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Letter from General Washington to the President of Congress



[Read December 13, 1775.]

Cambridge, December 4, 1775.

SIR: I had the honour of writing to you the 30th ultimo, enclosing an inventory of the military stores taken on board the brig Nancy, by Captain Manly, of the armed schooner Lee. I have now to inform you, that he has since sent into Beverly a ship named the Concord, James Laurie master, from Greenock, in Scotland, bound to Boston. She has on board dry goods and coals, to the value of 3,606 9 1 sterling, shipped by Crawford, Anderson & Co˙, and consigned to James Anderson, merchant, in Boston. It is mentioned in the letters found on board, that this cargo was for the use of the army; but on strict examination I find it is really the property of the shippers, and the person to whom consigned. Pray what is to be done with this ship and cargo? and what with the brigantine which brought the military stores?

It was agreed in the conference last October, "that all vessels employed merely as transports and unarmed, with their crews, to be set at liberty upon their giving security to return to Europe; but that this indulgence be not extended longer than till the first of April next." In the shippers' letter they mention, "you must procure a certificate from the General and Admiral, of the Concord' s being in the Government service, such as the Glasgow packet brought with her, which was of great service, procured a liberty to arm her, which was refused us, also gave her a preference for some recruits that went out in her." In another part of their letter they say, "Captain Laurie will deliver you the contract for the coals: we gave it to him, as it perhaps might be of use as a certificate of his ship being employed in the Government service." Every letter on board breathes nothing but enmity to this country, and a vast number of them there are.

It is some time since I recommended to the Congress that they would institute a court for the trial of prizes made by the Continental armed vessels, which I hope they have ere now taken into their consideration, otherwise I should again take the liberty of urging it in the most pressing manner.

The scandalous conduct of a great number of the Connecticut troops, has laid me under the necessity of calling in a body of the militia much sooner than I apprehended there would be an occasion for such a step. I was afraid some time ago that they would incline to go home when the time of their inlistment expired. I called upon the officers of the several regiments, to know whether they could prevail on the men to remain until the first of January, or till a sufficient number of other forces could be raised to supply their place: I suppose they were deceived themselves; I know they deceived me, by assurances that I need be under no apprehension on that score, for the men would not leave the lines. Last Friday showed how much they were mistaken, as the major part of the troops of that Colony were going away with their arms and ammunition. We have, however, by threats, persuasion, and the activity of the people of the country, who sent back many of them that had set out, prevailed upon the most part to stay; there are about eighty of them missing. I have called in three thousand men from this Province; and General Sullivan, who lately returned from the Province of New-Hampshire, having informed me that a number of men were there ready at the shortest notice, I have demanded two thousand from that Province. These two bodies I expect will be in by the 10th instant, to make up the deficiency of the Connecticut men, whom I have promised


to dismiss on that day, as well as the numbers to whom I was obliged to grant furloughs before any would inlist.

As the same defection is much to be apprehended when the time of the Massachusetts-Bay, New-Hampshire, and Rhode-Island forces are expired, I beg the attention of Congress to this important affair. I am informed that it has been the custom of these Provinces, in the last war, for the legislative powers to order every town to provide a certain quota of men for the campaign: this, or some other mode, should be at present adopted, as I am satisfied the men cannot be had without. This the Congress will please to take into their immediate consideration. My suspicions on this head I shall also communicate to the Governours Trumbull and Cooke; also to the New-Hampshire Convention.

The number inlisted in the last week are about thirteen hundred men; by this you see how slow this important work goes on. Enclosed is a letter wrote to me by General Putnam, recommending Colonel Babcock to the Brigadier-Generalship now vacant in this army , I know nothing of this gentleman; but I wish the vacancy was filled, as the want of one is attended with very great inconveniences.

An express has just come in from General Schuyler, with letters from Colonel Arnold and General Montgomery, copies of which I have the honour to enclose you. Upon the whole, I think affairs carry a pleasing aspect in that quarter. The reduction of Quebeck is an object of such great importance, that I doubt not the Congress will give every assistance in their power for the accomplishing it this winter.

By the last accounts from the armed schooners sent to the river St˙ Lawrence, I fear we have but little to expect from them; they were falling short of provisions, and mention that they would be obliged to return, which at this time is particularly unfortunate, as, if they choose a proper station, all the vessels coming down that river must fall into their hands. The plague, trouble, and vexation I have had with the crews of all the armed vessels, is inexpressible. I do believe there is not on earth a more disorderly set. Every time they come into port we hear of nothing but mutinous complaints. Manly' s success has lately, and but lately, quieted his people. The crews of the Washington and Harrison have actually deserted them; so that I have been under the necessity of ordering the agent to lay the latter up, and get hands for the other on the best terms he could.

The House of Representatives, and the honourable Board, have sent me a vote of theirs relative to the harbour of Cape-Cod, which you have herewith . I shall send an officer thither to examine what can be done for its defence; though I do not think I shall be able to give them such assistance as may be requisite, for I have at present neither men, powder, or cannon to spare. The great want of powder is what the attention of Congress should be particularly applied to. I dare not attempt any thing offensive, let the temptation or ad vantage be ever so,great, as I have not more of that most essential article than will be absolutely necessary to defend our lines, should the enemy attempt to attack them.

By recent information from Boston, Gen˙ Howe is going to send out a number of the inhabitants, in order, it is thought, to make more room for his expected reinforcements. There is one part of the information that I can hardly give credit to: a sailor says that a number of those coming out have been Inoculated, with design of spreading the smallpox through this country and camp. I have communicated this to the General Court, and recommended their attention thereto. They are arming one of the transports in Boston, with which they mean to decoy some of our armed vessels. As we are apprised of their design, I hope they will be disappointed.

My best respects wait on the gentlemen in Congress, and I am,sir most humble obedient servant,


The Honourable John Hancock, Esq.

P˙ S˙ I was misinformed when I mentioned that one regiment had arrived at Boston; a few companies of the seventeenth, and artillery, were all that are yet come. Near


three hundred persons are landed on Point Shirley, from Boston.