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Letter from James Lyon to General Washington



Machias, December 25, 1775.

SIR: You doubtless remember to have seen an application from the Committee of Safety in this place, for leave to go against Nova-Scotia, which might probably have been taken then with very little difficulty. But we were informed that such an expedition could not be carried on at that time with proper secrecy, and that there was imminent danger from the King' s ships. The same difficulties may, possibly, lie in the way now, if any troops are collected and sent from any part near the Head-Quarters. I apprehend that secrecy is as necessary now as ever it was; and, if only one proper person, at a suitable place, be ordered to conduct the whole affair, it will probably succeed.

There have been many applications, I dare say, from many persons and places; but, were I to point out a suitable


place, I should mention this, as it is near to Nova-Scotia. I should be more at a loss for a proper person to conduct the enterprise. I know of fitter persons than myself, in many respects, but they are strangers to the Province and people. But I have dwelt there for years, and have a personal acquaintance with almost all the principal men, and know the country well. I should rejoice, therefore, in the appointment to this necessary business; and, if your Excellency, together with those only who must necessarily be acquainted with the appointment, (for I choose none but they should know any thing of the matter,) in your great wisdom should see fit to appoint me, I will conduct the expedition with the utmost secrecy, and (Deo adj˙) will add to the dominions of the Continental Congress another Province, before our enemies are able to defend it. All I require is sufficient authority to collect as many troops as I see fit in this Eastern country, not exceeding one thousand men, and vessels to convey them to the place of action, and blank commissions for the necessary officers of a thousand more, to be filled up as I shall find expedient, in Nova-Scotia, where the men are to be raised, put into the Continental pay, and left there to defend the country when taken. And further, that a sufficient quantity of provisions, ammunition, arms, &c˙, be sent here about the middle of March.

Your Excellency may inquire about me as much as you please, of Benjamin Foster, Esq˙, Captain Stephen Smith, Captain O' Brian, and Mr˙ Shannon, for these gentlemen I should choose to have as companions, but do not choose that they, or any other persons living, should know any thing of the design (if this petition is granted) until it is time to embark, except those persons only who have authority to appoint. The above-mentioned gentlemen know nothing of this application.

The reduction of Nova-Scotia is a matter of great importance, and lies near my heart, on account of my many suffering friends in that Province, and on account of the many advantages that would arise from it to this Colony, and to this place in particular. But, should the Government appoint another person to conduct the expedition, I shall cordially acquiesce, and pray for his success, as I ever do that God may smile on all the American arms, till all our enemies are subdued before us.

Your Excellency will not take amiss what my zeal for the honour and safety of my country constrained me to write.

I am, most respectfully, your Excellency' s very humble and obedient servant,

His Excellency George Washington, Esq˙, Commander-in-chief of the Army of the United Colonies.