George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel Alexander McDougall, 2 January 1776

From Colonel Alexander McDougall

Newyork Jany 2d 1776


I was honored with your favor of the 4th Ultimo, on the Subject of the Cannon. I should not have been So long Silent on this matter, but that none of the brass cannon were finished, till a few days ago, and the Convention were So much out of temper, by the powder lent to the Continental army not being repaid, which they greatly wanted for their own defence, that I thought it most expedient to defer the application, till the adjournment, and then make it, to the Committee of Safety, who I knew would be empowered to grant the request of any of the Continental Generals, if it Should be compatible with the Security of the Colony. The Convention adjourned twelve days ago, but the Committee have not yet made a Board, I expect they will make one to morrow. If Mr Knox has not Supplied himself with Small Cannon of those taken at St John’s, I am very confident I shall be able to prevail on the Committee to Spare you the Iron Cannon.1 Altho the Colony has already lent Connecticut, Sixty or Seventy pieces; and a great many will be wanted, for their own defence, from the many Posts necessary to be forfeited.2 But as there is no metal now to be had near us, I fear they will not easily part with the brass one’s. I shall press for a determination, without delay, and if it should be favourable, the Cannon will be forwarded with the utmost dispatch. Mr Knox has wrote me to forward a quantity of Shells, as per list at foot. If these are Still wanted, I should be glad to have your Excellency’s orders, which will be executed as Speedy as Posible,3 by sir Your very Humble Servt

Alexr McDougall

  • 500, 13 Inch shells
  • 200, 5 7/10 do do
  • 400, 4½ do do

ALS, MH: Jared Sparks Collection; ADf, NHi: McDougall Papers.

1The New York committee of safety convened on 3 Jan. and three days later ordered McDougall to “apply to Capt. Anthony Rutgers concerning the small cannon which he formerly declared his willingness to spare to the Continental army, and if it is agreeable to the proprietors of those guns and they choose to spare them” (N.Y. Prov. Congress Journals description begins Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety, and Council of Safety of the State of New-York, 1775–1776–1777. 2 vols. Albany, 1842. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 1:240). GW may have declined any offer of these cannon because of the large number of cannon that Henry Knox brought to Cambridge from Ticonderoga (see Knox to GW, 5, 17 Dec. 1775, and GW to McDougall, 13 Jan. 1776).

2The draft reads “fortified.”

3Knox’s letter to McDougall requesting the shells is dated 17 Dec. 1775 (NNGL: Knox Papers). GW ordered them sent to the army in his letter to McDougall of 13 January.

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