Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER VII: The second Congress meets and organises a regular Continental Army—makes sundry public addresses, and petitions the King, &c. Transactions in Massachusetts. - The History of the American Revolution, vol. 1
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CHAPTER VII: The second Congress meets and organises a regular Continental Army—makes sundry public addresses, and petitions the King, &c. Transactions in Massachusetts. - David Ramsay, The History of the American Revolution, vol. 1 
The History of the American Revolution, Foreword by Lester H. Cohen (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund 1990). Vol. 1.
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The second Congress meets and organises a regular Continental Army—makes sundry public addresses, and petitions the King, &c. Transactions in Massachusetts.
1775It has already been mentioned, that Congress previous to its dissolution, on the 26th of October, 1774, recommended to the colonies, to chuse members for another to meet on the tenth of May 1775, unless the redress of their grievances was previously obtained. A circular letter had been addressed by lord Dartmouth, to the  several colonial governors, requesting their interference to prevent the meeting of this second Congress: but ministerial requisitions had lost their influence, delegates were elected not only for the twelve colonies that were before represented, but also for the parish of St. John’s in Georgia, and in July following, for the whole province. The time of the meeting of this second Congress was fixed at so distant a day, that an opportunity might be afforded for obtaining information of the plans adopted by the British parliament in the winter of 1774, 1775. Had these been favourable, the delegates would either not have met, or dispersed after a short session, but as the resolution was then fixed to compel the submission of the colonies, and hostilities had already commenced, the meeting of Congress on the tenth of May, which was at first eventual, became fixed.
May 10On their meeting, they chose Peyton Randolph for their President, and Charles Thomson for their secretary. On the next day Mr. Hancock laid before them a variety of depositions, proving that the king’s troops were the aggressors in the late battle at Lexington, together with sundry papers relative to the great events which had lately taken place in Massachusetts: Whereupon Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to take into consideration the state of America. They proceeded in the same line of moderation and firmness, which marked the acts of their predecessors in the past year.
May 15The city and county of New-York having applied to Congress for advice, how they should conduct themselves with regard to the troops expected to land there, they were advised “to act on the defensive so long as might be consistent with their safety—to permit the troops to remain in the barracks, so long as they behaved peaceably, but not to suffer fortifications to be erected, or any steps to be taken for cutting off the communication between the town and country.”May 17 Congress also resolved, “That exportation to all parts of British America, which had not adopted their association, should immediately cease;” and that, “no provision of any kind, or other necessaries be furnished to the British fisheries on the American  coasts.”1775June 2And
that no bill of exchange, draught, or order, of any officer in the British army or navy, their agents or contractors, be received or negociated, or any money supplied them, by any person in America—that no provisions or necessaries of any kind, be furnished or supplied, to or for the use of the British army or navy, in the colony of Massachusetts Bay—that no vessel employed in transporting British troops to America, or from one part of North-America to another, or warlike stores or provisions for said troops, be freighted or furnished with provisions or any necessaries.
These resolutions may be considered as the counterpart of the British acts for restraining the commerce, and prohibiting the fisheries of the colonies. They were calculated to bring distress on the British islands in the West-Indies, whose chief dependence for subsistance, was on the importation of provision from the American continent. They also occasioned new difficulties in the support of the British army and fisheries. The colonists were so much indebted to Great-Britain, that government bills for the most part found among them a ready market. A war in the colonies was therefore made subservient to commerce, by increasing the sources of remittance. This enabled the Mother Country, in a great degree, to supply her troops without shipping money out of the kingdom. From the operation of these resolutions, advantages of this nature were not only cut off, but the supply of the British army rendered both precarious and expensive. In consequence of the interdiction of the American fisheries, great profits were expected by British adventurers in that line. Such frequently found it most convenient to obtain supplies in America for carrying on their fisheries; but as Great-Britain had deprived the colonists of all benefits from that quarter, they now in their turn, interdicted all supplies from being furnished to British fishermen. To obviate this unexpected embarrassment, several of the vessels employed in this business, were obliged to return home, to bring out provisions for their associates. These restrictive resolutions, were not so much the effect of resentment as of policy.1775 The colonists conceived, that  by distressing the British commerce, they would encrease the number of those who would interest themselves in their behalf.
