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General Washington to Governour Trumbull



Cambridge, February 19, 1776.

SIR: I am grieved to find that, instead of six or eight thousand weight of powder, which I fondly expected to receive from Providence, payable to your letter, I am likely to get only four thousand two hundred and seventeen pounds, including the three thousand weight belonging to this Province, (if to be had.) My situation in respect to this article is really distressing; and, while common prudence obliges me to keep my want of it concealed, to avoid a discovery thereof to the enemy, I feel the bad effect of that concealment from our friends; for, not believing our distress equal to what it really is, they withhold such small supplies as are in their power to give. I am so restrained in all my military movements, for want of these necessary Supplies, that it is impossible to undertake any thing effectual; and whilst I am fretting at my own disagreeable situation, the world, I suppose, is not behind-hand in censuring my inactivity. A golden opportunity has been lost, perhaps not to be regained again this year.

The late freezing weather had formed some pretty strong ice from Dorchester to Boston-Neck, and from Roxbury to the Common, which would have afforded a less dangerous approach to the town than through the lines, or by water. The advantages of this, added to a thorough conviction of the importance of destroying the Ministerial troops in Boston, before they can be reinforced, and to a belief that a bold and resolute assault, aided, in some small degree, by artillery and mortars, might be crowned with success, I proposed the attempt, a day or two ago, to the General Officers, but they thought, and perhaps rightly, that such an enterprise, in our present weak state of men, (for the Militia are not yet half arrived,) and deficiency of powder, would be attended with too much hazard, and, therefore, that we had better wait the arrival of the last, and then to begin a bombardment in earnest.

This matter is mentioned to you in confidence. Your zeal, activity, and attachment to the cause, renders it unnecessary to conceal it from you. Our real stock of powder, which, after furnishing the Militia, (unfortunately coming in without, and will require upwards of fifty barrels,) and Completing our other troops to twenty-four rounds a man, (which are less, by one-half, than the Regulars have,) and having a few rounds of cannon-cartridges fitted for immediate use, will leave us not more than one hundred barrels jn store for the greatest emergency, inclusive of the four thousand two hundred and seventeen pounds from Providence, (if we get it.)

This, my dear sir, is melancholy, but it is a truth; and, at the same time that it may serve to convey some idea of my disagreeable feelings under a knowledge of it, will evince the necessity of vigorous exertions to throw, without delay, every ounce that can be procured into this camp; ptherwise, the great expense of sending in the Militia will be entirely sunk, without any possible good resulting from it, but much evil, as they will contribute not a little to the consumption of our ammunition, &c˙, &c.

For want, perhaps, of better information, I cannot help giving it as my opinion, that, at a time when our military operations are entirely at a stand, for want of powder, principally, and arms, it is inconsistent with good policy to hoard up town stocks of either. Better it is to fight an enemy at a distance than at our door, Prudence, indeed,


points out the expediency of providing for private, as well as publick exigencies; but, if both are not to be done, I should think there can be no hesitation in the choice, as the Army now raised, and supported at a considerable expense, can be of little use if it is not sufficient to prevent an enemy from disturbing the quiet of the interior towns of these Governments. I am, &c.


To Governour Trumbull.