George Washington to John Hancock, referred to Wythe & Committee, 30 January 1776
Cambridge Jany 30. 1776
Your favour of the 6th & 20th Instant, I received yesterday with the Several resolves of Congress alluded to, for which I return you my thanks.
Knowing the great Importance Canada will be of to us in the present Interesting contest, and the relief our Friends those stand in need of, I should be happy, were It in my power to detach a Batallion from this Camp, But It cannot be done. On the 19 Inst. I had the Honor to write you, which will fully Convey the Resolutions of a Council of War & the Sentiments of the General Officers have as to the propriety and expediency of sending Troops from these Lands, for the defense of which we have been, & now are, Obliged to call in the Militia, to which I beg have to refer you. You may rest assured, that my endeavours & exertions shall not be wanting to Stimulate the Governments of Connecticut & New Hampshire to raise & forward reinforcements as fast as possible, nor in any other instance that will promote the expectation.
I shall in Obedience to the Order of Congress, the Interdicted by General Howe, propose an Exchange of Governor Sheene for Mr. Lovell & family & shall be happy to have an Opportunity of putting this deserving man (who has distinguished his fidelity & regard to his Country to be too great for prosecution & cruelty to overcome) in any post agreeable to his wishes & inclination.
I do not know that there is any particular rank annexed to the Office of Aid, de Camp. Generally they are Captains and Rank as such. But higher rank is officer given on account of particular account, & particular circumstances. Aids to the King have the Rank of Colonels. Whether any distinction should be made between those of your Commander in Chief, & the other Generals I really know not I think these ought.
You may rely that Conolly had Instructions concealed in his Saddle. Mr. Justice who was once of Ld. Dunmore’s family, & another Gentleman who wishes his name not to be mentioned, saw them cased in Ten, put in the Tree & covered over. He probably has enchanged his Saddle, or withdrew the papers when It was mended as you Conjectured. Those that have been discovered are sufficiently bad, but I doubt not of the others being worse
worse & containing more diabolical & extensive plans. I hope he will be taken proper care of & meet with rewards equal to his merits.
I shall appoint Officer in the places of those which are in Canada, as I am fully persuaded they will wish to continue there, for making our Conquest complete in that Quarter. I wish their braver & valor may be attended with the smiles of Fortune.
It gives me great pleasure to hear of the endeavours Congress are taking for manufacturing powder. I hope those endeavours will be Crowned with Success. I too will know and regret the want of It. It is scarcely possible describe the disadvantages an Army must labour under, when not provided with a sufficient supply of this necessary. It may seem strange that after having received about 11, Tons added to about five tons which I found hard and no General Action has happened, that we should be so deficient in this Article & require more. But you will please to consider besides Its being its natural subject to waste, & while the men lay in bad Tents was unavoidably damaged by sword & heavy cains (which could not have been prevented, unless it had been entirely withdrawn from them) and an Attack hazarded against us without ammunition in their hands that the Armed Vessels – Our own occasional firings, & some small supplies I have been obliged to afford the seaport towns threatened with destruction, to which may be added the supply to the Militia, and going off of the old troops, have occasioned, and ever will, a large consumption of it, and waste, in spite of all the care in the world. The King' s troops never have less than sixty rounds a man in their possession, independent of their stores. To supply an army of twenty thousand in this manner, would take near four hundred barrels, allowing nothing for stores, artillery, &c. I have been always afraid to place more than twelve or fifteen rounds at a time in the hands of our men, lest, any accident happening to it, we should be left destitute and be undone. I have been thus particular, not only to show our poverty, but to exculpate myself from even a suspicion of unnecessary waste.
I shall inform the Paymaster-General of the resolution of Congress respecting his drafts, and the mode and amount of them.
The Companies at Chelsea and Malden are, and have always been regimented.
It was not my intention to replace, with Continental troops, the independent Companies at Hingham, Weymouth, and Braintree; these places are exposed, but not more so than Cape-Ann, Beverly, Salem, Marblehead, &c., &c., &c.
Is it the intention of Congress that the officers of the Army should pay postage? They are not exempted by the resolve of the 9th instant.
The Congress will be pleased, I have no doubt, to recollect that the five hundred thousand dollars now coming, are but little more than enough to bring us up to the first day of this month, that to-morrow will be the last of it, and by their resolves the troops are to be paid monthly.
I wish it was in my power to furnish Congress with such a General as they desire to send to Canada. Since the unhappy reverse of our affairs in that quarter, General Schuyler has informed me that though he had thoughts of declining the service before, he would now act.
My letter of the 11th, will inform them of General Lee' s being at New-York. He will be ready to obey their orders should they incline to send him; but if I am not greatly deceived, he, or some other spirited, able officer, will be wanted there in the Spring, if not sooner, as we have undoubted intelligence that General Clinton has sailed with some troops; the reports of their number are various, from between four hundred and five hundred to nineteen, companies of Grenadiers and Light Infantry. It is also imagined that the regiments which were to sail the 1st of December, are intended for that place or Virginia. General Putnam is a most valuable man and a fine executive officer, but I do not know how he would conduct in a separate department; he is a younger Major-General than Mr. Schuyler, who, as I have observed, having determined to continue in service, will, I expect, repair into Canada. A copy of my letter to him on this and other subjects, I enclose you, as it will explain my motives for not stopping the regiments from these Governments.
