Primary tabs

General Washington to the President of Congress



Cambridge, November 8, 1775.

SIR: The immediate occasion of my giving the Congress the trouble of a letter at this time, is to inform them that in consequence of their order, signified in your letter of the 20th ult˙, I laid myself under a solemn tie of secrecy to Captain Macpherson, and proceeded to examine his plan, for the destruction of the fleet in the harbour of Boston, with all that care and attention which the importance of it deserved, and my judgment could lead to; but not being happy enough to coincide in opinion with that gentleman, and finding that his scheme would involve greater expense than (under my doubts of its success) I thought myself justified in giving in to, I prevailed upon him to communicate his plan to three gentlemen of the Artillery, in this Army, well acquainted in the knowledge and practice of gunnery. By them he has been convinced, that inasmuch as he set out upon wrong principles, the scheme would prove abortive. Unwilling, however, to relinquish his favorite project of reducing the naval force of Great Britain, he is very desirous of building a number of row-galleys for this purpose; but as the Congress alone are competent to the adoption of this measure, I have advised him (although he offered to go on with the building of them, at his own expense, till the Congress should decide) to repair immediately to Philadelphia with his proposals, where, if they should be agreed to, or vessels of superior force (agreeable to the wishes of most others) should be resolved on, he may set instantly about them, with all the materials upon the spot. Here they are to collect. To him, therefore, I refer for further information on this head.

A vessel, said to be from Philadelphia, and bound to Boston, with one hundred and twenty pipes of wine, (one hundred and eighteen of which are secured,) stranded at a place called Eastham, in a gale of wind on the 2d instant; another, from Boston to Halifax, with dry goods, &c˙, amounting, per invoice, to about two hundred and forty Pounds, lawful money, got disabled in the same gale, near Beverly. These cargoes, with the papers, I have ordered to this place; the vessels to be taken care of till further orders. I have also an account of the taking of a wood sloop, bound to Boston, and carried into Portsmouth, by one of our armed vessels; particulars not yet come to hand, And this instant, of two others, from Nova-Scotia to Boston with hay, wood, live stock, &c˙, by another of our armed schooners; these are in Plymouth. These accidents and captures point out the necessity of establishing proper courts, without loss of time, for the decision of property and the legality of seizures; otherwise I may be involved in inextricable difficulties.


Our prisoners, by the reduction of Fort Chambly, (on which happy event I most sincerely congratulate the Congress,) being considerably augmented, and likely to be increased, I submit it to the wisdom of Congress, whether some convenient inland Towns, remote from the post roads, ought not to be assigned them, the manner of their treatment, subsistence, &c˙, defined, and a commissary or agent appointed to see that justice is done both to them and the publick, proper accounts rendered, &c. Without a mode of this sort is adopted, I fear there will be sad confusion hereafter, as there are great complaints at present.

I reckoned without my host when I informed the Congress, in my last, that I should, in a day or two, be able to acquaint them of the disposition of the soldiery towards a new enlistment. I have been in consultation with the Generals of this Army ever since Thursday last, endeavouring to establish new corps of officers, but find so many doubts and difficulties to reconcile, I cannot say when they are to end or what may be the consequences, as there appears to be such an unwillingness in the officers of one Government mixing in the same Regiment with those of another; and, without it, many must be dismissed, who are willing to serve, notwithstanding we are deficient on the whole. I am to have another meeting to-day, upon this business, and shall inform you of the result.

The Council of Officers are unanimously of opinion that the command of the Artillery should no longer continue in Colonel Gridley; and knowing of no person better qualified to supply his place, or whose appointment will give more general satisfaction, I have taken the liberty of recommending Henry Knox, Esq˙, to the consideration of the Congress, thinking it indispensably necessary, at the same time, that this Regiment should consist of two Lieutenant-Colonels, two Majors, and twelve Companies, agreeable to the plan and estimate handed in, which, differing from the last establishment, I should be glad to be instructed on.

The Commissary-General, not being returned, will apologize, I hope, for my silence respecting a requisition of the expense of his Clerks, &c˙, which I was to have obtained, together with others, and forward.

I have heard nothing of Colonel Arnold since the 13th ult. His letter of and journal to that date will convey all the information I am able to give of him. I think he must be in Quebeck. If any mischance had happened to him, he would, as directed, have forwarded an express.

No account yet of the armed vessels sent to St˙ Lawrence. I think they will meet with the stores inward or outward bound.

Captain Symons, in the Cerberus, lately sent from Boston to Falmouth, has published the enclosed declaration at that place, and it is suspected intends to make some kind of a lodgement there. I wrote immediately to Colonel Phinney, of this Army, who went up there, upon the last alarm, to spirit up the people, and oppose it at all events. Falmouth is about one hundred and thirty miles from this camp.

I have the honour to be, with great respect, Sir, your most obedient humble servant,


P˙S. I send a general return of the Troops , and manifests of the cargoes and vessels taken at Plymouth.