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Letter from General Howe to the Earl of Dartmouth



Boston, January 16, 1776.

MY LORD: By Admiral Shuldham' s arrival, on the 30th of December, I had the honour of your Lordship' s despatches of the 22d October; a duplicate of the 25th September, from Mr˙ Deputy Secretary Pownall, covering a letter from Lord William Campbell, of the 19th July; a duplicate from your Lordship, of the 22d September, the originals of which are not yet received, with copies of despatches from the Earl of Rochford, of the 21st September, to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland; also, a copy of a letter from your Lordship, of the 22d September, to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, in which you are pleased to intimate that the stores of provisions contracted for by Messrs˙, Mure, Son & Atkinson, by the Lords of the Treasury, are intended as well for the fleet as the army; whereas, from there not being any mention made of the fleet sharing these stores, either in your Lordship' s letters to me, from the Lords of the Treasury, or the merchants, the cargoes; arriving before Admiral Shuldham, were distributed solely to the army. But, since the sight of your Lordship' s letter, that I might not appear to neglect the


fleet, I have, though without a direct order from your Lordship, given a proportion of porter to the ships; at the same time, I beg leave to observe, the deliveries of provisions to the soldiers, for some weeks past, being without peas or rice, the want of bedding, and the unavoidable exposure to the weather, from the nature of the duty, which has been very severe, without enumerating further reasons, make them require these refreshments more than seamen, who are better provided.

I enclose, for your Lordship' s information, an account of the deficiencies in the provision contract, with the Commissary' s letter thereupon; and I shall send another to the Lords of the Treasury.

Having heard, from Governour Tryon, that there is a prospect of getting some provisions on the side of New-York, I have despatched a vessel to endeavour to procure it; and the victuallers for the navy, lately arrived, could conveniently afford us a supply for six weeks, if necessary, which relieves me from the necessity of putting the troops to short allowance, more especially as I am hopeful that the vessels mentioned in my despatch of the 19th December, may return from the West-Indies and Georgia, before the provisions in store, as per state, are consumed; so that our dependance is not wholly on the contractors' ships, one of which got in the 13th instant, with oats, flour, and peas; the last article affording most seasonable relief.

The necessary arrangements being made for the departure of Major-General Clinton to Cape-Fear, in consequence of your Lordship' s despatches of the 22d October, he is ready to sail in the Mercury, ship-of-war, with the Falcon, sloop, and two transports, having on board two companies of Light-Infantry, and some Highlanders; the latter, I hope, may be useful in getting men in North-Carolina, if Governour Martin is not deceived in his expectations, of which I do not presume to judge, having received no direct intelligence from thence since General Gage' s departure; nor have I received Governour Martin' s letter, referred to in your Lordship' s letter of 22d October.

It is much to be wished that the troops had sailed from Europe in time to have arrived at their destination by the middle, or latter end of November; but I am free to own my opinion to your Lordship, which has been, to leave the Southern Provinces in the fullest persuasion of their security, until the Rebels should have been defeated on the side of New-York; which event appears to me, more clearly than ever, of so much consequence, that our utmost strength should be exerted to accomplish it before designs of less importance are taken up, inconsistent with the general plan of operations for the ensuing campaign; and it is to be presumed the Southern Rebels would have been less able to defend themselves, had they not been roused by the conduct of their Governours, who have not, I fear, the power of suppressing them, or of re-establishing the interest of Government in any degree.

It is remarkable, that the destination of the regiments to the Southward, was promulgated here by private letters from England, that came in the same ship with your Lordship' s despatch relative to them; and I make no doubt of the Rebels being in possession of the intelligence very soon after it arrived. General Lee, I hear, is gone for the Army in consequence of it.

In Mr˙ Deputy Secretary Pownall' s letter of the 22d September, I am to understand, that I may expect the King' s commands from your Lordship, for the Seventeenth, Twenty-Seventh, Twenty-Eighth, Forty-Sixth, and Fifty-Fifth Regiments, to be sent to Quebeck, as early as possible, in the Spring, and to detach a sufficient force from this army for the security of Halifax.

