George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Hancock, 7 October 1777

From John Hancock

York Town: Pennsylvania October 7th 1777


I have the Honour to transmit you the inclosed Resolves relative to the Commissary General’s Department, and sundry other Subjects, to which I shall only refer your Attention.1

I forward likewise, agreeably to the Order of Congress, a Copy of a Letter from Genl Putnam, by which you will perceive he apprehends an Attack is meditated against the Post at Peeks Kill, & the other Defences on Hudson’s River.2

A Report prevails that last Saturday3 you had a severe Engagement with the Enemy, the Particulars of which we are anxiously expecting to hear every Moment.

Your Favour of the 3d Inst. I have been duely honoured with, and immediately laid it before Congress. I have the Honour to be with the utmost Esteem & Respect Sir, Your most obed. & very hble Serv.

John Hancock Presid.

LS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 12A.

On 5 Oct. Hancock wrote a letter to GW in his letter book that he subsequently struck out, apparently having decided not to send it. The letter, which was written at York, Pa., reads: “I have the Honour to transmit you the enclosed Resolves relative to the Commissary General’s Department, and sundry other Subjects, and beg Leave to refer your Attention to them.

“The spirited and successful Conduct of Genl Stark, Colonels Gansevoort and Willis has induced Congress to vote them the Thanks of their Country, & I have forwarded Copies of the Resolves accordingly.

“The very uncertain & imperfect Accounts of the Situation of the two Armies for some Days past, makes the Congress extremely desirous of hearing from you, in order that they may know their real State and Movements” (DNA:PCC, item 12A).

1In addition to the resolutions concerning the commissary department, which are dated 4 and 6 Oct., Hancock enclosed copies of resolutions of those dates authorizing GW “to make such provision for the quartering of the troops in the winter season as he shall think proper,” thanking the officers and men who fought at Bennington and Fort Schuyler, providing for the appointment and promotion of various American and foreign officers, directing the construction of log barracks in Frederick and Augusta counties, Va., for prisoners of war, and directing GW and Gates to take appropriate measures for the defense of the Hudson highlands (DLC:GW; see also 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 , 9:770–75).

2Gen. Israel Putnam wrote Hancock on 29 Sept. from Peekskill that he had received “authentick intelligence . . . from Lt. [Thomas] Fanning, a prisoner of ours, who is exchanged & came out from New York last Saturday [27 Sept.], & divers other ways, [that] sixty sail of transports arrived there last Thursday [25 Sept.], with three thousand British & German troops, under General [James] Robertson, being part of a larger detachment not yet arrived—That the preparations making, & their dispositions most clearly indicate some capital Expedition speedily to be set on Foot, and he concieves it is agt this Post & Fort Montgomery—their Guides are called in from Croton—their Bakers ordered to work Night and Day to furnish Bread.

“The Ships hauled into the North River, Ammunition taken on Board—the Troops have evacuated Powles Hook and crossed to Harlem, and the Troops at Kings Bridge have been under Marching Orders for some Time. The late Recruits, with the Troops before in New-York &c. amount to nine or ten Thousand. The large Detachments lately drawn from this Post have reduced its Strength to about one Thousand effectives continental Troops, and four Hundred Militia, two Hundred of whom are from this State, one Half of them without Arms, and what is worse, it would be deemed unsafe to trust them. Notwithstanding my repeated urgent applications to this and the State of Connecticut for the Assistance of the Militia, no more has come in; partly owing I concieve to the large Drafts for the Northward.

“This is all the Strength left me, exclusive of the Forts and Ships, which are but poorly manned, to protect the Stores and defend these extensive important Passes. This Post I am Sensible is of the last Consequence to the Continent, and I will exert myself for its Defence weakened as it is—but permit me to tell you, Sir, that I will not be answerable for its Safety with the Strength left me against the Force I am sensible the Enemy are able, and I believe, will speedily send agt it.

“Besides the fifteen Hundred with Genl McDougal Genl Washington has ordered another Detachment of one Thousand Men which are sent on” (DLC:GW).

The enclosed resolutions of 6 Oct. direct GW to take such steps in consequence of Putnam’s intelligence “as he judges most conducive to the public safety,” and “if the Situation of his Army will admit, to send one of the four Engineers to do Duty at Fort Montgomery and the Defences on Hudson’s River” (DLC:GW; see also ibid., 774).

3The previous Saturday was 4 October.

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