Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Horatio Gates, 7[–8] November 1775

From Horatio Gates8

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Head Qrs: 7th[–89]: November 1775

Dear Sir

Thursday last I had the pleasure to send a Copy of General Lee’s Letter to Lord Thanet, and on Monday [another of?] one to General Howe, both these I suppose you received1 [torn.] I made strickt inquiry as you directed me after [torn], and find he died, and was buried about a Week before [torn Cam?]bridge, the Ten Dollars you paid into my Hands [torn sha]ll be disposed of to your Order. The Letter I shall [put in the?] Fire (if you think proper). Some Deodands2 has come to Us since you left Cambridge. A ship from your Port with One Hundred and Eighteen Pipes of Wine is wrecked to the Eastward, the Wine and Crew saved. She was bound into Boston. The Captain and Crew, are prisoners, and will be here in a Day or Two, when they arrive, you shall know who were the Shippers of This Cargo. A Vessel bound from Boston to Nova-Scotia with Dry Goods, is taken by Fishermen from Beverley and Carried in there. The letters found on board and brought hither are full of Commissions for Fresh Meat Forrage, and Fire wood to be sent at any price to Boston. A Sloop from the West Indies is taken by One of our Cruizers. She was bound to Boston, had Rum, Sugar, and Fruit on board, so Wine, and Punch will not be wanting to the Sons of Liberty. Let the Sons of Slavery get them how they can; One of Our Arm:d Vessells brought in on Fryday, a la[rge?] Sloop, and a Schooner, bound from Nova-Scotia to Bo[ston and?] full Freighted with Cattle, Sheep, Hoggs Poultry, Po[tatoes and?] Fire Wood;3 our Squadron are now at Sea and I [hope I shall?] have more news to send of their Success next P[ost. I shall?] recommend the Fitting of Arm’d Vessells to every [torn] how does the pulse of the Polliticians beat, since [the burn]ing of Falmouth, and Lord Dumores intrenching himself at Gosport?4 I shall never be able to write you a Line without half a dozen interruptions, an Ambassador from the Committee of safety at Marblehead will not allow me one moments peace but must this Instant have an Order for two Barrells of Powder for the defence of that Port. Capt. Macphersons5 horse is at the door and he s impatient to be gone. Adieu yours most truly

Horatio Gates

Addressed: To / The Honble. / Doctor Benjamin Franklin / Philadelphia

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8BF had met the erstwhile British major and future American general, perhaps for the first time, at a dinner party in London in 1768: above, XV, 78. We have no evidence that the acquaintance ripened between then and 1772, when Gates yielded to the urging of his old friend Washington and emigrated to become a Virginia planter. Soon after the outbreak of war Congress commissioned him a brigadier general, and he joined Washington’s army as adjutant general. See the DAB and Paul D. Nelson, General Horatio Gates . . . (Baton Rouge, La., [1976]), pp. 34–45. During BF’s recent visit to the camp, it is clear from this letter, he and Gates renewed contact; and they kept it alive by a correspondence that went on intermittently until 1785.

9The letter was not completed until the next day, when some of the news in it reached Cambridge and the courier mentioned in the last sentence left for Philadelphia. Naval Docs., II, 913 n.

1Sackville Tufton, Earl of Thanet (1733–86), had been Charles Lee’s patron for years. A copy of the letter to him, dated Oct. 20 and explaining the General’s reasons for joining the American army and his expectation of what would overtake the British if they continued the war, is among BF’s papers in the APS. The letter to Howe, if our guess at the missing words is correct, we have been unable to locate.

2Free use of the medieval term, which denoted an object responsible for a death and hence given to God, via the crown, for charitable purposes.

3The sloop from Philadelphia was the Monmouth, commanded by Perkins Allen and wrecked at Eastham en route to Boston. The capture by Beverly men was the sloop North Briton, bound to Annapolis Royal. The West India sloop we have not identified. The schooner from Nova Scotia was the Polly, captured along with the schooner Industry by Capt. William Coit. Pa. Packet, Nov. 20; Pa. Gaz., Nov. 22, 1775; Naval Docs., II, 870–1, 879–81, 904.

4For the news about Falmouth see BF to RB above, Oct. 19. Lord Dunmore had taken refuge on a man-of-war, which lay in the Elizabeth River off Gosport, and he soon amassed a small flotilla with which he made desultory raids on the coast. DNB.

5John Macpherson, a Philadelphia merchant and ex-privateer, had gone to Cambridge with Congressional approval of his plan for an explosive torpedo to use against ships at anchor. Washington persuaded him to return to Philadelphia on Nov. 8 to explain his proposal further to the delegates. Smith, Letters, II, 28; Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, IV, 76.

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