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Letter from General Washington to Major and Brigadier-Generals


[No˙ 6.]

Cambridge, September 8, 1775.

GENTLEMEN: As I mean to call upon you in a day or two for your opinions upon a point of very great importance to the welfare of the Continent in general, and this Colony in particular, I think it proper, indeed an incumbent duty on me, previous to this meeting to intimate to you the end and design of it, that you may have time to consider the matter with that deliberation and attention which the importance of it requires:

It is to know whether, in your judgments, we cannot make a successful attack upon the Troops in Boston, by means of boats, co-operated by an attempt upon their lines at Roxbury. The success of such an enterprise depends, I well know, upon the all-wise Disposer of events, and is not within the reach of human wisdom to foretell the issue; but if the prospect is fair, the undertaking is justifiable, under the following among other reasons which may be assigned.

The season is now fast approaching when warm and comfortable barracks must be erected for the security of the Troops against the inclemency of winter; large and costly provision must be made in the article of wood for the supply of the Army; and, after all that can be done in this way, it is but too probable that fences, woods, orchards, and even houses themselves, will fall a sacrifice to the want of fuel, before the end of winter. A very considerable difficulty, if not expense, must accrue on account of clothing for the men now engaged in the service; and if they do not enlist again, this difficulty will be increased to an almost insurmountable degree. Blankets, I am informed, are now much wanted, and not to be got. How, then, shall we be able to keep soldiers to their duty already impatient to get home, when they come to feel the severity of winter, without proper covering? If this Army should not incline to engage for a longer time than the 1st of January, what consequences can more certainly follow, than that you must either be obliged to levy new Troops, and thereby have two sets, or partly so, in pay at the same time, or, by disbanding one set before you get the other, expose the Country to desolation, and the cause perhaps to irretrievable ruin? These things are not unknown to the enemy; perhaps it is the very ground they are building on, if they are not waiting for a large re-enforcement; and if they are waiting for succours, ought it not to give a spur to the attempt? Our powder, not much of which would be consumed in such an enterprise, without any certainty of a supply, is daily wasting; and, to sum up the whole, in spite of every saving that can be made, the expense of supporting this Army will so far exceed any idea that was formed in Congress of it, that I do not know what will be the consequences.

These, among many other reasons which might be assigned, induce me to wish a speedy finish of the dispute; but, to avoid these evils, we are not to lose sight of the difficulties, the hazard, and the loss, that may accompany the attempt, nor what will be the probable consequences of a failure.

That every circumstance for and against this measure may be duly weighed, that there may be time for doing


it, and nothing of this importance resolved on but after mature deliberation, I give you this previous notice of my intention of calling you together on Monday next, at nine o' clock, at which time you are requested to attend at Head-Quarters. It is unnecessary, I am persuaded, to recommend secrecy. The success of the enterprise, if undertaken, must depend in a great measure upon the suddenness of the stroke.

I am, with great esteem, Gentlemen, &c.,


To Major-Generals Ward, Lee, Putnam; Brigadier-Generals Thomas, Spencer, Heath, Sullivan, Green, and Gates.