Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. III (1775-1776)
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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. III (1775-1776) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1889). Vol. III (1775-1776).
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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
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
[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.