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General Sullivan to General Washington


Portsmouth, October 29, 1775.

MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY: I arrived here in about twenty-four hours after I left you. Have collected powder so as to make up near thirty barrels, and have since been preparing to set an example to the other seaports, by setting the fleet at defiance. Upon my arrival, I was surprised to find that the boom so much talked of was not prepared; that the bridge intended for crossing from the main to the island, whereon stands the principal fort, (called Fort Washington,) had nothing more done than one pier sunk; that there was not a foot of the parapet over which a man might fire, or even see his enemy; that the embrasures at the fort were horizontal, as well as the top of the parapets; and, in short, not a moment' s defence could be made, or annoyance given to the enemy, either with cannon or small-arms. I immediately collected a number of gondolas, moored them head and stern, laid pieces from one to the other, and plank across, and soon completed the bridge. I then turned my attention to the boom, and in two days got it across, but found it could not stand the rapidity of the tide; it soon broke, and we have again fixed it, so that I hope it may hold; but lest it should deceive us, I have taken a number of ships, and moored them above, with a great quantity of combustible matter in them, and shall to-morrow have them chained together, and, in case the boom should give way, set those vessels in flumes. I have also a great number of fire rafts ready to let loose upon them. I have altered the works, and, I trust, made them fit for defence, and I doubt not will, in two or three days more, be completely prepared.

I am extremely thankful to your Excellency for the riflemen sent to our assistance; it has indeed filled our people with gratitude; and that my coming down was equally agreeable, your Excellency will see by the enclosed letter from their Committee of Safety.

I have seen some men that were on board the fleet after the destruction of Falmouth. Captain Mowat showed his orders, which were to burn all the sea-ports east of Boston. When he departed from Falmouth, he told them that he must go to Boston, and take a recruit of shells, carcasses, &c˙, and then would visit Portsmouth. I expect him daily, but in case he does not arrive in a few days, shall despair of his coming.

I must beg your Excellency to give me intelligence of any movement of their ships, with any orders you may think proper, with respect to my conduct while here. I shall give the earliest intelligence of any thing material; and remain, with great esteem, your Excellency' s most obedient servant,


His Excellency General Washington.

P˙S. I enclose a letter sent from the eastward, which was enclosed in one to me, signed by one Major Goodwin, of Pownalborough. That infernal crew of Tories, who have laughed at the Congress, despised the friends to liberty, endeavoured to prevent fortifying this harbour, and strove to hurt the credit of the Continental money, and are yet endeavouring it, walk the streets here with impunity, and will, with a sneer, tell the people in the streets that all our liberty-poles will soon be converted into gallows. I must entreat your Excellency to give some directions what to do with those persons, as I am fully convinced that if an engagement was to happen, they would, with their own


hands, set fire to the Town, expecting a reward from the Ministry for such hellish service. Some who have for a long time employed themselves in ridiculing and discouraging those who were endeavouring to save the Town, have now turned upon me, and are flying from one street to another, proclaiming that you gave me no authority or license to take ships to secure the entrance of the harbour, or did any thing more than send me here to see the Town reduced to ashes, if our enemies thought proper. Sir, I shall wait your directions respecting those villains, and see that they are strictly complied with by your Excellency' s most obedient servant, J˙ S.