George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 8 April 1794

From Henry Knox

War Department, April 8th 1794.


I have the honor to enclose, the copy of a letter, just received from the Governor of Maryland, dated the 3rd instant,1 and submit to your consideration, whether any measures ought to be taken respecting the defence of the harbor at Annapolis.2 I am Sir, Most Respectfully Your obedt: Servt:

H. Knox secy of war


1The letter to Knox from Thomas Sim Lee, written “In Council, Annapolis” on 3 April, acknowledged receipt of Knox’s recent letter “enclosing the Act of Congress, to provide for the defence of certain Ports, and Harbours in the United States.” Lee’s copy of the circular letter of 26 March that Knox sent to the governors of the maritime states has not been identified, but for its content, see n.1 of Thomas Mifflin to GW, 27 March. Lee also acknowledged the receipt of a second letter from Knox of 26 March, which has not been identified, “requesting an authority from this Board to Captain Stricker to mount eleven eighteen-pounders, belonging to the State of Maryland at Whetstone-point; and in conformity with the request contained in the last mentioned letter, we have written to Captn Stricker, giving him the permission required.” The letter from Lee to Capt. John Stricker (1759–1825) of 27 March is at MdAA: Executive Records, Letterbooks of Governor and Council, 1787–1820.

Lee continued: “We are not at present in a situation to transmit a complete return of the Ordnance belonging to this State, as some of them are at a distance from Annapolis; but we inclose you a list of such as are here; only three of which are of the Calibre wanted.

“As the object of requesting this return, appears to be the appropriation of these Cannon to the fortifications contemplated by the Act of Congress, and as the Port of Annapolis is entirely omitted in that Act, it becomes proper as connected with the subject, to suggest that the Board will not hold itself authorized to permit the whole of the heavy Ordnance of the State to be applied to the defence of one place, to the exclusion of another, rendered important by circumstances, and much exposed by situation.

“The City of Annapolis is the seat of the State Government, and of course the repository of the public records; the residence of many of the public Officers concerned in the immediate discharge of the important departments of Government: the place where the Legislature, and Superior Judicatures assemble, and where the Executive is stationary.

“It contains also the public Treasury, and property of the State, and of Individuals, to a large amount. By reason of its situation, immediately on the Chesapeak, it is peculiarly liable to annoyance from an enemy, if left unfortified; but it is at the same time easily capable of being placed in a very respectable state of defence: In every view its protection is of consequence: detached from the propriety of sheltering the Capital of the State (where so much is deposited to excite attack) from injury and depredation, the security of this City is in a great degree connected with the convenience of Baltimore, and the general welfare. If fortified, the harbour, and the river which contributes to form it, would in case of pursuit be an asylum for our Vessels, superior in strength and convenience to any in the State: On the other hand, if permitted to remain defenceless, and left to the mercy of an Enemy, the property of Government and of Individuals, must be withdrawn from it, at a very heavy expence, and great inconvenience; the Records of every description must be removed, at the hazard of irreparable injury, and our Vessels in the Chesapeak deprived of the refuge, which a harbour in all respects commodious, and made peculiarly defensible by nature would present to them in the moment of danger.

“From these and a variety of other considerations, it will readily occur to you that some part of the State’s Cannon ought to be reserved for the defence of Annapolis, even if the General Government should not on reconsideration deem its security an object of national concern, and should refuse to take it under its protection: We have no doubt however that Congress will provide for it’s safety, if it should be certain that defensive operations are indispensable” (DLC:GW). The enclosed return of ordnance has not been identified.

2For GW’s reply, see his letter to Knox of 9 April.

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