George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Hancock, 11 November 1775

To John Hancock

Cambridge 11th November 1775


I had the honour to address myself to you the 8th Inst. by Captain Macpherson, Since which, I have an account of a Schooner Laden Chiefly with fire wood being brought into Marblehead, by the armed Schooner Lee Captain Manly. She had on board the Master, a midshipman, two Marines, & four Sailors, from the Cerberus man of war, who had made prize of this Schooner a few days before, and was Sending her into Boston.1

Inclosed you have a Copy of an act passed this Session, by the Honble Council & house of Representatives of this Province. it respects Such Captures as may be made by vessells fitted out by the Province or by individuals thereof2—As the Armed Vessells fitted at the Continental expence do not Come under this Law, I woud have it Submitted to the Consideration of Congress, to point out a more Summary way of proceeding, to determine the property, & mode of Condemnation—of Such prizes as have been, or hereafter may be made, than is Specifyed in this act.

Should not a Court be established by Authority of Congress to take Cognizance of Prizes made by the Continental vessells? whatever the mode is which they are pleased to adopt, there is an absolute necessity of its being Speedily determind on, for I Cannot Spare time from military affairs, to give proper attention to these Matters3—the inhabitants of Plymouth have taken a Sloop Laden with provisions &a from Halifax bound to Boston, & the Inhabitants of Beverly have under Cover of one of the armed Schooners taken a vessell from Ir[e]land Laden with beef, pork, butter &a for Same place, the Latter brings papers & Letters of a very interesting nature, which are in the hands of the Honble Council, who informed me they will transmit them to you by this Conveyance[.] to the Contents of these papers & Letters I must beg Leave to reffer you & the Honble Congress, who will now See the absolute necessity there is, of exerting all their wisdom to withstand the mighty efforts of our enemies.4

the trouble I have in the Arrangement of the Army, is realy inconceiveable, many of the Officers Sent in their names to Serve in expectation of promotion others Stood aloof to See what advantage they Cou’d make for themselves, whilest a number who had declined, have again Sent in their names to Serve. So great has the Confusion ariseing from these & many other perplexing Circumstances been, that I found it absolutely impossible to fix this very interesting business, exactly on the Plan resolved on in Conference,5 tho I have Kept up to the Spirit, as near as the Nature & necessity of the Case woud admit of, The difficulty with the Soldiers is as great, indeed more So if possible, than with the Officers, they will not inlist untill they Know their Colonel, Lt Col. Major, Captain &a So that it was necessary to fix the Officers the first thing, which is at Last in Some manner done, & I have given out inlisting orders, You Sir Can much easier judge than I can express, the Anxiety of mind I must Labour under on this occasion especially at this time, when we may expect the enemy will begin to act, on the arrivall of their reinforcement part of which is allready Come & the remainder daily dropping in. I have other distresses of a very alarming nature. the Arms of our Soldiery are So exceeding bad that I assure you Sir, I Cannot place a proper Confidence in them, our Powder is wasteing fast, notwithstanding the Strictest Care Oeconomy & attention is paid to it, the Long Series of wet weather we have had, renders the greater part of what has been Served out to the men of no use; yesterday I had a proof of it, as a party of the enemy about four or five hundred takeing the advantage of a high tide, Landed at Leechmores point, which at that time was in effect an Island, we were alarmed, & of Course orderd every man to examine his Cartouchebox, when the melencholly truth appeard, & we were obliged to furnish the greater part of them with fresh amunition. The Damage done at the point, was the takeing of a man who watch’d a few horses & Cows, ten of the Later they Carryed of, Colonel Thompson marchd down with his Regiment of Rifle Men, & was join’d by Colonel Woodbridge with a part of his, & a part of Pattersons Regiment, who gallantly waded thro the water & Soon obliged the enemy to embark under Cover a man of war, a Floating Battery & the fire of a Battery on Charles town neck, we have two of our men dangerously wounded by grape shot from the man of war—& by a flag out this day we are inform’d, the enemy Lost two of their men6—I have the honour to be with my best respects to the Congress Sir Your Most Obedt H: Sert

Go: Washington

LS, in Stephen Moylan’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; LB, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC item 169; copy, NjMoHP; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter on 20 Nov. (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 3:360).

1The sloop Ranger, William McGlathry, master, was bound to Salem when the Cerberus captured her on 5 November. John Manley recaptured the Ranger two days later off Eastern Point. For the sale of her cargo and McGlathry’s dispute with Jonathan Glover over his share of both the vessel and cargo, see Jonathan Glover to GW, 22 Nov., and Timothy Pickering to GW, 8 Dec. 1775.

2The enclosed copy of the act of 1 Nov. is in DNA:PCC, item 74.

3For Congress’s action on this matter, see GW to Hancock, 8 Nov. 1775, n.3.

4The inhabitants of Beverly seized both the sloop North Britain and the schooner Two Sisters. See William Bartlett to GW, 4 and 9 Nov. 1775. For the forwarding of the papers and letters, see the Massachusetts Council to Hancock, 11 Nov. 1775, DNA:PCC, item 65. Printed extracts from six letters written by several persons in Ireland to officers in Boston with dates ranging from 20 Aug. to 14 Sept. 1775 are in DNA:PCC, item 57. “PEOPLE are much divided in their sentiments about the Americans,” wrote one unknown correspondent on 8 September. “Placemen, Pensioners, Tories, and Jacobites, with some stupid, ignorant, mercenary Whigs, are violent against them, but the bulk of the people of England and Ireland are strongly in their interest. . . . It is the general opinion . . . that had the ministry certainly foreseen the unanimity and firmness of the Americans, they would hardly have ventured on the steps they have taken. How this unnatural combustion will end, the Lord only knows: but one thing I know; that I wish you and my other friends were removed from a service, at once so disgraceful and so dangerous. Never did the recruiting parties meet with such ill success in every part of this kingdom as at present; so invincible is the dislike of all ranks of people to the American service.” Capt. Valentine Gardiner of the 55th Regiment wrote in a very different tone to Capt. William Gardiner, aide-de-camp to General Burgoyne, on 10 Sept.: “Some of my old acquaintances, the Skiragathtys, should be let slip upon the back settlements; I am convinced they would not desire better sport, and likewise convinced, that nothing would sooner bring those liberty mad gentry to reason.—Your present situation must be very disagreeable, to be cooped up by such a set of dirty raggamuffins as I know they are: however, this may comfort you, the fiddle is tuning for them, and early next Spring, they will have such a dance, as I hope will bring them to themselves.”

5See the agreement of 20 Oct. regarding the selection of officers in Proceedings of the Committee of Conference, 18–24 Oct. 1775, Document II, Minutes of the Conference.

6For the skirmish at Lechmere’s Point on 9 Nov., see General Orders, 10 Nov., GW to William Ramsay, 10–16 Nov., and GW to Joseph Reed, 30 Nov. 1775. The man-of-war was the Scarborough.

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