George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Hancock, 31 March 1777

To John Hancock

Head Qrs Morris town March 31st 1777


Captain Desheild of Mr Buchanans Ship from Baltimore who was taken by the Enemy and carried into York made his Escape from thence on Saturday Evening.1 He informs, that three thousand Troops, British & Hessian, embarked about Ten days ago from the City & Staten Island on board Transports which were laying at the Latter when he came away, he adds that the Enemy have built & are building a number of light flat Bottomed Boats, about Seventy of which were finished. Captn Desheild says, it seemed to be the general opinion & conversation, that this embarkation was for Chesepeak Bay with a view of makeing a descent on the Eastern Shore, or that the Troops were to proceed to the Head of Elk, taking Annapolis & Baltimore in their way.2 there were some who thought it probable they mean to go up the North River and attempt the Highland fortifications. I have written to Genls McDougal & Clinton desiring them to make the best preparations, that circumstances will admit of, for their reception, in case the latter should be their Object.3

Captn Desheild being in company with the Captain of the packet, but unknown to him, heard him say, that a War with France was much expected when he left England which was about the beginning of February. I have the Honor to be with great respect Sir Yr Most Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; copy, PHarH: RG 27, Records of Pennsylvania’s Revolutionary Governments, 1775–90; two copies, MdAA; LB, Nc-Ar, Governor’s Letter Book; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter on 2 April 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 , 7:217). On that date Congress also ordered copies of this letter to be sent to the Pennsylvania council of safety and to the governors of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia (ibid., 218–19).

1The previous Saturday was 29 Mar. 1777. Benjamin Dashiell (1736–1799) of Baltimore was the master of the Farmer, “a fine new Ship laden with above 500 Hogsheads of Tobacco” that was captured by H.M.S. Brune near Cape Henry, Va., on 20 Jan. 1777 while sailing from Baltimore to Nantes, France (New-York Gazette: and the Weekly Mercury, 3 Mar. 1777; see also Journal of H.M.S. Preston, 20 Jan. 1777, and Robert Morris to Silas Deane, 27 Feb. 1777, in Naval Documents description begins William Bell Clark et al., eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 11 vols. to date. Washington, D.C., 1964—. description ends , 7:1004, 1307; Tatum, Serle’s Journal description begins Edward H. Tatum, Jr., ed. The American Journal of Ambrose Serle: Secretary to Lord Howe, 1776–1778. San Marino, Calif., 1940. description ends , 192–93; and Dashiell’s deposition, 7 April 1777, in DNA:PCC, item 19). The Farmer was owned by Archibald Buchanan, the head of a large mercantile firm in Baltimore, who in 1776 had built row galleys to defend the city.

2Hancock wrote to Gov. Thomas Johnson of Maryland on 2 April to warn him of the possibility of a British incursion in the Chesapeake Bay (see 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 , 6:526–27, and 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 , 7:219).

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