The new Congress had convened but a few days when their venerable president Peyton Randolph, was under a necessity of returning home. On his departure John Hancock was unanimously chosen his successor. The objects of deliberation presented to this new Congress were, if possible, more important than those which in the preceding year, had engaged the attention of their predecessors. The colonists had now experienced the inefficacy of those measures, from which relief had been formerly obtained. They found a new parliament disposed to run all risques in inforcing their submission. They also understood that administration was united against them, and its members firmly established in their places. Hostilities were commenced. Reinforcements had arrived, and more were daily expected. Added to this, they had information that their adversaries had taken measures to secure the friendship and co-operation of the Indians; and also of the Canadians.
The coercion of the colonies being resolved upon, and their conquest supposed to be inevitable, the British ministry judged that it would be for the interest of both countries to proceed in that vigorous course, which bid fairest for the speediest attainment of their object. They hoped by pressing the colonists on all quarters, to intimidate opposition, and ultimately to lessen the effusion of human blood.
In this awful crisis Congress had but a choice of difficulties. The New-England states had already organized an army and blockaded general Gage. To desert them would have been contrary to plighted faith and to sound policy. To support them would make the war general, and involve all the provinces in one general promiscuous state of hostility. The resolution of the people in favour of the latter was fixed, and only wanted public sanction for its operation.May 26 Congress therefore resolved, “that for the express purpose of defending and securing the colonies, and preserving them in safety, against  all attempts to carry the late acts of a parliament into execution, by force of arms,1775 they be immediately put in a state of defence; but as they wished for a restoration of the harmony formerly subsisting between the Mother Country and the colonies, to the promotion of this most desirable reconciliation, an humble and dutiful petition be presented to his majesty.” To resist and to petition were coeval resolutions. As freemen they could not tamely submit, but as loyal subjects, wishing for peace as far as was compatible with their rights, they once more, in the character of petitioners, humbly stated their grievances to the common father of the empire. To dissuade the Canadians from co-operating with the British, they again addressed them, representing the pernicious tendency of the Quebec act, and apologizing for their taking Ticonderoga and Crown-Point, as measures which were dictated by the great law of self preservation. About the same time Congress took measures for warding off the danger that threatened their frontier inhabitants from Indians. Commissioners to treat with them were appointed, and a supply of goods for their use was ordered. A talk was also prepared by Congress, and transmitted to them, in which the controversy between Great-Britain and her colonies was explained, in a familiar Indian style. They were told that they had no concern in the family quarrel, and were urged by the ties of ancient friendship and a common birth place, to remain at home, keep their hatchet buried deep, and to join neither side.
The novel situation of Massachusetts made it necessary for the ruling powers of that province to ask the advice of Congress on a very interesting subject, “The taking up and exercising the powers of civil government.” For many months they had been kept together in tolerable peace and order by the force of ancient habits, under the simple style of recommendation and advice from popular bodies, invested with no legislative authority. But as war now raged in their borders, and a numerous army was actually raised, some more efficient form of government became necessary.1775 At this early day it neither  comported with the wishes nor the designs of the colonists to erect forms of government independent of Great-Britain, Congress therefore recommended only such regulations as were immediately necessary, and these were conformed as near as possible to the spirit and substance of the charter, and were only to last till a governor of his majesty’s appointment would consent to govern the colony according to its charter.
On the same principles of necessity, another assumption of new powers became unavoidable. The great intercourse that daily took place throughout the colonies, pointed out the propriety of establishing a general post-office. This was accordingly done, and Dr. Franklin, who had by royal authority been dismissed from a similar employment about three years before, was appointed by his country, the head of the new department.
While Congress was making arrangements for their proposed continental army, it was thought expedient once more to address the inhabitants of Great-Britain, and to publish to the world a declaration setting forth their reasons for taking up arms—to address the speaker and gentlemen of the assembly of Jamaica, and the inhabitants of Ireland, and also to prefer a second humble petition to the king. In their address to the inhabitants of Great-Britain, they again vindicated themselves from the charge of aiming at independency, professed their willingness to submit to the several acts of trade and navigation which were passed before the year 1763, recapitulated their reasons for rejecting lord North’s conciliatory motion—stated the hardships they suffered from the operations of the royal army in Boston, and insinuated the danger the inhabitants of Britain would be in of losing their freedom, in case their American brethren were subdued.
