indispensable duty to transmit to them the original, to make such interpretations and inferences as they may think right.
Messrs. Willard and Child, who were sent to Nova Scotia in pursuance of the resolve of Congress, have just returned, and made their report, which I do myself the honor to enclose. They have not answered the purposes of their commission by any means, as they only went a little way into that country, and found their intelligence upon the information of others. You will see the reasons they assign in excuse or justification of their conduct, in the report itself.
Last night a party of regulars, said to be about five hundred, landed on Dorchester Neck, and burned some of the houses there, which were of no value to us; nor would they have been, unless we take post there; they then might be of some service. A detachment went after them as soon as the fire was discovered; but before it could arrive, they had executed their plan, and made their retreat.1
Inclosed is a letter for David Franks, Esqr. from Mr. Chamier in Boston, upon the subject of victualling such of the King’s troops as may be prisoners within the limits of his contract, which I beg the favor of you to deliver him, and that proper agents may be appointed by him to see that it is done. I could wish too that Congress would fall upon some mode for supplying the officers with such money as they may really stand in need of, and depute proper persons for that purpose and furnishing the privates with such clothing as may be absolutely necessary; I am applied to and wearied by their repeated requests. In some instances I have desired the Committees to give the prisoners within their appointments what they should judge absolutely necessary for their support, as the only means in my power of relieving their distress. But I imagine that if there were persons to superintend this business, that their wants would be better attended to, and many exorbitant charges prevented and saved to the Continent, and the whole would then be brought into a proper account.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Cambridge, 18 February, 1776.
The late freezing weather having formed some pretty strong ice from Dorchester Point to Boston Neck, and from Roxbury to the Common, thereby affording a more expanded and consequently a less dangerous approach to the town, I could not help thinking, notwithstanding the militia were not all come in, and we had little or no powder to begin our operation by a regular cannonade and bombardment, that a bold and resolute assault upon the troops in Boston, with such men as we had (for it could not take many men to guard our own lines, at a time when the enemy were attacked in all quarters), might be crowned with success; and therefore, seeing no certain prospect of a supply of powder on the one hand, and a certain dissolution of the ice on the other, I called the general officers together for their opinion, (agreeably to the resolve of Congress, of the 22d of December.)
The result will appear in the enclosed council of war1 ; and, being almost unanimous, I must suppose it to be right; although, from a thorough conviction of the necessity of attempting something against the ministerial troops before a reinforcement should arrive, and while we were favored with the ice, I was not only ready, but willing, and desirous of making the assault, under a firm hope, if the men would have stood by me, of a favorable issue, notwithstanding the enemy’s advantage of ground, artillery, &c.
Perhaps the irksomeness of my situation may have given different ideas to me, from those which influenced the gentlemen whom I consulted, and might have inclined me to put more to the hazard, than was consistent with prudence. If it had, I am not sensible of it, as I endeavored to give it all the consideration, that a matter of such importance required. True it is, and I cannot help acknowledging it, that I have many disagreeable sensations on account of my situation; for, to have the eyes of the whole continent fixed with anxious expectation of hearing of some great event, and to be restrained in every military operation, for want of the necessary means of carrying it on, is not very pleasing, especially as the means, used to conceal my weakness from the enemy, conceals it also from our friends, and adds to their wonder.
I do not utter this by way of complaint. I am sensible that all that the Congress could do, they have done; and I should feel most powerfully the weight of conscious ingratitude, were I not to acknowledge this. But as we have accounts of the arrival of powder by Captain Mason, I would beg to have it sent on in the most expeditious manner; otherwise we shall not only lose all chance of the benefits resulting from the season, but of the militia, who are brought in at a most enormous expense, upon a presumption that we should, long ere this, have been amply supplied with powder, under the contracts entered into with the committee of Congress.
The militia contrary to an express requisition are come and coming in without ammunition. To supply then alone with 24 rounds, which is less by ⅗ths than the regulars are served with will take between fifty and 60 barrels of powder, and to complete the other troops to the like quantity will take near as much more than about 60 barrels, besides a few rounds of cannon cartridges ready filled for use. This, Sir, Congress may be assured is a true state of powder, and will, I hope, bear some testimony of my incapacity for action in such a way as may do any essential service.
February 21st. When I began this letter I proposed to have sent it by express, but recollecting that all my late letters have been as expressive of my want of powder and arms as I could paint them, and that Mr. Hooper was to set off in a day or two, I thought it unnecessary to run the Continent to the expence of an express merely to repeat what I had so often done before when I am certain that Congress knowing our necessities will delay no time that can possibly be avoided in supplying them. My duty is offered to Congress, and with great respect and esteem, I have the honor &c
P. S. Hearing of the arrival of a small parcel of powder in Connecticut I have been able to obtain 3000 weight of it, which is in addition to the 60 barrels before mentioned.
TO GOVERNOR TRUMBULL.
Cambridge, 19 February, 1776.
I am grieved to find that instead of Six or Eight thousand weight of powder, which I fondly expected to receive from Providence (agreeable to your Letter), that I am likely to get only 4217 lbs, Including the 3000 Weight belonging to this Province, (if to be had).
1 My situation in respect to this Article is really distressing; and while common prudence obliges me to keep my want of it concealed, to avoid a discovery thereof to the Enemy; I feel the bad effect of that concealment from our friends; for not believing our distress equal to what it really is, they withhold such small supplies as are in their power to give. I am restrained in all my military movements, for want of these necessary supplies; that it is impossible to undertake any thing effectual; and whilst I am fretting at my own disagreeable situation, the world I suppose is not behind hand in censuring my inactivity.
A golden opportunity has been lost, perhaps to not be regained again, this year. The late freezing weather had formed some pretty strong ice from Dorchester to Boston Neck, and from Roxbury to the Common, which would have afforded a less dangerous approach to the town than through the lines or by water. The advantages of this, added to a thorough conviction of the importance of destroying the Ministerial troops in Boston before they can be reinforced, and to a belief that a bold and resolute assault, aided in some small degree by artillery and Mortars might be crowned with success, I proposed the attempt a day or two ago to the general officers, but they thought, and perhaps rightly, that such an enterprise in our present weak state of men (for the Militia are not yet half arrived) and deficiency of powder would be attended with too much hazard and therefore that we had better wait the arrival of the last, and then to begin a bombardment in earnest.
This matter is mentioned to you in confidence.—Your zeal, activity and attachment to the cause renders it unnecessary to conceal it from you, or our real stock of powder; which after furnishing the Militia (unfortunately coming in without and will require upwards of Fifty Barrells) and compleating our other troops to 24 rounds a man which are less by one half than the Regulars have, and having a few Rounds of Cannon Cartridges fitted for immediate use, will leave us not more than 160 Barrells in store for the greatest emergency inclusive of the 4217 lbs from Providence, if we get it.
This, my Dear Sir is melancholy! But it is a truth, and at the same time that it may serve to convey, some idea of my disagreeable feelings under a knowledge of it, will evince the necessity of vigorous exertions to throw without delay every oz. that can be procured into this camp: otherwise the great expence of sending in the Militia will be entirely sunk without any possible good resulting from it; but much evil, as they will contribute not a little to the consumption of our ammunition, &c., &c.
For want perhaps of better information, I cannot help giving it as my opinion, that at a time when our military operations are entirely at a stand for want of powder principally and arms,1 it is inconsistent with good policy to hoard up town stocks with either. Better it is to fight an Enemy at a distance, than at one’s door. Prudence, indeed, points out the expediency of providing for private as well as publick Exigencies. But if both are not to be done, I should think there can be no hesitation in the choice; as the army now raised and supported at a considerable expence can be of little use if it is not sufficient to prevent an Enemy from disturbing the quiet of the interior towns of these governments.
I am, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Cambridge, 26 February, 1776.
I had the honor of addressing you on the 18th and 21st Instt. by Mr. Hooper, since which nothing material has occurred.
We are making every necessary preparation for taking possession of Dorchester Heights as soon as possible with a view of drawing the enemy out.—How far our expectations may be answered, time can only determine: But I should think, if any thing will induce them to hazard an engagement, It will be our attempting to fortifie these heights; as on that event’s taking place, we shall be able to command a great part of the town, and almost the whole harbor, and to make them rather disagreeable than otherwise, provided we can get a sufficient supply of what we greatly want.
Within three or four days, I have received sundry accounts from Boston of such movements there, such as taking the mortars from Bunker Hill, the putting them with several pieces of heavy ordnance on board of ships, with a quantity of bedding, the ships all taking in water, the baking a large quantity of biscuit, &c., as to indicate an embarkation of the troops from thence. A Mr. Ides who came out yesterday says that the inhabitants of the town generally believe that they are about to remove either to New York or Virginia, and that every vessel in the harbor on Tuesday last was taken up for Government’s service and two months’ pay advanced them. Whether they really intend to embark or whether the whole is a feint is impossible for me to tell. However I have thought it expedient to send an express to Genl. Lee to inform him of it, in order that he may not be taken by surprize if their destination should be against New York, and continued him on to you. If they do embark, I think the possessing themselves of that place and the North River is the object they have in view thereby securing the communication with Canada and rendering the intercourse between the Northern and Southern United Colonies exceedingly precarious and difficult. To prevent them from effecting their plan is a matter of the highest importance and will require a large and respectable army and the most vigilant and judicious exertions.
Since I wrote by Mr. Hooper some small parcels of powder have arrived from Connecticut, which will give us a little assistance.
On Thursday night, a party of our men at Roxbury made the Enemy’s out Sentries, consisting of a Corporal and two privates prisoners, without firing a gun or giving the least alarm.
I shall be as attentive to the enemies’ motions as I can, and obtain all the intelligence in my power, and if I find ’em embark, shall in the most expeditious manner detach a part of the light Troops to New York and repair thither myself if circumstances shall require it. I shall be better able to judge what to do when the matter happens; at present I can only say that I will do every thing that shall appear proper and necessary.
Your letter of the 12th Inst by Coll Bull came to hand yesterday evening, and shall agreeable to your recommendation pay proper notice to him. The supply of cash came very seasonably as our Treasury was just exhausted and nothing can be done here without it.
P. S. This letter was intended to have been sent by Express but meeting with a private conveyance the Express was countermanded.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL LEE.
Cambridge, 26 February, 1776.
I received your esteemed favor of the 14th instant, which gave me great pleasure, being impatient to hear from you. I rejoice to find that you are getting better, and could not avoid laughing at Captain Parker’s reasons for not putting his repeated threats into execution.2
I take notice of your intended dispositions for defence, which I request you will lose no time in putting into execution, as, from many corroborating accounts I have received, the enemy seem to prepare for their departure from Boston. They have removed the two mortars from Bunker’s Hill, and carried them with a great part of their heavy brass cannon on board their ships. They have taken all the topsail vessels in the harbor into the service. They are ready watered, and their sails bent. All this show may be but a feint; but if real, and they should come your way, I wish you may be prepared to receive them. If I find that they are in earnest, and do go off, I will immediately send you a reinforcement from this camp, and, if necessary, march the main body to your assistance, as circumstances may require. I shall keep a good watch on their motions, and give you the speediest information possible.
Lechmere’s Point is now very strong; I am sending some heavy cannon thither. The platform for a mortar is preparing to be placed in the works there; another at Lamb’s Dam; and we are making the necessary disposition to possess ourselves of Dorchester Heights, which must bring them on if any thing will.1 If they do not interrupt us in that work, I shall be confirmed in my opinion, that they mean to leave the town. A little time must now determine, whether they are resolved to maintain their present ground or look out for another post. I will now return to your letter.
The account you give of our New York brethren is very satisfactory. I should be glad to know how many men you are likely to have, that you can depend upon remaining with you. I very much fear, that the sailing of Clinton will keep back those, whom you expected from Pennsylvania. Let me hear from you upon this and every thing else that concerns you, as soon and as often as you possibly can. I shall pay due attention to your recommendations of Captain Smyth and Capt. Badlam. With respect to the Canada expedition, I assure you, that it was not my intention to propose your going there. I only meant what I thought would happen, that the Congress would make you that proposal. I am now of opinion that you will have work enough upon your hands where you are; and make no doubt but your presence will be as necessary there, as it would be in Canada.1 I am glad that Colonel Ritzema is gone to Congress, and hope they will expedite an army thither, not only to preserve what we have already got, but also to possess ourselves of Quebec before it can be reinforced from Europe or elsewhere. It is an object of such vast importance, that it will be madness not to strain every sinew for effecting that purpose. I am in some pain for our little fleet, as I am informed that the Asia and Phœnix are sailed in quest of them.1 You doubtless had good reasons for the appointment you mention having made2 ; as it is temporary, it can have no bad effect. I am with great regard, &c.3
TO MISS PHILLIS WHEATLEY.
Cambridge, 28 February, 1776.
Your favor of the 26th of October did not reach my hands, till the middle of December. Time enough, you will say, to have given an answer ere this. Granted. But a variety of important occurrences, continually interposing to distract the mind and withdraw the attention, I hope will apologize for the delay, and plead my excuse for the seeming but not real neglect. I thank you most sincerely for your polite notice of me, in the elegant lines you enclosed; and however undeserving I may be of such encomium and panegyric, the style and manner exhibit a striking proof of your poetical talents; in honor of which, and as a tribute justly due to you, I would have published the poem, had I not been apprehensive, that, while I only meant to give the world this new instance of your genius, I might have incurred the imputation of vanity. This, and nothing else, determined me not to give it place in the public prints.
If you should ever come to Cambridge, or near head-quarters, I shall be happy to see a person so favored by the Muses, and to whom nature has been so liberal and beneficent in her dispensations. I am, with great respect, your obedient humble servant.1
TO JOSEPH REED.
Cambridge, 3 March, 1776.
The foregoing1 was intended for another conveyance, but being hurried with some other matters, and not able to complete it, it was delayed; since which your favors of the 28th of January, and 1st and 8th of February, are come to hand. For the agreeable accounts, contained in one of them, of your progress in the manufacture of powder, and prospect of getting arms, I am obliged to you; as there is some consolation in knowing, that these useful articles will supply the wants of some part of the Continental troops, although I feel too sensibly the mortification of having them withheld from me; Congress not even thinking it necessary to take the least notice of my application for these things.
I hope in a few nights to be in readiness to take post on Dorchester, as we are using every means in our power to provide materials for this purpose; the ground being so hard froze yet, that we cannot intrench, and therefore are obliged to depend entirely upon chandeliers, fascines, and screwed hay for our redoubts. It is expected that this work will bring on an action between the King’s troops and ours.