These drains, added to that to the Southward, from whence I can promise myself little assistance to the main army, will reduce the expected strength for the campaign so considerably, that, if a respectable supply of troops from Europe does not arrive soon in the Spring, another defensive campaign, I conclude, will be the consequence; for, by the want of a force to act early, the Rebel Army will have full time to intrench in every strong position their commanders may fix upon; in which case, though we should get possession of New-York without resistance, we must not expect to carry their intrenched camps but with considerable loss. Whereas, on the contrary, the army, at the opening of the campaign, being in force, would,


probably, by rapid movements, bring the Rebels to an notion upon equal terms, before they could cover themselves by works of any signification.

The ill consequences that must arise from another defensive campaign, are not to be pointed out to your Lordship; but it may be necessary to observe, that if the five battalions under Major-General Clinton are joined by the well-affected inhabitants, and should possess themselves of any object that it may be important to hold, I shall not presume to call them off to the main army, unless the General shall represent that the inhabitants are able to maintain their situation, although the King' s troops should be withdrawn.

I beg leave to remark, that with a proper army, of twenty thousand men, having twelve thousand at New-York, six thousand at Rhode-Island, and two thousand at Halifax, exclusive of an army for the Province of Quebeck, the present unfavourable appearance of things would, probably, wear a very different aspect before the end of the ensuing campaign. With fewer troops, the success of any offensive operations will be very doubtful, the enemy possessing advantages that will not be readily overcome by a small force; neither is their army by any ways to be despised, having in it many European soldiers, and all, or most of the young men of spirit in the country, who are exceedingly diligent and attentive in their military profession.

Enclosed are copies of letters of the 13th and 18th December, from Governour Tryon, with three papers, containing intelligence from him. He seems positive of being able to raise two thousand men, apon the arrival of this army at New-York, who may be rendered very useful, if accompanied by his personal services in the field. The enclosed extract from my answer to the Governour, and copy of a letter to the commanding officer at Niagara, I hope may meet with His Majesty' s approbation.

I beg your Lordship will honour me with the King' s commands respecting the bounty money, payment, and clothing, of the Provincial levies: their officers, last war, ranked with those of the army as youngest, in their respective degrees.

Your Lordship has enclosed a state of the transports, including such as have arrived and been taken into His Majesty' s service, in consequence of the duplicate of your Lordship' s letter of the 22d September; and, that no time may be lost in transporting the army from hence to New-York, I shall continue to take up all proper vessels that can be got; but I do not suppose that this place can be evacuated without the aid of transports from Europe. One great difficulty, among the many in this operation, will be the number of inhabitants who, I expect, will desire to be removed, with their effects and merchandise. As many as Governour Legge can possibly accommodate and provide for, shall be sent to Nova-Scotia.

Having lately discovered a negotiation of property between the Rebels and their friends in this town, I use every endeavour to stop it; and,although it is not done as effectually as I could wish, yet I am hopeful a large stock in trade may be reserved until I have the honour of your Lordship' s instructions for my future conduct in this business.

By accounts from the Rebel army, it is said Major-General Carleton got into Quebeck on the 20th of November, and the season then being so far advanced, I conclude it will not be in the power of the Rebels to force him this Winter. I have sent an officer, who may be depended upon, to Halifax, and from thence to Quebeck, that I may have a true state of the General' s situation, and I expect his return by the beginning of April.

The six missing companies of the Seventeenth, and six companies of the Fifty-Fifth Regiments, arrived the 30th December, in the Grosvenor, and Grand Duke of Russia, transports, but have not had any account of the other four companies of the Fifty-Fifth Regiment.

From what I can learn of the designs of the leaders of the Rebels, they seem determined, since the receipt of the King' s speech among them, to make the most diligent preparations for an active war; and it is my firm opinion they will not retract until they have tried their fortune in a battle, and are defeated; but I am under the necessity of repeating to your Lordship, that the apparent strength of this army, for the Spring, does not flatter me with the hopes of bringing the Rebels to a decisive action.


With the most perfect respect, I have the honour to be, your Lordship' s faithful, and most obedient servant,