George Washington Papers

Council of War, 18 October 1775

Council of War

[Cambridge, 18 October 1775]

At a Council of War held at Head Quarters October 18th 1775.

Present His Excelly General Washington
Majors Genl Ward Lee Puttnam
Brigads. Genl Thomas, Heath, Sullivan, Green, Gates

The General acquainted the Members of the Council that he had called them together in Consequence of an Intimation from the Congress, that an Attack upon Boston if practicable was much desired.1 That he therefore desired their Opinion on this Subject.

  • General Gates—That under the present Circumstances it is improper to attempt it.
  • General Green—That it is not practicable under all Circumstances—but if 10,000 Men could be landed at Boston, think it is.
  • General Sullivan—That at this Time it is improper—the Winter gives a more favourable oppy.
  • General Heath—Impracticable at present.
  • Genl Thomas—Of the same opinion.
  • Genl Puttnam—Disapproves of it at present.
  • General Lee. Is not sufficiently acquainted with the Men to judge—therefore thinks it too great a Risque.
  • General Ward—Against it.
  • General Washington—

D, in Joseph Reed’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1On 2 Oct. Congress instructed its committee of conference to inform GW of “the Sense of the Congress respecting an Attack on the Ministerial Troops at Boston & on Bunkers Hill viz. That if before the last Day of December his Excelly upon Consideration of all Circumstances shall think it practicable & likely to defeat the Enemy & gain Possession of the Town it will be adviseable to make the Attack upon the first favourable Occasion & before the Arrival of Reinforcement, which the Congress apprehend may be soon expected, the Congress having the most perfect Confidence in the Courage & good Conduct of the General & his Officers & the Spirit & Bravery of the Men under his Command. If the Number of Men which compose the present Army, should be thought insufficient for the Purpose that the General employ so many minute Men as he may apprehend to be necessary on the Occasion, upon such Terms, as he shall think proper—That if the Attack should not be made by the Time abovementioned it is the Wish of the Congress that the Number of the Army for the Remainder of the Winter should be reduced & the Pay of the Men lessened to 5 Dollars per Calendar Month: if these may be done with Safety: But that the Attack should nevertheless be made under the foregoing Circumstances as soon as a favourable Opportunity shall offer with the Troops then in the Service & the Assistance of the Minute Men abovementioned” (DLC:GW; see also 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 3:270).

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