George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Hancock, 12 August 1776

To John Hancock

New York Augt the 12th 1776


I have been duly honoured with your favors of the 8 & 10th Instts with their several Inclosures.

I shall pay attention to the Resolution respecting Lieutt Josiah, and attempt to releive him from his rigorous Usage. Your Letters to such of the Gentn as were here, have been delivered—the rest will be sent by the first Opportunity.1

Since my last of the 8 & 9th the Enemy have made no movements of consequence—they remain nearly in the same state, nor have we any further Intelligence of their designs. they have not been yet Joined by the Remainder of the Fleet with the Hessian Troops.

Colo. Smallwood and his Batallion got in on Friday,2 & Colo. Miles is also here with Two Batallions more of pensylvania Riflemen.

The Convention of this State have been exerting themselves to call forth a portion of their Militia to an Encampment forming above Kings bridge to remain in service for the space of One Month after their arrival there, and also half of those in King & Queens Counties to reinforce the Troops on Long Island till the 1st of September unless sooner discharged. Genl Morris too is to take post with his Brigade on the Sound and Hudsons River for Ten days, to annoy the Enemy in case they attempt to Land,3 and Others of their Militia are directed to be in readiness in case their aid should be required—Upon the whole from the Information I have from the Convention, the Militia ordered, are now in motion or will be in a little time and will amount to about three Thousand or more. From Connecticut I am not certain what Succours are coming—By One or two Gentn who have come from thence, I am told some of the Militia were assembling, and from the Intelligence they had would March this Week.

By a Letter from Govr Trumbull of the 5th I am advised that the Troops from that State destined for the Northern Army, had Marched for Skeenesborough. Genl Ward too by a Letter of the 4th Informs me, that the Two Regiments would march from Boston last Week having been cleansed and generally recoverd from the Small pox. I have also countermanded my orders to Colo. Elmore and directed him to J⟨oin⟩ the Northern Army, having heard after my orders to Connecticut for his marching hither, that he and most of his Regiment were at Albany or within Its Vicinity.4 Genl Ward mentions that the Council of the Massachusets State will have in, from Two to three Thousand of their Militia to defend their Lines and different posts in lieu of the Regiments ordered from thence agreable to the Resolution of Congress.

The Inclosed Copy of a Resolve of this State passed the 10th Instt will discover the apprehension they are under of the defection of the Inhabitants of Kings County from the Common Cause, and of the measures they have taken there upon.5 I have directed Genl Greene to give the Committee such Assistance as he can & they may require in the execution of their commission—though at the same time I wish the Information the Convention have received upon the Subject may prove groundless.

I would beg leave to mention to Congress that in a Letter I received from Genl Lee, he mentions the valuable consequences that would result from a Number of Cavalry being employed in the Southern department.6 Without them, to use his own expressions, he can Answer for Nothing—with One thousand he would ensure the Safety of those States. I should have done myself the Honor of submitting this matter to Congress before at his particular request, had It not escaped my mind. From his acquaintance with that Country—the nature of the Grounds I doubt not he has weighed the matter well; and presume he has fully represented the advantages that would arise from the establishment of such a Corps. All I mean is, in compliance with his requisition to mention the matter, that such consideration may be had upon It, If not already determined, that It may be deserving of.

I have transmitted a Genl Return whereby Congress will perceive the whole of our Strength except the Two Battallions under Colo. Miles, which coming since It was made out are not Included.7 I have Inclosed a Letter Just come to hand from Martinique—Congress will please to consider of the purport, favouring me with their Answer and a Return of the Letter.8

This Moment (10 OClock) Report is made by Genl Greene that a Man of War came in yesterday, and that Sixty Sail of Ships are now standing in—No doubt they are a further part of the Hessian Fleet. I have the Honor to be with all possible respect Yr Most Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; LB, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; copy (incomplete), NPee; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter on 14 Aug. and referred it to the Board of War (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 , 5:653).

1GW is referring to the ten letters to the newly promoted generals that Hancock enclosed in his first letter to GW of 10 August. See note 3 to that document.

2The previous Friday was 9 August.

3Lewis Morris, Sr., who was temporarily on leave from his duties as one of New York’s delegates to the Continental Congress, had been appointed brigadier general of the Westchester County militia by the provincial congress on 7 June 1776 (N.Y. Prov. Congress Journals description begins Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety, and Council of Safety of the State of New-York, 1775–1776–1777. 2 vols. Albany, 1842. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 1:482). “I have the pleasure,” Morris wrote the president of the convention, Abraham Yates, from New Rochelle on 18 Aug., “to inform that agreeably to direction of Congress, the militia of the county have turned out with great cheerfulness. As there is no enemy in the Sound, and considering the present season to the farmer, I take the liberty to recommend the dismissing the militia for the present, ordering the captains to parade and discipline their men once a week, and that they hold themselves in readiness to march on the shortest notice; I am particularly inclined to the measure, as the five days’ provisions will be out to-morrow, and no commissary of provisions provided. The arms have been examined; the greatest part in good repair, and such as wanted, are put in the hands of armourers; so that I am in hopes the major part of the militia will be tolerably well armed” (ibid., 2:281). After reading Morris’s letter on 19 Aug., the convention ordered Col. Josiah Smith to ask GW “whether the discharge of that brigade at present will interfere with any plan which he has laid, or directions which he may have given for the defence of that part of the county; and if their discharge will not interfere with such plan or direction, that they be discharged” (ibid., 1:579). GW apparently acquiesced to the brigade’s dismissal. Morris resumed his seat in Congress on 9 Sept., but at the insistence of the New York convention, he returned to Westchester County later that month to fulfill his obligations as a militia general (ibid., 627, 654; see also Morris to the Convention, 24 Sept. 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 , 5:231–33).

5For this resolution of 10 Aug., see GW to the New York Convention, 11 Aug., n.4. The copy of the resolution that was enclosed with this letter is in DNA:PCC, item 152.

7This return has not been identified.

8Although this letter has not been identified, it apparently concerned the prospect of French protection of American vessels in the West Indies. “By a letter from the Agent [William Bingham] who was sent in the Reprisal, Capt. Weeks to Martinico,” Josiah Bartlett wrote from Philadelphia to William Whipple on 27 Aug., “he informs us, that the Governor (or General as they call him) told him that he had lately received orders by a frigate from France to give all possible assistance and protection to the American vessels and that he was ordered to send out some ships of war to cruise round the Island for their defence, and that the Same orders had been sent to the other French Islands: he also told the Agent that if the American cruisers should bring any prizes into the ports of Martinico, he should not prevent their selling or disposing of them as they should think proper (This is in confidence)” (Mevers, Bartlett Papers description begins Frank C. Mevers, ed. The Papers of Josiah Bartlett. Hanover, N.H., 1979. description ends , 109–10).

Index Entries