George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Hancock, 10 May 1776

From John Hancock

Philadelphia May 10th 1776.


I am to acknowledge the Receipt of your several Favours of the 5th and 7th Inst., which I had the Honour of laying before Congress.

By the enclosed Resolves you will perceive the Sense of Congress upon some Parts of your Letters.1 The others are under the Consideration of different Committees. As soon as I am authorized, I will do myself the Pleasure of immediately transmitting the Result.

Congress have been pleased to appoint Col. Tuthill Major of the first New York Battalion in the Room of Major Benedict who has resigned. I have sent him his Commission.2

The Account of the Powder sent to the Eastward, shall be forwarded, agreeably to Mr Palfrey’s Application, as soon as the Secret Committee can furnish me with it.3

I have thought proper to detain the Express that I may be able to inform you, whether any Arms can be procured from the Committee of Safety in this Place. The Committee, to whom that Business was referred, I expect will make their Report this Morning.4

The Particulars of the Engagement in the River below this City, tho at present it is over, are so variously reported, that it is impossible to give any consistent Representation of it. It is certain however that the King’s Ships have quitted their Stations, and have fallen down the River as low as Reedy Island. When the Gondolas began the Attack, they were almost as high up as Chester.5

The 400,000 Dollars for the Use of the Army under your Command, shall be forwarded on Monday.6 I have the Honour to be, Sir, your most obedt and very hble Servt

John Hancock Presidt

LS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 12A.

1The enclosed resolutions included one of 6 May on the treatment of British peace commissioners (see GW to Hancock, 7 May 1776, n.4) and several of this date responding to GW’s second letter to Hancock of 5 May (see notes 1, 2, 3, 8, 11, and 13 to that letter). Hancock may also have enclosed with this letter Congress’s resolutions of 4 and 7 May concerning pay for the militia called to Cambridge and disposal of the cannon that had been taken to Boston from Ticonderoga (see GW to Hancock, 4 April 1776, n.8, and GW to the Massachusetts General Court, 16 May 1776). Copies of all of these resolutions are in DLC:GW. See also 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 , 4:327–28, 334, 341–42.

2Congress took this action on 4 May (ibid., 326). Barnabas Tuthill (1733–1782) was not a colonel. Appointed major of the 4th New York Regiment in June 1775, Tuthill was nominated by the New York provincial congress on 28 Feb. 1776 for a lieutenant colonelcy in one of the colony’s four new regiments, but he was left out when the Continental Congress made the appointments for those regiments on 8 March. Joseph Benedict (1730–1785), who had been commissioned a captain in the 4th New York Regiment in June 1775, was made major of the 1st New York Regiment in the Continental Congress’s actions of 8 March. “Conceiving himself unfit for that Office,” Benedict resigned his commission in late April and subsequently served as a lieutenant colonel in the New York militia (New York committee of safety to the New York delegates, 29 April 1776, DNA:PCC, item 67). Tuthill remained major of the 1st New York Regiment until September 1776 when he resigned from the army.

3One of the enclosed resolutions of this date directed “that ten tons of gun powder be sent to New York” (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 , 4:342). See the Continental Congress Secret Committee to GW, 11 May, and Hancock to GW, 13 May 1776.

4For GW’s request for the loan of arms from the Pennsylvania committee of safety, see his first letter to Hancock, 5 May 1776. See also Hancock to GW, 13 May 1776.

5On the afternoon of 8 May thirteen row galleys and a floating battery from Philadelphia engaged the British warships Roebuck and Liverpool in the Delaware River near the mouth of Christina River, a short distance from Wilmington, Delaware. “We met them under sail,” the Roebuck’s captain Andrew Snape Hamond reported, “and lay under the disadvantage of being obliged to engage them at the distance they chose to fix on, which was scarecely within point blank Shot: and being such low objects on the water, it was with some difficulty that we could strike them, so that we fired upon them near two hours before they thought proper to retire, and row off” (Hamond’s narrative, in Clark and Morgan, Naval Documents, 5:15–16 description begins William Bell Clark et al., eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 11 vols. to date. Washington, D.C., 1964—. description ends ). “I believe,” Col. Samuel Miles wrote the Pennsylvania committee of safety at 4 p.m., “there is no damage done on either side, tho’ I suppose three or four hundred shot have past between them. . . . our Boats . . . in my oppinion ingage at two great a distance. . . . A great deal of amunition has been wasted” (ibid., 4:1466). The engagement resumed the next day, but when the row galleys retreated upriver into shallow water, the British warships turned and sailed back toward Newcastle for fear of encountering American fortifications near Philadelphia and of running aground in the river’s soft mud. The galleys pursued the warships at some distance, inflicting minor damage to their sails. See the various other accounts printed ibid., 1466–67, 1470–71, 5:13–19, 36–37, 481–85, 665–69. Reedy Island lies about five miles south of Newcastle.

6Congress appropriated this sum on this date for the army in New York and Massachusetts (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 , 4:342). For the sending of the money, see Hancock to GW, 13 May 1776.

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