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William Gordon to General Washington



Jamaica Plain, December 17, 1776.

MY DEAR SIR: I have been for some time past in pain for your Excellency, but still in hopes that you would receive a reinforcement sufficient and soon enough to prevent the enemy' s crossing the Delaware, or marching down by it on the Jersey side toward Philadelphia. Accounts yesterday relieved us from our anxiety, and have given us reason to conclude that the Regulars have left Brunswick and gone down by water to Staten-lsland. If so, we may consider the campaign as over; and upon a review, have reason to be thankful. Certain it is, that if we have not succeeded in every instance to the utmost of our wishes, ' tis no less so with the enemy, who, so far from having made a conquest of the Continent, have not completed the reduction of a single Province, not even that in which they had the most interest. Whatever puffs the Ministry may cook up and present to the publick, they that expected more solid doings and to have had matters settled, will find themselves wretchedly disappointed. Our friends in Europe will judge that, all things considered, we have made a glorious campaign. France and Spain will be likely to believe that we shall not be an incumbrance to them in case of their declaring war against Great Britain, but the contrary. I can heartily bless God for having carried us so well through the year, and thankfully make my acknowledgments, as an individual, to your Excellency and others, who have been used as instruments therein. Should a few prizes, whose arrival we have not yet heard of, get safe in, the balance will be much in our favour.

The Alfred is got to Boston harbour, designed for Rhode-Island; but the wind coming contrary, may have been the means of saving her. This day se' nnight, in thick stormy


weather, she lost sight of her seven prizes, whom she meant to see safe in port. They are worth between two and three hundred thousand pounds sterling, prime cost, as I am informed. One has sixteen thousand full suits of clothes, designed for the soldiers in Canada, each suit, including shirts and two pair shoes, amounting to eight pounds sterling. This ship mounted sixteen guns, was pierced for twenty or one-and-twenty, bore down upon the Alfred, who concealed her lower ports, with a view of taking her, and was herself caught. She is a remarkable fine sailer. Captain Jones, of the Alfred, put in her full complements of guns, took out all her men, and manned her with a hundred of his own. Yesterday an armed vessel was to sail, and cruise off Nantucket Shoals for her, to give information of the enemy' s being at Rhode-Island. The Council have also sent expresses directing that boats should keep a good lookout for her. I trust that Providence will make her a deodand (I mean a gift of God!) to us. We have our fears however. We have cause for hoping that she has not got into Newport, considering the weather and other circumstances. Am told that another of the prizes has bombs, mortars, &c˙, on board. The Captain has brought in all the prisoners, to the amount of one hundred and sixty; among them some officers, and the Judge, a nephew of Lord Effingham, of course of Lady Carleton. This gentleman may possibly induce the General to admit of a flag of truce going to him, though it is not to supplicate his Majesty' s mercy, and may cure Howe' s shuffling with, instead of exchanging, Carleton' s prisoners.

Accounts were received yesterday from Rhode-Island that Carleton had been obliged to hang three or four soldiers for ravishing the women.

Would it not answer a valuable purpose, was an authentick account to be transmitted this way of the plunderings of the Regulars, without regard to Whig or Tory, in order to its being published? Your Excellency will be too much engaged to attend to such a matter, but you can prevail upon some of your suite to write to me.

At Salem a noble spirit was discovered in raising the troops for the three months. Gentlemen of considerable fortune turned out volunteers, several worth many thousand sterling. Should your Excellency visit their quarters, I am sure it will be a pleasure to you to see and take notice of them. The gentlemen of Boston expect to engage their proportion for the whole three years.

The Cadet company have furnished thirty-six gentlemen, who have signed a petition, to be presented this day to Council, requesting that they may be appointed officers in one of the battalions to be furnished by the Massachusetts State. They mean to wipe away the reproach that has lain long upon Boston for not furnishing the Army with more military men. I hope there will be no invincible obstacles in the way, preventing a compliance; for as they have been well educated, know more of the world than the country clowns, have a sense of honour, a spirit of emulation, and understand their exercise, expect that, should they have a regiment, it will be as fine and as well disciplined a corps as any upon the Continent.

When I acquaint your Excellency that I am preparing for that history in which you are so deeply concerned and make so eminent a figure, and in the forming of which you were so obliging as to assure me you would assist by furnishing materials, your Excellency will conclude that I do not despair of the commonwealth, but look for a happy conclusion to the present noble struggle. Should our cause miscarry, it will be owing to our own supineness and selfishness; but these, I flatter myself, are at their summit, and will abate shortly.

Your Excellency would do the country great service, would you urge it upon our General Court to fortify the harbour of Boston to the utmost, and make the necessary provision for its being effectually defended, that so, should the Ministry set on foot an expedition against it early the next spring, the same may not succeed.

Do me the favour, my dear sir, of making my respectful compliments to your suite, to Generals Putnam, Greene, Lord Stirling, &c. Mrs˙ Gordon joins in warmest wishes for your safety and success, and pray you, when you write to your lady, to transmit our respects, as also to Mr˙ and Mrs˙ Custis. The coldness of the weather has injured the writing, but my heart is warm and sincere, notwithstanding the


coldness of my hand, while I subscribe myself your very affectionate friend, and most humble servant,


His Excellency George Washington, Generalissimo of the American forces.