George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Massachusetts Council, 26 February 1776

To the Massachusetts Council

Cambridge 26th Feb: 1776


As I am making all possible preparation to take possession of the heights of Dorchester (which I expect I shall be able to accomplish by the last of this Week)1 it is expected that this, if any thing can, will bring the Enemy out of Boston to oppose, as at Charles-town,2 our erecting any Works there. To weaken our Lines on the North side of Cambridge River too much, with a view to strengthen those of Dorchester, before any move is made that way by the Enemy, migh⟨t⟩ expose an opening they would gladly avail themselves of3—and to delay it till4 an attack is begun would be too late, as the contest will soon be decided for or against Us, after this happens.

Under this State of the Matter, and to avoid risking a Defeat when Victory, under Providence, may be reduced to a certainty,5 I submit it to the Wisdom of your Board if it will not6 be best to direct the Militia of some of the Towns7 most contiguous to Dorchester and Roxbury to repair to the Lines at those two places with there Arms, Ammunition, and Accoutrements Instantly upon a Signal given.

If you approve of this you will please to fix with General Thomas (who waits upon you on purpose)8 upon the Signals to be given, and Issue your notice thereof accordingly.9 I have the honour to be with great respect & esteem Gentn Yr Most Obedt Hble Servt

Go: Washington

ALS (photocopy), DNA: RG 93, Photocopies of State Records; LB, in GW’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1The letter-book copy and the Varick transcript read “by the latter end of this Week.”

2GW is referring to the Battle of Bunker Hill on 17 June 1775.

3The letter-book copy and the Varick transcript read “before any movement is made that way by the Enemy, may neither be consistent with prudence, or good policy.”

4The letter-book copy and the Varick transcript read “till after.”

5The letter-book copy and the Varick transcript read “to avoid putting an affair of so much Importance to a doubtful Issue when, under Providence, it may be reduced to a certainty.”

6The letter-book copy and the Varick transcript read “whether it might not.”

7The letter-book copy reads “of certn Towns,” and the Varick transcript reads “of certain Towns.”

8The letter-book copy and the Varick transcript read “for that purpose.”

9Ezekiel Price, who was residing at Stoughton several miles south of Roxbury, wrote in his diary entry for 1 Mar.: “Hear that orders are sent for seven regiments of the militia this way, to be ready to march upon the signal for an alarm; each man to be well provided with arms, and to carry three days’ provisions, dressed: the militia the other way to be in like readiness. On one side, the militia are to man the lines while our army takes possession of Dorchester Hill: on the other side, they propose to go to Noddle’s Island” (“Price’s Diary,” description begins “Diary of Ezekiel Price, 1775–6.” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society 7 (1863–64): 185–262. description ends 239). For the calling out of these militiamen, see also GW to Hancock, 7–9 Mar. 1776.

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