George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Hancock, 12 October 1775

To John Hancock

Camp at Cambridge October 12. 1775


I am honoured with your several Favours of the 26th, & 30th September, & 5th October. The Contents of which I shall beg Leave to notice in their respective Order.

Previous to the Direction of Congress to consult the General Officers on the best Mode of continuing, & providing for the Army during the Winter, I had desired them to turn their Thoughts upon these Subjects, & to favour me with the Result by a particular Day, in Writing:1 In this Interval the Appointment of Dr Franklin, Mr Lynch, & Col. Harrison was communicated.2 An Event which has given me the highest Satisfaction, as the Subject was too weighty, & complex for a Discussion by Letter—This Appointment made any Conclusion here unnecessary, as it is not probable any such Arrangement would be agreed on, as would not be altered in some Respects upon a full & free Conference. This good Effect will arise from the Step already taken, that every Officer will be prepared to give his Sentiments upon these important Subjects.

The Estimates of the Commissary and Quarter Master General, I have now the Honour of inclosing. The first is the Inclosure No. 1, the other No. 2.3 With Respect to the Reduction of the Pay of the Men, which may enter into the Consideration of their Support—it is the unanimous Opinion of the General Officers that it cannot be touch’d with Safety at present.4

I have procured an Account from Col. Thompson of the Expenditure of the 5000 Dollars, which is inclosed No. 3.5

Upon the Presumption of their being a Vacancy in the Direction of the Hospital, Lt Col. Hand formerly a Surgeon in the 18th Regimt or Royal Irish, & Dr Foster late of Charles Town, & one of the Surgeons of the Hospital under Dr Church are Candidates for that Office. I do not pretend to be acquainted with their respective Merits, & therefore have given them no farther Expectation than that they should be mentioned as Candidates for the Department. I therefore need only to add upon this Subject, that the Affairs of the Hospital require that the Appointment should be made as soon as possible.6

Before I was honoured with your Favour of the 5th Instt I had given Orders, for the Equipment of some armed Vessels to intercept the Enemys Supplies of Provisions, & Ammunition. One of them was on a Cruize between Cape Ann & Cape Cod when the Express arrived. The others will be fit for the Sea in a few Days under the Command of Officers of the continental Army, who are well recommended as Persons acquainted with the Sea, & capable of such a Service. Two of these will be immediately dispatch’d on this Duty, & every particular mentioned in your Favour of the 5th Instt literally complied with. That the Honbl. Congress may have a more complete Idea of the Plan on which these Vessels are equipped, I inclose a Copy of the Instructions given to the Captain now out (No. 4). These with the additional Instruction directed, will be given to the Captains, who go into the Mouth of St Lawrences River.7 As both Officers & Men most chearfully engage in the Service on the Terms mentioned in these Instructions, I fear that the proposed Increase will create some Difficulty by making a Difference, between Men engaged on similar Service I have therefore not yet communicated this Part of the Plan, but reserved an extra Bounty, as a Reward for extraordinary Activity.8 There are no armed Vessels in this Province; & Govr Cooke informs me the Enterprize can receive no Assistance from him as one of the armed Vessels of Rhode Island is on a long Cruize, & the other unfit for the Service9—Nothing shall be omitted to secure Success: a fortunate Capture of an Ordnance Ship would give new Life to the Camp, & an immediate Turn to the Issue of this Campaign.

Our last Accounts from Col: Arnold are very favourable, he was proceeding with all Expedition, & I flatter myself making all Allowances, he will be at Quebec the 20th Instt, where a Gentleman from Canada (Mr Brice), assures me he will meet with no Resistance.10

In the Quartermasters Estimate there are some Articles omitted of which he informs me he cannot pretend to furnish a Computation—such as Cartage Tools &c. for which some general Allowance must be made.

