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, 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.
[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.