General Lee’s expedition to New York was founded upon indubitable evidence of General Clinton’s being on the point of sailing. No place so likely for his destination as New York, nor no place where a more capital blow could be given to the interests of America than there. Common prudence, therefore, dictated the necessity of preventing an evil, which might have proved irremediable, had it happened. But I confess to you honestly, I had no idea of running the Continent to the expense, which was incurred, or that such a body of troops would go from Connecticut as did, or be raised upon the terms they were. You must know, my good Sir, that Captain Sears was here, with some other gentlemen of Connecticut, when the intelligence of Clinton’s embarkation (at least the embarkation of the troops) came to hand. The situation of these lines would not afford a detachment. New York could not be depended upon; and of the troops in Jersey we had no certain information, either of their numbers or destination. What then was to be done? Why Sears and these other gentlemen assured me, that if the necessity of the case was signified by me, and General Lee should be sent, one thousand volunteers, requiring no pay, but supplied with provisions only, would march immediately to New York, and defend the place, till Congress could determine what should be done, and that a line from me to Governor Trumbull to obtain his sanction would facilitate the measure. This I accordingly wrote in precise terms, intending that these volunteers, and such of the Jersey regiments as could be speedily assembled, should be thrown into the city for its defence, and for disarming the Tories upon Long Island, who, I understood, had become extremely insolent and daring. When, behold, instead of volunteers, consisting of gentlemen without pay, the Governor directed men to be voluntarily enlisted for this service upon Continental pay and allowance. This, you will observe, was contrary to my expectation and plan; yet, as I thought it a matter of the last importance to secure the command of the North River, I did not think it expedient to countermand the raising of the Connecticut regiments on account of the pay. If I have done wrong, those members of Congress, who think the matter ought to have been left to them, must consider my proceedings as an error of judgment, and that a measure is not always to be judged of by the event.
It is moreover worthy of consideration, that in cases of extreme necessity (as the present), nothing but decision can ensure success; and certain I am, that Clinton had something more in view by peeping into New York, than to gratify his curiosity, or make a friendly visit to his friend Mr. Tryon. However, I am not fond of stretching my powers; and if the Congress will say, “Thus far and no farther you shall go,” I will promise not to offend whilst I continue in their service.
I observe what you say in respect to my wagon. I wanted nothing more, than a light travelling-wagon, such as those of New Jersey, with a secure cover, which might be under lock and key, the hinges being on one side, the lock on the other. I have no copy of the memorandum of the articles, which I desired you to provide for me, but think one dozen and a half of camp stools, a folding table, rather two, plates, and dishes, were among them. What I meant, therefore, was, that the bed of this wagon should be constructed in such a manner, as to stow these things to the best advantage. If you cannot get them with you, I shall despair of providing them here, as workmen are scarce, and most exorbitantly high in their charges. What I should aim at is, when the wagon and things are ready (which ought to be very soon, as I do not know how soon we may beat a march), to buy a pair of clever horses, of the same color, hire a careful driver, and let the whole come off at once; and then they are ready for immediate service. I have no doubt but that the treasury, by application to Mr. Hancock, will direct payment thereof, without any kind of difficulty, as Congress must be sensible, that I cannot take the field without equipage, and after I have once got into a tent I shall not soon quit it. I am, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Cambridge, 7 March, 1776.
On the 26th ultimo I had the honor of addressing you, and then mentioned that we were making preparations for taking possession of Dorchester Heights. I now beg leave to inform you, that a council of general officers having determined a previous bombardment and cannonade expedient and proper, in order to harass the enemy and divert their attention from that quarter, on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday nights last, we carried them on from our posts at Cobble Hill, Lechmere’s Point, and Lamb’s Dam.1 Whether they did the enemy any considerable and what injury, I have not yet heard, but have the pleasure to acquaint you, that they greatly facilitated our schemes, and would have been attended with success equal to our most sanguine expectations, had it not been for the unlucky bursting of two thirteen and three ten inch mortars, among which was the brass one taken in the ordnance brig. To what cause to attribute this misfortune, I know not; whether to any defect in them, or to the inexperience of the bombardiers.
But to return; on Monday evening, as soon as our firing commenced, a considerable detachment of our men, under the command of Brigadier-General Thomas, crossed the neck, and took possession of the two hills, without the least interruption or annoyance from the enemy; and by their great activity and industry, before the morning, advanced the works so far as to be secure against their shot. They are now going on with such expedition, that in a little time I hope they will be complete, and enable our troops stationed there to make a vigorous and obstinate stand. During the whole cannonade, which was incessant the two last nights, we were fortunate enough to lose but two men; one, a lieutenant, by a cannon-ball taking off his thigh; the other, a private, by the explosion of a shell, which also slightly wounded four or five more.
Our taking possession of Dorchester Heights is only preparatory to taking post on Nook’s Hill, and the points opposite to the south end of Boston. It was absolutely necessary, that they should be previously fortified, in order to cover and command them. As soon as the works on the former are finished, measures will be immediately adopted for securing the latter, and making them as strong and defensible as we can. Their contiguity to the enemy will make them of much importance and of great service to us.
As mortars are essential, and indispensably necessary for carrying on our operations, and for the prosecution of our plans, I have applied to two furnaces to have some thirteen-inch ones cast with all expedition imaginable, and am encouraged to hope, from the accounts I have had, that they will be able to do it. When they are done, and a proper supply of powder obtained, I flatter myself, from the posts we have just taken and are about to take, that it will be in our power to force the ministerial troops to an attack, or to dispose of them in some way, that will be of advantage to us. I think from these posts they will be so galled and annoyed, that they must either give us battle or quit their present possessions. I am resolved that nothing on my part shall be wanting to effect the one or the other.
It having been the general opinion, that the enemy would attempt to dislodge our people from the hills, and force their works as soon as they were discovered, which probably might have brought on a general engagement, it was thought advisable, that the honorable Council1 should be applied to, to order in the militia from the neighboring and adjacent towns. I wrote them on the subject, which they most readily complied with; and, in justice to the militia, I cannot but inform you, that they came in at the appointed time, and manifested the greatest alertness, and determined resolution to have acted like men engaged in the cause of freedom.2
When the enemy first discovered our works in the morning, they seemed to be in great confusion, and, from their movements, to have intended an attack. It is much to be wished, that it had been made. The event, I think, must have been fortunate, and nothing less than success and victory on our side, as our officers and men appeared impatient for the appeal, and to possess the most animated sentiments and determined resolution. On Tuesday evening, a considerable number of their troops embarked on board of their transports, and fell down to the Castle, where part of them landed before dark. One or two of the vessels got aground, and were fired at by our people with a field-piece, but without any damage. What was the design of this embarkation and landing, I have not been able to learn. It would seem as if they meant an attack; for it is most probable, that, if they make one on our works at Dorchester at this time, they will first go to the Castle, and come from thence. If such was their design, a violent storm that night, and which lasted till eight o’clock the next day, rendered the execution of it impracticable. It carried one or two of their vessels ashore, which they have since got off.1
In case the ministerial troops had made an attempt to dislodge our men from Dorchester Hills, and the number detached upon the occasion had been so great as to have afforded a probability of a successful attack’s being made upon Boston; on a signal given from Roxbury for that purpose, agreeably to a settled and concerted plan, four thousand chosen men, who were held in readiness, were to have embarked at the mouth of Cambridge River, in two divisions, the first under the command of Brigadier-General Sullivan, the second under Brigadier-General Greene; the whole to have been commanded by Major-General Putnam. The first division was to land at the powder-house, and gain possession of Beacon Hill and Mount Horam; the second at Barton’s Point, or a little south of it, and, after securing that post, to join the other division, and force the enemy’s gates and works at the neck, for letting in the Roxbury troops. Three floating batteries were to have preceded, and gone in front of the other boats, and kept up a heavy fire on that part of the town where our men were to land.
How far our views would have succeeded, had an opportunity offered for attempting the execution, it is impossible for me to say. Nothing less than experiment could determine with precision. The plan was thought to be well digested; and, as far as I could judge from the cheerfulness and alacrity, which distinguished the officers and men, who were to engage in the enterprise, I had reason to hope for a favorable and happy issue.
The militia, who were ordered in from the adjacent towns, brought with them three days’ provision. They were only called upon to act under the idea of an attack’s being immediately made, and were all discharged this afternoon.
I beg leave to remind Congress, that three major-generals are essential and necessary for this army; and that, by General Lee’s being called from hence to the command in Canada, the left division is without one. I hope they will fill up the vacancy by the appointment of another. General Thomas is the first brigadier, stands fair in point of reputation, and is esteemed a brave and good officer.1 If he is promoted, there will be a vacancy in the brigadier-generals, which it will be necessary to supply by the appointment of some other gentleman that shall be agreeable to Congress; but justice requires me to mention, that William Thompson, of the rifle regiment, is the first colonel in this department, and, as far as I have had an opportunity of judging, is a good officer and a man of courage. What I have said of these two gentlemen, I conceive to be my duty, at the same time acknowledging, whatever promotions are made will be satisfactory to me.
March 9th. Yesterday evening a Captain Irvine who escaped from Boston the night before with six of his crew, came to head quarters and gave the following intelligence:—
That our bombardment and cannonade caused a good deal of surprize and alarm in town, as many of the soldiery said they never heard or thought we had mortars or shells; that several of the officers acknowledged they were well and properly directed; that they made much distress and confusion; that the cannon shot for the greatest part went thro’ the houses, and he was told that one took off the legs and arms of six men lying in the barracks on the Neck; that a soldier who came from the lines there on Tuesday morning informed him that 20 men had been wounded the night before. It was reported that others were also hurt, and one of the light horse torn to pieces by the explosion of a shell. This was afterwards contradicted. That early on Tuesday morning Admiral Shuldham discovering the works our people were throwing up on Dorchester Heights, immediately sent an express to General Howe to inform him, and that it was necessary they should be attacked and dislodged from thence, or he would be under the necessity of withdrawing the ships from the harbor, which were under his command; that preparations were directly made for that purpose as it was said, and from twelve to two o’clock about 3000 men embarked on board the transport which fell down to the Castle with a design of landing on that part of Dorchester next to it, and attacking the works on the Heights at 5 o’clock next morning; that Lord Percy was appointed to command; that it was generally believed the attempt would have been made, had it not been for the violent storm which happened that night, as I have mentioned before; that he heard several of the privates and one or two sergeants say as they were embarking, that it would be another Bunker Hill affair. He further informs that the army is preparing to leave Boston, and that they will do it in a day or two; that the transports necessary for their embarkation were getting ready with the utmost expedition; that there had been great movements and confusion among the troops the night and day preceding his coming out, in hurrying down their cannon, artillery and other stores to the wharves with the utmost precipitation, and were putting ’em on board the ships in such haste that no account or memorandum was taken of them; that most of the cannon were removed from their works and embarked or embarking; that he heard a woman say, which he took to be an officer’s wife, that she had seen men go under the ground at the lines on the Neck without returning; that the ship he commanded was taken up, places fitted and fitting for officer’s to lodge, and several shot, shells and cannon already on board; that the tories were to have the liberty of going where they please, if they can get seamen to man the vessels, of which there was a great scarcity; that on that account many vessels could not be carried away and would be burnt; that many of the inhabitants apprehended the town would be destroyed, and that it was generally thought their destination is Halifax.
The account given by Captain Irvine, as to the embarkation, and their being about to leave the town, I believe true. There are other circumstances corroborating; and it seems fully confirmed by a paper signed by four of the selectmen of the town (a copy of which I have the honor to enclose to you), which was brought on yesterday evening by a flag, and delivered to Colonel Learned, by Major Bassett, of the tenth regiment, who desired it might be delivered me as soon as possible. I advised with such of the general officers upon the occasion as I could immediately assemble; and we determined it right (as it was not addressed to me, nor to any one else, nor authenticated by the signature of General Howe, or any other act obliging him to a performance of the promise mentioned on his part), that I should give it no answer; at the same time, that a letter should be returned, as going from Colonel Learned, signifying his having laid it before me; with the reasons assigned for not answering it. A copy of this is sent.1
To-night I shall have a battery thrown up on Nook’s Hill (Dorchester Point), with a design of acting as circumstances may require; it being judged advisable to prosecute our plans of fortification, as we intended before this information from the selectmen came.
It being agreed on all hands, that there is no possibility of stopping them in case they determine to go, I shall order look-outs to be kept upon all the head-lands, to discover their movements and course, and moreover direct Commodore Manly and his little squadron to dog them, as well for the same purpose, as for picking up any of their vessels, that may chance to depart their convoy. From their loading with such precipitancy, it is presumable they ’ll not be in the best condition for sea.
If the ministerial troops evacuate the town and leave it standing, I have thoughts of taking measures for fortifying the entrance into the harbor, if it shall be thought proper, and the situation of affairs will admit of it. Notwithstanding the report from Boston, that Halifax is the place of their destination, I have no doubt but that they are going to the southward, and, I apprehend, to New York. Many reasons lead to this opinion. It is in some measure corroborated by their sending an express ship there, which, on Wednesday week, got on shore and bilged at Cape Cod. The despatches, if written, were destroyed when she was boarded. She had a parcel of coal, and about four thousand cannon-shot, six carriage-guns, a swivel or two, and three barrels of powder.
I shall hold the riflemen and other parts of our troops in readiness to march at a moment’s warning, and govern my movements by the events that happen, or such orders as I may receive from Congress, which I beg may be ample, and forwarded with all possible expedition.
On the 6th inst. a ship bound from London with stores for the ministerial army, consisting of coal, porter and krout, fell in with our armed vessels, four of them in company, and was carried into Portsmouth. She had had a long passage, and of course brought no papers of a late date. The only letters of importance or the least interesting that were found, I have enclosed.
I beg leave to mention to Congress that money is much wanted. The militia from these governments engaged till the first of April, are then to be paid, and if we march from hence, the expence will be very considerable, must be defrayed, and cannot be accomplished without it. The necessity of making the earliest remittance for these purposes is too obvious for me to add more.
When I wrote that part of this letter which is antecedent to this date, I fully expected it would have gone before now by Col. Bull, not deeming it of sufficient importance to send a special messenger, but he deferred his return from time to time, and never set off till to-day. These reasons I hope will excuse the delay and be received as a proper apology for not transmitting it sooner.1
TO JOSEPH REED.
Cambridge, 7 March, 1776.
The Rumpus which every body expected to see between the Ministerialists in Boston, and our troops, has detained the bearer till this time. On Monday night I took possession of the Heights of Dorchester with two thousand men under the command of General Thomas. Previous to this, and in order to divert the enemy’s attention from the real object, and to harass, we began on Saturday night a cannonade and bombardment, which with intervals was continued through the night—the same on Sunday and on Monday, a continued roar from seven o’clock till daylight was kept up between the enemy and us. In this time we had an officer and one private killed, and four or five wounded; and through the ignorance, I suppose, of our artillerymen, burst five mortars (two thirteen inch and three ten inch) the “Congress,”1 one of them. What damage the enemy has sustained is not known, as there has not been a creature out of Boston since. The cannonade, &c., except in the destruction of the mortars, answered our expectations fully; for although we had upwards of 300 teams in motion at the same instant, carrying on our fascines, and other materials to the Neck, and the moon shining in its full lustre, we were not discovered till daylight on Tuesday morning.
So soon as we were discovered, every thing seemed to be prepared for an attack, but the tide failing before they were ready, about one thousand only were able to embark in six transports in the afternoon, and these falling down towards the Castle, were drove on shore by a violent storm, which arose in the afternoon of that day, and continued through the night; since that they have been seen returning to Boston, and whether from an apprehension that our works are now too formidable to make any impression on, or from what other causes I know not, but their hostile appearances have subsided, and they are removing their ammunition out of their magazine, whether with a view to move bag and baggage or not I cannot undertake to say, but if we had powder, (and our mortars replaced, which I am about to do by new cast ones as soon as possible) I would, so soon as we were sufficiently strengthened on the heights to take possession of the point just opposite to Boston Neck, give them a dose they would not well like.
