George Washington Papers
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To George Washington from the Massachusetts Committee of Safety, 6 July 1775

From the Massachusetts Committee of Safety

[Watertown, Mass., 6 July 1775]

May it please your Excellency:—The bearer, Capt. Brown, is the officer who took the horses that came off from Bunker’s hill; you’ll please to direct said horses being delivered to his care.1

Mass. Prov. Congress Journals description begins William Lincoln, ed. The Journals of Each Provincial Congress of Massachusetts in 1774 and 1775, and of the Committee of Safety. Boston, 1838. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 589.

1A party of men, commanded by a Captain Brown of Salem, Mass., took four horses from the enemy on or near Charlestown Neck on the morning of 4 July. That same day GW, “having occasion to visit the Lines with his Aid De Camps,” asked the Massachusetts committee of safety for use of the captured horses, and Benjamin Church, chairman of the committee, promptly ordered all four to be sent to him. “His Excellency,” Church wrote in his order, “will return them to the Captors or pay for them if they are willing to part with them” (Church to —, 4 July 1775, M-Ar: Revolution Letters). Captain Brown and his men soon laid claim to the horses, and the dispute about whose property they were was referred by the committee of safety to the provincial congress, which resolved on 13 July that the “horses be delivered into the hands of Capt. Brown . . . until the further order of this Congress, or some future house of representatives of this colony” (Mass. Prov. Congress Journals description begins William Lincoln, ed. The Journals of Each Provincial Congress of Massachusetts in 1774 and 1775, and of the Committee of Safety. Boston, 1838. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 496). GW’s displeasure with the handling of this affair is evident in the letter that Joseph Reed wrote about 16 July to the Massachusetts committee of supplies: “By the General’s Direction two of the Horses which came from the Enemy some time ago, are herewith sent you, One of them Capt. Brown sent to his Father contrary to the General’s Inclinations & without his Knowledge—The General is clearly of Opinion that the Idea of their being the Property of the Captors is to be wholly discouraged, as dangerous to the Service; by exposing the Soldiers to the Temptation of leaving their Posts in Quest of Plunder—The remaining Horse is in General Putnam’s particular Service, but holds himself accountable to the Publick—In the Direction of them, you will doubtless do it, so as not to encourage the Notion which has been taken up & too much prevails thro’ the Camp, that by such Means they become private Property” (M-Ar: Revolution Letters).

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