When Captain Cochran arrives I will give him every assistance in my power, in obedience to the orders of Congress, but I fear it will be the means of laying up our own vessels, as these people will not bear the distinction; should this be the consequence, it will be highly prejudicial to us, as we
sometimes pick up their provision vessels, and may continue to distress them in this way. Last week Captain Manly took a ship and a brig bound to Boston, from Whitehaven, with coals, chiefly, and some potatoes for the army. I have, for his great vigilance and industry, appointed him Commodore of our little squadron, and he now hoists his flag on board the schooner Hancock.
I congratulate you upon the recovery of Smith, and am exceedingly glad to hear of the measures Congress are taking for the general defence of the Continent. The clouds thicken fast; where they will burst I know not, but we should be armed at all points.
I have not succeeded in my application to those Governments for arms; they have returned for answer, that they cannot furnish any. Whether I shall be more lucky in the last resource left me in this quarter, I cannot determine, not having received returns from the officers sent out to purchase from the people. I greatly fear that but very few will be procured in this way, as they are exceedingly scarce, and but a small part of what there are fit for service; when they make their report, you shall be informed.
The Quartermaster-General has just received from General Schuyler clothing for the soldiery, amounting to about one thousand seven hundred pounds, York currency It has come very seasonably, as they are in great want, and will contribute a little to their relief.
Since writing the above I saw Mr. Eustice, and mentioning that nothing had been found in the tree of Connolly' s saddle, he told me that there had been a mistake in the matter, that the instructions were artfully concealed in the two pieces of wood which are on the mail pillion of his portmanteau saddle; that by order of Lord Dunmore, he saw them contrived for the purpose, the papers put in, and first covered with tin, and over that with a waxed canvass cloth. He is so exceedingly pointed and clear in his information, that I have no doubt of its being true. I could wish them to be discovered, as I think they contain some curious and extraordinary plans. Here we were stripped and searched again, and examined separately before the Committee, where one of the most illiberal, inveterate, and violent Rebels, named Samuel Chase, (son of a respectable and very worthy clergyman of this Province,) a lawyer and a member of the Congress, presided.
At this place, we were not a little alarmed lest they should discover our instructions, papers, &c., as they examined every thing so strictly as to take our saddles to pieces, and take out the stuffing, and even rip open the soles of our boots, in vain, for the object of their search was not found, although they so frequently handled what contained it. However, by some neglect of Colonel Connolly' s servant, an old torn piece of papor was found in his portmanteau, which discovered some part of our design; and then Colonel Connolly, to prevent our falling immediate sacrifices to a frantick mob, acknowledged our commisions. The servant, however, who was faithful to his trust, being allowed to go at large from the first of our confinement, took care to destroy the mail pillion-sticks, containing the papers, commissions, and instructions, which we dreaded so much boing discovered, as soon as he could effect it with safety, which put an end to OUr anxiety and alarms on that account.—Smith' s Tour. leave to enclose you. I shall write General Schuyler respecting the tender of service made by the former, and not to call for their assistance unless he shall at any time want it, or be under the necessity of doing it, to prevent their taking the side of our enemies.
I had the honour of writing you on the 19th November, and then informed you of having engaged two persons to go to Nova-Scotia,
on the business recommended in your letter of the 10th, and, also, that the state of the Army would not then admit of a sufficient force being sent for carrying into execution the views of Congress respecling the dock-yards, &c.
I would now beg leave to mention, that if the persons sent for information should report favourably of the expediency and practicability of the measure, that it will not be in my power to detach any men from these lines; the situation of our affairs will not allow it. I think it would be advisable to raise them in the eastern parts of this Government. If it is attempted, it must be by people from the country.
A Colonel Thompson, a member of the General Court, from the Province of Maine, and who is well spoken of by the Court, and a Captain O' Brien, have been with me; they think the men necessary may be easily engaged there, and the measure practicable, provided there are not more than two hundred British troops at Halifax. They are willing and ready to embark in the matter, upon the terms mentioned in their plan, which I enclose you. I would wish you to advert to the considerations inducing them to the expedition, as I am not without apprehension, should it be undertaken upon their plan, that the innocent and guilty will be involved in one common ruin. I presume they do not expect to receive more than five or ten thousand pounds, mentioned in their scheme, and to be at every expense. If we had men to spare, it might be undertaken for less than either, I conceive. Perhaps, if Congress do not adopt their proposition, they will undertake to raise men for that particular purpose, which may be disbanded as soon as it is effected, and upon the same terms that are allowed the Continental troops in general.
Whatever may be the determination of Congress upon the subject, you will please to communicate it to me immediately, for the season most favourable for the enterprise is advancing fast, and we may expect, in the Spring, that there will be more troops there, and the measure be more difficult to execute.
I have the honour to be, sir, your most humble servant,
To the Honourable John Hancock.
Letter from Gen. Washington
30 Jany. 1776
Read 9 Feby.
Mr. Edward Rutledge