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Letter from General Washington to the President of Congress



[Read January 15, 1776. Referred to Mr˙ Wythe, Mr˙ Adams, and Mr˙ Wilson.]

Cambridge, December 31, 1775.

SIR: I wrote you on the 25th instant, since which I am hot honoured with any of your favours. The estimate I then enclosed you was calculated to pay the troops, &c˙, up to the 1st of January. That cannot be done for want of funds in the Paymaster-General' s hands, which causes a great murmuring amongst those who are going off. The monthly expenses of this Army amount to near two hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars, which I take the liberty of recommending to the observation of Congress, that their future remittances may be governed thereby. It sometimes happens that persons would wish to deposite money in the hands of the Paymaster-General, for his bills on the Treasury at Philadelphia. He has, hitherto, declined such offers, not having authority from Congress to draw. Would it not be proper to give this power? If it should be approved of, you will please to point out the mode that the Congress would choose to have it done in.

The clothing sent to the Quartermaster-General is not sufficient to put half our Army into regimentals, nor is there a possibility of getting any quantity here. I have wrote to General Schuyler, that I wish what was lodged at Albany, could be spared for these troops, as General Montgomery would clothe the men under his command at Montreal. If this can be done, it will be of infinite service; and no time should be lost in forwarding them to this camp.

In forming the regiments for the new establishment, I thought it but justice to appoint the officers, detached under Colonel Arnold, to commissions in them. Their absence, at present, is of very great detriment to the service, especially in recruiting. I would, therefore, wish, if the Congress intend raising troops in or for Canada, that they could be taken in there. The sooner I have their opinion of this matter, the better; that if they can be commissioned in Canada, I may appoint officers here to replace them.

Enclosed you have a copy of a representation sent to me by the Legislative body of this Province, respecting four companies stationed at Braintree, Weymouth, and Hingham. As they were never regimented, and were doing duty at a distance from the rest of the Army, I did not know whether to consider them as a part of it, nor do I think myself authorized to direct payment for them, without the approbation of Congress.

It has been represented to me that the free Negroes who have served in this Army are very much dissatisfied at being discarded. As it is to be apprehended that they may seek employment in the Ministerial army, I have presumed to depart from the resolution respecting them, and have given license for their being inlisted. If this is disapproved of by Congress, I will put a stop to it.

I believe Colonel Gridley expects to be continued as Chief Engineer in this Army. It is very certain that we have no one here better qualified. He has done very little, hitherto, in that department; but if the Congress choose to appoint him, I will take care that he pays a proper attention to it. Before I quit this subject, I must remark that the pay of the Assistant Engineers is so very small, that we cannot expect men of science will engage in it. Those gentlemen who are in that station, remained under the expectation that an additional allowance would be made them by the respective Provinces in which they were appointed, to that allowed by the Congress.

Captain Freeman arrived this day at camp from Canada. He left Quebeck the 24th ultimo, in consequence of General Carleton' s proclamation, which I have the honour to


send you herewith . He saw Colonel Arnold the 26th, and says he was joined at Point-aux-Tremble by General Montgomery, the 1st instant, that they were about two thousand strong, and were making every preparation for attacking Quebeck; that General Carleton had with him about twelve hundred men, the majority of whom are sailors; that it was his opinion the French would give up the place, if they get the same conditions granted to the inhabitants of Montreal.

Captain Adams, of the Warren, armed schooner, sent into Marblehead the sloop Sally, bound from Lisbon to New-York, laden with two pipes and one hundred and twenty-six quarter-casks of wine. The sloop was made a prize of by the Niger, man-of-war, somewhere near Bermudas, the Captain of whom put his mate and five hands on board, with orders to proceed with her to Boston. The sloop and cargo belongs to Mr˙ Peter Barberie, of Perth-Amboy, in New-Jersey.

Captains Semple and Harbeson take under their care Mr˙ Kirkland who appears to be a much more illiterate and simple man than his strong recommendations bespake him. Captain Matthews and Mr˙ Robinson will accompany them. The two latter were prisoners taken by Lord Dunmore, who was sending them to Boston, from whence there is little doubt but that they would be forwarded to England, to which place, I am credibly informed. Captain Martindale, and the crew of the Washington, are sent; also, Colonel Allen, and the prisoners taken with him in Canada. This may account for General Howe' s silence on the subject of an exchange of prisoners, mentioned in my letter to him.

General Lee is just returned from his excursion to Rhode-Island. He has pointed out the best method the Island would admit of for its defence. He has endeavoured, all in his power, to make friends of those that were our enemies. You have, enclosed, a specimen of his abilities, in that way, for your perusal. I am of opinion, that if the same plan was pursued through every Province, it would have a very good effect

I have long had it in my mind to mention to Congress, that frequent applications had been made to me respecting the Chaplains' pay, which is too small to encourage men of abilities. Some of them, who have left their flocks, are obliged to pay the Parson, acting for them, more than they receive. I need not point out the great utility of gentlemen, whose lives and conversation are unexceptionable, being employed in that service in this Army. There are two ways of making it worth the attention of such. One is, an advancement of their pay; the other, that one Chaplain be appointed to two regiments. This last, I think, may be done without inconvenience. I beg leave to recommend this matter to Congress, whose sentiments hereon I shall impatiently expect.

Upon a further conversation with Captain Freeman, he is of opinion, that General Montgomery has with him near three thousand men, including Colonel Arnold' s. He says that Lord Pitt had received repeated orders from his father to return home, in consequence of which he had embarked some time in October, with a Captain Green, who was master of a vessel belonging to Philadelphia.

By a number of salutes in Boston harbour, yesterday, I fancy Admiral Shaldam is arrived. Two large ships were seen coming in. Our inlistments now amount to nine thousand six hundred and fifty. Those gentlemen who were made prisoners of by Lord Dunmore, being left destitute of money and necessaries, I have advanced them one hundred pounds, lawful money, belonging to the publick, for which I have taken Captain Matthews' s draft on the Treasury of Virginia, which goes enclosed.

I have the honour to be, sir, your most obedient, humble servant,


To the Honourable John Hancock, Esq.

P˙ S. You have enclosed the Returns of the Army.