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General Washington to Richard Henry Lee



Camp at Cambridge, July 10, 1775.

DEAR SIR: I was exceeding glad to receive a letter from you, as I always shall be whenever it is convenient, though perhaps my hurry, till such time as matters are drawn a little out of the chaos they appear in at present, will not suffer me to write you such full and satisfactory answers, or give such clear and precise accounts of our situation and views as I could wish, or you might expect. After a


journey a good deal retarded, principally by the desire of the different townships through which I travelled, of showing respect to the General of your Armies, I arrived here on this day week; since which I have been labouring with as much assiduity, by fair and threatening means, to obtain returns of our strength in this camp and Roxbury, and their dependencies, as a man could do, and never have been able to accomplish the matter till this day; now, I will not answer for the correctness of them, although I have sent several of the regimental returns back more than once, to have mistakes rectified. I do not doubt but the Congress will think me very remiss in not writing to them sooner, but you may rely on it yourself, and I beg you to assure them that it has never been in my power till this day to comply with their orders. Could I have conceived, that that which ought, and in a regular army, which would have been done in an hour, would employ eight days, I should have sent an express on the second morning after I arrived, with a general account of things; but expecting in the morning to receive the returns in the evening, and in the evening surely to find them in the morning, (and at last getting them full of imperfections,) I have been drilled on, from day to day, till I am ashamed to look back at the time which has elapsed since my arrival here. You will perceive, by the returns, that we have but about sixteen thousand effective men in all this department, whereas, by the accounts which I received from even the first officers in command, I had no doubt of finding between eighteen and twenty thousand; out of these there are only fourteen thousand fit for duty. So soon as I was able to get this state of the Army, and came to the knowledge of our weakness, I immediately summoned a council of war, the result of which you will see, as it is enclosed to the Congress. Between you and me, I think we are in an exceeding dangerous situation, as our numbers are not much larger than we suppose, from the best accounts we are able to get, those of the enemy to be; theirs situated in such a manner as to be drawn to any point of attack, without our having an hour' s previous notice of it, (if the General will keep his own counsel,) whereas we are obliged to be guarded at all points, and know not where, with precision, to look for them. I should not, I think, have made choice of the present posts in the first instance, although I believe the communication between the town and country could not have been so well cut off without; but as much labour has been bestowed in throwing up lines, making redoubts, &c˙; as Cambridge, Roxbury, and Watertown, must be immediately exposed to the mercy of the enemy, were we to retreat a little further in the country; as it would give a general dissatisfaction to this Colony, dispirit our own people, and encourage the enemy to remove at this time to another place, we have, for these reasons, resolved in council to maintain our ground if we can. Our lines on Winter and Prospect Hills, and those of the enemy on Bunker Hill, are in full view of each other, a mile distant, our advance guards much nearer, and the sentries almost near enough to converse; at Roxbury and Boston Neck it is the same. Between these we are obliged to guard several of the places at which the enemy may land. The enemy have strongly fortified, or will in a few days, their camps and Bunker Hill; after which, and when their new-landed troops have got a little refreshed, we shall look for a visit, if they mean, as we are told they do, to come out of their lines. Their great command of artillery, and adequate stores of powder, &c˙, give them advantages which we have only to lament the want of. The abuses in this Army, I fear, are considerable, and the new modelling of it, in the face of an enemy, from whom we every hour expect an attack, exceedingly difficult and dangerous. If things, therefore, should not turn out as the Congress would wish, I hope they will make proper allowances. I can only promise and assure them, that my whole time is devoted to their service, and that, as far as my judgment goes, they shall have no cause to complain. I need not tell you that this letter is written in much haste; the fact will sufficiently appear from the face of it. I thought a hasty letter would please you better than no letter, and therefore I shall offer no further apology, but assure you that, with sincere regard for my fellow-labourers with you, Doctor Shippen' s family, &c˙, I am, dear Sir, your most affectionate servant,



P˙ S. We want an hospital, upon a proper establishment, much, and a proper director, with good surgeons, to take care and charge of it. I cannot learn that these are to be provided here; it therefore rests with the Congress to consider of this matter. A Mr˙ Bass, of Philadelphia, who, I am told, was in this way last war, can give you the proper establishment of one. I would not wish to see an expensive one set on foot, and I have no doubt of Doctor Shippen' s recommending such gentlemen for surgeons as he can answer for the abilities of. Whether there is no news stirring, or whether we live out of the way of receiving it, I cannot tell, but so it is, that I have heard nothing of what the Parliament or Ministry are about since I left Philadelphia.

I am, as before, your servant,

G˙ W.