George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., 6 July 1776

From Jonathan Trumbull, Sr.

Lebanon [Conn.] 6th July 1776


I have this day wrote the Continental Congress, That [“]the Antient Laws of this Colony enable the Colonels of the Militia to call out their respective Regiments upon any Alarm Invasion or Appearance of an Enemy by Sea or Land, giving Notice to the Captain General or Commander in Chief for the Time being of the Occasion thereof; This with a General Order to them to call out their Regiment⟨s⟩ upon Notice from General Washington, or the Commander in Chief for the Time being, to march to his Assistance may Supercede the Necessity of any New regulation in respect to the Militia at least until the next Assembly, as it is very inconvenient for them to come to gether at this busy Season.”1 by this Post General Orders are accordingly given to Colo. Jonth. Fitch of New Haven Commander of the 2nd Regt of Militia, to Icha. Lewis of Stratford Lt Colo. of the 4th Colo. Silliman being absent in the Service at N. York—to Jno. Mead of Greenwich or Horseneck Lt Colo. of the 9th Colo. Webb being with you—To Benjn Hinman of Woodbury Colo. of the 13th and to Joseph Plat Cooke of Danbury Colo. of the 16th—These are the field Officers present in the Several Regts next towards N. York on whom you may call when needful.2

Our Battalions are raising with all possible diligence and will soon March to the places of their several destinations many have marched for New York, and the rest will soon follow—and the three Regts of Light horse mentioned in my last I hear are moving on fast3—An Extraordinary bounty is given to the two battalions raising for the Northern Department—it will be attend⟨ed⟩ with difficulty to alter their destination, the Continental battalion destined to Boston under Colo. Ward, and the Other Battalion raised in May last for the Defence of this & the Neighbouring Colonies it will be hard to send to the Northward which hath lately been moved to me from Congress—this last probably is now at your Camp at N. York4—will it not be best to send in their room a Battalion who have had the Smal pox, and to Order Colo. Ward to Boston as destined at first, instead of sendg thither any other of our Battalions who have already begun their March for N. York—probably not one in twenty of our Men have ever had that distemper, when the New York, Jersey, & Pennsylvania Men have generally passed thro’ it.

Our intelligence from Crown Point is that the infection is very great in our retreating Army—This distemper strikes a greater dread on our Men who have not had it, then the British Troops[.] cannot measures be taken to cleanse the Army—& in mean Time keep the infected from those who are not? I have provided 2 Compas. of 25 Each ship Carpenters who will march next Week & Carry their Tools with them to go to that work at Crown Point—but few of them have ever past thro’ that distemper.

I hear from Capt. Niles, that there are four thousand head of neat Cattle on Montauk point on L. Island great part of them good beef Cattle fit for Slaughter5—We have Ordered the Stock of Cattle sheep & swine from Fishers Island, many of both Cattle & sheep are fit for the Use of the Army, and Ordered accordingly—is it not best that you procure those at Montauk likewise—& prevent their being used to feed the Enemy. I am, with great Truth and Regard Sir—Your most Obedt Humble Se[r]vant

Jonth; Trumbull

ALS, DLC:GW; LB, Ct: Trumbull Papers.

1The section within quotation marks is a close paraphrase of the second paragraph of Trumbull’s letter to Hancock of this date (see DNA:PCC, item 66).

2GW wrote these militia officers on 7 Aug., instructing them to march their regiments to New York without delay. Jonathan Fitch (1727–1793) apparently did not accompany his regiment to New York because of his duties as one of Connecticut’s commissaries. The general assembly appointed Fitch a commissary in May 1775, and he served in that capacity for several years. Ichabod Lewis (c.1721–1776), who became a lieutenant colonel in the militia in May 1775, is said to have died at White Plains later this year (see Orcutt, History of Stratford and Bridgeport description begins Samuel Orcutt. A History of the Old Town of Stratford and the City of Bridgeport, Connecticut. 2 vols. New Haven, 1886. description ends , 2:1238). John Mead (c.1725–1790) also became a lieutenant colonel of militia in May 1775. He was promoted to colonel in 1777 and to brigadier general four years later. Benjamin Hinman (1720–1810) commanded the 4th Connecticut Regiment at Ticonderoga in 1775 before leaving Continental service to become a colonel in the Connecticut militia. Joseph Platt Cooke (1730–1816) was appointed colonel of the 16th regiment of militia in 1771. He commanded the militia forces defending Danbury in April 1777 when British raiders burned the town, and the following year he became a member of the Connecticut council of safety. Cooke also served several terms in the state house of representatives during the war, was judge of the probate court for the Danbury district from 1776 to 1813, and held a seat in the Continental Congress from 1784 to 1785 and from 1787 to 1788. Charles Webb of Stamford, Conn., commanded the 19th Continental Regiment at New York during the summer and fall of this year.

4In a resolution of 17 June Congress recommended to Trumbull and the Connecticut assembly that these two state regiments be sent to Canada and that a militia regiment go to Boston in place of Col. Andrew Ward’s regiment (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 , 5:447; see also Hancock to Trumbull, 19 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 , 4:268–69). Neither regiment went to Canada, however. The regiment raised for the defense of Connecticut and its neighbors, under the command of Col. Philip Burr Bradley, arrived at New York about this time and was stationed on Bergen Neck. Colonel Ward’s regiment was put under GW’s control by an act of Congress on 29 July, and by late August it was posted at Burdett’s ferry near Fort Lee, N.J. (see Hancock’s second letter to GW, 30 July; GW to Trumbull, 1 Aug.; Trumbull to GW, 13 Aug.; and William Heath to GW, 24 Aug.).

Andrew Ward (1727–1799) of Guilford, who had served as lieutenant colonel of the 1st Connecticut Regiment during 1775, was appointed colonel of this state regiment in May 1776. In February 1777 he was court-martialed for misbehavior and cowardice in a skirmish with a British foraging party near New Brunswick, N.J., but he apparently was acquitted of the charges (see GW to William Livingston, 3 Feb., MHi: Livingston Papers; GW to Hancock, 5 Feb., DNA:PCC, item 152; and GW’s warrant for Ward’s court-martial, 7 Feb. 1777, NjMoHP). Ward left the Continental army in the spring of 1777 and in June became a brigadier general in the Connecticut militia.

5Robert Niles, captain of the Connecticut armed schooner Spy, attended the state’s council of safety on this date and was instructed by the governor and council “carefully to attend to the duties of his station, and keep a careful watch for any and every hostile ship or vessel which might be hovering about the coast; to take any that he could, and give every signal and intelligence concerning them in his power; to prevent all smuggling and clandestine management that should be contrary to the laws and the embargo of the colony, or prohibitions of Congress” (Hinman, Historical Collection description begins Royal R. Hinman, comp. A Historical Collection, from Official Records, Files &c., of the Part Sustained by Connecticut, during the War of the Revolution. Hartford, 1842. description ends , 368).

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