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Letter from General Washington to Governour Cooke



Cambridge, December 5, 1775.

SIR: I have of late met with abundant reason to be convinced of the impracticability of recruiting this army to the new establishment, in any reasonable time, by voluntary inlistments. The causes of such exceeding great luke-warmness I shall not undertake to point out; sufficient it is to know that the fact is so. Many reasons are assigned; one only I shall mention, and that is, that the present soldiery are in expectation of drawing from the landed interest and farmers a bounty equal to the allowance at the commencement of this army, and that therefore they play off. Be this as it may, I am satisfied that this is not a time for trifling, and that the exigency of our affairs calls aloud for vigorous exertions.

By sad experience it is found that the Connecticut regiments have deserted, and are about to desert the noble cause we are engaged in; nor have I any reason to believe that the forces of New-Hampshire, this Government, or Rhode-Island, will give stronger proofs of their attachment to it, when the period arrives when they may claim their dismission. For, after every stimulus in my power to throw in their way, and near a month' s close endeavour, we have inlisted but about five thousand men; fifteen hundred of which are to be absent at a time, on furlough, until all have gone home, in order to visit and provide for their families. Five thousand militia, from this Government and the Colony of New-Hampshire, are ordered to be at this place by the 10th instant, to relieve the Connecticut regiments, and supply the deficiency which will be occasioned by their departure, and of those on furlough. These men, I am told, by officers who have been eye-witnesses to their behaviour, are not to be depended upon for more than a few days, as they soon get tired, grow impatient, ungovernable, and of course leave the service. What will be the consequence, then, if the greatest part of the army is to be composed of such men? Upon the new establishment, twenty-six regiments were ordered to be raised, besides those of the artillery and riflemen. Of these, New-Hampshire has three, Massachusetts sixteen, Rhode-Island two, and Connecticut five. A mode of appointing the officers was also recommended, and as strictly adhered to as circumstances would admit of. These officers are now recruiting, with the success I have mentioned.

Thus, sir, have I given you a true and impartial state of our situation, and submit it to the wisdom of your and the other three New-England Colonies, whether some vigorous measures, if the powers of Government are adequate, ought not to be adopted, to facilitate the completion of this army, without offering a bounty from the publick, which Congress have declared against, thinking the terms, exclusive thereof, greater than ever soldiers had. I have, by this conveyance, laid the matter before Congress; but the critical situation of our affairs will not await their deliberation,and recommendation. Something must be done without further delay. I am, sir, &c˙,