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Letter from General Washington to the Continental Congress. [1775-07-21] Washington, George. [S4-V3-p1705] [Document Details][Complete Volume]

General Washington to the President of the Continental Congress

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Camp at Cambridge, July 21, 1775.

SIR: Since I did myself the honour of addressing you the fourteenth instant, I have received advice from Governour Trumbull that the Assembly of Connecticut had voted, and that they are now raising two Regiments, of seven hundred men each, in consequence of an application from the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts-Bay. The Rhode-Island Assembly has also made an augmentation for this purpose. These re-enforcements, with the riflemen who are daily expected, and such recruits as may come in to fill up the Regiments here, will, I apprehend, compose an army sufficiently strong to oppose any force which may he brought against us at present. I am very sensible, that the heavy expense necessarily attendant upon this campaign, will call for the utmost frugality and care, and would therefore, if possible, avoid enlisting one unnecessary man. As this is the first certain account of the destination of these new raised troops, I thought proper to communicate my sentiments as early as possible, lest the Congress should act upon my letter of the tenth, and raise troops in the Southern Colonies; which, in my present judgment, may be dispensed with.

For these eight days past there have been no movements in either camp of any consequence. On our side, we have continued the works without any intermission, and they are now so far advanced as to leave us little to apprehend on that score. On the side of the enemy, they have also been very industrious in finishing their lines, both on Bunker' s Hill and Roxbury Neck. In this interval, also, their transports have arrived from New-York, and they have been employed in landing and stationing their men. I have been able to collect no certain account of the numbers arrived, but the enclosed letter, wrote (though not signed) by Mr. Sheriff Lee, and delivered me by Captain Darby, (who went express with an account of the Lexington battle,) will enable us to form a pretty accurate judgment. The increase of tents and men in the Town of Boston is very obvious, but all my accounts from thence agree that there is a great mortality, occasioned by the want of vegetables and fresh meat, and that their loss in the late battle at Charlestown, from the few recoveries of their wounded, is greater than at first supposed. The condition of the inhabitants detained in Boston is very distressing; they are equally destitute of the comfort of fresh provisions, and many of them are so reduced in their circumstances as it be unable to supply themselves with salt; such fish as the soldiery leave is their principal support. Added to all this, such suspicion and jealousy prevails, that they can scarcely speak, or even look, without exposing themselves to some species of military execution, I have not been able, from any intelligence I have received, to form any certain judgment of the future operations of the enemy. Sometimes I have suspected an intention of detaching a part of their Army to some part of the coast, as they have been building a number of fiat-bottomed boats, capable of holding two hundred men each. But from their works, and the language held at Boston, there is reason to think they expect the attack from us, and are principally engaged in preparing themselves against it. I have ordered all the whale boats along the coast to be collected, and some of them are employed every night to watch the motions of the, enemy by water, so as to guard as much as possible against any surprise.

Upon my arrival and since, some complaints have been preferred against officers for cowardice in the late action on Bunker' s Hill. Though there were several strong circumstances and a very general opinion against them, none have been condemned, except a Captain Callender, of the artillery, who was immediately cashiered. I have been sorry to find it an uncontradicted fact, that the principal failure of duty that day was in the officers, though many of them distinguished themselves by their gallant behaviour. The soldiers generally showed great spirit and resolution.

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Next to the more immediate and pressing duties of putting our lines in as secure a state as possible, attending to the movements of the enemy, and gaining intelligence, my great concern is to establish order, regularity and discipline; without which, our numbers would embarrass us, and in case of action, general confusion must infallibly ensue. In order to this, I propose to divide the Army into three divisions, at the head of each will be a General Officer; these divisions to be again subdivided into Brigades, under their respective Brigadiers. But the difficulty arising from the arrangement of the General Officers, and waiting the farther proceedings of the Congress on this subject, has much retarded my progress in this most necessary work. I should be very happy to receive their final commands, as any determination would enable me to proceed in my plan.

General Spencer returned to the camp two days ago, and has consented to serve under Putnam, rather than leave the Army entirely. I have heard nothing from General Pomeroy; should he wholly retire, I apprehend it will be necessary to supply his place as soon as possible. General Folsom proposes also to retire.

