To the Massachusetts General Court
Cambridge 13th Jany 1776
It is exceedingly painful to me, to give you so much trouble as I have, and am like to do in the support of our Lines, and the Arrangement of the New Army—But my difficulties must, in their consequences, devolve trouble on you.
To my very great Surprize I find, that the whole number of Arms which have been stopp’d from the discharg’d Soldiers, amt to no more than 1620, and of that number, no more than 120 are in store, the rest being redeliver’d to the Recruits which have come In. I also find from the report of the Recruiting Officers, that few Men are to be Inlisted who have Arms in their hands, and that they are reduced to the alternative of either getting no Men, or Men without Arms—Unhappy Situation! What is to be done, unless these Governments will exert themselves in providing Arms from the sevl Towns, or in such other manner as to them shall seem speedy & effectual?
To account for this great deficiency would be tedious, and not much to the purpose—suffice it generally to say, that it has arisen from two causes—the badness of the Arms of the old Army, which the Inspectors, & valuers of, did not think fit to detain; & to the disobedient Regiments, which, in spite of every order I could Issue to the Contrary (even to a solemn threat of stopping the pay for the Months of Novr and December of all those who should carry away their Arms) have, in a manner by Stealth borne them away.1
I am glad to hear by a Gentleman of your Honble body, who does me the honr to be the bearer of this Letter, that you have for sometime past been collecting Arms at Watertown, whilst a good deal of dispatch has been used in making them else where—I beg to know how many I can rely upon, as the recruits now coming in from the Country will be useless without—It is to no purpose I find, to depend upon Imported Arms. What you can furnish, I must take in behalf of the Continent; & will, upon notice, send some Gentlemen to receive them—Will it, be prudent to apply to such of the Militia as are going of for their Arms? leaving it optional in them, cannot be amiss, but will the necessity of the case justify the policy of detaining them? I ask for information.2 being with great truth, and esteem Gentn Yr Most Obedt H. Ser⟨t⟩
ALS, M-Ar: Revolution Letters; LB, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.
2. GW’s letter was read in both houses of the General Court on 15 Jan. and was referred to a joint committee consisting of James Prescott, Benjamin Lincoln, Joseph Otis, Benjamin Woodbridge, and Nathan Smith. The committee reported the next day “that his Excellency be informed, that it is the Opinion of this Court, there would be a general Supply of Fire Arms brought into the Camp, if he would give public Notice that if the recruits would come well Armed they should be allowed for the Use of their Arms, & if lost in the service the just value of them should be paid; and that their Arms shall not be detained from them when their time of service shall expire. And that to detain the Arms of the Militia without their consent would nither promote the good of the service nor facilitate the Arming the forces as it would produce a general uneasiness through the country—And that his Excellency be Also informed that this Colony have in store but About 200 Fire Arms part of which are out of repair—such as will do for the service Altho provided for the perticular use of this Colony we shall be ready to deliver if they shall be Needed & do All in our power to Aid his Excellency in Arming the Troops” (report signed by James Prescott [photocopy], DNA: RG 93, Photocopies of State Records; see also copy in DLC:GW, Mass. House of Rep. Journal, Nov. 1775–Feb. 1776 sess. description begins A Journal of the Honourable House of Representatives. At a Great and General Court or Assembly for the Colony of the Massachusetts-Bay in New-England. Boston, 1776. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records.) description ends , 148–49, 153–54, and “Mass. Council Journal,” July 1775–Feb. 1776 sess. description begins In Journals, Minutes, and Proceedings, State of Massachusetts Bay, 1775–1780. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records.) description ends , 455, 457–58). The General Court accepted the report that day and instructed the committee consisting of John Adams, James Warren, and Joseph Hawley, which was to confer with GW about recruiting, to present him with a copy of this report (Mass. House of Rep. Journal, Nov. 1775–Feb. 1776 sess. description begins A Journal of the Honourable House of Representatives. At a Great and General Court or Assembly for the Colony of the Massachusetts-Bay in New-England. Boston, 1776. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records.) description ends , 154; “Mass. Council Journal,” July 1775–Feb. 1776 sess. description begins In Journals, Minutes, and Proceedings, State of Massachusetts Bay, 1775–1780. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records.) description ends , 458; see also resolutions appended to the copies of the report in DNA: RG 93, Photocopies of State Records, and in DLC:GW).