Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JOSEPH REED. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. III (1775-1776)
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TO JOSEPH REED. - 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 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
[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.