George Washington Papers
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From George Washington to Major General John Thomas, 24 May 1776

To Major General John Thomas

Philadelphia May 24. 1776

Sir

I received your favor of the 8 Instant with Its Inclosures, confirming the melancholy Intelligence I had before heard of your having been Obliged to raise the Seige of Quebec & to make a precipitate retreat, with the loss of the Cannon in the Batteaus & Interception of the powder going from Genl Schuyler.

This unfortunate Affair has given a sad shock to our Schemes in that quarter and blasted the hope we entertained of reducing that Fortress and the whole of Canada to our possession.

From your representation, things must have been found in great disorder and such as to have made a retreat almost Inevitable—But nevertheless It is hoped you will be able to make a good Stand yet and by that means secure a large or all the upper part of the Country—That being a matter of the utmost Importance in the present Contest It is my wish and that of Congress that you take an Advantageous post as far down the river as possible so as not to preclude you from a Retreat If It shou’d be ever necessary or from getting proper supplies of provision—The lower down you can maintain a Stand the more advantageous will It be, as all the Country above will most probably take part with us and from which we may draw some Assistance and support and considering all below as entirely within the power of the Enemy and of course in their favor.1

This misfortune must be repaired If possible by our more vigorous exertions & trusting that nothing will be wanting on your part or in your power to advance our Country’s cause. I am &c.

LB, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1On this date the committee that Congress had appointed the previous day to confer with GW, Gates, and Thomas Mifflin about the military situation in Canada brought in a report, which Congress promptly approved, resolving “that the commanding officer in Canada, be informed, that the Congress are fully convinced of the absolute necessity of keeping possession of that country, and that they expect the forces in that department will contest every foot of the ground with the enemies to these colonies; And, as the Congress have in view the cutting off all communications between the upper country and the enemy, they judge it highly necessary that the exertions of the forces be particularly made on the St. Lawrence below the mouth of the Sorel.” Congress also accepted the committee’s recommendations that Thomas be requested to send exact returns of men, provisions, and stores in Canada, that Schuyler be directed to keep Thomas’s forces “regularly and effectually supplied with necessaries,” and that reinforcements be hastened to Canada “so soon as provisions can be forwarded for their support” (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 , 4:383–84, 387–88; see also the copy of the committee’s report, this date, DNA:PCC, item 19). Hancock enclosed those resolutions in a letter to Thomas of this date (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 , 4:68).

At the direction of Congress, the committee met again with GW and the other two generals later this day or the following day to consider “the most proper posts, and measures to be taken for effectually preventing the enemy’s communication with the upper country from Canada, and such other measures as shall tend to secure the frontiers” (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 , 4:388–89). The committee submitted its second report on 25 May, and Congress immediately accepted the first paragraph of that report. “It is of the highest importance that post be taken at Dechambeau,” Congress resolved on that date, “and that the same be fortified; that works be likewise erected on the islands in the river St. Lawrence at the mouth of the river Sorrel, as well to keep open the communication between Dechambeau and St. Johns, as to prevent the enemy’s passing to the upper country, should the forces of the United Colonies be compelled to retreat from Dechambeau” (ibid., 394–96; see also the copy of the committee’s report, 25 May 1776, DNA:PCC, item 19).

For Congress’s consideration of the rest of the committee’s second report, see GW to Hancock, 9 June 1776, n.7. The original members of this committee were Benjamin Harrison, Richard Henry Lee, John Adams, James Wilson, and Edward Rutledge. Robert R. Livingston was added to it before the second meeting with the generals (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 , 4:383–84, 388–89).

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