George Washington Papers

To George Washington from a Newbury, Vt., Committee, 8 December 1780

From a Newbury, Vt., Committee

Newbury [Vt.] 8th December 1780


You will please to Excuse our Boldness being a Committee of but one Town, when we Urge the necessity of Supporting this Frontier. We own we are particularly Interested, but truly are of Opinion that the grand Cause of America depends very much on its being Supported for we hold at least Eighty Miles North of any Frontier now remaining, besides there is no other way to get into Canada by Land but this. And it appears to us that except that Country be United to us our Independance cannot be on a sure and lasting Basis.

This Country abounds in Bread, not only for our own Support, but at least an Equal number in other parts. We are about 18000 Souls who are nearly alike exposed, lying on this River for more than 100 Miles.1 And it is more than probable if the Enemy should be suffered to come upon this River that the whole must share the fate of being burnt and driven off, which would throw at least an equal number of the Inhabitants of the New England States into difficulty for Bread. And many other Inconveniences will necessarily follow, which your Excellency doubtless is aware of.

We have in this Town Collected 15000 wt of Flour to be used for our own defence, and assure your Excellency that at least 4000 Bushels of Wheat may be now purchased in this Town, which the People are Manufacturing for Exportation, as they have reason to think it will not be safe here, the Enemy have now no other Object left. Other Towns have also large quantities of Grain. Therefore We humbly beg that a proper force under a good Commander may be sent here by the first of February next to be Employed for the defence of this Frontier, And that a Company of Sixty Men be raised in this Quarter, as a Scouting Party of such as are well acquainted with the several Routs from the Lake and from Canada. And further if it be consistent with the good of the Service, purpose to raise for Three, Six, or nine Months a Regiment on this River for the Expedition to Canada if that should be undertaken; and we are of Opinion that from the Militia from the Grants on Connecticutt River might be raised 1500 Men for three Months for said Expedition. We are sensible that it is better for us to devote our whole Service, and all our Produce, Gratis, for one Year for the Reduction of Canada, than to submit to the Enemy, or suffer the Conflagration which all our Western Frontiers have already undergone. One Town on our Side the Mountains has been Burnt, and this has been threatned by a party of about 500 who marched to about Twenty five miles distance from this, but being discovered and Militia collecting and coming in very fast they retreated. General Bayley will give you further Information2—And we rest your Excellecys very humble Servants.

Committee Newb[ur]y3

LS, DLC:GW. GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman wrote on the docket: “December 8th 11th 12th 1780 from Inhabitants of Towns of Newbury—Norwich—Hanover—Dresden—& Cornish. New Hampshire Grants.”

Residents of the New Hampshire Grants “contiguous to Connecticut river” wrote GW on 11 Dec. to warn that their “frontier on this River of about one hundred miles extent” lies “exposed to incursions from Canada whenever the enemy please. … We are in a State of Anarchy and must continue so till Congress ascertain which of the United States have right of jurisdiction over us, or whether a New State be admitted on these Grants; which we think is unreasonably postponed; and till that is determined it cannot be expected that we defend ourselves—We are about eighteen or twenty thousand in number, who are in this deplorable situation, and are the only object now remaining on the northern frontier worthy the attention of the Enemy.” Unless a force was sent to defend the area, “we have reason to expect the Inhabitants will take the earliest opportunity to transport not only their spare provisions but all their effects to places of better security and we fear will totally abandon the Country, thereby enlarge the frontier so that nearly the whole New England force will be necessary to defend it, and instead of our supporting with provisions a number of inhabitants, in the N. England States equal to our own, they will be obliged to support among themselves the large number of Inhabitants now in this Country” (LS, DLC:GW; see also n.2 below). Ten men signed the letter dated 11 Dec.: from Norwich, Peter Olcott (selectman), Abel Curtiss (Curtis; town clerk), and Capts. Elisha Burton and Joseph Hatch; from Hanover, Jonathan Child (mayor), John House (committee man), and Capt. Solomon Cushman; from Dresden, Bezaleel Woodward, Ebenezer Brewster, and Aaron Storrs (all selectmen).