In their declaration, setting forth the causes and necessity of their taking up arms, they enumerated the injuries they had received, and the methods taken by the British ministry to compel their submission, and then said,1775 “We are reduced to the alternative of choosing an unconditional submission to the tyranny of irritated ministers, or  resistance by force. The latter is our choice. We have counted the cost of this contest, and find nothing so dreadful as voluntary slavery.” They asserted “that foreign assistance was undoubtedly attainable.” This was not founded on any private information, but was an opinion derived from their knowledge of the principles of policy, by which states usually regulate their conduct towards each other.
In their address to the speaker and gentlemen of the assembly of Jamaica, they dilated on the arbitrary systems of the British ministry, and informed them that in order to obtain a redress of their grievances, they had appealed to the justice, humanity, and interest of Great-Britain. They stated, that to make their schemes of non-importation and non-exportation produce the desired effects, they were obliged to extend them to the islands. “From that necessity, and from that alone, said they, our conduct has proceeded.” They concluded with saying, “the peculiar situation of your island forbids your assistance, but we have your good wishes—from the good wishes of the friends of liberty and mankind we shall always derive consolation.”
In their address to the people of Ireland they recapitulated their grievances, stated their humble petitions, and the neglect with which they had been treated. “In defence of our persons and properties under actual violations, said they, we have taken up arms. When that violence shall be removed, and hostilities cease on the part of the aggressors, they shall cease on our part also.”
These several addresses were executed in a masterly manner, and were well calculated to make friends to the colonies. But their petition to the king, which was drawn up at the same time, produced more solid advantages in favour of the American cause, than any other of their productions. This was in a great measure carried through Congress by Mr. Dickinson.1775 Several members, judging from the violence with which parliament proceeded against the colonies, were of opinion that farther petitions were nugatory; but this worthy citizen, a friend to both countries, and devoted to a reconciliation on  constitutional principles, urged the expediency and policy of trying once more the effect of an humble, decent, and firm petition, to the common head of the empire. The high opinion that was conceived of his patriotism and abilities, induced the members to assent to the measure, though they generally conceived it to be labour lost. The petition agreed upon was the work of Mr. Dickinson’s pen. In this, among other things, it was stated,
July 8that notwithstanding their sufferings, they had retained too high a regard for the kingdom from which they derived their origin, to request such a reconciliation as might in any manner be inconsistent with her dignity and welfare. Attached to his majesty’s person, family, and government, with all the devotion that principle and affection can inspire, connected with Great-Britain by the strongest ties that can unite society, and deploring every event that tended in any degree to weaken them, they not only most fervently desired the former harmony between her and the colonies to be restored, but that a concord might be established between them, upon so firm a basis as to perpetuate its blessings, uninterrupted by any future dissentions, to succeeding generations, in both countries. They therefore beseeched that his majesty would be pleased to direct some mode by which the united applications of his faithful colonists to the throne, in pursuance of their common councils, might be improved into a happy and permanent reconciliation.
By this last clause Congress meant that the Mother Country should propose a plan for establishing by compact, something like Magna Charta for the colonies. They did not aim at a total exemption from the controul of parliament, nor were they unwilling to contribute in their own way, to the expences of government; but they feared the horrors of war less than submission to unlimited parliamentary supremacy. They wished for an amicable compact, in which doubtful, undefined points, should be ascertained so as to secure that proportion of authority and liberty which would be for the general good of the whole empire. They fancied themselves in the condition of the barons at Runnymede; but with this difference, that in  addition to opposing the king, they had also to oppose the parliament.1775 This difference was more nominal than real, for in the latter case the king and parliament stood precisely in the same relation to the people of America, which subsisted in the former between the king and people of England. In both, popular leaders were contending with the sovereign for the privileges of subjects. This well meant petition was presented on September 1st, 1775, by Mr. Penn and Mr. Lee, and on the 4th lord Dartmouth informed them, “that to it no answer would be given.” This slight contributed not a little to the union and perseverance of the colonists. When pressed by the calamities of war, a doubt would sometimes arise in the minds of scrupulous persons, that they had been too hasty in their opposition to their protecting Parent State. To such it was usual to present the second petition of Congress to the king, observing thereon, that all the blood and all the guilt of the war, must be charged on British, and not on American counsels.Oct. 26 Though the colonists were accused in a speech from the throne, as meaning only, “to amuse by vague expressions of attachment to the Parent State, and the strongest protestations of loyalty to their king, while they were preparing for a general revolt, and that their rebellious war was manifestly carried on for the purpose of establishing an independent empire.” Yet at that time, and for months after, a redress of grievances was their ultimate aim. Conscious of this intention, and assenting in the sincerity of their souls to the submissive language of their petition, they illy brooked the contempt with which their joint supplication was treated, and still worse, that they should be charged from the throne with studied duplicity. Nothing contributes more to the success of revolutions than moderation. Intemperate zealots overshoot themselves, and soon spend their force, while the calm and dispassionate persevere to the end. The bulk of the people in civil commotions are influenced to a choice of sides, by the general complexion of the measures adopted by the respective parties. When these appear to be dictated by justice and prudence, and to be  uninfluenced by passion, ambition or avarice, they are disposed to favour them. Such was the effect of this second petition, through a long and trying war, in which men of serious reflection were often called upon to examine the rectitude of their conduct.