In addition to the officers mentioned in mine of the tenth instant, I would humbly propose that some provision should be made for a Judge Advocate and Provost Marshal; the necessity of the first appointment was so great, that I was obliged to nominate a Mr. Tudor, who was well recommended to me, and now executes the office, under an expectation of receiving Captain' s pay — an allowance, in my opinion, scarcely adequate to the service in new raised troops, where there are Courts-Martial every day. However, as that is the proportion in the regular Army, and he is contented, there will be no necessity of an addition.

I must also renew my request as to money, and the appointment of a Paymaster. I have forbore urging matters of this nature, from my knowledge of the many important concerns which engage the attention of the Congress; but as I find my difficulties thicken every day, I make no doubt suitable regard will be paid to a necessity of this kind. The inconvenience of borrowing such sums as are constantly requisite must be too plain for me to enlarge upon, and is a situation from which I should be very happy to be relieved.

Upon the experience I have had, and the best consideration of the appointment of the several offices of Commissary-General, Mustermaster-General, Quartermaster-General, Paymaster-General, and Commissary of Artillery, I am clearly of opinion, that they not only conduce to order, despatch, and discipline, but that it is a measure of economy. The delay, the waste, and the unpunishable neglect of duty, arising from these offices being in commission in several hands, evidently shew that the publick expense must be finally enhanced. I have experienced the want of these officers in completing the returns of men, ammunition, and stores; the latter are yet imperfect, from the number of hands in which they are dispersed. I have enclosed the last weekly return, which is more accurate than the former, and hope in a little time we shall be perfectly regular in this, as well as several other necessary branches of duty.

I have made inquiry into the establishment of the Hospital, and find it in a very unsettled condition. There is no principal Director, or any subordination among the Surgeons; of consequence, disputes and contention have arisen, and must continue, until it is reduced to some system. I could wish it were immediately taken into consideration, as the lives and health of both officers and men so much depend upon a due regulation of this department. I have been particularly attentive to the least symptoms of the small-pox, and hitherto we have been so fortunate as to have every person removed so soon as not only to prevent any communication, but any alarm or apprehension it might give in the camp. We shall continue the utmost vigilance against this most dangerous enemy.

In an army properly organized there are sundry offices of an inferiour kind, such as Wagon-master, Master-Carpenter, &c.; but I doubt whether my powers are sufficiently extensive for such appointments. If it is thought proper to repose such a trust in me, I shall be governed in the discharge of it by a strict regard to economy and the publick intereSt.

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My instructions from the honourable Congress direct, that no Troops are to be disbanded without their express direction, nor to be recruited to more than double the number of the enemy. Upon this subject I beg leave to represent, that unless the Regiments in this Province are more successful in recruiting than I have reason to expect, a reduction of some of them will be highly necessary, as the publick are put to the whole expense of an establishment of officers, while the real strength of the Regiment, which consists in the rank and file, is defective. In case of such a reduction, doubtless some of the privates, and all the officers, would return home; but many of the former would into the remaining Regiments, and, having had some experience, would fill them up with useful men. I so plainly perceive the expense of this campaign will exceed any calculation hitherto made, that I am particularly anxious to strike off every unnecessary charge. You will therefore, Sir, be pleased to favour me with explicit directions from the Congress on the mode of this reduction, if it shall appear necessary, that no time may be lost when such necessity appears.

Yesterday we had an account that the light-house was on fire, by whom, and under what orders, I have not yet learned; but we have reason to believe it has been done by some of our irregulars.

You will please to present me to the Congress with the utmost duty and respect; and believe me to be, Sir, your most obedient and very humble servant,


P. S. Captain Darby' s stay in England was so short that he brings no other information than what the enclosed letter, and the newspapers which will accompany this, contain. General Gage' s despatches had not arrived, and the Ministry affected to disbelieve the whole account, treating it as a fiction, or, at most, an affair of little consequence. The fall of Stocks was very inconsiderable.

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Letter from General Washington to the Continental Congress. [1775-07-21] Washington, George. [S4-V3-p1705] [Document Details][Complete Volume]

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