We had prepared boats, a detachment of 4000 men, &c., &c., for pushing to the west part of Boston, if they had made any formidable attack upon Dorchester. I will not lament or repine at any act of Providence because I am in a great measure a convert to Mr. Pope’s opinion, that whatever is, is right, but I think everything had the appearance of a successful issue, if we had come to an engagement on that day. It was the 5th of March, which I recalled to their remembrance as a day never to be forgotten; an engagement was fully expected, and I never saw spirits higher, or more prevailing.1
Your favor of the 18th ultimo came to my hands by post last night, and gives me much pleasure, as I am led to hope I shall see you of my family again. The terms upon which you come will be perfectly agreeable to me, and I should think you neither candid nor friendly, if your communications on this subject had not been free, unreserved, and divested of that false kind of modesty, which too often prevents the elucidation of points important to be known. Mr. Baylor seeming to have an inclination to go into the artillery, and Colonel Knox desirous of it, I have appointed Mr. Moylan and Mr. Palfrey my aids-decamp, so that I shall, if you come, have a good many writers about me.
I think my countrymen made a capital mistake, when they took Henry out of the senate to place him in the field; and pity it is, that he does not see this, and remove every difficulty by a voluntary resignation.1 I am of opinion, that Colonel Armstrong, if he retains his health, spirits, and vigor, would be as fit a person as any they could send to Virginia, as he is senior officer to any now there, and I should think could give no offence; but to place Colonel Thompson there, in the first command, would throw every thing into the utmost confusion; for it was by mere chance that he became a colonel upon this expedition, and by greater chance that he became first colonel in this army. To take him then from another colony, place him over the heads of several gentlemen, under or with whom he has served in a low and subordinate character, would never answer any other purpose, than that of introducing endless confusion. Such a thing surely cannot be in contemplation; and, knowing the mischiefs it would produce, surely Colonel Thompson would have more sense, and a greater regard for the cause he is engaged in, than to accept of it, unless some uncommon abilities or exertions had given him a superior claim. He must know, that nothing more than being a captain of horse in the year 1759 (I think it was) did very extraordinarily give him the start he now has, when the rank was settled here. At the same time, he must know another fact, that several officers now in the Virginia service were much his superiors in point of rank, and will not I am sure serve under him. He stands first colonel here, and may, I presume, put in a very good and proper claim to the first brigade that falls vacant; but I hope more regard will be paid to the service, than to send him to Virginia.
The bringing of Colonel Armstrong into this army as major-general, however great his merit, would introduce much confusion. Thomas, if no more, would surely quit, and I believe him to be a good man. If Thomas supplies the place of Lee, there will be a vacancy for either Armstrong or Thompson; for I have heard of no other valiant son of New England waiting promotion, since the advancement of Frye, who has not, and I doubt will not, do much service to the cause; at present he keeps his room, and talks learnedly of emetics, cathartics, &c. For my own part, I see nothing but a declining life that matters him.1
I am sorry to hear of your ill-fated fleet. We had it, I suppose because we wished it, that Hopkins had taken Clinton, and his transports. How glorious would this have been! We have the proverb on our side, however, that “a bad beginning will end well.” This applies to land and sea service. The account given of the business of the commissioners from England seems to be of a piece with Lord North’s conciliatory motion last year, built upon the same foundation, and, if true that they are to be divided among the colonies to offer terms of pardon, it is as insulting as that motion2 ; and only designed, after stopping all intercourse with us, to set us up to view in Great Britain, as a people that will not hearken to any propositions of peace. Was there ever any thing more absurd, than to repeal the very acts, which have introduced all this confusion and bloodshed, and at the same time enact a law to restrain all intercourse with the colonies for opposing them? The drift and design are obvious; but is it possible that any sensible nation upon earth can be imposed upon by such a cobweb scheme, or gauze covering? But enough, or else upon a subject so copious I should enter upon my fifth sheet of paper. I have, if length of letter will do it, already made you ample amend for the silence which my hurry in preparing for what I hoped would be a decisive stroke, obliged me to keep. My best respects to Mrs. Reed, in which Mrs. Washington joins, concludes me, dear sir, &c.1
March 9th.—Colonel Bull’s still waiting to see a little further into the event of things gives me an opportunity of adding, that from a gentleman out of Boston, confirmed by a paper from the selectmen there, we have undoubted information of General Howe’s preparing with great precipitancy to embark his troops; for what place we know not; Halifax, it is said. The selectmen, being under dreadful apprehensions for the town, applied to General Robertson to apply to General Howe, who through General Robertson has informed them, that it is not his intention to destroy the town, unless his Majesty’s troops should be molested during their embarkation, or at their departure. This paper seems so much under covert, unauthenticated, and addressed to nobody, that I sent word to the selectmen, that I could take no notice of it; but I shall go on with my preparations as intended. The gentlemen above mentioned out of Boston say, that they seem to be in great consternation there, that one of our shot from Lamb’s Dam disabled six men in their beds, and that the Admiral upon discovering our works next morning informed the General that, unless we were dispossessed of them, he could not keep the King’s ships in the harbor; and that three thousand men, commanded by Lord Percy, were actually embarked for that purpose. Of the issue of it you have been informed before. I am, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Cambridge, 13 March, 1776.
In my letter of the 7th and 9th instant, which I had the honor of addressing you, I mentioned the intelligence I had received respecting the embarkation of the troops from Boston; and fully expected, before this, that the Town would have been entirely evacuuated. Although I have been deceived, and was rather premature in the opinion I had then formed, I have little reason to doubt but the event will take place in a very short time, as other accounts, which have come to hand since, the sailing of a great number of transports from the harbor to Nantasket Road, and many circumstances corresponding therewith, seem to confirm and render it unquestionable. Whether the town will be destroyed is a matter of much uncertainty; but it would seem, from the destruction they are making of sundry pieces of furniture, of many of their wagons and carts, which they cannot take with them as it is said, that it will not; for, if they intended it, the whole might be involved in one general ruin.
Holding it of the last importance in the present contest, that we should secure New York, and prevent the enemy from possessing it, and conjecturing they have views of that sort, and their embarkation to be for that purpose, I judged it necessary, under the situation of things here, to call a council of general officers to consult of such measures, as might be expedient to be taken at this interesting conjuncture of affairs. A copy of the proceedings I have the honor to enclose to you.
Agreeable to the opinion of the council, I shall detach the rifle regiment to-morrow, under the command of Brigadier-General Sullivan, with orders to repair to New York with all possible expedition; and which will be succeeded the day after by the other five in one brigade, they being all that it was thought advisable to send from hence, till the enemy shall have quitted the town. Immediately upon their departure, I shall send forward Major-General Putnam, and follow myself with the remainder of the army, as soon as I have it in my power, leaving here such a number of men, as circumstances may seem to require.
As the badness of the roads at this season will greatly retard the march of our men, I have, by advice of the general officers, written to Governor Trumbull by this express, to use his utmost exertions for throwing a reinforcement of two thousand men into New York, from the western parts of Connecticut1 ; and to the commanding officer there, to apply to the Provincial Convention or Committee of Safety of New Jersey, for a thousand more for the same purpose, to oppose the enemy and prevent their getting possession, in case they arrive before the troops from hence can get there; of which there is a probability, unless they are impeded by contrary winds. This measure, though it may be attended with considerable expense, I flatter myself will meet with the approbation of Congress. Past experience, and the lines in Boston and on Boston Neck, point out the propriety, and suggest the necessity, of keeping our enemies from gaining possession and making a lodgment. Should their destination be further southward, or for Halifax, (as reported in Boston,) for the purpose of going into Canada, the march of our troops to New York will place them nearer the scene of action, and more convenient for affording succour.
We have not taken post on Nook’s Hill, and fortified it, as mentioned that we should in my last. On hearing, that the enemy were about to retreat and leave the town, it was thought imprudent and unadvisable to force them with too much precipitation, that we might gain a little time and prepare for a march. To-morrow evening we shall take possession of it, unless they are gone.
As New York is of such importance, prudence and policy require that every precaution, that can be devised, should be adopted to frustrate the designs, which the enemy have of possessing it. To this end I have ordered vessels to be provided, and held ready at Norwich, for the embarkation and transportation of our troops thither. This I have done with a view not only of greatly expediting their arrival, as it will save several days’ marching, but also that they may be fresh and fit for intrenching and throwing up works of defence, as soon as they get there, if they do not meet the enemy to contend with; for neither of which would they be in a proper condition, after a long and fatiguing march in bad roads. If Wallace, with his ships, should be apprized of the measure, and attempt to prevent it by stopping up the harbor of New London, they can but pursue their march by land.
You will please to observe, that it is the opinion of the general officers, if the enemy abandon the town, that it will be unnecessary to employ or keep any part of this army for its defence; and that I have mentioned, on that event happening, I shall immediately repair to New York with the remainder of the army not now detached, leaving only such a number of men here as circumstances may seem to require. What I partly allude to is, that,—as it will take a considerable time for the removal of such a body of men, and the divisions must precede each other in such order as to allow intermediate time sufficient for them to be covered and provided for, and many things done previous to the march of the whole, for securing and forwarding such necessaries, as cannot be immediately carried, and others which it may be proper to keep here,—directions might be received from Congress respecting the same, and as many men ordered to remain for that and other purposes, as they may judge proper. I could wish to have their commands upon the subject, and in time, as I may be under some degree of embarrassment as to their views.
Congress having been pleased to appoint Colonel Thompson a brigadier-general, there is a vacancy for a colonel in the regiment he commanded, to which I would beg leave to recommend Lieutenant-Colonel Hand. I shall also take the liberty of recommending Captain Hugh Stephenson, of the Virginia riflemen, to succeed Colonel Hand, and to be appointed in his place as lieutenant-colonel, (there being no major to the regiment, since the promotion of Major Magaw to be lieutenant-colonel of one of the Pennsylvania battalions, who is gone from hence.) He is, in my opinion, the fittest person in this army for it, as well as the oldest captain in the service, having distinguished himself at the head of a rifle company all the last war, and highly merited the approbation of his superior officers.
Col. Mifflin informed me to day of his having received tent cloths from Mr. Barrell of Philadelphia, to the amount of £7500 Pennsylvania currency, and applied for a warrant for payment of it. But as our fund is low and many necessary demands against it which must be satisfied and our calls for money are and will be exceedingly great, I could not grant it, thinking it might be convenient for payment to be made in Philadelphia by your order on the treasury there. I have the honor, &c.1
TO THE COMMANDING OFFICER AT NEW YORK.
Cambridge, 14 March, 1776.
I have stronger reasons, since I last wrote to you, to confirm me in my opinion, that the army under General Howe is on its departure. All their movements pronounce it; but lest it be but a feint, I must continue on my guard, and not weaken my lines too much, until I have a certainty of their departure. It is given out, that they are bound to Halifax; but I am of opinion, that New York is the place of their destination. It is the object worthy of their attention, and it is the place that we must use every endeavor to keep from them. For should they get that town, and the command of the North River, they can stop the intercourse between the northern and southern colonies, upon which depends the safety of America. My feelings upon this subject are so strong, that I would not wish to give the enemy a chance of succeeding at your place. I shall, therefore, despatch a regiment, and some independent companies of riflemen this day; and to-morrow, or as soon as it conveniently can be done, five more regiments will set out from this camp. I cannot part with more while the enemy remain in sight; but I have wrote to Governor Trumbull to send you two thousand men, as soon as he possibly can. If you can get one thousand from New Jersey, with the militia of the country called in, (if not repugnant to the will of Congress,) I think you can make a sufficient stand, until I can with the main body of this army join you; which you may depend upon will be as soon as possible, after I can with any degree of certainty tell their route. The plan of defence formed by General Lee, is from what little I know of the place, a very judicious one. I hope, nay, I dare say, it is carrying into execution with spirit and industry. You may judge from the enemy’s keeping so long possession of the town of Boston against an army superior in numbers, and animated with the noble spirit of liberty; I say, you may judge by that, how much easier it is to keep an enemy from forming a lodgment in a place, than it will be to dispossess them, when they get themselves fortified. As I have in my last told you, that the fate of this campaign, of course the fate of America, depends upon you and the army under your command, should the enemy attempt your quarter. I will dwell no more thereon, though the vast importance of the subject would make an apology for repetitions needless. I am, Sir, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head-Quarters,Cambridge, 19 March, 1776.
It is with the greatest pleasure I inform you that on Sunday last, the 17th instant, about nine o’clock in the forenoon, the ministerial army evacuated the town of Boston, and that the forces of the United Colonies are now in actual possession thereof. I beg leave to congratulate you, Sir, and the honorable Congress, on this happy event, and particularly as it was effected without endangering the lives and property of the remaining unhappy inhabitants.1
I have great reason to imagine their flight was precipitated by the appearance of a work, which I had ordered to be thrown up last Saturday night on an eminence at Dorchester, which lies nearest to Boston Neck, called Nook’s Hill. The town, although it has suffered greatly, is not in so bad a state as I expected to find it; and I have a particular pleasure in being able to inform you, Sir, that your house has received no damage worth mentioning. Your furniture is in tolerable order, and the family pictures are all left entire and untouched. Captain Cazneau takes charge of the whole, until he shall receive further orders from you.
As soon as the ministerial troops had quitted the town, I ordered a thousand men (who had had the smallpox), under command of General Putnam, to take possession of the heights, which I shall endeavor to fortify in such a manner, as to prevent their return, should they attempt it. But, as they are still in the harbor, I thought it not prudent to march off with the main body of the army, until I should be fully satisfied they had quitted the coast. I have, therefore, only detached five regiments, besides the rifle battalion, to New York, and shall keep the remainder here till all suspicion of their return ceases.
The situation in which I found their works evidently discovered, that their retreat was made with the greatest precipitation. They have left their barracks and other works of wood at Bunker’s Hill all standing, and have destroyed but a small part of their lines. They have also left a number of fine pieces of cannon, which they first spiked up, also a very large iron mortar; and, (as I am informed,) they have thrown another over the end of your wharf. I have employed proper persons to drill the cannon, and doubt not I shall save the most of them. I am not yet able to procure an exact list of all the stores they have left. As soon as it can be done, I shall take care to transmit it to you. From an estimate of what the quartermaster-general has already discovered, the amount will be twenty-five or thirty thousand pounds.
Part of the powder mentioned in yours of the 6th instant has already arrived. The remainder I have ordered to be stopped on the road, as we shall have no occasion for it here. The letter to General Thomas, I immediately sent to him. He desired leave, for three or four days, to settle some of his private affairs; after which, he will set out for his command in Canada.1 I am happy that my conduct in intercepting Lord Drummond’s letter is approved of by Congress. I have the honor to be, &c.2
PROCLAMATION ON THE EVACUATION OF BOSTON.
Whereas the ministerial army has abandoned the town of Boston, and the forces of the United Colonies under my command are in possession of the same; I have therefore thought it necessary for the preservation of peace, good order, and discipline, to publish the following orders, that no person offending therein may plead ignorance as an excuse for his misconduct.
All officers and soldiers are hereby ordered to live in the strictest peace and amity with the inhabitants; and no inhabitant, or other person, employed in his lawful business in the town is to be molested in his person or property, on any pretence whatever.
If any officer or soldier shall presume to strike, imprison, or otherwise ill-treat any of the inhabitants, he may depend on being punished with the utmost severity; and if any officer or soldier shall receive any insult from any of the inhabitants, he is to seek redress in a legal way, and no other.
