George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Hancock, 4 April 1776

To John Hancock

Cambridge April 4th 1776


I was honoured with your favours of the 21st and 25 Ulto on the 2d Instant, the former by Mr Hanson &c.—the latter by Fessendon—I heartily wish the Money had arrived sooner, that the Militia might have been paid as soon as their time of Service expired1—the disappointment has given them great uneasiness & they are gone Home much disattisfied, nor have I been without severe Complaints from the other Troops on the same account—When I get to New York I hope a sufficient Sum will be there ready to pay every claim.

It is not in my power to make report of the deficiency of Arms in compliance with the direction of Congress at this time, as some of the Regiments are at & most of the others on their march to New York; nor do I know that It wou’d answer any good purpose If it were, having made repeated applications to the Several Assemblies and Conventions upon the Subject and constantly received for Answer that they cou’d afford no releif.2

When I arrive at New York I shall in pursuance of the order of Congress detach four Battallions to Canada, If the situation of affairs will admit of It and shall be extremely happy If they and the Troops already there can effect the important end of their going.3

In my Letter of the 1st Instt per post, I inclosed you a Copy of a Letter from Governor Cooke advising me of the Arrival of a Ship of War &c. at & near the harbour of Newport4—I have now the pleasure to Inform you that the report was entirely premature and without any foundation—you have a Copy of his Letter of the 1st Instt to this effect—I wish the Alarm had never been given, It occasioned General Sullivan and his Brigade to make an unnecessary and inconvenient diversion from their Route.

Inclosed is a Copy of an Account presented by the Honorable Genl Court of Powder furnished the Continl Army by this Colony—From the account It appears that part of It was supplied before the Army was under my command and therefore I know nothing of It—But have not the smallest doubt of the justice of the charge—I shall leave about Two hundred Barrells of this Article with Major General Ward, out of which Congress will direct him to make a return If they think proper, and also repayment of what may have been furnished by the other Governments.5

A Proclamation of General How’s Issued a few days before his departure from Town having fallen into my hands, I have inclosed you a Copy, which will probably have been the occasion of large Quantities of Goods being carried away & the removal of many Persons, which otherwise wou’d not have happened.6

Colo. Warren, Paymaster General finding the Army likely to be removed from hence, informed me the other day, that the situation of his Affairs and engagements in the business of the Colony are such as to prevent him from personally attending the Army, and offered in case It shou’d be required to resign—this was rather embarrassing—to me It appears indispe[n]sably necessary that the Paymaster Genl with his Books shou’d be at or near Head-Quarters—Indeed It is usual for the Head of every department in the army, however dispersed that Army may be, to be with the Commanding General, keeping deputies in the smaller departments—On the other hand Colo. Warrens merit and attachment to the cause are such, that I cou’d do nothing less than desire (as some money must be left for the pay & contingent Charges of the Army which will remain here) he wou’d wait here till Congress shall be pleased to give their Sentiments upon the matter, sending in the mean time some person in whom he cou’d confide with the money, (But little of which there will be to carry, tho great the demands, as Nine of the Regiments which have Marched to New York, have only received 500£ each towards their pay for the Months of Feby & March and Six others not one farthing) I hope therefore this matter will be considered by Congress and the result Transmitted me as soon as done.7

I wou’d also mention to Congress that the Militia Regiments which were last called upon in making up their abstracts, charged pay, the Officers from the Time they received Orders to raise Companies & the Privates from the time they respectively engaged to come or were called upon, Though they did not march for a considerable time after; some not within three, four to Twenty days, and during all which they remained at Home about their own private affairs without doing any thing else than preparing for the March as they say by way of plea—This appeared to me so exceedingly unreasonable, and so contrary to Justice that the publick shou’d pay for a longer time than from the day of their march to that of their return, that I ordered the Abstracts to be made out accordingly and refused to give Warrants on any other Terms—They say that the Inlisting orders which went out from their Governments give them the pay they claim—the Fact may be that something in these may seem to authorize It—But I must submit It to Congress & wish for their decision whether the Continent must pay It.8 I am with great esteem Sir Yr Most Hble Servt

Go: Washington

P.S. I shall set off to day.


LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; LB, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter on 15 April (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 , 4:282).

1The term of service for the ten New England militia regiments that had been called out in January expired on 1 April. See the minutes of the councils of war held on 16 and 18 Jan. 1776.

2For Congress’s directions regarding the deficiency of arms, see Hancock to GW, 25 Mar. 1776, and note 3.

3For Congress’s order respecting these reinforcements for Canada, see Hancock to GW, 25 Mar. 1776, and note 4.

5At a conference with GW on 21 or 22 Mar., a committee from the Massachusetts General Court consisting of Thomas Cushing, Azor Orne, and George Partridge inquired about repayment of the gunpowder that several towns in the colony had furnished the army, and GW responded by requesting an account of the quantity supplied. The General Court subsequently appointed a committee to prepare such an account, and on 27–28 Mar. Orne, Partridge, and Moses Gill were instructed to lay it before GW (“Mass. Council Journal,” Mar.–Sept. 1776 sess., 17, 22–23, 39; Mass. House of Rep. Journal description begins A Journal of the Honorable House of Representatives. At a Great and General Court or Assembly for the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay in New-England. Watertown, Mass., 1776. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records.) description ends , Mar.–May 1776 sess., 42, 47). The account, which is with the documents for 28 Mar. 1776 in series 4, DLC:GW, lists a total of 346¼ half barrels of gunpowder delivered to the army between 14 June and 5 Sept. 1775, and 3,310 pounds of gunpowder sent to GW on behalf of Massachusetts by Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., in February 1776 (see GW to Trumbull, 8, 19, 22 Feb., and Trumbull to GW, 12 Feb. 1776). In DLC:GW there is also a document, docketed 28 Mar. 1776, that contains copies of numerous receipts for Massachusetts gunpowder supplied to the army between 29 May and 1 Sept. 1775. The accuracy of these copies is attested at the end of the document by Charles Coffin under the dateline “Watertown 27th March 1776.” The Massachusetts delegates to the Continental Congress discussed this business with GW on 28 May during his visit to Philadelphia and accepted his promise to instruct Gen. Artemas Ward to reimburse the colony for all of the gunpowder (Elbridge Gerry to Benjamin Lincoln, 28 May 1776, and Massachusetts Delegates to the Massachusetts Council, 3 June 1776, in Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 4:88–90, 133).

6Gen. William Howe’s proclamation of 10 Mar. 1776 calls on the inhabitants of Boston to ship all linen and woolen goods out of the city to prevent Washington’s army from obtaining those much-needed items. “If after this Notice any Person secretes or keeps in his Possession such Articles,” Howe warned, “he will be treated as a Favourer of Rebels” (printed broadside, DNA:PCC, item 74; see also the handwritten copy in DLC:GW).

7James Warren wrote a letter of resignation to Hancock on 30 Mar., but it was not read in Congress until 18 April. Congress accepted Warren’s resignation the following day (Warren to Hancock, 30 Mar. 1776, DNA:PCC, item 78; 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 , 4:291, 296; John Adams to Warren, 16 April 1776, in Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 3:535–37; see also Hancock to GW, 30 April 1776).

8For GW’s orders regarding the pay of the militia, see General Orders, 27 Mar. 1776. Congress confirmed GW’s decision, resolving on 4 May that the pay of the militiamen who had been called to Cambridge was to begin on the date of their march to camp and end on the date of their return home (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 , 4:327; see also copy in DLC:GW).

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