Samuel, Dudley, and Jonathan Chase wrote GW from Cornish, N.H., on 12 Dec.: “You will please to excuse us, in urging the Necessity of Supporting this Frontier, Which from Charlestown & upwards, contains More than one Hundred & Twenty Miles; and is greatly exposed to a total Desolation by the Enemy. We must be of Opinion, that not only the Safety of the Inhabitants of this River; but the Grand Cause of America, depends Much Upon Uniting Canady With these States; And that, as One Town not a great Distance from us, has suffered A Conflagration by the Enemy, Unless an Expedition against Canady is formed, we fear great part of this Frontier Will suffer in like Manner, or be necessitated to leav[e] their Habitations.

“We Shall do every thing in our Power to forward an Expedition into Canady; having been heretofore apply’d to, by the Commissary of purchases, we have Now on Hand three Thousand Bushels of Grain unpaid for Which is at the Continents service; We presume large quantities might Now be purchased, in this Quarter; But as we have been Necessitated to guard What is now on Hand, at our own Expence, We are of Opinion, that the grain in this Quarter cannot long be Secure, Unless defended by the Country, but Must be transported” (LS, DLC:GW; see also n.2 below).

Samuel Chase (1707–1789) was the father of Samuel Chase (1728–1790), Dudley Chase (1730–1814), and Jonathan Chase. For biographical details, see Child, Cornish, New Hampshire description begins Wm. H. Child. History of the Town of Cornish, New Hampshire: With Genealogical Record, 1763–1910. 2 vols. Concord, N.H., [1911]. description ends , 2:59–63.

GW replied to the residents of the New Hampshire Grants from headquarters at New Windsor on 25 Dec.: “I have received the representations signed by you, in behalf of your respective towns, by Brigadier General Bayley, to whom I have communicated my situation in regard to Troops, and consequently of my inability to send any part of the Continental force to the assistance of your Frontier—This being a matter of too delicate a nature to commit to paper, in detail—I must refer you to him generally—I have given an order for some ammunition to be delivered to General Bayley for the Use of the Militia, which is all that is in my power to do just now. The collection of small private Magazines of Flour at different places, and as far as convenience will admit from the reach of the Enemy, is what I would by all means recommend to you. They will be essentially necessary for the support of your own Militia should circumstances require you to embody them, and should you not have occasion, they may be always readily disposed of.

“It would give me the greatest pleasure, were I furnished with the Means, to afford succour and support to every part of our extended Frontier, but you will be convinced, from the representation which I have made to General Bayley and which he will communicate to you, that I am not at this time able to detach a Man for the purposes which you desire” (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; Tilghman initially ended the first paragraph on the draft—“and should the state of the Continental Army, the next Campaign, admit of our either carrying on offensive operations in that quarter, or of sending up Men merely to act on the defensive, such Magazines will be of the greatest service”—before striking out that language and writing the last thirteen words of the paragraph above the line). For Brig. Gen. Jacob Bayley’s response to GW’s apparently in-person communications, see his letter to GW, 3 Feb. 1781 (DLC:GW).

1The Connecticut River flows near Newbury.

2For the enemy incursion into Vermont earlier that fall that had burned Royalton and threatened other towns, see Bayley to GW, 28 Oct. 1780, and n.6.

3Five committee members signed this letter: Thomas Johnson, Robert Johnston, Remembrance Chamberlain, John Gideon Bayley, and Gideon Smith. For the engagement of these men in the Newbury community during this period, see Wells, Newbury, Vermont description begins Frederic P. Wells. History of Newbury, Vermont. From the Discovery of the Coos Country to Present Time. St. Johnsbury, Vt., 1902. description ends . For GW’s reply to the committee’s letter, see the source note above.

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