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Letter from Doctor Benjamin Church to a British Officer in Boston



Cambridge, July 23, 1775.

I hope this will reach you. Three attempts have I made without success. In effecting the last, the man was discovered in attempting his escape; but fortunately my letter was sewed in the waistband of his breeches. He was confined for a few days, daring which you may guess my feelings; but a little art and a little money settled the matter. It is a month since rny return from Philadelphia. I went by the way of Providence to visit my mother. The Committee for warlike stores made me a formal tender of twelve cannon, eighteen and twenty-four pounders, they having taken a previous resolution to make the offer to General Ward. To make a merit of my services, I sent them down; and when they received them they sent them to Stoughton to be out of danger, even though they


had formed the resolution, as before hinted, of fortifying Bunker' s Hill, which, together with the cowardice of the clumsy Gerrish and Colonel Scammons, was the lucky occasion of their defeat. The affair happened before my return from Philadelphia. We lost one hundred and sixty-five killed then, and since dead of their wounds; one hundred and twenty more lie wounded; they will chiefly recover. They boast that you have fourteen hundred killed and wounded in the action. You say the rebels lost fifteen hundred; I suppose with equal truth. The people of Connecticut are raving in the cause of liberty. A number of their Colony, from the Town of Stamford, robbed the King' s stores near New-York, with some small assistance which the New-Yorkers lent them. These were growing turbulent. I counted two hundred and eighty pieces of cannon, from thirteen to twenty-four pounders, at King' s Bridge, which the Committee had secured for the use of the Colonies. The Jerseys are not a whit behind Connecticut in zeal. The Philadelphians exceed them both; I saw two thousand men reviewed there by General Lee, consisting of Quakers and other inhabitants in uniform, with one thousand riflemen and forty horse, who, together, made a most warlike appearance. I mingled freely and frequently with the members of the Continental Congress; they were united and determined in opposition, and appeared assured of success. Now, to come home, the opposition is become formidable. Eighteen thousand brave and determined men, with Washington and Lee at their head, are no contemptible enemy. Adjutant General Gates is indefatigable in arraying the Army. Provisions are very plentiful; clothes are manufactured in almost every Town for the soldiers. Twenty tons of gunpowder have lately arrived at Philadelphia, Connecticut, and Providence; and upwards of twenty tons are now in camp. Saltpetre is made in every Colony. Powder-mills have been erected, and are consequently employed at Philadelphia and "New-York. Volunteers of the first fortunes daily flock to the camp. One thousand riflemen will arrive in two or three days. Recruits are now levying to augment the Army to twenty-two thousand; besides, ten thousand militia of this Government are appointed to appear on the first summons. The bills of all the Colonies circulate freely, and are readily exchanged for cash. Add to this, unless some plan of accommodation takes place immediately, their harbours will swarm with privateers. An Army will be raised, however, in the Middle Colonies to take possession of Canada. For the sake of the miserable convulsed Empire, solicit peace, repeal the acts, or Britain is undone. This advice is the result of a warm affection for my King and Realm. Remember, I never deceived you; every article here sent you is sacredly true.

The papers will acquaint you that I am a member again for Boston. You will there see our motley Council.

A general arrangement of officers will take place, except the chief, which will be suspended but for a little while, to see what part Britain takes in consequence of the late Continental Petition.

A view to independence appears to be more and more general. Should Britain declare war against the Colonies, they would be lost forever. Should Spain declare war against England, the Colonies would declare a neutrality, which would doubtless produce a league offensive and defensive between them. For God' s sake, prevent it by a speedy accommodation!

Writing this has employed me for a day. I have been to Salem to reconnoitre, but could not escape the geese in the capital. To-morrow I set out for Newport, purposely to send you this. I write you fully, it being scarcely practicable to prevent discovery. I am out of place here by choice, and therefore out of pay; and am determined to be so, unless something be offered in my way.

I wish you could contrive to write to me largely, in cyphers, by way of Newport, addressed to Tom Richards, merchant, enclosed under cover to me, intimating that I am a perfect stranger to you; but that being recommended to you as a gentlemen of honour you took the liberty to enclose it, entreating me to deliver it as directed to the person living, as you are informed, in Cambridge. Sign some fictitious name, and send it to some confidant friend at Newport, to be delivered to me at Watertown.

Make use of every precaution, or I perish.



* The following letter is a very intelligent and particular account of the strength and disposition of the Colonies, written by Doctor Church, who had the best means of knowing the true state of matters. It was obviously intended only for the private information of the General, and therefore must be considered a much more impartial and candid account than we commonly receive from either party; which accounts are usually drawn up for the very purpose of magnifying, or diminishing objects. Doctor Church' s residence was in Boston; he was taken into the Government' s pay about the middle of April. On the 19th, General Gage having retracted his promise to the Bostonians, after they had delivered up their arms, by detaining them in Town, Doctor Church made his pretended escape from Boston. From that day till the fatal time of writing the letter, he seems to have been very diligent and pretty successful in his employment. — Remembrancer.