Though the refusal of an answer to this renewed application of Congress to the king, was censured by numbers in Great-Britain, as well as in the colonies, yet the partisans of ministry varnished the measure as proper and expedient. They contended that the petition, as it contained no offers of submission, was unavailing, as a ground work of negociation. Nothing was farther from the thoughts of Congress than such concessions as were expected in Great-Britain. They conceived themselves to be more sinned against than sinning. They claimed a redress of grievances as a matter of right, but were persuaded that concessions for this purpose were acts of justice and not of humiliation, and therefore could not be disgraceful to those by whom they were made. To prevent future altercations they wished for an amicable compact to ascertain the extent of parliamentary supremacy. The Mother Country wished for absolute submission to her authority, the colonists for a repeal of every act that imposed taxes, or that interfered in their internal legislation. The ministry of England being determined not to repeal these acts, and the Congress equally determined not to submit to them, the claims of the two countries were so wide of each other as to afford no reasonable ground to expect a compromise. It was therefore concluded, that any notice taken of the petition would only afford an opportunity for the colonies to prepare themselves for the last extremity.
A military opposition to the armies of Great-Britain being resolved upon by the colonies, it became an object of consequence to fix on a proper person to conduct that opposition.1775 Many of the colonists had titles of high rank in the militia, and several had seen something of real service, in the late war between France and England; but there was no individual of such superior military experience as to entitle him to a decided pre-eminence, or even  to qualify him, on that ground, to contend on equal terms with the British masters of the art of war. In elevating one man, by the free voice of an invaded country, to the command of thousands of his equal fellow citizens, no consideration was regarded but the interest of the community. To bind the uninvaded provinces more closely to the common cause, policy directed the views of Congress to the south.
Among the southern colonies Virginia, for numbers, wealth, and influence, stood pre-eminent. To attach so respectable a colony to the aid of Massachusetts, by selecting a commander in chief from that quarter, was not less warranted by the great military genius of one of her distinguished citizens, than dictated by sound policy.June 15 George Washington was, by an unanimous vote appointed, commander in chief of all the forces raised, or to be raised, for the defence of the colonies. It was a fortunate circumstance attending his election, that it was accompanied with no competition, and followed by no envy. That same general impulse on the public mind, which led the colonists to agree in many other particulars, pointed to as the most proper person for presiding over the military arrangements of America. Not only Congress but the inhabitants in the east and the west, in the north and, the south, as well before as at the time of embodying a continental army were in a great degree unanimous in his favour. An attempt to draw the character of this truly great man would look like flattery. Posterity will doubtless do it justice. His actions, especially now, while fresh in remembrance, are his amplest panegyric. Suffice it, in his life time, only to particularise those qualities, which being more common, may be mentioned without offending the delicate sensibility of the most modest of men.
