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Letter from General Washington to the President of Congress: The four Regiments designed for Canada embarked yesterday with a fair wind for Albany


[Read April 25, 1776, and referred to Mr˙ R˙ H˙ Lee, Mr˙ J˙ Adams, and Mr˙ Hewes.]

New-York, April 22, 1776.

SIR: I was this day honoured with the receipt of your favour of the 20th instant. I have now the pleasure to acquaint you that the four regiments designed for Canada, embarked yesterday, with a fair wind, for Albany, under the command of Colonels Greaton, Patterson, Bond, and Poor; besides which there was a company of Riflemen, a company of Artificers, and two Engineers; the whole commanded by Brigadier-General Thompson.

I have repeatedly mentioned to the honourable Congress the distressful situation we are in for want of arms. With much pains and difficulty I got most of the regiments from the eastward tolerably well furnished; but find the York regiments very badly provided; Colonel Ritzema' s has scarcely any; and yet these men, being inlisted during the war, and at fire dollars per month, ought not, in my judgment, to be discharged, as we find it almost as difficult to get men as arms. This is a matter of some importance, which I should be glad to receive the particular opinion of Congress upon.

Mr˙ Baldwin is one of the Assistant Engineers ordered to Canada. He is, indeed, a very useful man in his department, but declined the service on account of his pay, which he says is inadequate to his support. In order to induce him to continue, I promised to represent his case to Congress, and would recommend an increase of his pay, and that he should have the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, of which he is very deserving. I beg leave, therefore, to recommend him to the Congress, and that they would make provision for him accordingly.

A few days ago, application was made to me by the Committee of Safety for this Colony, for an exchange of prisoners; for the particulars, I beg leave to refer you to their letter, a copy of which you have enclosed. As there is a standing order of Congress, that no sailors or soldiers shall be exchanged for citizens, I did not incline to comply with their request without the particular direction of Congress. But I have been since informed that the prisoners (mentioned in the Committee' s letter as citizens) are really seamen, taken from private vessels, but not in arms. How far this may alter the case, or how far the reasons which induced the Congress to pass the resolve above-mentioned may still exist, must be left to their determination.

The Militia which, on my application, were ordered to this place, to keep possession until I should arrive with the Continental forces, were obliged to return home without their pay, as there was not then money sufficient in the Treasury for that purpose, and to answer the exigencies of the Army. This occasioned great uneasiness among them, and may be attended with very bad consequences, in case we should have occasion for their service on any future emergency. I therefore beg the Congress would make provision for their pay, and point out particularly whether it is to be done by the commander of the Continental forces, or by the Provincial Assemblies or Conventions from whence they are sent.

As the time for which the Riflemen inlisted will expire on the 1st of July next, and as the loss of such a valuable and brave body of men will be of great injury to the service, I would submit it to the consideration of Congress, whether it would not be best to adopt some method to induce them to continue. They are, indeed, a very useful corps; but I need not mention this, as their importance is already well known to the Congress. It is necessary they should pay an early attention to this matter, as we know, from past experience, that men are very slow in reinlisting.

When I had the honour of seeing Admiral Hopkins at New-London, he represented to me the weak state of his fleet, occasioned by sickness and the damage he received in his engagement with the enemy, and requested I would spare him two hundred men, to assist him in a design he had formed of attacking Wallace. This I readily consented to, and the men are to be returned as soon as the service is performed.

I wish it was in my power, at present, to furnish General Lee with the companies of Artillery he desires. I have already sent two companies to Quebeck, and I have not yet been able to procure a return of those that are here. I expect


Colonel Knox every moment, and shall then be able to determine whether any can be spared from hence. Blankets we are in great want of ourselves, and it was with great difficulty a few could be procured for the Riflemen that were ordered for Canada.

I enclose you Mr˙ Winthrop' s receipt for two hundred thousand dollars, brought some time ago from Philadelphia by Major Sherburne; which you will please to deliver to the Continental Treasurers.

On my arrival here I found that Mr˙ Livingston had been appointed by the Provincial Congress a Commissary, to furnish the Continental troops stationed in this city with provisions. I suppose this was done because there was no Continental Commissary then on the spot. Mr˙ Livingston still claims a right of furnishing all the troops but those lately arrived from Cambridge. Mr˙ Trumbull is now here; and as I consider him as the principal in that office, I should be glad Co know whether any part of the Continental troops is to be furnished by any other than their Commissary-General. I must needs say, that to me it appears very inconsistent, and must create great confusion in the accounts, as well as in the contracts. I intended to have laid before Congress the amount of the rations as supplied by Colonel Trumbull and Mr˙ Livingston, and called upon those gentlemen to furnish me with a separate estimate for that purpose. Colonel Trumbull has given me his, by which it appears he supplies the troops at eight and one-third pence per ration. I have not yet received any from Mr˙ Livingston, but am informed his contract is at ten and a halfpence. The difference is immense, as it will amount to no less than two hundred pounds per day, for twenty thousand men. It is, indeed, to be considered, that Mr˙ Livingston' s contract is including every other charge; and that to Mr˙ Trumbull' s must be added store-hire, clerks, and every other contingent expense; but even then it will not amount to so much as Mr˙ Livingston' s by a penny per ration, which in the gross will be something very considerable. I thought it my duty, without prejudice or partiality, to state the matter fairly to Congress, that they might take such order upon it as to them shall seem necessary. I cannot, however, in justice to Mr˙ Trumbull, help adding, that he has been indefatigable in supplying the Army, and I believe, from his connections in New-England, is able to do it on as good terms as any person in America.

The several matters contained in the foregoing, I must beg the early attention of Congress to, and that I may be favoured with an answer as soon as possible.

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


To the Honourable John Hancock, Esq.