Any non-commissioned officer or soldier, or others under my command, who shall be guilty of robbing or plundering in the town, are to be immediately confined, and will be most rigidly punished. All officers are therefore ordered to be very vigilant in the discovery of such offenders, and report their names and crime to the commanding officer in the town, as soon as may be.
The inhabitants and others are called upon to make known to the quartermaster-general, or any of his deputies, all stores belonging to the ministerial army, that may be remaining or secreted in the town; any person or persons whatsoever, that shall be known to conceal any of the said stores, or appropriate them to his or their own use, will be considered as an enemy to America, and treated accordingly.
The selectmen and other magistrates of the town are desired to return to the Commander-in-chief the names of all or any person or persons, they may suspect of being employed as spies upon the Continental army, that they may be dealt with accordingly.
All officers of the Continental army are enjoined to assist the civil magistrates in the execution of their duty, and to promote peace and good order. They are to prevent, as much as possible, the soldiers from frequenting tippling-houses, and strolling from their posts. Particular notice will be taken of such officers as are inattentive and remiss in their duty; and, on the contrary, such only as are active and vigilant will be entitled to future favor and promotion.
Given under my hand, at Head-Quarters, in Cambridge, the 21st day of March, 1776.1
TO THE GENERAL COURT OF MASSACHUSETTS BAY.
Cambridge, 21 March, 1776.
Ere now, I was in hopes of congratulating you on the departure of the ministerial troops, not only from your capital, but country. That they still remain in the harbor, after having been five days embarked, affords matter of speculation, and, collected as their force is now, of apprehension. This circumstance, the security of Boston by a work on Fort Hill and the demolition of the lines on the Neck, and preservation of the stores for Continental use, belonging to the King by a proper search after them, rendered it indispensably necessary for me to throw some troops into the town immediately, it coming within the line of my duty. But, notwithstanding all the precaution, which I have endeavored to use, to restrain and limit the intercourse between the town and country and army for a few days, I greatly fear that the smallpox will be communicated to both.
So soon as the fleet sets sail, my attention must be turned to another quarter, and most of the Continental regiments now here must be marched off. It may be necessary, therefore, for you, Gentlemen, to consider the state of your harbor, and think of such works as may be found necessary for the defence of it, and the town also, in case another armed force, (which I by no means expect,) should be sent hither. I shall leave three or four regiments as circumstances may require for security of the stores, and throwing up works as shall be deemed necessary for the purposes above mentioned; and shall direct the officer commanding them to receive such instructions, in respect to the latter, as you may think proper to give. It has been suggested to me, that, in the town of Boston, there is a good deal of property belonging to refugees, and such other inimical persons as, from the first of the present dispute, have manifested the most unfriendly disposition to the American cause; and that part of this property is in such kind of effects, as can be easily transported, concealed, or changed. I submit to you, therefore, Gentlemen, the expediency of having an inquiry made into this matter, before it is too late for redress, leaving the decision thereupon (after the quantum, or value, is ascertained, and held in a state of durance) to the consideration of a future day. I have ordered, that no violence be offered by the soldiery, either to the property or persons of those people; wishing that the matter may be taken into consideration by your honorable body, and in such a way as you shall judge most advisable.1
The enclosed came to me a few days ago, and I beg leave to recommend the purport of it to the consideration of the Court. I shall take the liberty to add, as my opinion, that the Congress expect nothing else, than that the field-officers of the Massachusetts regiments should receive the same pay, as those of the other colonies have done; and that they expected, at the time the pay was fixed, fifteen pounds to a colonel, twelve pounds to a lieutenant-colonel, and ten pounds to a major, was the actual establishment of this government. I could wish, therefore, they were allowed it, to remove the jealousies and uneasiness which have arisen. I am, with great respect and esteem, Gentlemen, &c.1
TO GOVERNOR TRUMBULL.
Cambridge, 21 March, 1776.
I received your favour of the 18 Inst. and concur with you in opinion, that their women and children with the Tory Families will most probably goe to Halifax this is what I meant and alluded to, having never suspected that they (especially the latter) would goe to New York.
I am extreemly obliged by your friendly hint and shall ever receive them with pleasure. But I do not think that they were apprehensive of an attack from our side but rather preparing to make one; However let their designs have been what they may, I have the satisfaction to Inform you, that on Sunday morning last they totally evacuated the Town, and we are now in full possession; upon which event I beg leave to congratulate you, and more so, as the Town is in a much better situation than was expected, added to this, they have left by means of their precipitate retreat Stores of one kind & another to a pretty considerable amount, a particular detail of which or estimation of there value, I have not yet got.—Notwithstanding they have abandoned the Town, and there have been favorable winds for their departure, they are still lying with their fleet in Nantasket road, but for what purpose, is a matter of much conjecture, some suposing their Vessels to have been loaded with such hurry and confusion as to be unfit for sea and to require sundry things and arrangements to be settled previous to their goeing out; But for my own part, I cannot but suspect they are waiting for some opportunity to give us a stroke at a moment when they conceive us to be off our guard, in order to retrieve the honor they have lost, by their shamefull and scandelous retreat diminishing from that Lustre and renown which British armies were wont to boast and justly claimed as their right.—Suspecting them of such motives, I shall not detach any more of the Army than what is gone already; untill they have taken their departure and quitted the Coast.
I heartily thank you for your kind attention to my last requisition, and am glad that the Companies you have ordered are of the Militia; the trouble and inconveniences occasioned by them, being far less than what generally attend Voluntiers—Nothing but necessity and the Importance of New York to us in the present contest could have induced the application and therefore as soon as they can be spared by the arrival of our Army, they will be at Liberty to return home to their common and necessary employments except such as may chuse to Inlist and continue in Service.
In compliance with your request, I shall direct the Troops or some of them that goe from hence after the ministerial Fleet are gone, to pursue their Rout on or near the Sea Coast, If they can be accommodated with Covering and provision; that they may be ready to oppose the Enemy in case they make any attempt upon your Colony about the time of their goeing; tho that is what I do not apprehend; I rather suppose when they once set out, that they will repair to New York, or where ever bound with all posible dispatch to secure the place they are destined for by surprize, lest preparations shou’d be made to receive & prevent them. I am, Sir, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Cambridge, 24 March, 1776.
When I had the honor to address you on the 19th instant, upon the evacuation of the town of Boston by the ministerial army, I fully expected, as their retreat and embarkation were hurried and precipitate, that, before now, they would have departed the harbor, and been far on their passage to the place of destination. But, to my surprise and disappointment, the fleet is still in Nantasket Road. The purpose inducing their stay is altogether unknown; nor can I suggest any satisfactory reason for it. On Wednesday night last, before the whole of the fleet fell down to Nantasket, they demolished the Castle, and houses belonging to it, by burning them down, and the several fortifications. They left a great number of the cannon, but have rendered all of them, except a very few, entirely useless, by breaking off the trunnions, and those they spiked up, but may be made serviceable again; some are already done.
There are several vessels in the docks, which were taken by the enemy, some with and others without cargoes, which different persons claim as their property and right. Are they to be restored to the former owners, on making proof of their title, or to belong to the Continent, as captures made from the enemy? I wish Congress would direct a mode of proceeding against them, and establish a rule for decision. They appear to me to be highly necessary. In like manner, some of the cannon, which are in Boston, are said to have come from the Castle. Supposing them, with those remaining at the Castle, to have been purchased by and provided originally at the expense of this province, are they now to be considered as belonging to it, or to the public? I beg leave to refer the matter to the opinion of Congress, and pray their direction how I am to conduct respecting them.
It having been suggested to me, that there was considerable property &c. belonging to persons, who had, from the first of the present unhappy contest, manifested an unfriendly and inveterate disposition, in the town of Boston, I thought it prudent to write to the honorable General Court upon the subject, that it might be inquired after and secured. A copy of the letter I herewith send you, and submit it to Congress, whether they will not determine how it is to be disposed of, and as to the appropriation of the money arising from the sale of the same.
As soon as the town was abandoned by the enemy, I judged it advisable to secure the several heights, lest they should attempt to return; and, for this purpose, have caused a large and strong work to be thrown up on Fort Hill, a post of great importance, as it commands the whole harbor, and, when fortified, if properly supported, will greatly annoy any fleet the enemy may send against the town, and render the landing of their troops exceedingly difficult, if not impracticable. This work is almost done, and in a little time will be complete; and, that the communication between the town and country may be free and open, I have ordered all the lines upon the Neck to be immediately destroyed, and the other works on the sides of the town facing the country, that the inhabitants from the latter may not be impeded, but afforded an easy entrance, in case the enemy should gain possession at any future time. These matters I conceived to be within the line of my duty; of which I advised the General Court, and recommended to their attention such other measures, as they might think necessary for securing the town against the hostile designs of the enemy.
I have just got an inventory of stores and property belonging to the Crown, which the enemy left in Boston, at the Castle, and Bunker’s Hill, which I have the honor to transmit to you; and shall give strict orders, that a careful attention be had to any more that may be found. I shall take such precautions respecting them, that they may be secure, and turn to the public advantage, as much as possible, or as circumstances will admit of.
A Mr. Bullfinch from Boston who acted as clerk to Mr. —, having put into my hands a list of rations drawn the Saturday before the troops evacuated the town, I have enclosed it for your inspection. He says neither the staff officers or women are included in the list; from which it appears that their number was greater than we had an idea of.1
Major-General Ward and Brigadier-General Frye are desirous of leaving the service, and, for that purpose, have requested me to lay the matter before Congress, that they may be allowed to resign their commissions.2 The papers containing their applications you will herewith receive. These will give you a full and more particular information upon the subject, and, therefore, I shall take the liberty of referring you to them. I would mention to Congress that the Commissary of Artillery stores has informed me that whatever powder has been sent to the camp, has always come without any bill, ascertaining the number of casks or quantity. This it is probable has proceeded from forgetfulness or inattention in the persons appointed to send it, or to the negligence of those who brought it, tho’ they have declared otherwise, and that they never had any. As it may prevent in some measure embezzlements (tho’ I do not suspect any to have been made) and the Commissary will know what and how much to receive, and be enabled to discover mistakes, if any should happen, I shall be glad if you will direct a bill of parcels to be always sent in future. There have been so many accounts from England, all agreeing that Commissioners are coming to America, to propose terms for an accommodation, as they say, that I am inclined to think the time of their arrival not very far off. If they come to Boston, which probably will be the case, if they come to America at all, I shall be under much embarrassment respecting the manner of receiving them, and the mode of treatment, that ought to be used.1 I therefore pray, that Congress will give me directions, and point out the line of conduct to be pursued; whether they are to be considered as ambassadors, and, to have a pass or permit for repairing through the country to Philadelphia, or to any other place; or whether they are to be restrained in any and what manner. I shall anxiously wait their orders and, whatever they are, comply with them literally. I have the honor, &c.1
TO JOSEPH REED.
Cambridge, 25 March, 1776.
My Dear Sir,
Since my last, things remain nearly in statu quo. The enemy have the best knack at puzzling people I ever met with in my life. They have blown up, burnt, and demolished the Castle totally, and are now all in Nantasket Road. They have been there ever since Wednesday. What they are doing, the Lord knows. Various are the conjectures. The Bostonians think their stay absolutely necessary to fit them for sea, as the vessels, neither in themselves nor their lading, were in any degree fit for a voyage, having been loaded in great haste and much disorder. This opinion is corroborated by a deserter from one of the transports, who says they have yards, booms, and bowsprits yet to fix. Others again think, that they have a mind to pass over the equinoctial gale before they put out, not being in the best condition to stand one; others, that they are a reinforcement, which I believe has arrived, as I have had an account of the sailing of fifteen vessels from the West Indies. But my opinion of the matter is, that they want to retrieve their disgrace before they go off, and I think a favorable opportunity presents itself to them. They have now got their whole force into one collected body, and no posts to guard. We have detached six regiments to New York, and have many points to look to, and, on Monday next, ten regiments of militia, which were brought in to serve till the first of April, will be disengaged.1 From former experience, we have found it as practicable to stop a torrent, as these people, when their time is up. If this should be the case now, what more favorable opening can the enemy wish for, to make a push upon our lines, nay, upon the back of our lines at Roxbury, as they can land two miles from them and pass behind? I am under more apprehension from them now than ever, and am taking every precaution I can to guard against the evil; but we have a kind of people to deal with, who will not fear danger till the bayonet is at their breast, and then they are susceptible enough of it. I am fortifying Fort Hill in Boston, and demolishing the lines on the Neck there, as they are a defence against the country only, and making such other dispositions, as appear necessary for a general defence. I can spare no more men till I see the enemy’s back fairly turned, and then I shall hasten towards New York.
You mention Mr. Webb in one of your letters for an assistant.1 He will be agreeable enough to me, if you think him qualified for the business. What kind of a hand he writes, I know not. I believe but a cramped one; latterly none at all, as he has either the gout, or rheumatism, or both. He is a man fond of company and gayety, and is of a tender constitution. Whether, therefore, such a person would answer your purpose so well as a plodding, methodical person, whose sole business should be to arrange his papers in such order as to produce any one at any instant it is called for, and capable at the same time of composing a letter, is what you have to consider. I can only add, that I have no one in view myself, and wish you success in your choice; being with great truth and sincerity, dear Sir, your affectionate servant.
P. S. I have taken occasion to hint to a certain gentleman in this camp, without introducing names, my apprehensions of his being concerned in trade. He protests most solemnly that he is not, directly nor indirectly, and derives no other profit than the Congress allows him for defraying the expenses, to wit, 5 per cent. on the goods purchased.2
TO COLONEL THOMAS MIFFLIN, QUARTERMASTER-GENERAL.
As the motions of the enemy, and the operations of the ensuing campaign, render it indispensably necessary, that a very large body of troops should be immediately assembled at or near New York, you will immediately proceed to Norwich in Connecticut, where you will, in concert with the Brigadier-Generals Heath and Sullivan, regulate the embarkation of the brigades under their command, and settle all such matters with the commissary-general of provisions, and contracts for the transports, as may be further necessary for expediting the march of the rest of the army with the stores, artillery, and camp equipage. This being done, you will proceed without delay to New York; where your first care will be to provide barracks for the troops, firing, forage, and quarters for the general officers. Fix upon a proper house or houses for a general hospital, and stabling for the Continental draught-horses. Intrenching tools must also be immediately provided, with a sufficient quantity of joists and planks for platforms, and timber for gun-carriages; in short, every article necessary for the public service, and which your experience in the last campaign convinces you will be wanted in that now approaching.
The variety of the business of your department renders it next to impossible to point out particularly every duty of your office. Therefore, a latitude is given you in these orders and instructions, which, together with the directions and advice of the commanding general at New York, must be the rule for the future regulation of your conduct; and I shall at present only recommend, that the same integrity, zeal, diligence, and activity, which has animated your past services, may govern that which is to come. Given at Head-Quarters, in Cambridge, this 24th day of March, 1776.1
ANSWER TO AN ADDRESS FROM THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF MASSACHUSETTS.
I return you my most sincere and hearty thanks for your polite address; and feel myself called upon by every principle of gratitude, to acknowledge the honor you have done me in this testimonial of your approbation of my appointment to the exalted station I now fill, and, what is more pleasing, of my conduct in discharging its important duties.
