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Letter from an Officer on Board his Majesty' s Ship Chatham

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EXTRACT OF A LETTER TO A GENTLEMAN IN LONDON, DATED ON BOARD HIS MAJESTY' S SHIP CHATHAM, MARCH 24, 1776.

The retreat of the Troops from this garrison [Boston] cannot fail to be differently represented in England; for which reason I have found time from our great hurry to give you some account of it. In the first place, the General' s not receiving any letters or despatches from Government since the middle of October, could not fail of making everybody very uneasy; it looked as if we were left destitute to get out of a bad scrape as we liked best. Our provisions falling short, added to our discontent. The fleet afforded us no relief; little indeed was in their power — their own ill equipment was enough to make them as dissatisfied as ourselves. The Provincials, who knew exactly the state of our garrison, harassed us from their batteries, with an intention of making our people more dissatisfied, in hopes of desertions. Finding no probability of supply, and dreading the consequence of further delay, it was thought prudent to retire to the ships, and to save what we could. Our not being burdened with provisions, permitted us to save some stores and ammunition, the light field-pieces, and such things as are most convenient of carriage. The rest, I am sorry to say, we were obliged to leave behind; such of the guns as, by dismounting, we could throw into the sea, were done so; the carriages were disabled, and every precaution taken that our circumstances would permit, for our retreat was by agreement. The people of the town who were friends to Government, took care of nothing but their merchandise, and found means to employ the men belonging to the transports in embarking their goods; by which means several of the vessels were entirely filled with private property instead of the King' s stores. By some unavoidable accident, the medicines, surgeons' chests, instruments, and necessaries, were left in the Hospital. The confusion unavoidable on such a disaster, will make you conceive how much must be forgot where every man had a private concern. The necessary care and distress of the women, children, sick, and wounded, required every assistance that could be given. It was not like breaking up a camp, where

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every man knows his duty; it was like departing your country, with your wives, your servants, your household furniture, and all your encumbrances. The officers, who felt the disgrace of their retreat, did their utmost to keep up appearances. The men, who thought they were changing for the better, strove to take the advantage of the present times, and were kept from plunder and drink with difficulty. In bad plight we go to Halifax. What supply we are to expect there I do not know; our expectations are not very sanguine. The neglect shown us bears hard on us all; the soldiers think themselves betrayed, the officers all blame the Admiralty, and your friend, Lord S — , is universally execrated. The sea officers complained they were hurried out of England in a most shameful condition, not half manned, and ill provided. Fleet and Army complain of each other, and both of the people at home. If we fare as ill at Halifax as we have done here lately, I fear we shall have great desertion, as the opportunity will be more convenient.

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