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, 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.
[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.