When the councils of the British nation had formed a plan for enslaving America, and depriving her sons of their most sacred and invaluable privileges, against the clearest remonstrances of the constitution, of justice, and of truth, and, to execute their schemes, had appealed to the sword, I esteemed it my duty to take a part in the contest, and more especially on account of my being called thereto by the unsolicited suffrages of the representatives of a free people; wishing for no other reward, than that arising from a conscientious discharge of the important trust, and that my services might contribute to the establishment of freedom and peace, upon a permanent foundation, and merit the applause of my countrymen, and every virtuous citizen.
Your acknowledgment of my attention to the civil constitution of this colony, whilst acting in the line of my department, also demands my grateful thanks. A regard to every Provincial institution, where not incompatible with the common interest, I hold a principle of duty and of policy, and it shall ever form a part of my conduct. Had I not learnt this before, the happy experience of the advantages resulting from a friendly intercourse with your honorable body, their ready and willing concurrence to aid and to counsel, whenever called upon in cases of difficulty and emergency, would have taught me the useful lesson.
That the metropolis of your colony is now relieved from the cruel and oppressive invasions of those, who were sent to erect the standard of lawless domination, and to trample on the rights of humanity, and is again open and free for its rightful possessors, must give pleasure to every virtuous and sympathetic heart; and its being effected without the blood of our soldiers and fellow-citizens must be ascribed to the interposition of that Providence, which has manifestly appeared in our behalf through the whole of this important struggle, as well as to the measures pursued for bringing about the happy event.
May that Being, who is powerful to save, and in whose hands is the fate of nations, look down with an eye of tender pity and compassion upon the whole of the United Colonies; may He continue to smile upon their counsels and arms, and crown them with success, whilst employed in the cause of virtue and mankind. May this distressed colony and its capital, and every part of this wide extended continent, through His divine favor, be restored to more than their former lustre and once happy state, and have peace, liberty, and safety secured upon a solid, permanent, and lasting foundation.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL PUTNAM.
As there are the best reasons to believe, that the enemy’s fleet and army, which left Nantasket Road last Wednesday evening, are bound to New York, to endeavor to possess that important post, and, if possible, secure the communication by Hudson’s River to Canada, it must be our care to prevent them from accomplishing their designs. To that end, I have detached Brigadier-General Heath with the whole body of riflemen and five battalions of the Continental army, by the way of Norwich in Connecticut, to New York. These, by an express arrived yesterday from General Heath, I have reason to believe are in New York. Six more battalions under General Sullivan march this morning by the same route, and will, I hope, arrive there in eight or ten days at the farthest. The rest of the army will immediately follow in divisions, leaving only a convenient space between each division, to prevent confusion and want of accommodation upon their march.
You will no doubt make the best despatch in getting to New York. Upon your arrival there, you will assume the command, and immediately proceed in continuing to execute the plan proposed by Major-General Lee, for fortifying that city and securing the passes of the East and North Rivers. If, upon consulation with the brigadier-generals and engineers, any alteration in that plan is thought necessary, you are at liberty to make it; cautiously avoiding to break in too much upon his main design, unless where it may be apparently necessary so to do, and that by the general voice and opinion of the gentlemen above mentioned.
You will meet the quartermaster-general, Colonel Mifflin, and the commissary-general, at New York. As they are both men of excellent talents in their different departments, you will do well to give them all the authority and assistance they require; and should a council of war be necessary, it is my direction they shall assist at it. Your long service and experience will, better than any particular directions at this distance, point out to you the works most proper to be first raised; and your perseverance, activity, and zeal will lead you, without my recommending it, to exert every nerve to disappoint the enemy’s designs.
Devoutly praying, that the Power, which has hitherto sustained the American arms, may continue to bless them with His divine protection, I bid you farewell. Given at Head-Quarters, in Cambridge, this 29th day of March, 1776.
TO JOHN AUGUSTINE WASHINGTON.
Cambridge, 31 March, 1776.
Your letter of the 24th ultimo was duly forwarded to this camp by Colonel Lee, and gave me the pleasure of hearing that you, my sister, and family were well. After your post is established to Fredericksburg, the intercourse by letter may become regular and certain; and whenever time, little of which I have for friendly correspondence, will permit, I shall be happy in writing to you. I cannot call to mind the date of my last to you, but this I recollect, that I have written more letters than I have received from you.
The want of arms and powder is not peculiar to Virginia.1 This country, of which doubtless you have heard large and flattering accounts, is more deficient in both than you can conceive. I have been here months together, with (what will scarcely be believed) not thirty rounds of musket cartridges to a man; and have been obliged to submit to all the insults of the enemy’s cannon for want of powder, keeping what little we had for pistol distance. Another thing has been done, which, added to the above, will put it in the power of this army to say, what perhaps no other with justice ever could say. We have maintained our ground against the enemy, under this want of powder, and we have disbanded one army, and recruited another, within musket-shot of two and twenty regiments, the flower of the British army, whilst our force has been but little if any superior to theirs; and, at last, have beaten them into a shameful and precipitate retreat out of a place the strongest by nature on this continent, and strengthened and fortified at an enormous expense.
As some account of the late manœuvres of both armies may not be unacceptable, I shall, hurried as I always am, devote a little time to it. Having received a small supply of powder, very inadequate to our wants, I resolved to take possession of Dorchester Point, lying east of Boston, looking directly into it, and commanding the enemy’s lines on Boston Neck. To do this, which I knew would force the enemy to an engagement, or subject them to be enfiladed by our cannon, it was necessary, in the first instance, to possess two heights (those mentioned in General Burgoyne’s letter to Lord Stanley, in his account of the battle of Bunker’s Hill), which had the entire command of the point. The ground at this point being frozen upwards of two feet deep, and as impenetrable as a rock, nothing could be attempted with earth. We were obliged, therefore, to provide an amazing quantity of chandeliers and fascines for the work; and, on the night of the 4th, after a previous severe cannonade and bombardment for three nights together, to divert the enemy’s attention from our real design, we removed every material to the spot, under cover of darkness, and took full possession of those heights, without the loss of a single man.
Upon their discovery of the works next morning, great preparations were made for attacking them; but not being ready before the afternoon, and the weather getting very tempestuous, much blood was saved, and a very important blow, to one side or the other, was prevented. That this most remarkable interposition of Providence is for some wise purpose, I have not a doubt. But, as the principal design of the manœuvre was to draw the enemy to an engagement under disadvantages to them, as a premeditated plan was laid for this purpose, and seemed to be succeeding to my utmost wish, and as no men seem better disposed to make the appeal than ours did upon that occasion, I can scarcely forbear lamenting the disappointment, unless the dispute is drawing to an accommodation, and the sword going to be sheathed. But, to return, the enemy thinking, as we have since learnt, that we had got too securely posted, before the second morning, to be much hurt by them, and apprehending great annoyance from our new works, resolved upon a retreat, and accordingly on the 17th embarked in as much hurry, precipitation, and confusion, as ever troops did, not taking time to fit their transports, but leaving the King’s property in Boston, to the amount, as is supposed, of thirty or forty thousand pounds in provisions and stores. Many pieces of cannon, some mortars, and a number of shot and shells are also left; and baggage-wagons and artillery-carts, which they have been eighteen months preparing to take the field with, were found destroyed, thrown into the docks, and drifted upon every shore. In short, Dunbar’s destruction of stores after General Braddock’s defeat, which made so much noise, affords but a faint idea of what was to be met with here.
The enemy lay from the 17th to the 27th in Nantasket and King’s Roads, about nine miles from Boston, to take in water from the islands thereabouts, and to prepare themselves for sea. Whither they are now bound, and where their tents will be next pitched, I know not; but, as New York and Hudson’s River are the most important objects they can have in view, as the latter secures the communication with Canada, at the same time that it separates the northern and southern colonies, and the former is thought to abound in disaffected persons, who only wait a favorable opportunity and support to declare themselves openly, it becomes equally important for us to prevent their gaining possession of these advantages; and, therefore, as soon as they embarked, I detached a brigade of six regiments to that government, and, when they sailed, another brigade composed of the same number; and to-morrow another brigade of five regiments will march. In a day or two more, I shall follow myself, and be in New York ready to receive all but the first.
The enemy left all their works standing in Boston and on Bunker’s Hill; and formidable they are. The town has shared a much better fate than was expected, the damage done to the houses being nothing equal to report. But the inhabitants have suffered a good deal, in being plundered by the soldiery at their departure. All those who took upon themselves the style and title of government-men in Boston, in short, all those who have acted an unfriendly part in the great contest, have shipped themselves off in the same hurry, but under still greater disadvantages than the King’s troops, being obliged to man their own vessels, as seamen enough could not be had for the King’s transports, and submit to every hardship that can be conceived. One or two have done, what a great number ought to have done long ago, committed suicide. By all accounts, there never existed a more miserable set of beings, than these wretched creatures now are. Taught to believe, that the power of Great Britain was superior to all opposition, and, if not, that foreign aid was at hand, they were even higher and more insulting in their opposition than the regulars. When the order issued, therefore, for embarking the troops in Boston, no electric shock, no sudden explosion of thunder, in a word, not the last trump could have struck them with greater consternation. They were at their wits’ end, and, conscious of their black ingratitude, they chose to commit themselves, in the manner I have above described, to the mercy of the waves at a tempestuous season, rather than meet their offended countrymen.
I believe I may with great truth affirm, that no man perhaps since the first institution of armies ever commanded one under more difficult circumstances, than I have done. To enumerate the particulars would fill a volume. Many of my difficulties and distresses were of so peculiar a cast, that, in order to conceal them from the enemy, I was obliged to conceal them from my friends, and indeed from my own army, thereby subjecting my conduct to interpretations unfavorable to my character, especially by those at a distance, who could not in the smallest degree be acquainted with the springs that governed it. I am happy, however, to find, and to hear from different quarters, that my reputation stands fair, that my conduct hitherto has given universal satisfaction. The addresses, which I have received, and which I suppose will be published, from the General Court of this colony, and from the selectmen of Boston upon the evacuation of the town, and my approaching departure from the colony, exhibit a pleasing testimony of their approbation of my conduct, and of their personal regard, which I have found in various other instances, and which, in retirement, will afford many comfortable reflections.
The share you have taken in the public disputes is commendable and praiseworthy. It is a duty we owe our country; a claim which posterity has upon us. It is not sufficient for a man to be a passive friend and well-wisher to the cause. This, and every other cause of such a nature, must inevitably perish under such an opposition. Every person should be active in some department or other, without paying too much attention to private interest. It is a great stake we are playing for, and sure we are of winning, if the cards are well managed. Inactivity in some, disaffection in others, and timidity in many, may hurt the cause. Nothing else can; for unanimity will carry us through triumphantly, in spite of every exertion of Great Britain, if we are linked together in one indissoluble bond. This the leaders know, and they are practising every stratagem to divide us, and unite their own people. Upon this principle it is, that the restraining bill is passed, and commissioners are coming over. The device, to be sure, is shallow, the covering thin, but they will hold out to their own people, that the acts complained of are repealed, and commissioners sent to each colony to treat with us, and that we will attend to neither of them. This, upon weak minds among us, will have its effect. They wish for reconciliation; or, in other words, they wish for peace without attending to the conditions.
General Lee, I suppose, is with you before this. He is the first officer, in military knowledge and experience, we have in the whole army. He is zealously attached to the cause, honest and well-meaning, but rather fickle and violent, I fear, in his temper. However, as he possesses an uncommon share of good sense and spirit, I congratulate my countrymen upon his appointment to that department.1 As I am now nearly at the end of my eighth page, I think it time to conclude; especially, as I set out with prefacing the little time I had for friendly correspondences. I shall only add, therefore, my affectionate regards to my sister and the children, and compliments to friends; and that I am, with every sentiment of true affection, your loving brother and faithful friend.
end of vol. iii.
[1 ]Left blank in the original to guard against the danger of miscarriage. Read, “without powder.”
[1 ]The British commander had no design of taking immediate possession of Rhode Island or New York, as we have seen by former reference to his correspondence, although both these purposes were in prospect. The forces, that sailed from Boston, in the month of January, under command of General Clinton, were bound to North Carolina, with the intention to join Lord Cornwallis in a grand enterprise against that colony, which the ministry had planned several months before, in consequence of the reports and solicitation of Governor Martin. It was supposed, that there would be a general rising among the loyalists in that country, when supported by a formidable force, and supplied with arms, and thus a secure hold would be gained on all the southern provinces. The affair turned out to be a signal failure, as did most of those undertaken at the suggestion of the colonial governors and zealous partisans of the crown, whose wishes and hopes betrayed them into a deplorable ignorance of the state of the country and character of the people.
[1 ]Read in Congress January 13th.
[1 ]“Notwithstanding the equipping of this fleet [ordered by Congress in October, 1775], the necessity of a common national flag seems not to have been thought of, until Doctor Franklin, Mr. Lynch, and Mr. Harrison were appointed to consider the subject and assembled at the camp at Cambridge. The result of their conference was the retention of the king’s colors or union jack representing the yet recognized sovereignty of England, but coupled to thirteen stripes alternate red and white emblematic of the union of the thirteen colonies against its tyranny and oppression, in place of the hitherto loyal red ensign.” Preble, Origin and Progress of the Flag of the United States, 152. The same work gives much interesting information on this raising of the flag, taken from American and English sources.
[1 ]Sparks says: “At this time Governor Tryon, who was on ship-board in the harbour of New York, had spies in Philadelphia, who informed him of every occurrence. They even obtained extracts from the journals of Congress, wrote down the resolves, the appointment and doings of committees, the opinions of many of the delegates, their conversations, projects, and aims, all of which were forwarded through Governor Tryon and General Howe to the British ministry. In this way General Howe was made acquainted with the details of the fitting out of the fleet at Philadelphia, about to sail under Commodore Hopkins. Each vessel was minutely described, with the number of guns, weight of metal, number of men, names of the officers, and other particulars.” James Brattle, who had formerly lived with Tryon, was now a servant of James Duane, a member of the Continental Congress, whose minutes he was in the habit of copying and sending to the British.—Force, American Archives, Fourth Series, v., 44.
[1 ]“The regimentals which have been made up, and drawn for, may be delivered to the respective Colonels by the Qr. Mr. General, to the Order of those Colonels, who drew them at such prices, as they have cost the Continent, which is much cheaper than could otherwise be obtained.—As nothing adds more to the appearance of a man, than dress, and a proper degree of cleanliness in his person, the General hopes and expects that each Regiment will contend for the most Soldierlike appearance.
[1 ]Wallace had made himself very unpopular by interrupting the trade of the port, stopping and detaining vessels, and even taking possession of private property. When provisions were withheld from his vessels by the townspeople he intercepted ferries, market and fish boats, and thereby reduced Newport to a state of so great distress that the Assembly permitted it to make an arrangement with Wallace for supplying the fleet with provisions on condition that he would not interfere with the town. (October, 1775.) This arrangement was continued, and could not but call out criticism. Records of the Colony of Rhode Island, vii, 381, 389, 420, 460. The Assembly authorized a certain allowance of beef and beer to be supplied “so long as he [Wallace] shall remain peaceably within the colony, without committing any depredations upon the islands, or upon any of the lands of the colony.” Do. 439. Mr. Ward, one of the Rhode Island delegates in the Continental Congress, to which body the matter was referred, wrote: “We should not do justice to the benevolence of Congress, or to the distressed situation of the town, if we did not acquaint you, that all the gentlemen who spoke in this debate, expressed the most tender regard for the distressed people; and gave it as their opinion, that, as long as the ships of war now in our harbor, could be supplied with fresh provisions, beer and such like necessaries, merely for their own immediate support, consistently with the great principles of the general good and safety of America, the town ought to be permitted to furnish them; the greatest care being taken by government, that no more than the barely necessary supplies be furnished them from time to time, lest the common enemy in other parts of the continent, should through them obtain provisions.” In consequence of this partial endorsement the Assembly voted to continue the supplies; but as Wallace might “cannonade, and even burn the town, a discretionary power, by a private vote, which it is designed should be kept a profound secret, is given to the commander of the forces on Rhode Island, to permit supplies, in cases of imminent danger, until the next session.”—Governor Cooke to Washington, 21 January, 1776.