From the various Accounts received from Europe, there may be Reason to expect Troops will be landed at New York or some other middle Colony—I should be glad to know the Pleasure of the Congress, whether upon such an Event it would be expected that a Part of this Army should be detached, or the internal Force of such Colony, & its Neighbourhood, be deemed sufficient: or whether in such Case I am to wait the particular Direction of Congress.11

The Fleet mentioned in my last has been seen standing N.N.E. so that we apprehend it is intended for some Part of this Province, or New Hampshire, or possibly Quebec.12

The latest & best Accounts we have from the Enemy are that they are engaged in their new Work across the South End of Boston, preparing their Barracks &c. for Winter. That it is proposed to keep from 500 to 1000 Men on Bunkers Hill all Winter, who are to be relieved once a Week. The rest to be drawn into Boston.

A Person who has lately been a Servant to Major Conolly, a Tool of Ld Dunmores, has given an Account of a Scheme to distress the Southern Provinces, which appeared to me of sufficient Consequence to be immediately transmitted I have therefore got it attested, & do myself the Honour of inclosing it, No. 5.13

The new Levies from Connecticut have lately marched into Camp, & are a Body of as good Troops as any we have—So that we have now the same Strength as before the Detachment made under Col. Arnold. I am with the most respectful Sentiments to the Honbl. Congress & yourself Sir Your most Obedt & very Hbble Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Joseph Reed’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, NHi: Joseph Reed Papers; LB, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC item 169; copy, NjMoHP; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter on 21 Oct. (JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 3:302).

3See Enclosure I and II.

5Col. William Thompson’s undated account is in DNA:PCC, item 152.

6Congress appointed John Morgan as director general and chief physician of the hospital on 17 Oct. (JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 3:297). GW had made Isaac Foster interim director. See General Orders, 3 Oct. 1775. Edward Hand (1744–1802), lieutenant colonel of Col. William Thompson’s regiment of riflemen, came to America in 1767 as surgeon’s mate of the 18th (Royal Irish) Regiment. He became an ensign in the 18th Regiment in 1772 but resigned two years later to practice medicine in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Although Hand was not appointed director of the hospital, he served as a Continental officer throughout the war. He succeeded Thompson as colonel of the Pennsylvania riflemen on 7 Mar. 1776, became a brigadier general on 1 April 1777, and was made adjutant general on 8 Jan. 1781.

7GW enclosed a copy of his instructions to Capt. Nicholson Broughton, 2 Sept. 1775. The vessel cruising between the capes was Broughton’s armed schooner Hannah, which ran aground on 10 October. GW ordered Broughton in the armed schooner Hancock and John Selman in the armed schooner Franklin to intercept the vessels carrying arms and gunpowder to Quebec. See Instructions to Captains Broughton and Selman, 16 Oct. 1775.

8Congress had authorized the officers and crew to receive one-half of the value of the two ordnance vessels bound to Quebec if they were captured instead of the one-third of the cargo (other than military and naval stores and wearing apparel) that GW offered. See Hancock to GW, 5 Oct. (first letter), and Instructions to Broughton, 2 Sept. 1775. Joseph Reed wrote to John Glover on this date: “I was under Some Mistake with Respect to the Proportion of the two Vessels who advance farther—their Share of Prizes will be the Same, & any Special Service will be recommended to the Congress for farther Bounty—Therefore you need say nothing upon this Head—Lose no Time—every Thing depends upon Expedition” (DLC:GW).

10All copies of this letter read “Mr Brice” except the Varick transcipt where the name is “Mr Price.” James Price, a merchant in Montreal, assisted General Montgomery in securing the surrender of the city in November, and on 29 Mar. 1776 he was named deputy commissary of stores and provisions for the American army in Canada.

11The committee of conference discussed this question on 23 October. See Proceedings of the Committee of Conference, 18–24 Oct. 1775, Document II, Minutes of the Conference.

12This squadron attacked Falmouth in the District of Maine on 18 October. See GW to Hancock, 5 and 24 Oct. 1775.

13William Cowley’s deposition, attested on 12 Oct. by Abraham Fuller, a justice of the peace for Middlesex County, Mass., is in DNA:PCC, item 152. It contains essentially the same information regarding John Connolly’s plans included in Cowley’s letter to GW of 30 Sept.—12 Oct. 1775. The deposition is printed in Clark, Naval Documents description begins William Bell Clark et al., eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 11 vols. to date. Washington, D.C., 1964—. description ends , 2:413–15.

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