George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Massachusetts General Court, 6 November 1776

To the Massachusetts General Court

White plains Novr the 6th 1776


The situation of our Affairs is critical and truly alarming; The dissolution of our Army is fast approaching and but little, if any prospect of levying a New one in a reasonable time. A large part of it under the denomination of New Levies, are now on the eve of their departure, and this at a time when the Enemy have a very numerous & formidable force, watching an Opportunity to execute their plans, and to spread ruin and devastation among us. Impressed with the importance of these matters, I this day laid them before a Council of General Officers with a view of obtaining their Opinion upon the same, and of the measures which in their Judgement should be immediately adopted. The result was, that I should apply to several of the States for supplies of Militia, and that your Honble Assembly should be requested to furnish as soon as possible, Four thousand as their Quota to be properly accoutred and equipped with every necessary to supply the place of those who are now here under Genl Lincoln, and who I fear will not be prevailed on to stay longer than the time they engaged for at first. The hope and probability of raising a New Army within a convenient time, are so little, and the consequences so evidently alarming if a sufficient force is not kept up to counteract the designs of the Enemy in the mean time, that the Council and myself have unanimously agreed, that the Militia should be engaged if possible to continue ’till the 1st of March unless their return can be sooner dispensed with.1 we flatter ourselves by that time, if not long before, such an Army will be levyed, as to render any future claims upon them unless in cases of the most pressing emergency, altogether unnecessary.

From the experience I have had of your past exertions in times of difficulty, I know that nothing in your power to effect will be wanting, and with the greatest confidence I trust that the present requisition will have your most ready approbation and compliance, being in some degree anticipated by the Inquiry you have directed to be made into the State of our Affairs, and whether any further Aid will be necessary.2 I have the Honor to be with great respect Gentn Yr most Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, M-Ar: Revolution Letters; copy, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Robert Hanson Harrison wrote a similar letter to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., on the following day (see Trumbull to GW, 13 Nov., n.2).

1Gen. Benjamin Lincoln’s Massachusetts militia brigade was engaged to serve until 17 Nov. (see the General Court’s resolution of 17 Sept. 1776, in “Mass. Council Journal,” Mar.-Sept. 1776 sess. description begins In Journals, Minutes, and Proceedings, State of Massachusetts Bay, 1775–1780. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records.) description ends , 608–9). Timothy Danielson, chairman of the Massachusetts committee of arrangement which had arrived at GW’s headquarters on 1 Nov., wrote a committee of the General Court on this date: “This morning . . . waited on his Excellency [GW], and after continuing long for an answer, (it being General Council,) the General desired us to continue our Militia in service if possible to 1st of March, for that he should expect four thousand of them to be in service to that time. Accordingly have presumed to issue our invitation to each battalion of recruits from our State, in the name of the Assembly of the State of Massachusetts-Bay, to continue their service to the first day of March next. Some will tarry, no doubt, and as soon as possible shall inform the Assembly what number. And if one half the aforesaid number can be prevailed upon to continue, the saving must be considerable” (Danielson to the Committee of the Assembly of Massachusetts, 5–6 Nov., in Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 3:521–22). For the General Court’s response to GW’s request of this date, see the Massachusetts Council to GW, 8 Dec. 1776.

2A committee of the General Court had written the committee of arrangement on 30 Oct. desiring to be informed about “the true situation and condition” of GW’s army. Timothy Danielson replied on 5 Nov. before learning of the British movement: “The Continental Army are fronted to the west, extending their line from north to south, near Connecticut bounds, about the extent of four miles, Lord Stirling’s division [brigade] on the right and General Heath’s on the left. The whole encamped on a ridge of hills, some of them almost inaccessible in front, all finely covered with woods. Soldiers and officers in high spirits, loath to give an inch to their enemies. Not more sick than may be expected in so numerous an Army. The British Army are extended in like manner on another range of hills, near two miles distant, in open view. The apparent reason of our retreat so far and so often, is this: the enemy are labouring to out-flank us, and pass into the country, if by any means they might cut off our supplies. The General, divinely inspired, has been apprised of their design, and to avoid an action at this critical state of our Army, has been playing back to give himself more room between the Sound and the North River. Small skimishes happen, in which we have the better, and kill three to one.

“We are fully satisfied with the situation and conduct of the Army. Most certain there is nothing to surprise a reasonable inquirer if he was on the spot. Impossible is it that the enemy should force our front in their present situation, and we fear never will be so infatuated as to attempt it, however you hear to the contrary, but must tread their surly steps back ere long. High living for soldiers, good flour, beef, and pork in plenty, with grog to wash it down” (Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 3:521).

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