[1 ]“You will excuse me for reminding you of our conversation the other evening, when I informed you, that General Lee’s departure for New York is advisable upon the plan of his letter, and, under the circumstances I then mentioned, ought not to be delayed. In giving me your opinion of this matter, I have no doubt of your taking a comprehensive view of it; that is, you will not only consider the propriety of the measure, but of the execution; whether such a step, though right in itself, may not be looked upon as beyond my line.
[2 ]Washington wrote to the Committee of Safety of New York on the following day;—
[1 ]General Lee was just returned to camp from Newport, and had written to the Commander-in-chief;—“New York must be secured, but it will never, I am afraid, be secured by due order of the Congress, for obvious reasons. They find themselves awkwardly situated on this head. You must step in to their relief. I am sensible that no men can be spared from the lines, under present circumstances; but I would propose that you should detach me into Connecticut, and lend your name for collecting a body of volunteers. I am assured that I shall find no difficulty in assembling a sufficient number for the purposes wanted. This body, in conjunction (if there should appear occasion to summon them) with the Jersey regiment, under the command of Lord Stirling now at Elizabethtown, will effect the security of New York, and the expulsion or suppression of that dangerous banditti of tories, who have appeared on Long Island with the professed intention of acting against the authority of the Congress. Not to crush these serpents, before their rattles are grown, would be ruinous.
[1 ]See Journals of Congress, 3 January, 1776.
[2 ]Captain Sears had been most zealous and efficient among the sons of liberty in New York, and had acted a conspicuous part in that city during the excitements occasioned by the Boston Port-Bill, and afterwards. He had also been a member of the New York Provincial Congress. At this time he was in Washington’s camp, and was sent forward in advance of General Lee to promote the raising of volunteers in Connecticut.—See Life of Gouverneur Morris, Vol. i. pp. 65, 74.
[1 ]“The General thanks Major Knolton, and the Officers and Soldiers, who were under his command last night, for the spirit, Conduct and Secrecy, with which they burnt the Houses, near the enemy’s works, upon Bunkers-Hill. The General was in a more particular manner pleased, with the resolution the party discovered in not firing a Shot, as nothing betrays greater signs of fear, and less of the Soldier, than to begin a loose undirected and unmeaning Fire, from whence no good can result, nor any valuable purposes answer’d.
[1 ]William Alexander, known by the title of the Earl of Stirling, was born in New York. He served in a military capacity, during the former war, under General Shirley, and passed several years in England. While there, he made a claim to the Scottish earldom of Stirling, which he was believed to have legally established, but the decision of the House of Lords was unfavorable. By courtesy, however, the title was always afterwards granted to him. On his return to America, he took up his residence in New Jersey. He was by Congress appointed colonel of the first battalion of New Jersey troops, on the 7th of November, 1775, and in March following was raised to the rank of brigadier-general. A brief and well written sketch of the life of Lord Stirling may be found in Sedgwick’s Memoir of the Life of William Livingston, p. 213.
[1 ]Read in Congress January 22.
[1 ]The following order, issued by General Howe, presents a somewhat curious picture of the habits and appearance of the soldiers under his command in Boston.
[1 ]A letter of same tenor to Gov. Cooke and Matthew Thornton.
[1 ]Read in Congress January 25th. Referred to the Committee of Correspondence.
[1 ]See Moore, Diary of the Revolution, i., 193.
[1 ]“On the oath of one Richardson, an American and an officer, who swore that Sayre, a late patriot and banker of bad credit, had come to him in the Tower, and taking him into a private room, had offered him 1500l. to assist him in seizing the Tower, and the King as he went to the House of Lords, and then force him to call a new Parliament, they held a council and sent for Lord Mansfield and the Attorney-General; the first was afraid to appear, and the latter would not, laughing at the folly of the charge, as everybody did the moment they heard it. They could get nobody but blind Justice Fielding and his clerk. However, on so absurd an allegation, supported but by one witness, Lord Rochford sent messengers the next morning to Sayre’s house, who, for fear he should escape, told a lie, and said they had got a forged note of hand to talk to him about. He came to them, and they seized him and carried him before Lord Rochford, where he behaved very civilly, but first sent for Reynolds, Wilkes’s lawyer, for his counsel. As he had been sheriff, they pretended that in compliment to the city they committed him to the Tower, allowing nobody but his wife to have access to him. Richardson, the evidence, proved to have a very bad character. The Ministers, it was supposed to justify their proceedings had intercepted treasonable letters of Sayre to America. That this man . . . had talked indiscreetly, was probable. 23 October, 1775, 28th. Sayre was carried by Habeas Corpus before Lord Mansfield, whose dastardly spirit again displayed itself by his profuse civility to Sayre, whom he allowed to be bailed.”—Walpole, Journal of the Reign of King George the Third, i., 508, 515.
[1 ]General Schuyler had written to Washington, intimating his desire and intention to leave the army, and closing his remarks on the subject as follows:
[1 ]Respecting General Prescott’s harsh treatment of Ethan Allen, and the prisoners taken with him at Montreal.
[2 ]That is, in regard to his having been with the enemy in Canada.
[1 ]The Caghnawagas were a tribe of Indians, residing on the River St. Lawrence, a few miles above Montreal. A party of them had visited General Schuyler, and proposed to go forward to the camp at Cambridge.
[2 ]Mr. Gamble was a deputy quartermaster-general in the British army, and made prisoner with General Prescott after the capitulation of Montreal. He had solicited permission to go to Quebec on his parole.
[1 ]“I think the service has suffered and the enlistments been embarrassed, by the low state in which you keep your treasury here. Had the general been able to have paid off the old army to the last of December, when their term expired, and to give assurances for the pay of the militia when their continuance in the army should end, it might have produced many good effects—among others added some thousands to the army. You will be surprised, perhaps, when I tell you there is but about 10,000 dollars here; and that left by the necessary parsimony of the general, not knowing what occasion there might be for a little. The time for which our militia came in, ends to-morrow. We have presumed so much on the public spirit of our countrymen as to make no other provision, though everything depends on their staying, and they wish to be at home. Our house adjourned yesterday morning, and the members went down among them to use their influence. I flatter myself most of them will stay to the last of this month.”—James Warren to Samuel Adams, 14 January, 1776. (Massa. Hist. Soc. Proc. xiv., 277.
[1 ]The views of the British commander in Boston, respecting the state of affairs at this time, may be known by the following extract from a letter, dated on the 16th of January, and written by him to Lord Dartmouth.
[1 ]President of the New Hampshire.
[1 ]The proposition was, that General Washington should send, with all possible despatch, a reinforcement of three thousand men into Canada, by the way of Onion River and Lake Champlain.
[1 ]Congress had already resolved, before the news of the failure of the attack on Quebec reached them, that nine battalions should be kept up and maintained the present year for the defence of Canada. Among these was included a battalion of Canadians, to be commanded by Colonel James Livingston. It was likewise determined to raise a second Canadian regiment, to consist of one thousand men divided into four battalions, and commanded by a colonel, lieutenant-colonel, and four majors. Moses Hazen was appointed colonel. Both he and Livingston were residents in Canada, and took an active part with the colonies at the beginning of the contest. Hazen was a captain on half pay, and Congress agreed to indemnify him for any loss he might sustain by entering into their service. The Articles of War were translated into French, and printed copies sent to Canada.—Journals of Congress, January 8th, 22d, 23d.
[1 ]The repulse of the American forces in Canada aroused Congress to a little more energy in considering the needs and situation of the army. The pressing emergency being provided for so far as “resolves” could provide for it, attention was directed to the future conduct and determination of military matters, and the expediency of establishing a “war office” was suggested. A committee of seven was appointed on January 24 to report on the matter, and the members chosen were Lynch, Franklin, Rutledge, Harrison, Ward, Samuel Adams, and Morris. The report was handed into Congress on April 18th, but was not adopted until June 12, when the name of the proposed Board was made “Board of War and Ordnance.” On the following the members were chosen: John Adams, Sherman, Harrison, Wilson and E. Rutledge.
[2 ]Now Charlestown, in New Hampshire, on the Connecticut River.
[1 ]When the Congress took this letter into consideration, they resolved that the conduct of the General in calling for these troops “was prudent, consistent with his duty, and a farther manifestation of his commendable zeal for the good of his country.”—Journals, January 20th.
[1 ]A council of war was convened on the 16th of January, in which the General stated it to be “in his judgment indispensably necessary to make a bold attempt to conquer the ministerial troops in Boston before they could be reinforced in the spring, if the means could be provided, and a favorable opportunity should offer,” and he desired the opinion of the council. It was agreed that such an attempt ought to be made, but that the present force was inadequate; and the council advised the Commander-in-chief to request of the neighboring colonies thirteen regiments of militia, to serve till the 1st of April; that is, from Massachusetts seven regiments, Connecticut four, and New Hampshire two. Rhode Island was exempted from this call, “on account of the repeated insults of the enemy’s ships of war, and the exposed situation of the sea-coast of that colony.”
[1 ]Read January 27th. Referred to Lynch, Wythe, Sherman, Ward and S. Adams. Lynch did not serve on the Committee although his name is endorsed on the letter.
[1 ]“The Colonel or Commanding Officer of each Regiment, is forthwith to send out one, or two prudent and sensible officers, to buy up such arms as are wanted for his regiment, These officers to be also good Judges of arms, and they are directed to purchase none, but such as are proper and in the best repairs, and if possible to get them with Bayonets, but not to refuse a good firelock without— The officers going upon this duty, are to be furnished with cash from their respective Colonels, or Commanding Officers, out of the money designed for the month’s advance pay, for the Recruits, which money will be replaced as wanted.—The names of the officers sent upon this business, with sums advanced them, are to be, immediately returned to the Adjutant General by the Colonels—These officers are not to be absent longer, than the 4th of February next.
[1 ]See Journal of Congress, January 3d and 10th.
[2 ]For an account of General Lee’s proceedings in New York, see the Life of Gouverneur Morris, vol. i., pp. 74-88.
[1 ]In June, 1775, the New York Provincial Congress had formed a scheme for raising a battalion, to consist of four regiments, and on the 30th of that month Alexander McDougall was appointed colonel of the first regiment. He had been extremely zealous in the cause of liberty, acting at an early hour a bold and decided part, by a correspondence with leaders in the other colonies, and by promoting efficient measures in New York. Two or three years before, he had been imprisoned by the old colonial Assembly, on suspicion of writing and publishing his sentiments too freely concerning the character and deliberations of that body. His principles and conduct throughout the war accorded with these early pledges of fidelity to his country’s interests.
[1 ]“Knox tells me he is convinced from Schuyler’s conversation that he wishes to be excused acting as general, and Worcester [Wooster], it is upon all hands agreed, is too inferior for that service.”—Gates to Charles Lee, 22 Jan’y, 1776. Lee Papers, i., 251.
[1 ]“1776, January 24, Wednesday. Began my journey to Philadelphia. Dined at C. Mifflin’s, at Cambridge, with G. Washington and Gates and their ladies, and half a dozen sachems and warriors of the French Caghnawaga tribe, with their wives and children. Williams is one who was captured in his infancy and adopted. There is a mixture of white blood, French or English, in most of them. Louis, their principal, speaks English and French, as well as Indian. It was a savage feast, carnivorous animals devouring their prey; yet they were wondrous polite. The General introduced me to them as one of the grand council fire at Philadelphia, upon which they made me many bows and a cordial reception.”—John Adams’ Diary, Works, ii., 431.
[2 ]Read in Congress, February 9th. Referred to Chase, J. Adams, Penn, Wythe, and Rutledge.
[3 ]The party of troops that attacked the city under Arnold, the most of whom were taken prisoners.
[1 ]General Schuyler replied in regard to these Indians: “It is extremely difficult to determine what should be done, in what you mention respecting the offer made by the Caghnawaga Indians; but if we can get decently rid of their offer, I would prefer it to employing them. The expense we are at in the Indian department is now amazing; it will be more so when they consider themselves as in our service; nor would their intervention be of much consequence, unless we could procure that of the other nations. The hauteur of the Indians is much diminished since the taking of Montreal; they evidently see that they cannot get any supplies but through us.”
[1 ]During the night of the attack on Quebec there was a tempestuous snowstorm. The bodies of the persons slain under the cliff of Cape Diamond were not discovered till morning, when they were found nearly enveloped in snow. They were taken into the city on a sled. Three of them were known to be officers, and from the initials R. M. written in a fur cap, picked up at the place of the bloody catastrophe, it was conjectured to have belonged to General Montgomery. His features were disfigured by a wound, which he had received in the lower part of the head and neck. At length a woman and a boy were brought, who had lately come into the city from the American camp, and who had often seen the principal officers. They identified the bodies of Montgomery, Captain McPherson, Captain Cheeseman, and an orderly sergeant.
[1 ]“Government being fully convinced of these Facts, will most assuredly send a strong and considerable Reinforcement to Quebec, early in the Spring, which will render the reduction of it, exceedingly difficult, if not impracticable. The great and important work must then be accomplished in the course of the present Winter, or the rights of America may be lost forever. I must therefore intreat you, in case General Schuyler’s indisposition should not permit him to act, to exert yourself upon the occasion, as much as you possibly can, and to give every assistance in your power for compleating our conquest in that quarter.”—Washington to General Wooster, 27 January, 1776.
[1 ]“Captain Manley took two prizes last week and to save himself, was obliged to run his vessel ashore at North River and left her; the enemy boarded her, but Manly gave them such heavy fire that they were obliged to quit her, taking nothing, save one swivel gun, which gun he sometime before borrowed of them.”—General Artemas Ward to Congress, 3 February, 1776.
[1 ]“As the General is consenting to and desirous of the militia drawing the same pay, as the Continental Troops, the officers of those Companies are hereby informed, that since the first of January, their pay will be the same as those officers (of equal Rank) upon the new establishment but before that date, no more than what was drawn under the old establishment, can be allowed them, of this they are to take particular notice, that no mistake may happen.
[1 ]Journals of Congress, 19 January, 1776.
[2 ]The generous and humane conduct of General Carleton, in regard to the persons taken at the unfortunate assault on Quebec, ought not to be overlooked. Although he had acquiesced in the harsh treatment of Ethan Allen, yet the prisoners who fell into his hands on the above disastrous occasion, according to their own account, met with a usage in every respect as good as that of the British soldiers, except in the necessary restraints of confinement. This was declared in a letter to Washington from Major Meigs, when he returned on his parole the summer following. The soldiers were confined in the Jesuits’ College, and the officers in the Seminary. The latter, after the srege was raised, had permission to walk in a large garden adjoining their quarters. Major Meigs left three hundred prisoners in Quebec, about the middle of May. When they were released for exchange, General Carleton supplied them with articles of clothing, in which they were deficient. It was said, that when some of his officers spoke to him of this act, as an unusual degree of lenity towards prisoners of war, he replied,—“Since we have tried in vain to make them acknowledge us as brothers, let us at least send them away disposed to regard us as first cousins.” Having been informed, that many persons suffering from wounds and various disorders were concealed in the woods and obscure places, fearing that if they appeared openly they would be seized as prisoners and severely treated, he issued a proclamation commanding the militia officers to search for such persons, bring them to the general hospital, and procure for them all necessary relief at the public charge. He also invited all such persons to come forward voluntarily, and receive the assistance they needed, assuring them, “that as soon as their health should be restored, they should have free liberty to return to their respective provinces.”
