George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Hancock, 14 January 1776

To John Hancock

Cambridge January the 14. 1776


I am exceedingly sorry, that I am under the necessity of applying to you & calling the attention of Congress to the State of our Arms, which is truly alarming. Upon the dissolution of the Old Army, I was apprehensive that the New, would be deficient in this Instance, and that the want might be as Inconsiderable as possible, I gave it in orders that the Arms of such men as did not reinlist, should be (or such of them as were good) retained at the prices which should be affixed by persons appointed to inspect & Value them; And that we might be sure of them, I added, that there would be a Stoppage of pay for the Months of Novr & December, from those who should carry their Firelocks away, without their being first examined1—I hoped by these precautions, to have procured a considerable number: But Sir I find with much concern, that from the badness of the Arms, & the disobedience of too many in bearing them of, without a previous inspection, that very few were collected—Neither are we to expect, that many will be brought in by the New recruits—the Officers who are out Enlisting, having reported that few2 men who have Arms will engage in the Service, and that they are under the disagreable alternative of taking men without Arms, or of getting none. Unhappy situation and much to be deplored! especially when we have every reason to convince us, that we have to contend with a formidable Army, well provided of every necessary, and that there will be a most vigorous exertion of Ministerial vengeance against us, as soon as they think themselves in a condition for It. I hope It is in the power of Congress to afford us releif; If it is not, what must, what can be done?3

Our Treasury is almost exhausted, and the demands against it, very considerable; A constant supply of money to answer every claim & exigency, would much promote the good of the service; In the common affairs of life, It is usefull; In War, it is absolutely necessary & Essential—I would beg leave too, to remind you of Tents, and of their importance; hoping that If an opportunity has offered, you have procured them.4

I fear that our Army will not be raised to the New-establishment in any reasonable time, If ever; the Enlisting goes on so very slow, that It almost seems at an end.

In my Letter of the 4 Instant I wrote you, that I had received certain Intelligence from a Mr Hutchinson & others, that 2 of the 5 Regiments from Cork were arrived at Hallifax, One at Boston, & the 2 others had sailed for Quebec, & had not been heard of—I am now assured as a matter to be relyed on, by four Captains of Ships, who left England about the 2d of November, & who appear to be men of veracity, That the whole of those Regiments (except the three Companies that arrived at Boston sometime agoe) when they sailed, were at Milford Haven, where they had been obliged to put in by a violent Storm the 19 of October; that they would not be able to leave It for a considerable time, as they were under the necessity of repairing their Vessels & getting some new ones taken up. Such is the Incertainty & contradiction in what I now hear, that It is not possible to know, what to beleive or disbeleive.5

I wrote to the General Court Yesterday & to the Convention of New-Hampshire immediately upon Seeing the great deficiency in our Arms, praying that they would Interest themselves in the matter & furnish me with all in their power—Whether I shall get any, or what Quantity I cannot determine, having not received their Answers. the same application will be made to the Governments of Connecticut & Rhode Island.6

I do myself the honour to send you Sundry News papers, I received from the above mentioned Captains, as they may be later than any you have seen, & contain some Interesting Intelligence. I have the Honour to be with much esteem & regard Your Most Obdt Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’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 25 Jan. (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 , 4:90).

1See General Orders, 20, 23 Nov., 30 Dec. 1775.

2In the LS Harrison originally wrote “no.” Before the letter was sent, GW struck out that word and inserted “few” above the line. Harrison made the same change in the letter-book copy.

3Congress resolved on 29 Jan. “that the loss of and damage to such fire arms, belonging to the soldiers in the service of the continent, as shall happen not through carelessness or other misbehaviour, the value being ascertained in a proper manner, to be provided by the general assemblies, conventions, and councils or committees of safety of the United Colonies respectively, be made good to the owners; and that their arms, after their time of service [is] expired, be not detained from them.” The next day Congress also resolved “that it be recommended to the several Assemblies in New England, to assist the general in procuring arms; and the thanks of the Congress be given to such of them as have already done so” (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 , 4:100, 103; copies of both resolutions, enclosed in Hancock to GW, 29 Jan. 1776, are in DLC:GW).

4Congress resolved on 30 Jan. “that all the tent cloth which can be procured here [in Philadelphia] or in New York, should be purchased for the Congress, and that the quantity necessary for the ensuing campaign in the army before Boston, be forwarded thither, if so much is to be had” (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 , 4:102; a copy of this resolution, enclosed in Hancock to GW, 29 Jan. 1776, is in DLC:GW).

5The ship captains were sent to GW by Joshua Wentworth. See Wentworth to GW, 10 Jan. 1776. Milford Haven is on the southern coast of Wales.

Index Entries