Primary tabs

Massachusetts Congress to Governour Thumbull



In Provincial Congress, Watertown,

May 29, 1775.

MAY IT PLEASE YOUR HONOUR: Yesterday, about three of the clock, P˙ M˙, this Congress received your Honour' s most kind and friendly letter of the 25th instant, enclosing a resolution of the General Congress, of the 18th instant, relating to Ticonderoga, the order of the General Committee of Association of New-York, for executing the said resolution, and the letter from the Connecticut Delegates at New-York; each of which contain articles of intelligence very important and; interesting to all the New-England Governments. But while we are consoled and rejoiced to find that the General Congress is attentive to the safety and general interests of the Colonies, we cannot conceal from the General Assembly of your Colony, that we should be to the last degree agitated, if we really supposed that the said resolution of the General Congress, touching Ticonderoga and said posts on Lake Champlain, was their ultimatum, and that they would not reconsider that resolution. But as we cannot suffer ourselves to doubt of their best intentions and great concern for the liberty and safety of all the Colonies, we assure ourselves, that upon better information, and knowledge more just, they will be fully convinced of the great impolicy of abandoning Lake Champlain, which we conceive they have in effect advised to, although we confess their expressions are not the clearest. But we are confirmed in our construction of the said resolution, by the order taken by the General Committee of New-York to execute the same.

May it please your Honour, permit us to acquaint you, that as soon as possible after we had received advice of the success of our people at Crown Point and St˙ John' s, and the taking of the armed sloop on that lake, by Col˙ Arnold' s letter, a copy whereof we have sent you by Col˙ Henshaw, we sent an express to New-York and to the General Congress, signifying to the General Congress and to the Congress


of New-York, in the strongest manner, our opinion of the absolute necessity and great advantages of maintaining the post of Ticonderoga. But as we conceived the reasons and grounds of such an opinion were obvious and generally known, we supposed that a detail of the arguments and proofs was altogether unnecessary. But upon seeing the resolution of the General Congress upon that important matter, we were much surprised and concerned; and in the little time we have had to deliberate on the subject, we have resolved to endeavour to suggest to your Honour and your Assembly the reasons which at present occur to us, which we apprehend make it evident that the maintaining that post is not only practicable, and, under God, in the power of the Colonies, but of inexpressible necessity, for the defence of the Colony of New-York, and all the New-England Colonies; and having enumerated those reasons as they occur, without consulting method or any orderly arrangement, to submit them to your Assembly, most importunately praying you, if your Honours approve them, that you will, with the greatest despatch, communicate them, with many more observations which your better knowledge of facts will suggest, to the General Congress; and, if you should judge it advisable, also to the Congress of New-York; conceiving that, in several respects, they would go from you with more advantage, not only to New-York, but also to the General Congress, than from us. It seems natural to compare the two stations proposed to be maintained, viz: Ticonderoga and William Henry, in the following manner, that is to say, with regard to the benefits and advantages of the two stations which will arise for the purposes of general defence and annoyance of the common enemy, and with regard to the feasibility of maintaining each place.

And, in the first place, as to the advantages of general defence resulting from a post at Ticonderoga, beyond those of William Henry; they are so great and many, that they cannot be enumerated in an ordinary letter. In the view of a post of observation, we beg leave to observe, that all movements from Canada, intended against New-England or New-York, by the way of Lake Champlain, whether by scalping parties or large bodies, whether in the winter or open seasons of the year, may almost certainly be discovered so seasonably as that the blow may be generally warded off; whereas, if the post at William Henry be only kept, it is probable that three-fourths of the attempts on the frontiers of New-York and New-England, by Champlain, will never be known until executed. As to enterprises by any large body by the way of Champlain, it is clear that they may be known much earlier from the former than the latter station; also, if it should become necessary and just that the United Colonies should annoy the inhabitants of Canada, and cause them to feel the grievousness of war on their borders, (as it most certainly will, in case they engage in the war upon us,) the two stations scarcely bear any comparison; for if we abandon the post at Ticonderoga, the enemy will infallibly seize it; and, in that case, what annoyance can we give Canada by the way of Champlain, by means of a fortified post at William Henry? If the enemy hold Ticonderoga, they will effectually command the whole of Lake Champlain. If the United Colonies hold it, they will so far command that lake, as, by the way of it, they will be able to make descents by small parties upon great part of the country of Canada, and infinitely distress them; but from William Henry none can be made without vast difficulty and risk. As to the advantages of subsisting and defending a garrison, and maintaining a post against the efforts of Canada, either at Ticonderoga or Fort William Henry, we conceive that they are much in favour of the former; for as to supplies of victuals for either a garrison or an army stationed at one place or the other, we conceive that, on the whole, they may be more easily and certainly afforded to Ticonderoga than William Henry. We suppose that what should be sent from posts on the westerly side of Hudson' s River, may almost as easily be transported to Ticonderoga as to William Henry; and as to such supplies as would go from posts eastward of Hudson' s River, they may be conveyed to the former place with much more facility than the latter. And as to the speed and certainty of marching succours for the relief of a garrison at one place or the other, in case of an attack, we suppose the advantages of Ticonderoga are vastly superiour


to those of William Henry; for we cannot forbear observing, that our brethren of New-York Government, settled on the westerly side of Hudson' s River, have been always rather slow in warlike efforts; and if the succours must go from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New-Hampshire, or the northeasterly parts of New-York Governments, they may be mustered and marched much sooner to the former station than the latter. We have no doubt but, on a pressing emergency; a large body of men might be marched from the middle of the County of Hampshire to Ticonderoga in six days; but to gentlemen so well acquainted with the geography of the two places, we need not dwell on this part of the argument; and, in short, we have no idea of maintaining the one or the other of the two posts in time of war with Canada, but either by constantly keeping an army on the spot, or making a fort of sufficient strength for a garrison to hold out against an attack until an army could be marched from New-York or New-England, sufficient to raise the siege; the latter method we suppose most politick, and quite practicable with regard to Ticonderoga. But at the same time we beg leave just to hint, that a fortified station, on the easterly side of South-Bay, or Lake Champlain, opposite to Ticonderoga or Crown Point, or still farther on, affords great advantages for the maintaining of Ticonderoga, and defending the settlements on the easterly side of Lake Champlain; and there is artillery enough to spare to other places; and if we abandon the land between the Lakes George and Champlain, we shall give the enemy an opportunity to build at or near the points; and by that means we shall lose the whole of Lake Champlain, and the shipping we now have on that lake, by which we can command the whole of it, and keep the enemy at a distance of a hundred miles from our English settlements, near Otter Creek, &c˙; but if that fortress should be maintained, we shall have those very settlements, with some aids from the old settlements, to support it, which will not be half the charge that it would be to maintain a sufficient number of soldiers so far from their homes. We have there about four or five hundred hardy men, with many families, who, if those grounds should be abandoned, will be driven from their settlements, and leave the Massachusetts and New-Hampshire people naked, without any barrier, and exposed to the Canadians and savages, who will have a place of retreat at the point, as they had almost the whole of the last war. By abandoning this ground, we give up an acquisition which cost immense sums of money, the loss of many lives, and five campaigns.

As to the expense of maintaining a fortress at Ticonderoga, this Colony will not fail to exert themselves to the utmost of their power.

We are under the greatest obligations to your Honour and the General Assembly, for the intelligence you have given us; and you may depend we shall not fail of conveying to you all important intelligence with the greatest despatch. The interpositions of Divine Providence, in favour of America, are very obvious, which demands our utmost thankfulness. Enclosed is a brief narrative of some of them. We are, &c.