[1 ]Philip Skene entered the British army in 1736 and served in European wars until he came to America in 1756. He became a captain in the 27th regiment in 1757, major of brigade in 1759, and commanded at Crown Point in October of the same year. In 1762 he participated in the West Indian expedition and was one of the first to enter the breach at the storming of Havana. Returning to New York (1763) he obtained (1765) a patent for the township of Skenesboro (now Whitehall), and resided there after 1770, running a line between Canada and the Colonies, and superintending the settlement of the then uninhabited border country. In 1773 he applied to Lord Dartmouth to recommend him to the King for the appointment of Governor of that region. The appointment was given and he was empowered to raise a regiment in America, functions that brought him to the attention of the Continental Congress and led to his arrest in Philadelphia, in June 1775. (Journals of Congress, June 8, 1775.) In October 1776 he was exchanged, joined Burgoyne as commander of a loyal American regiment, and was again captured at Saratoga, his property being confiscated by New York in 1779. Returning to England, he died 9 October 1810. Vermont Records, i., 153; MS. Memorial in the State Paper Office, London.
[1 ]These four words are in Washington’s writing, added after the letter had been written. By a vote of Congress, the Commander-in-chief was allowed three aides-de-camp, who were to rank as lieutenant-colonels; and the major-generals two aides each, to rank as majors.
[2 ]John Eustace, who had been in Lord Dunmore’s charge for three years. “The only fault I know in him (if fault it can be called in a boy) is that he is a little too volatile.”—Dunmore to General Howe, 2 December, 1775.
[1 ]Journals of Congress, 20 January, 1776.
[1 ]Capt. Cochran had come to Philadelphia from South Carolina to recruit seamen for that colony. Congress referred him to Washington. Journals of Congress, 19 January, 1776.
[1 ]One of Connolly’s associates, who had escaped, but had been recaptured.
[2 ]“My instructions and commission were concealed in the sticks of my servant’s mail pillion, artfully contrived for the purpose . . . My servant, who was a man of great fidelity and adroitness, was not confined; and as he had gathered some slight intimation that matters of importance were in the pillion sticks, and observing the saddle and its appendages suspended in an adjoining shed, after having undergone a severe but fruitless scrutiny by the committee, he seized a favorable moment in the dead of night, opened the sticks, examined their contents by the light of a fire, and finding of what importance they were, destroyed them all, except my commission. This he sealed up, and conveyed to me, with a note informing me of what he had done, by means of a negro girl, that had before been proved to be faithful.”—Connolly’s Narrative.
[1 ]Read in Congress, February 9th. Referred to Chase, J. Adams, Penn, Wythe and Edward Rutledge.
[1 ]General Lee was now at Stamford, in Connecticut, where he was preparing to enter New York with such troops as he had collected. In his letter to Congress from Stamford, he had strongly urged the expediency of disarming the Tories, requiring an oath of them to act offensively and defensively in support of the common rights, and a pledge of one half of their property as a security for their good behavior. Congress appointed a committee (Harrison, Lynch and Allen) to repair to New York, to consult and advise with the council of safety and General Lee on the defence of the city. Journals of Congress, 26 January, 1776.
[2 ]Lee arrived in New York on February 4th “almost at the same instant” with Clinton. “He (Clinton) has brought no troops with him, and pledges his honor that none are coming. He says it is merely a visit to his friend Tryon. If it is really so, it is the most whimsical piece of civility I ever heard of. He informs us that his intention is for North Carolina, where he expects five regiments from England; that he only brought two companies of light infantry from Boston. This is certainly a droll way of proceeding; to communicate his full plan to the enemy is too novel to be credited.” Lee to Washington, 5 February, 1776. It would appear, however, that Clinton spoke truly. “I have furnished him (Clinton) with such information of the southward colonies as I am hopeful may be of some service.” Governor Tryon to the Earl of Dartmouth, 8 February, 1776.
[1 ]The town of Norfolk, in Virginia, had been bombarded and burnt by Lord Dunmore on the 1st of January.
[1 ]This mezzotinto is described by Baker (Engraved Portraits of Washington), and represented Washington in “full figure in uniform and cocked hat, on horseback, advancing to the right. A drawn sword in the right hand is held across the body, a battle in the right distance.” Mr. Baker concludes that “in every sense they [the Campbell portraits of Washington] may be classed among the fictitious portraits. . . . The presumption is that the portrait or portraits . . . were manufactured at the beginning of the revolutionary war, for some enterprising publisher either in London or on the Continent, for the express purpose of being engraved, in anticipation of a demand which it was felt must arise.”
[1 ]“I think then we might have attacked ’em long before this and with success, were our troops differently constituted; but the fatal persuasion has taken deep root in the minds of the Americans from the highest to the lowest order that they are no match for the Regulars, but when covered by a wall or breast work. This notion is still further strengthened by the endless works we are throwing up. In short unless we can remove the idea (and it must be done by degrees) no spirited action can be ventured on without the greatest risk.”—Charles Lee to Benj. Rush, 19 September, 1775.
[1 ]“The Continental Congress having been pleased to order, and direct, that there shall be one Chaplain to two Regiments and that the pay of each Chaplain shall be Thirty-three dollars & one third, pr. Kalendar Month. The Revd. Abiel Leonard is appointed Chaplain to the Regiment of Artillery, under the command of Col. Knox, and to the 20th Regiment, at present commanded by Lt. Col. Durkee.
[1 ]Received February 22nd. On the 23d a committee composed of Paine, Wilson, Huntington, Lee and Lewis Morris, was named to contract for the making of muskets and bayonets, and to consider of farther means of promoting and encouraging the manufacture of fire arms in all parts of the united colonies. The secret committee was also authorized to export a certain amount of produce to be exchanged for arms. It was not until March 14th that a general resolution recommending the disarming of the “notoriously disaffected” throughout the colonies was adopted, the arms taken to be paid for.
[1 ]Read in Congress, February 22. Referred to the Committee of the Whole.
[1 ]At a special election held on January 26th, Reed, then chairman of the Committee of Safety, was elected a member of the Assembly.
[1 ]“I immagine that there are several belonging to the Colony, and have been Informed of many Tories being disarmed and therefore expect, that It will be in their power to Obtain me a considerable supply.”—Washington to New York Committee, 10 February, 1776.
[1 ]Two attempts were made by Lord Drummond to propose a plan of reconciliation between Great Britain and the colonies. The first notice of the matter is contained in a letter from Mr. Lynch to General Washington, dated at Philadelphia, 16 January, 1776, in which he says:
[1 ]In describing this adventure, General Howe wrote to Lord Dartmouth, that, it being understood the enemy intended to take possession of Dorchester Point, or Neck, a detachment was ordered from Castle William under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Leslie, and another of grenadiers and light infantry commanded by Major Musgrave, with directions to pass over the ice and destroy every house and every kind of cover on the peninsula, which was executed, and six of the enemy’s guards taken prisoners.
[1 ]Read in Congress February 29th. Referred to Chase, J. Adams, Penn, Wythe, and Rutledge.
[1 ]The return of February 10th, showed a force of 8,797 men fit for duty, besides officers and 1,405 men on command who might be ordered to join their respective regiments immediately. The militia from the New England governments, arrived or about to arrive in camp, would, if the regiments were complete, number 7,280, officers included. The intelligence from Boston indicated an active force of only 5,000. A stroke at this time might put an end to the war, but from the lack of powder, the main reliance must be had in the small arms, and not in cannon and mortars. The closing of the ice afforded a path for an assault, and it should be made before the expected reinforcements were arrived. These considerations were laid before a council of war, held on the 16th, but were not deemed sufficient to warrant an assault, on the grounds, that there was not force enough for such an attempt, that the army was deficient in arms and powder, and that the impression of the field-officers generally was unfavorable to such a measure. It was, however, resolved, that a cannonade and bombardment would be advisable as soon as there should be a proper supply of powder, and that in the meantime preparations ought to be made for taking possession of Dorchester Heights, and of Noddle’s Island also, if it could be effected.
[1 ]Read in Congress March 6th.
[1 ]“Notwithstanding I have adopted every measure which my Judgement directed for procuring arms in these Governments for the Army under my command, as well by applications to the sev’l Assemblies and Conventions, as by sending Officers to the several Towns to purchase, I am under the disagreeable & melancholy necessity of Informing you that there is at this Important crisis a very great deficiency, and that there is now a considerable number of men at these Encampments without any in their hands; nor do I know that there is any prospect or probability of providing them—Can you, my Dear Sir, assist me with any from your parts? If you can procure or purchase any in the Towns fit for use, I beg that you will do It, and have them forwarded with all possible expedition to me, I will pay for them immediately on delivery and the charges for bringing them. I am told that a Major Duncan at Schenactady has about 300 Kings Arms, these or such of them as are good & serviceable will be of great use, and I doubt not may be readily, procured; If they can, I request—that they may & be forwarded with any others that you may get with the price—I would not be thus pressing & thus Importunate, were It not for my situation which is truly alarming & distressing: To be within Musquet shot of a formidable Army well provided with every necessary, without having the means on my part of maintaining even a defensive war.”—Washington to Schuyler, 25 February, 1776.
[1 ]“As it is necessary that every Regiment should be furnished with colors, and that those colors should, if it can be done, bear some kind of similitude to the uniform of the regiment to which they belong, the colonels with their respective Brigadiers and the Qr. Mr. Genl. may fix upon such as are proper, and, can be procured. There must be to each Regiment, the standard (or Regimental colors) and Colors for each Grand Division, the whole to be small and light. The Number of the Regiment is to be mark’d on the colors, and such a Motto, as the colonel may choose, in fixing upon which, the General advises a consultation amongst them.
[1 ]Read in Congress March 6th. Referred to Chase, J. Adams, Penn, Wythe, and Rutledge.
[2 ]General Lee had written February 14th: “The governor, and the captain of a man-of-war, had threatened perdition to the town, if the cannon were removed from the batteries and wharves; but I ever considered their threats as a brutum fulmen, and even persuaded the town to be of the same way of thinking. We accordingly conveyed them to a place of safety in the middle of the day, and no cannonade ensued. Captain Parker publishes a pleasant reason for his passive conduct. He says that it was manifestly my intention, and that of the New England men under my command, to bring destruction on this town, so hated for its loyal principles, but that he was determined not to indulge us; so remained quiet out of spite. The people here laugh at his nonsense, and begin to despise the menaces, which formerly used to throw em into convulsions. To do em justice, the whole show a wonderful alacrity; and, in removing the cannon, men and boys of all ages worked with the greatest zeal and pleasure. I really believe that the generality are as well affected as any on the continent.”
[1 ]“As I am making all possible preparation to take possession of the Heights of Dorchester, (which I expect I shall be able to accomplish by the latter end of this week,) it is expected that this, if any thing can, will bring the enemy out of Boston to oppose, as at Charlestown, our erecting any works there. To weaken our lines on the north side of Cambridge River, to strengthen those of Dorchester before any movement is made that way by the enemy, may neither be consistent with prudence nor good policy; and to delay it till after an attack is begun, would be too late, as the contest will soon be decided for or against us, after this happens. Under this state of the matter, and to avoid putting an affair of so much importance to a doubtful issue, when under Providence it may be reduced to a certainty, I submit it to the wisdom of your Board, whether it might not be best to direct the militia of certain towns, most contiguous to Dorchester and Roxbury, to repair to the lines at those places, with their arms, ammunition, and accoutrements, instantly upon a signal given. If you approve of this, you will please to fix with General Thomas (who waits on you for that purpose), upon the signal to be given, and issue your notices accordingly.”—Washington to the Council of Massachusetts Bay, 26 February, 1776.
[1 ]By a resolve of Congress on the 17th of February, General Lee was ordered to take the command in Canada, and General Schuyler to take his place in New York. But “from an undoubted authority that it [the south] will be a principal scene of action,” this arrangement was changed, before it was carried into effect. On the 27th of February, Congress formed what were called the middle and southern military departments; the former consisting of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland; and the latter of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. General Lee was directed, March 1st, to take command of the southern department, and on the 7th he left New York, in compliance with that order. Six brigadiers, John Armstrong, William Thompson, Andrew Lewis, Robert Howe, Lord Stirling, and James Moore, were appointed the same day, of whom four (Armstrong, Lewis, Howe, and Moore) were likewise ordered to that department.
[1 ]“The ships of war which were here have been frightened away. The Asia lies between Nutter’s and Bedloe’s Island; the Duchess of Gordon, with his Excellency Govr. Tryon, is under her stern; the Phœnix is stationed a league below the Narrows; the Mercury and General Clinton must inevitably fall into the hands of our fleet, unless they are asleep.”—Lee to Washington, 19 February, 1776.
[2 ]In General Lee’s letter he had said: “You must pardon me for a liberty I have taken. You know that Sears was to collect our volunteers in Connecticut, but he thought he could not succeed, unless he had some nominal office and rank. I accordingly most impudently, by virtue of the power deputed by you to me (which power you never deputed), appointed him adjutant-general, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, for the expedition. It can have no bad consequences. The man was much tickled, and it added spurs to his hat. He is a creature of much spirit and public virtue, and ought to have his back clapped.”
[3 ]“All officers, non-commissioned Officers and Soldiers are positively forbid playing at cards, and other games of chance. At this time of public distress men may find enough to do in the service of their God, and their Country, without abandoning themselves to vice and immorality.”—Orderly Book, 26 February, 1776.
[1 ]Phillis Wheatley was born in Africa, and brought to Boston in a slave-ship, in the year 1761, then between seven and eight years of age. She was purchased by Mr. Wheatley, but she soon discovered qualities so interesting and peculiar, that she was treated more as an inmate of the family, than as a slave. She made an extraordinary progress in acquiring the English language, and, without any advantage from schools, learned reading and writing, and manifested the greatest eagerness for gleaning knowledge. Her taste inclined to poetry; she read and relished the best authors, and soon began to compose verses. Meantime the attention of the community was turned to so singular a phenomenon, and she was visited and noticed by people of the first character. Her correspondence was sought, and it extended to persons of distinction even in England, among whom may be named the Countess of Huntingdon, Whitefield, and the Earl of Dartmouth. In 1773, when she was nineteen years of age, a volume of her poems was published in London, some of which had been written five or six years. This volume is dedicated to the Countess of Huntingdon, and in the preface are the names of the Governor of Massachusetts, and several other eminent gentlemen, bearing testimony to their belief of her having been the genuine writer of the poems. She was married, in 1778, to Mr. John Peters, a man of her own color, whom tradition reports to have been little qualified for conferring happiness on so gifted a companion. She died at Boston, December 5th, 1784, aged thirty-one years.
