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General Washington to President of Congress



[Read March 6, 1776.]

Cambridge, February 18, 1776.

SIR: The late freezing weather having formed some pretty strong ice from Dorchester-Point to Boston-Neck, and from Roxbury to the Common, thereby affording a more expanded, and, consequently, a less dangerous approach to the town. I could not help thinking, notwithstanding the Militia were not all come in, and we had little or no powder to begin our operation by a regular cannonade and bombardment, that a bold and resolute assault upon the troops in Boston, with such men as we had, (for it could not take many men to guard our own lines, at a time when the enemy were attacked in all quarters,) might be crowned with success; and, therefore, seeing no certain prospect of a supply of powder on the one hand, and a certain dissolution of the ice on the other, I called the General Officers together for their opinion, agreeably to the resolve of Congress, of the 22d December. The result will appear in the enclosed Council of War: and being almost unanimous, I must suppose to be right, although, from a thorough conviction of the necessity of attempting something against the Ministerial troops, before a reinforcement should arrive, and while we were favoured with the ice, I was not only ready, but willing and desirous of making the assault, under a firm hope, if the men would have stood by me, of a favourable issue, notwithstanding the enemy' s advantage of ground, artillery, &c. Perhaps the irksomeness of my situation may have given different ideas to me, than those which influenced the gentlemen I consulted, and might have inclined me to put more to the hazard than was consistent with prudence. If it had, I am not sensible of it, as I endeavoured to give it all the consideration that a matter of such importance required.

True it is, and I cannot help acknowledging, that I have many disagreeable sensations on account of my situation; for, to have the eyes of the whole Continent fixed, with anxious expectation of hearing of some great event, and to be restrained in every military operation for want of the necessary means of carrying it on, is not very pleasing, especially as the means used to conceal my weakness, from the enemy, conceals it also from our friends, and adds to their wonder. I do not utter this by way of complaint. I am sensible that all that the Congress could do, they have done; and I should feel most powerfully the weight of conscious ingratitude, were I not to acknowledge this; but as we have accounts of the arrival of powder in Captain Mason, I would beg to have it sent on in the most expeditious manner, otherwise we not only lose all chance of the benefits resulting from the season, but of the Militia, which are brought in at a most enormous expense, upon a presumption that we should, long ere this, have been amply supplied with powder under the contracts entered into with the Committee of Congress. The Militia, contrary to an express requisition, are come, and coming in, without ammunition; to supply them alone with twenty-four rounds, which is less by three-fifths than the Regulars are served with, will take between fifty and sixty barrels of powder; and to complete


the other troops, to the like quantity, will take near as much more, and leave in store not more than about sixty barrels, besides a few rounds of cannon-cartridges, ready filled, for use. This, sir, Congress may be assured is a true state of powder, and will, I hope, bear some testimony of my incapacity for action in such a way as may do any essential service.

February 21.—When I began this letter, I proposed to have sent it by express, but recollecting that all rny late letters have been as expressive of tny want of powder and arms as I could paint them, and that Mr˙ Hooper was to set off in a day or two, I thought it unnecessary to run the Continent to the expense of an express, merely to repeat what I had so often done before, when I am certain that Congress, knowing our necessities, will delay no time, that can possibly be avoided, in supplying them. My duty is offered to Congress, and, with great respect and esteem, I have the honour to be, sir, your most obedient, humble servant,


P˙ S. Hearing of the arrival of a small parcel of powder in Connecticut, I have been able to obtain three thousand weight of it, which is in addition to the sixty barrels before mentioned.

G˙ W.