General Washington was born on the 11th of February 1732. His education was such as favoured the production of a solid mind and a vigorous body. Mountain air, abundant exercise in the open country—the wholesome toils of the chace, and the delightful scenes of rural life, expanded his limbs to an unusual but graceful  and well proportioned size.1775 His youth was spent in the acquisition of useful knowledge, and in pursuits, tending to the improvement of his fortune, or the benefit of his country. Fitted more for active, than for speculative life, he devoted the greater proportion of his time to the latter, but this was amply compensated by his being frequently in such situations, as called forth the powers of his mind, and strengthened them by repeated exercise. Early in life, in obedience to his country’s call, he entered the military line, and began his career of fame in opposing that power in concert with whose troops, he acquired his last and most distinguished honours. He was with general Braddock in 1755, when that unfortunate officer from an excess of bravery, chose rather to sacrifice his army than retreat from an unseen foe. The remains of that unfortunate corpse were brought off the field of battle chiefly by the address and good conduct of colonel Washington. After the peace of Paris 1763, he retired to his estate, and with great industry and success pursued the arts of peaceful life. When the proceedings of the British parliament alarmed the colonists with apprehensions that a blow was levelled at their liberties, he again came forward into public view, and was appointed a delegate to the Congress, which met in September 1774. Possessed of a large proportion of common sense directed by a sound judgment, he was better fitted for the exalted station to which he was called, than many others who to a greater brilliancy of parts frequently add the eccentricity of original genius. Engaged in the busy scenes of life, he knew human nature, and the most proper method of accomplishing proposed objects. His passions were subdued and kept in subjection to reason. His soul superior to party spirit, to prejudice and illiberal views, moved according to the impulses it received from an honest heart, a good understanding, common sense, and a sound judgment. He was habituated to view things on every side, to consider them in all relations, and to trace the possible and probable consequences of proposed measures. Much addicted to close thinking, his mind was constantly employed.1775 By frequent exercise,  his understanding and judgment expanded so as to be able to discern truth, and to know what was proper to be done in the most difficult conjunctures.
Soon after general Washington was appointed commander in chief of the American army. Four major generals, one adjutant general, with the rank of a brigadier, and eight brigadiers general were appointed in subordination to him which were as follows.
The 8 Brigadiers were
General Washington replied to the president of Congress, announcing his appointment in the following words.
Though I am truly sensible of the high honour done me in this appointment, yet, I feel great distress from a consciousness, that my abilities and military experience may not be equal to the extensive and important trust: however as the Congress desire it, I will enter upon the momentous duty, and exert every power I possess in their service, and for support of the glorious cause. I beg they will accept my most cordial thanks for this distinguished testimony of their approbation.
But, lest some unlucky event should happen unfavourable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered by every gentleman in the room, that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I am honoured with.
1775 As to pay sir, I beg leave to assure the Congress, that as no pecuniary consideration could have tempted me to accept this arduous employment, at the expence of my domestic ease and happiness, I do not wish to make any profit from it. I will keep an exact account of my expences. Those I doubt not they will discharge, and that is all I desire.
A special commission was drawn up and presented to him, and at the same time an unanimous resolution was adopted by Congress, “That they would maintain and assist him, and adhere to him with their lives and fortunes in the cause of American liberty.” Instructions were also given him for his government, by which after reciting various particulars he was directed, “to destroy or make prisoners of all persons who now are, or who hereafter shall appear in arms against the good people of the colonies:” but the whole was summed up in authorizing him “to order and dispose of the army under his command as might be most advantageous for obtaining the end for which it had been raised, making it his special care in discharge of the great trust committed to him, that the liberties of America received no detriment.”June 14–22 About the same time twelve companies of riflemen were ordered to be raised in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. The men to the amount of 1430 were procured and forwarded with great expedition. They had to march from 4 to 700 miles, and yet the whole business was compleated and they joined the American army at Cambridge, in less than two months from the day on which the first resolution for raising them was agreed to.
June 22Coeval with the resolution for raising an army, was another for emitting a sum not exceeding two millions of Spanish milled dollars in bills of credit for the defence of America, and the colonies were pledged for the redemption of them. This sum was increased from time to time by farther emissions. The colonies having neither money nor revenues at their command, were forced to adopt this expedient, the only one which was in their power for supporting an army.1775 No one delegate  opposed the measure. So great had been the credit of the former emissions of paper in the greater part of the colonies, that very few at that time foresaw or apprehended the consequences of unfunded paper emissions, but had all the consequences which resulted from this measure in the course of the war been forseen, it must notwithstanding have been adopted, for it was a less evil, that there should be a general wreck of property, than that the essential rights and liberties of a growing country should be lost. A happy ignorance of future events combined with the ardor of the times, prevented many reflections on this subject, and gave credit and circulation to these bills of credit.
