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Letter from General Washington to Joseph Reed



Cambridge, March 25, 1776.

MY DEAR SIR: Since my last, things remain nearly in statu quo. The enemy have the best knack at puzzling people I ever met with in my life. They have blown up, burnt, and demolished the Castle totally, and are now all in Nantasket-Road. They have been there ever since Wednesday. What they are doing, the Lord knows. Various are the conjectares. The Bostonians think their stay absolutely necessary to fit them for sea, as the vessels, neither in themselves nor their lading, were in any degree fit for a voyage, having been loaded in great haste and much disorder.


This opinion is corroborated by a deserter from one of the transports, who says they have yards, booms, and bowsprits yet to fix. Others again think that they have a mind to pass over the equinoctial gale before they put out, not being, in the best condition to stand one; others, that they are waiting a reinforcement, which I believe has arrived, as I have had an account of the sailing of fifteen vessels from the West-Indies. But my opinion of the matter is, that they want to retrieve their disgrace before they go off, and I think a favourable opportunity presents itself to them. They have now got their whole force into one collected body, and no posts to guard. We have detached six regiments to New-York, and have many points to look to, and, on Monday next, ten regiments of Militia, which were brought in to serve till the first of April, will be disengaged. From former experience, we have found it as practicable to stop a torrent as these people when their time is up. If this should be the case now, what more favourable opening can the enemy wish for to make a push upon our lines, nay, upon the back of our lines at Roxbury, as they can land two miles from them and pass behind? I am under more apprehension from them now than ever, and am taking every precaution I can to guard against the evil; but we have a kind of people to deal with who will not fear danger till the bayonet is at their breast; and then they are susceptible enough of it. I am fortifying Fort-Hill, in Boston, and demolishing the lines on the Neck there, as they are a defence against the country only, and making such other dispositions as appear necessary for a general defence. I can spare no more men till I see the enemy' s back fairly turned, and then I shall hasten towards New-York.

You mention Mr˙ Webb, in one of your letters, for an assistant, He will be agreeable enough to me, if you think him qualified for the business. What kind of a hand he writes, I know not — I believe but a cramped one; latterly none at all, as he has either the gout or rheumatism, or both. He is a man fond of company and gayety, and is of a tender constitution. Whether, therefore, such a person would answer your purpose so well as a plodding, methodical person, whose sole business should be to arrange his papers in such order as to produce any one at any instant it is called for, and capable at the same time of composing a letter, is what you have to consider. I can only add, that I have no one in view myself, and wish you success in your choice; being, with great truth and sincerity, dear sir, your affectionate servant,


To Joseph Reed, Esq.

P˙ S˙ I have taken occasion to hint to a certain gentleman in this camp, without introducing names, my apprehensions of his being concerned in trade. He protests most solemnly that he is not, directly nor indirectly.