I have taken the freedom to address your Excellency in the enclosed poem, and entreat your acceptance, though I am not insensible of its inaccuracies. Your being appointed by the Grand Continental Congress to be Generalissimo of the armies of North America, together with the fame of your virtues, excite sensations not easy to suppress. Your generosity, therefore, I presume, will pardon the attempt. . . Wishing your Excellency all possible success in the great cause you are so generously engaged in. I am,
Your Excellency’s most obedient humble servantPhillis Wheatley.Providence,Oct. 26, 1775. His Excellency Gen. Washington.
The Evening Post and General Advertiser in October, 1779, published proposals for printing by subscription a volume of poems and letters by Phillis Peters, and this ode to Washington was to be included. The volume was never issued.
[1 ]Letter of 26 February, 1776.
[1 ]“No Officer, or Soldier, under any pretence is to be absent from his post, without leave in writing from his Brigadier General, who is not to grant liberty of running backwards & forwards, from hence to Roxbury, but in very especial cases.
[1 ]“On the 23 Augt. 1775, the work of fortifying Lamb’s Dam was begun, and upon the completion of that work, the line of fortification was advanced to a point a little south of the present Northampton Street. Lamb’s Dam extended from about the junction of Hampden and Albany Sts. to a point near the present Walnut place. It was originally built to keep the tide from overflowing the marshes, and followed very nearly the present line of Northampton Street, diverging slightly to the southward as it neared the highway. At the termination of the Dam, on the upland, a strong breastwork was constructed, and from that the intrenchments extended across the highway. The works were completed Sept. 10, 1775.”—Centen. Evacuation, 12.
[1 ]The Council of the Massachusetts legislature.
[2 ]“His Excellency the General, returns his thanks to the Militia of the surrounding districts, for their spirited and alert march to Roxbury, last Saturday and Sunday, and for the noble ardor they discovered in defence of the cause of Liberty and their country.”—Orderly Book, 8 March, 1776.
[1 ]“On the 2d inst. at night they began a cannonade upon the town; the same was repeated on the evening of the 3d and 4th. On the 5th in the morning it was discovered that the enemy had thrown up three very extensive works with strong abatties on the commanding hills on Dorchester Neck, which must have been the employment of at least 12,000 men. In a situation so critical I determined upon immediate attack; the ardour of the troops encouraged me in this hazardous enterprise, and regiments were expeditiously embarked on board transports to fall down the harbour; but the wind unfortunately coming contrary and blowing very hard the ships were not able to get to their destination. . . . The weather continuing boisterous the next day and night gave the enemy time to improve their works, to bring up their cannon, and to put themselves into such a state of defence that I could promise myself little success by attacking them under such disadvantages; wherefore I judged it most advisable to prepare for the evacuation of the town. . . . This operation was effected on the 7th, and all the rear guard embarked at 9 o’clock in the morning, without the least loss, irregularity or accident.”—General Howe to the Earl of Dartmouth, 21 March, 1776.
[1 ]Born in Marshfield, Mass., 1725, and died in Chamblee, 2 June, 1776. “By the way, I must do justice to Thomas; he is a good officer, and is esteemed. We have no trouble with his camp; it is always in good order, and things are conducted with dignity and spirit in the military style.”—James Warren to Samuel Adams, 21 June, 1775.
[1 ]The evacuation of Boston by the British troops, after having held possession of the town for eleven months, was a source of no less joy in America, than of astonishment in England. Intelligence of this event was published by the ministry on the 3d of May, in a short paragraph, which merely announced, that “his Majesty’s forces had embarked from Boston with the greatest order and regularity, and without the least interruption from the rebels,” and were destined for Halifax. Parliament being then in session, the subject was called up by the Duke of Manchester, on the 10th of May, who proposed a motion for an address to his Majesty, that he would be pleased to order the late despatches of General Howe and Admiral Shuldham to be laid before the House of Lords. A long and warm debate ensued, in which the ministers were severely censured for the recent occurrences in America.
“Boston, 8 March, 1776.
“As his Excellency General Howe is determined to leave the town with the troops under his command, a number of the respectable inhabitants, being very anxious for its preservation and safety, have applied to General Robertson for this purpose, who at their request has communicated the same to his Excellency General Howe, who has assured him, that he has no intention of destroying the town, unless the troops under his command are molested during their embarkation or at their departure, by the armed force without; which declaration he gave General Robertson leave to communicate to the inhabitants. If such an opposition should take place, we have the greatest reason to expect the town will be exposed to entire destruction. Our fears are quieted with regard to General Howe’s intentions. We beg we may have some assurance, that so dreadful a calamity may not be brought on by any measures without. As a testimony of the truth of the above, we have signed our names to this paper, carried out by Messrs. Thomas and Jonathan Amory and Peter Johonnot, who have at the earnest entreaties of the inhabitants, through the Lieutenant-Governor, solicited a flag of truce for this purpose.
“John Scollay, “Timothy Newell, “Thomas Marshall, “Samuel Austin.”This paper was taken to the lines at Roxbury, and given to Colonel Learned, who carried it to head-quarters. He returned, and handed to the messengers, who had been the bearers of it the following letter:—
“Roxbury, 9 March, 1776.
“Agreeably to a promise made to you at the lines yesterday, I waited upon his Excellency General Washington, and presented to him the paper handed to me by you, from the Selectmen of Boston. The answer I received from him was to this effect;—‘That, as it was an unauthenticated paper, without an address, and not obligatory upon General Howe, he would take no notice of it.’ I am, with esteem and respect, Gentlemen, your most obedient servant,
“Ebenezer Learned.”Notwithstanding this apparently uncompromising answer, yet, as the paper evidently conveyed the dispositions of General Howe, and as Washington could have no wish to destroy the town, but on the contrary the strongest motives for preserving it, no direct annoyance was afterwards offered to the British troops, and this mutual understanding doubtless saved much destruction of property and much bloodshed.
“To Messrs. Amory and Johonnot.”
[1 ]Read in Congress, March 15th.
[1 ]Known by the British as “the old sow.” Putnam named it the “Congress” when it had been brought to Boston from Ticonderoga.
[1 ]The aniversary of the so-called “Boston Massacre.”
[1 ]On August 5, 1775, the Convention of Virginia had elected Henry, colonel of the first regiment of regulars, and commander-in-chief of all the Virginia forces raised for the defense of that colony, but he was expressly enjoined to obey the orders of the Convention and the Committees of Safety. When the first occasion for fighting occurred,—the march against Dunmore,—this latter body, distrusting Henry’s military capacity, passed him over, and appointed a subordinate, Colonel Woodford, to the command. This slight was resented by Henry, and was followed by others, such as the refusal of Woodford to give attention to his orders, the transfer of the command to Robert Howe of North Carolina, and finally, when the regiments were turned over to the Continent, the issue of a colonel’s commission, and not as he had hoped, an appointment as brigadier-general. He resigned his military offices 28 February, 1776.
[1 ]“Poor Fry! heaven and earth were moved to get him in; now I suppose we shall hear no more of him.”—Reed to Washington, 15 March, 1776.
[2 ]It was at first reported, that it was the design of the British government to send over a large number of commissioners to America, and that they were to make advances to the colonies separately.
[1 ]“That there may not be the least pretext for delay (as the General is determined to march the whole, or any part of this Army, the instant occasion shall require) His Excellency desires that not a moment’s time may be lost in preparing for the march. The Colonels will pay particular attention to the cloathing of their men. To prevent any unnecessary preparations, the General informs the officers and soldiers that it is his desire and expectation, that they encumber themselves with as little baggage as possible, as apart from the enormous expence to the Continent, Teams cannot be procured for superfluous Articles, it will be well if sufficient can be found to answer all requisite services—The Nature of the service we are engaged in, is such as require light Troops, ready at all times, and upon all occasions, for forced marches, the less baggage therefore, officers and men are encumbered with, the better.
[1 ]In his letter to Governor Trumbull, after speaking of the “shameful retreat” the British were making from Boston, Washington wrote:—
[1 ]Read in Congress March 22nd.
[1 ]Lord Stirling took the command at New York, on General Lee’s departure for the southward, March 7th, and this letter was received by him. He replied on the 20th:—
[1 ]“I have the pleasure to inform you, that this morning the ministerial troops evacuated the town of Boston, without destroying it, and that we are now in full possession; upon which event, I beg leave to congratulate you, and I sincerely wish, if the ministry persevere in the same unconstitutional and despotic measures, which too long have marked their conduct, that our opposition and resistance, in every quarter, may be crowned with the success they have been here. Where their destination is, or what plans they have in view, is altogether unknown here. Most probably the next attempt will be against New York, or some more southern colony. However, I should think, though I do not believe they have any design against Rhode Island, that it will be advisable to keep a strict look-out; and I submit it to you, whether it may not be proper, against the time you apprehend they might arrive, to call in a number of the militia, and have them posted in proper places. I do not mean to direct the measure, but only to mention it for your consideration. To me it appears worthy of attention.”—Washington to Governor Cooke, 17 March, 1776.
[1 ]On the 6th of March, Congress promoted General Thomas from the rank of brigadier to that of major-general, and appointed him to command in Canada thus superseding General Wooster, who had commanded there since the death of Montgomery.
[2 ]Read in Congress March 25th.
[1 ]Printed in fac-simile in Winsor, History of Boston, ii., 181.
[1 ]The whole number of refugees, who left Boston with the British army, was more than a thousand. The following statement is taken from the official return, made to the government, and now deposited in the public offices in London. Members of the council, commissioners, custom-house officers, and other persons who had been in some official station, one hundred and two; clergy, eighteen; persons from the country, one hundred and five; merchants and other inhabitants of Boston, two hundred and thirteen; farmers, traders, and mechanics, three hundred and eighty-two; total, nine hundred and twenty-four. All these returned their names on their arrival in Halifax. About two hundred others did not return their names.
[1 ]“Col. James Reed’s, Nixon’s, Poor’s, Prescot’s Arnold’s and Baldwin’s Regiments, are the first to march, under Brigadier Genl. Sullivan; they are to be ready at a moment’s warn’g.
[1 ]“The peculiar situation of Rhode Island and its extensive sea coast had not escaped my mind. I well know the enemy have it in their power to do it considerable damage, unless there is a sufficient force to repel their attempts. But it is the opinion of the general officers here, that their destination is against New York, the importance of which, as it seems the free and only communication between the northern and southern colonies, which will be entirely cut off by their possessing it, and give them the command of Hudson’s River, and an easy pass into Canada, makes it absolutely and indispensably necessary for the whole of this army, which is but inconsiderable, except that part of it which will be left to secure the stores, barracks and other public property, to be marched from hence for its defence with all possible expedition. It is an object that should command our first attention, and if lost, will be of the most fatal consequence to us in the present unhappy and interesting struggle.”—Washington to Governor Cooke, 21 March, 1776.
[1 ]This return shows a total of 7,579.
[2 ]These resignations were accepted by Congress 23 April, 1776.
[1 ]In Congress May 6th.—“Resolved, that General Washington be informed, that Congress suppose, if Commissioners are intended to be sent from Great Britain to treat for peace, that the usual practice in such cases will be observed, by making previous application for the necessary passports or safe conduct; and on such application being made, Congress will then direct the proper measures for the reception of such Commissioners.”
[1 ]Read in Congress April 2nd. Referred to Johnson, Jay, and Wilson.
[1 ]“I now beg leave to inform you, that I have just received intelligence that the whole of the ministerial fleet, besides three or four ships, got under way this evening in Nantasket Road, and were standing out for sea; in consequence of which, I shall detach a brigade of six regiments immediately for New York, under the command of Brigadier-General Sullivan (Brigadier-General Heath having gone with the first), which will be succeeded by another in a day or two; and, directly after, I shall forward the remainder of the army, except four or five regiments, which will be left for taking care of the barracks and public stores, and fortifying the town, and erecting such works for its defence as the honorable General Court may think necessary; and then follow myself.
[1 ]Samuel B. Webb.
[2 ]Probably Mifflin, as the Quartermaster-General was allowed five per cent. on purchases.
[1 ]“I beg leave to transmit to you the copy of a petition from the inhabitants of Nova Scotia, brought me by Jonathan Eddy, mentioned therein, who is now here with an Acadian; from this it appears, they are in a distressed situation; and, from Mr. Eddy’s account, they are exceedingly apprehensive, that they will be reduced to the disagreeable alternative of taking up arms and joining our enemies, or to flee their country, unless they can be protected against their insults and oppressions. He says that their committees think many salutary and valuable consequences would be derived from five or six hundred men being sent there, as it would not only quiet the minds of the people from the anxiety and uneasiness they are now filled with, and enable them to take a part in behalf of the colonies, but be the means of preventing the Indians, (of which there are a good many,) from taking the side of government, and the ministerial troops from getting such supplies of provisions from thence as they have done. How far these good purposes would be answered, if such a force was sent, as they ask for, it is impossible to determine in the present uncertain state of things. For, if the army from Boston is going to Halifax, as reported by them before their departure, that, or a much more considerable force would be of no avail; if not, and they possess the friendly disposition to our cause, suggested in the petition and declared by Mr. Eddy, it might be of great service, unless another body of troops should be sent thither by administration, too powerful for them to oppose. It being a matter of some importance, I judged it prudent to lay it before Congress for their consideration; and, requesting their direction upon the subject, shall only add, if they determine to adopt it, that they will prescribe the number to be sent, and whether it is to be from the regiments, which will be left here. I shall wait their decision, and, whatever it is, will endeavour to have it carried into execution.”—Washington to the President of Congress, 27 March, 1776.
[1 ]“March 28.—This day, the Thursday lecture, which was established and has been observed from the first settlement of Boston without interruption until within these few months past [January], was opened by the Rev. Dr. Eliot. His Excellency Gen. Washington, and the other general officers and their suites, having been previously invited, met in the Council Chamber, from whence preceded by the sheriff with his wands attended by the members of the council, who have had the small-pox, the committee of the House of Representatives, the selectmen, the clergy, and many other gentlemen, they repaired to the old brick meeting-house, where an excellent and well-adapted discourse was delivered from those words in the 33d. chap. of Isaiah and 20th verse.
[1 ]The people on the Chesapeake Bay, and the rivers emptying into it, had been alarmed during the winter by reports, that the enemy were about to ascend with their ships and water-craft, and lay waste the country. To escape the threatened danger, many of the inhabitants retired to the interior, taking with them such parts of their property as could be removed. General Washington’s residence on the banks of the Potomac was accessible to the approach of the largest ships, and it was rumored that the enemy intended paying it a visit. Mr. Lund Washington wrote to him from Mount Vernon: “Alexandria is much alarmed, and indeed the whole neighborhood. The women and children are leaving the town and stowing themselves in every hut they can find, out of the reach of the enemy’s cannon. Every wagon, cart, and pack-horse, that can be got, is employed. The militia are all up, but not in arms, for indeed they have none, or at least very few. I could wish, if we are to have our neighborhood invaded, that they would send a tender or two among us, that we might see how the people would behave on the occasion. They say they are determined to fight. I am about packing up your China and glass in barrels, and other things into chests, trunks, and bundles, and I shall be able at the shortest notice to remove them out of the way. I fear the destruction will be great, although the best care has been taken. Every body I see tells me, that if the people could have notice they would immediately come and defend your property, so long as they have life, from Loudoun, Prince William, Fauquier, and this county.”
[1 ]General Lee, who was now at Williamsburg, wrote to Washington a letter dated April 5th, complimenting him on the evacuation of Boston in the following language.