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General Washington to the President of Congress



[Read November 27, 1775.]

Cambridge, November 19, 1775.

SIR: I received your favours of the 7th and 10th inst˙, with the resolves of the honourable Congress, to which I will pay all due attention. As soon as two capable persons can be found, I will despatch them to Nova-Scotia, on the service resolved on in Congress. The resolve to raise two Battalions of Marines will, if practicable in this Army, entirely derange what has been done. It is therein mentioned, one Colonel for the two Battalions; of course a Colonel must be dismissed. One of the many difficulties which attended the new arrangement was in reconciling the different interests, and judging of the merits of the different Colonels. In the dismission of this one, the same difficulties will occur. The officers and men must be acquainted with maritime affairs, to comply with which they must be picked out of the whole Army, one from this corps, one from another, so as to break through the whole system, which has cost us so much time, anxiety, and pains, to bring into any tolerable form; notwithstanding


any difficulties which will arise, you may be assured, Sir, that I will use every endeavour to comply with their resolve. I beg leave to submit it to the consideration of Congress, if these two Battalions can be formed out of this Army, whether this is a time to weaken our lines, by employing any of the forces appointed to defend them on any other service? The gentlemen who were here from the Congress know their vast extent; they must know that we shall have occasion for our whole force for that purpose, more so now than at any past time, as we may expect the enemy will take the advantage of the first hard weather, and attempt to make an impression somewhere; that this is their intention, we have many reasons to suspect. We have had, in the last week, six deserters, and took two straggling prisoners. They all agree that two Companies, with a train of Artillery, and one of the Regiments from Ireland, were arrived at Boston; that fresh ammunition and flints have been served out; that the Grenadiers and Light Infantry had orders to hold themselves in readiness, at a moment' s warning. As there is every appearance that this contest will not be soon decided, and, of course, that there must be an augmentation of the Continental Army, would it not be eligible to raise two Battalions of Marines in New-York and Philadelphia, where there must be numbers of sailors now unemployed? This however is matter of opinion, which I mention with all due deference to the superior judgment of the Congress.

Enclosed you have copies of two letters, one from Colonel Arnold , the other from Colonel Enos . I can form no judgment on the latter' s conduct, until I see him. Notwithstanding the great defection, I do not despair of Col˙ Arnold' s success; he will have, in all probability, many more difficulties to encounter, than if he had been a fort-night sooner, as it is likely that Governour Carleton will, with what forces he can collect after the surrender of the rest of Canada, throw himself into Quebeck, and there make his last effort. There is no late account from Captains Broughtan and Selman, sent to the River St˙ Lawrence; the other cruisers have been chiefly confined to harbour, by the badness of the weather. The same reason has caused great delay in building of our barracks, which, with a most mortifying scarcity of fire-wood, discourages the men from enlisting; the last I am much afraid is an insuperable obstacle. I have applied to the honourable House of Representatives of this Province, who were pleased to appoint a Committee to negotiate this business, and, notwithstanding all the pains they have and are taking, they find it impossible to supply our necessities; the want of a sufficient number of teams I understand to be the chief impediment.

I got returns this day from eleven Colonels of the numbers enlisted in their Regiments; the whole amount is nine hundred and sixty-six men. There must be some other stimulus besides love for their Country, to make men fond of the service. It would be a great encouragement, and no additional expense to the Continent, were they to receive pay for the months of October and November, also a month' s pay advance. The present state of the military chest will not admit of this; the sooner it is enabled to do so the better.

The Commissary-General is daily expected in camp; I cannot send you the estimate of the Clerks in his department until he arrives.

I sincerely congratulate you upon the success of your arms, in the surrender of St˙ John' s, which I hope is a happy presage of the reduction of the rest of Canada.

I have the honour to be, Sir, your most obedient humble servant, GEORGE WASHINGTON.

To the Honourable John Hancock, Esq˙, President of the Continental Congress.