General Washington soon after his appointment to the command of the American army set out for the camp at Cambridge. On his way thither, he received an address from the provincial congress of New-York, in which they expressed their joy at his appointment. They also said, “we have the fullest assurances that whenever this important contest shall be decided by that fondest wish of each American soul, an accommodation with our Mother Country, you will chearfully resign the important deposit committed into your hands, and re-assume the character of our worthiest citizen.[”] The general after declaring his gratitude for the regard shewn him, added,
Be assured that every exertion of my worthy colleagues and myself, will be extended to the re-establishment of peace and harmony between the Mother Country and these colonies. As to the fatal but necessary operations of war, when we assumed the soldier, we did not lay aside the citizen, and we shall most sincerely rejoice with you in that happy hour, when the re-establishment of American liberty, on the most firm and solid foundations shall enable us to return to our private stations, in the bosom of a free, peaceful, and happy country.
The general on his way to camp was treated with the highest honours in every place through which he passed. Large detachments of volunteers composed of private gentlemen turned out to escort him.1775 A committee from the Massachusetts Congress received him about 100 miles  from Boston, and conducted him to the army. He was soon after addressed by the Congress of that colony in the most affectionate manner, in his answer he said,
Gentlemen, your kind congratulations on my appointment and arrival, demand my warmest ackowledgements, and will ever be retained in grateful remembrance. In exchanging the enjoyments of domestic life for the duties of my present honourable but arduous station, I only emulate the virtue and public spirit of the whole province of Massachusetts, which, with a firmness and patriotism without example, has sacrificed all the comforts of social and political life, in support of the rights of mankind and the welfare of our common country. My highest ambition is to be the happy instrument of vindicating these rights, and to see this devoted province again restored to peace, liberty and safety.
July 3When general Washington arrived at Cambridge, he was received with the joyful acclamations of the American army. At the head of his troops he published a declaration, previously drawn up by Congress, in the nature of a manifesto, setting forth the reasons for taking up arms. In this, after enumerating various grievances of the colonies, and vindicating them from a premeditated design of establishing independent states, it was added,
In our own native land, in defence of the freedom which is our birthright, and which we ever enjoyed till the late violation of it—for the protection of our property, acquired solely by the industry of our forefathers and ourselves, against violence actually offered, we have taken up arms, we shall lay them down when hostilities shall cease on the part of the aggressors, and all danger of their being renewed shall be removed, and not before.
When general Washington joined the American army, he found the British intrenched on Bunker’s-hill, having also three floating batteries in Mystic river, and a twenty gun ship below the ferry, between Boston and Charlestown. They had also a battery on Copse’s hill, and were strongly fortified on the neck.1775 The Americans were intrenched at Winter-hill, Prospect-hill, and Roxbury, communicating with one another by small posts,  over a distance of ten miles. There were also parties stationed in several towns along the sea coast. They had neither engineers to plan suitable works, nor sufficient tools for their erection.
In the American camp was collected a large body of men, but without those conveniencies which ancient establishments have introduced for the comfort of regular armies. Instead of tents, sails now rendered useless by the obstructions of commerce, were applied for their covering; but even of them, there was not a sufficiency. The American soldiers having joined the camp in all that variety of clothing which they used in their daily labour, were without uniformity of dress. To abolish provincial distinctions, the hunting shirt was introduced. They were also without those heads of departments in the line of commissaries or quarter masters, which are necessary for the regular and economical supply of armies. The troops from Connecticut had proper officers appointed to procure them supplies, but they who came from the other colonies were not so well furnished. Individuals brought to camp their own provisions on their own horses. In some parts committees of supplies were appointed, who purchased necessaries at public expence, sent them on to camp, and distributed them to such as were in want, without any regularity or system; the country afforded provisions, and nothing more was wanting to supply the army than proper systems for their collection and distribution. Other articles, though equally necessary, were almost wholly deficient, and could not be procured but with difficulty. On the 4th of August the whole stock of powder in the American camp, and in the public magazines of the four New-England provinces, would make but little more than nine rounds a man. The continental army remained in this destitute condition for a fortnight or more. This was generally known among themselves, and was also communicated to the British, by a deserter, but they suspecting a plot would not believe it. A supply of a few tons was sent on to them from the committee of Elizabeth-town, but this was done privately, lest the adjacent inhabitants, who were equally destitute  should stop it for their own use.1775 The public rulers in Massachusetts issued a recommendation to the inhabitants, not to fire a gun at beast, bird or mark, in order that they might husband their little stock for the more necessary purpose of shooting men. A supply of several thousand pounds weight of powder, was soon after obtained from Africa in exchange for New-England rum. This was managed with so much address, that every ounce for sale in the British forts on the African coasts, was purchased up and brought off for the use of the Americans.
