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General Washington to the President of the Continental Congress



[Read October 13, 1775.]

Camp at Cambridge, October 5, 1775.

SIR: I was honoured with your favour of the 26th ult˙ late the night before last, and a meeting of the General Officers having been called, upon a business which will make a considerable part of this letter, I took the opportunity of laying before them those parts of yours which respect the continuance and new modelling the Army, the fuel, clothing, and other preparations for the ensuing winter. They have taken two or three days to consider, and as soon as I am possessed of their opinions I shall lose no time in transmitting the result, not only on the above subjects, but the number of Troops necessary to be kept up. I have also directed the Commissary-General and the Quartermaster-General to prepare estimates of the expense of their departments, for a certain given number of men, from which a judgment may be made, when the number of men to be kept in pay is determined. All which I shall do


myself the honour to lay before the Congress, as soon as they are ready.

I have now a painful though a necessary duty to perform, respecting Dr˙ Church, Director-General of the Hospital. About a week ago, Mr˙ Secretary Ward, of Providence, sent up to me one Wainwood, an inhabitant of Newport, with a letter directed to Major Kane, in Boston, in characters, which he said had been left with Wainwood some time ago, by a woman who was kept by Dr˙ Church. She had before pressed Wainwood to take her to Captain Wallace, Mr˙ Dudley, (the Collector,) or George Rome, which he declined. She then gave him the letter, with a strict charge to deliver it to either of those gentlemen; he, suspecting some improper correspondence, kept the letter, and after some time opened it; but not being able to read it, laid it up, where it remained until he received an obscure letter from the woman, expressing an anxiety after the original letter. He then communicated the whole matter to Mr˙ Ward, who sent him up with the papers to me. I immediately secured the woman, but for a long time she was proof against every threat and persuasion to discover the author. However, at length she was brought to a confession, and warned Dr˙ Church. I then immediately secured him, and all his papers. Upon the first examination, he readily acknowledged the letter; said it was designed for his brother Fleming, and, when deciphered, would be found to contain nothing criminal; he acknowledged his never having communicated the correspondence to any person here, but the girl, and made many protestations of the purity of his intentions. Having found a person capable of deciphering the letter, I in the mean time had all his papers searched, but found nothing criminal among them. But it appeared, on inquiry, that a confidant had been among the papers before my messenger arrived; I then called the General Officers together, for their advice, the result of which you will find in the enclosure No˙ 1 ; the deciphered letter is the enclosure No˙ 2 , The Army and Country are exceedingly irritated, and upon a free discussion of the nature, circumstances, and consequence of this matter, it has been unanimously agreed to lay it before the honourable Congress, for their special advice and direction; at the same time suggesting to their consideration, whether an alteration of the twenty-eighth article of war may not be necessary.

As I shall reserve all farther remarks upon the state of the Army till my next, I shall now beg leave to request the determination of Congress as to the property and disposal of such vessels and cargoes as are designed for the supply of the enemy, and may fall into our hands. There has been an event of this kind at Portsmouth, as by the enclosure No˙ 3 , in which I have directed the cargo to be brought hither for the use of the Army, reserving the settlement of any claims of capture to the decision of Congress.

As there are many unfortunate individuals whose property has been confiscated by the enemy, I would humbly suggest to the consideration of Congress the humanity of applying, in part or in the whole, such captures to the relief of those sufferers, after compensating any expense of the captors, and for their activity and spirit. I am the more induced to request this determination may be speedy, as I have directed three vessels to be equipped, in order to cut off the supplies; and, from the number of vessels hourly arriving, it may become an object of some importance. In the disposal of these captures, for the encouragement of the officers and men, I have allowed them one-third of the cargoes, except military stores, which, with the vessels, are to be reserved for the publick use. I hope my plan, as well as the execution, will be favoured with the approbation of Congress.

One Mr˙ Fisk, an intelligent person, came out of Boston on the 3d instant, and gives us the following advices: that a fleet, consisting of a sixty-four and twenty gun ship, two sloops of eighteen guns, two transports, with six hundred men, were to sail from Boston on yesterday; that they took on board two mortars, four howitzers, and other artillery, calculated for the bombardment of a Town; their destination was kept a profound secret; that an express sloop-of-war, which left England the 8th of August, arrived four days ago; that General Gage is recalled, and last Sunday resigned his command to General Howe; that Lord Percy, Colonel Smith, and other officers who were


at Lexington, are ordered home with Gage; that six ships of the line, and two cutters, were coming out under Sir Peter Dennis; that five Regiments and one thousand Marines are ordered out, and may be expected in three or four weeks. No prospect of accommodation, but the Ministry determined to push the war to the utmost.

I have an express from Colonel Arnold, and herewith send a copy of his letter and an enclosure, Nos˙ 4 and 5 . I am happy in finding he meets with no discouragement; the claim of the Rifle officers to be independent of all the superior officers, except Colonel Arnold, is without any countenance or authority from me, as I have signified in my last despatch, both to Colonel Arnold and Captain Morgan. The Captain of the brig from Quebeck for Boston informs me that there is no suspicion of any such expedition; and that if Carleton is not drove from St˙ John' s, so as to be obliged to throw himself into Quebeck, it must fall into our hands, as it is without a regular soldier, and many of the inhabitants most favourably disposed to the American cause. That there is the largest stock of ammunition ever collected in America. In the above vessels, some letters were also found, from an officer at Quebeck to General Gage and Major Shirreff, at Boston, containing such an account of the temper of the Canadians as cannot but afford the highest satisfaction. I have thought it best to forward them; they are the enclosures Nos˙ 6 and 7 .

I am, with the greatest respect and regard, Sir, your most obedient and very humble servant,