Primary tabs

Letter from Josiah Quincy to General Washington



Braintree, March 25, 1776.

MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY: Your obliging letter of yesterday was handed to me this morning by General Ward' s son. The fleet still continues in Nantasket-Road; and I cannot discern any diminution of their numbers. Five or six transports, and a man-of-war, arrived last Friday afternoon. As the man-of-war saluted the Admiral, I suppose they came from England.

The signal at the Light-House was thrown out again on Saturday; but the wind has hitherto prevented the arrival of any more vessels. The Admiral has a signal now flying at his maintop-mast head, I wish it was in my power to construe it.

Agreeable to your Excellency' s desire, as fast as I can find trustworthy persons, I shall give them directions to make diligent search after such characters as you have described, and, upon good ground of suspicion, to apprehend and carry them. to Head-Quarters, or bring them to me for further, examination, as may be most convenient.

Eleven o' clock. — This moment an explanation of the above signal occurs. Part of the fleet are come to sail. I shall proceed journalwise to inform your Excellency of their movements, till the bearer, who is gone to see Colonel Tupper, returns.

One o' clock. — They are still coming to sail; near, or quite fifty sail, are got out to sea — about half of them brigs, schooners, and sloops, one or two frigates, and the remainder transport-ships. Their course shaped for Cape-Cod. May not this division be bound for Martha' s Vineyard, and the Islands in that Sound, to procure fresh provision for the fleet, which is to rendezvous at Halifax, and from thence to proceed to Quebeck?

Three, o' clock, — My servant, who was directed to take an


account of the number that have sailed, informs me there are in all fifty-two. One transport-brig is just arrived. I expected Mr˙ Ward would return with Colonel Tupper, and have dined with me. From them I hoped to have gained further intelligence, but am disappointed. I hear the Colonel is preparing a formidable fire-raft, which I wish may effectually operate, but fear a single one will avail little.

Your Excellency' s tender concern for the restoration of my health (which, thanks to the Father of Mercies, is much mended) lays me under a fresh obligation to subscribe myself, with cordial gratitude and esteem, your Excellency' s obliged and faithful humble servant,


To General Washington.

P˙ S˙ Five o' clock. — The Admiral has just now hoisted another signal — a pendant under his flag. Two more ships are under sail, going out of the harbour.

Seven o' clock. — Mr˙ Ward and Colonel Tupper are just arrived. They are of opinion that the ships which sailed to-day have carried off the Tories, and are bound with them to Lewisburgh.

Tuesday morning. — Mr˙ Ward' s tarrying in town gives me a further opportunity to inform your Excellency that the fleet, consisting of about one hundred sail, (chiefly large ships,) remain as they were last night.

Ten.o' clock. — The same signal is now flying at the Admiral' s maintop-mast head as was hoisted yesterday morning. Scarce hoisted, before it was lowered again; and in about half an hour, a blue flag is flying, at mizentop-mast head, and a pendant at his mizen peak.

Eleven o' clock. — The above signals are changed for a red ensign hoisted just under his mizen-yard. A signal is just now hoisted upon the top of the Light-House, for vessels in the offing; and immediately followed by a blue broad pendant from the middle of the Tower. In less than ten minutes, the signal first mentioned, viz: a pendant, is flying from his maintop-mast head.

Twelve o' clock. — A red ensign is now flying at his mizen-top-mast head, a blue ensign at his starboard mizen shrouds, and a pendant thrown out between, by hand, and immediately taken in again.

Two o' clock. — The sixty gun-ship, in King Road, is come to sail, and going down to Nantasket. The Admiral' s red ensign is struck. The blue one remains. A large transport-ship and a brig are just arrived within the light.

If the foregoing intelligence, and the mode of it, should prove so agreeable to your Excellency as to desire the continuance of it while the fleet remains, please to let me know your pleasure any time before to-morrow night, until which time I shall continue to note down every remarkable occurrence. Ut supra,