Embarrassments from various quarters occurred in the formation of a continental army. The appointment of general officers made by Congress, was not satisfactory. Enterprising leaders had come forward with their followers on the commencement of hostilities, without scrupulous attention to rank. When these were all blended together, it was impossible to assign to every officer the station which his services merited, or his vanity demanded. Materials for a good army were collected. The husbandmen who flew to arms were active, zealous, and of unquestionable courage, but to introduce discipline and subordination, among free men who were habituated to think for themselves, was an arduous labour.
The want of system and of union, under proper heads, pervaded every department. From the circumstance that the persons employed in providing necessaries for the army were unconnected with each other, much waste and unnecessary delays were occasioned. The troops of the different colonies came into service under variant establishments—some were enlisted with the express condition of choosing their officers. The rations promised by the local legislatures varied both as to quantity, quality and price. To form one uniform mass of these discordant materials, and to subject the licentiousness of independent freemen to the controul of military discipline, was a delicate and difficult business.
The continental army put under the command of general Washington, amounted to about 14,500 men.1775 These had been so judiciously stationed round Boston, as  to confine the British to the town, and to exclude them from the forage and provisions which the adjacent country and islands in Boston-bay afforded. This force was thrown into three grand divisions. General Ward commanded the right wing at Roxbury. General Lee the left at Prospect-hill, and the centre was commanded by general Washington. In arranging the army, the military skill of adjutant-general Gates was of great service. Method and punctuality were introduced. The officers and privates were taught to know their respective places, and to have the mechanism and movements as well as the name of an army.
When some effectual pains had been taken to discipline the army, it was found that the term for which enlistments had taken place, was on the point of expiring. The troops from Connecticut and Rhode-Island were only engaged till the 1st day of December 1775, and no part of the army longer than the first day of January 1776. Such mistaken apprehensions respecting the future conduct of Great-Britain prevailed, that many thought the assumption of a determined spirit of resistance would lead to a redress of all their grievances.
Oct. 10Towards the close of the year, general Gage sailed for England, and the command devolved on general Howe.
Nov.The Massachusetts assembly and continental Congress both resolved, to fit out armed vessels to cruise on the American coast, for the purpose of interrupting warlike stores and supplies designed for the use of the British army. The object was at first limited, but as the prospect of accommodation vanished, it was extended to all British property afloat on the high seas. The Americans were diffident of their ability to do any thing on water in opposition to the greatest naval power in the world, but from a combination of circumstances, their first attempts were successful.
Nov. 29The Lee privateer, captain Manly, took the brig Nancy, an ordnance ship from Woolwich, containing a large brass mortar, several pieces of brass cannon, a large quantity of arms and ammunition, with all manner of tools, 1775 utensils and machines, necessary for camps and artillery. Had Congress sent an order for supplies, they could not have made out a list of articles more suitable to their situation, than what was thus providentially thrown into their hands.
Dec. 8In about 9 days after three ships, with various stores for the British army, and a brig from Antigua with rum, were taken by capt. Manly. Before five days more had elapsed, several other store ships were captured. By these means the distresses of the British troops, in Boston, were increased, and supplies for the continental army were procured. Naval captures, being unexpected, were matter of triumph to the Americans, and of surprize to the British. The latter scarcely believed that the former would oppose them by land with a regular army, but never suspected that a people, so unfurnished as they were with many things necessary for arming vessels, would presume to attempt any thing on water. A spirit of enterprize, invigorated by patriotic zeal, prompted the hardy New Englandmen to undertake the hazardous business, and their success encouraged them to proceed.Dec. 13 Before the close of the year, Congress determined to build 5 vessels of 32 guns, 5 of 28, and 3 of 24. While the Americans were fitting out armed vessels, and before they had made any captures, an event took place which would have disposed a less determined people to desist from provoking the vengeance of the British navy. This was the burning of Falmouth in the northern parts of Massachusetts.Oct. 18 Captain Mowat, in the Canceaux of sixteen guns, destroyed 139 houses and 278 stores, and other buildings in that town.
This spread an alarm on the coast, but produced no disposition to submit, many moved from the sea ports with their families and effects, but no solicitations were preferred for the obtaining of British protection.
In a few days after the burning of Falmouth, the old south meeting house in Boston, was taken into possession by the British, and destined for a riding school, and the service of the light dragoons. These proceedings produced, in the minds of the colonists, a more determined spirit of resistance, and a more general aversion to Great-Britain.