George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Board of War, 18 November 1776

From the Board of War

War-Office [Philadelphia] 18th Novr 1776


The Hancock and Adams, loaded from France with military Stores and other Articles for the Use of the Continent, was taken by a Rhode Island Privateer, and carried into the Port of Dartmouth in New England. The Muskets, Powder, Lead and Gun-flints are to be delivered, by Virtue of the enclosed Resolution of Congress, to the Order of this Board. We have wrote to the Committee of Bedford, in whose District Dartmouth Lies, to deliver to your Order such of the before mentioned Articles as you shall direct.1 We have the Honour to be, with great Esteem, Sir Your very humble Servants

Benja. Harrison

James Wilson

Francis Lightfoot Lee

LS, in James Wilson’s writing, DLC:GW.

1The ship Hancock and Adams was chartered from its owner, Blair McClenachan of Philadelphia, by the Secret Committee of the Continental Congress in late February 1776, and it soon afterwards sailed to Lisbon and Nantes under the command of Samuel Smith, Jr., to trade civilian goods for much-needed military supplies (see the Secret Committee Minutes of Proceedings, 23 Feb. 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 , 3:298). While returning to America, the Hancock and Adams was stopped by the sloop Gamecock, a Rhode Island privateer commanded by Timothy Peirce of Providence. Upon finding two or three different sets of registry papers aboard the Hancock and Adams, Peirce declared the ship a prize and sent it to Bedford, Massachusetts. The village of Bedford was part of the town of Dartmouth until 1787 when it was incorporated as the separate town of New Bedford.

The Secret Committee was outraged by Peirce’s unwarranted action, which it attributed to “the love of Plunder” above any other considerations. “If Capt. Peirce had not interupted the Ships voyage,” the committee wrote Nicholas Cooke on 15 Nov., “She would in all probabillity been Safe in this port [Philadelphia] some weeks Since, and the Several articles before now have been with the Army, instead of which they are now onboard Ship at a Port distant from the Army, and the delay, danger, and expence of transporting them will be very Great” (ibid., 5:491–93). The Secret Committee reported to Congress “that the cargo belonging to the continent, imported in the Hancock & Adams, consisted of the following articles, viz. 72 chests of arms, 311 barrels of gunpowder, 338 pigs of lead, 9 casks of gun flints, 1 case of pins, 133 barrels of tin plates, 5 cases of iron wire, 70 casks of salt petre, and 10 bales of merchandise” (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 , 6:952).

Congress resolved on 15 Nov. “that the Muskets, Powder, Lead, & Gun Flints be delivered by the Committee of Bedford to the Order of the Board of War, who are to inform the Genl [GW] of these Stores & direct the whole or any part to him that may be wanted for the Use of the Army with an injunction not to put the Muskets into the Hands of any but those Soldies who enlist under the late resolves & regulations of Congress” (copy of Congress’s resolutions of 15 Nov., DLC:GW; see also ibid., 953).

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