Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Horatio Gates, 5 December 1775

From Horatio Gates

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Head Quarters 5th December 1775

Dear Sir

For this Week past Fortune has Smiled upon Us from All Quarters, and last Night, word was brought out of Boston by some Inhabitants who left it Yesterday, that a Vessel was Just arrived there from Quebeck. The Master of which Declared that Our Troops, Assisted by near 6000 Canadians, took Possession of that Capital a day or Two After the Middle of November; that thereupon all the Ships belonging to the Ministerialists Slip’d their Cables, and push’d Down the River, thus is the whole Province of Canada most Gloriously Added to the United Colonies.7 You will in your Wisdom, no Doubt immediately let them take their Places accordingly. I wish Two or Three Battallions could be sent from them this Way, and the like Number of Ours replace theirs to Garrison Quebeck which with the Earliest of the Spring should be Fortified in the very best Manner.

Burgoyne Sails this Day from Boston in The Boyne Man of War for England, pretty Accounts he will carry his Tory Friends in Parliament, where I think he will be examin’d, and Cross examin’d, til he Sweats. If there is an honest Mob left in England, Gage and He, cannot ride the Streets of London in Safety.8

Our Success by Sea you will hear enough of in Congress, but pray have no Doubts about Condemning the Glasgow Ship, as we want ever Tittle of her Cargoe for the Cloathing of The Troops, and other Publick Service.9 In the Mean Time my Voice shall be, Use what we want; if you like that best, your High Mightyness’s may pay for it Afterwards.

We have lately had some trouble to retain the Connecticut Troops and with Difficulty prevail’d upon them to consent to remain only to the 10th: Instant when the Legislature of this Colony have engaged to supply us with 5000 Militia to make good the Gap occasion’d by the Discharge of the Five Connecticut Regiments and The Absentees upon the Recruiting Service.1

I look with Earnest Eyes towards Canada, and wish You and my Worthy Friend T. Johnston, could have been spared to have Assisted the Committee sent to Montreal.2 Indeed after the Fatigue you had just endured, it could not be expected from you. I hope there is Brains and Language sufficient in those upon that Delegation, to influence the Canadians to support all our Measures.

The Brilliantcy of General Montgomerys Character, will be the Admiration of Our Friends, and the Astonishment of Our Enemies. Colonel Arnolds resolute and persevering behaviour, even after 300 of his Command had left him, is a most meritorious Example.3 These Two Men should be held in High Estimation, and reward Accordingly. Col. Arnold begun with Taking Ticonderoga, and the Vessell then at St. Johns.4

In case General Carleton, and Lord Pit Fall into your Hands, as I cannot but think they will, you will consider well how to dispose of them, That Capt. Allan taken at Montreal of the Connecticuts, should be directly return’d; or Mr: Carleton should go to Gaol.5

My Compliments to Messieurs Johnston, and Chace. They never write to me, I want to know if the Serjeants and Corporals of the Regulars that I sent Chace ever deliverd him my letters of Recommendation (for that was all they contain’d). Our Arm’d Vessells are at Sea, I hope soon to send you further Accounts of their Success. A Play House is establish’d in Boston, as Mr. Hancock can inform You. They have Open’d with a Tragedy-it’s very probable they may conclude with One: The Fine Brass 13 Inch Mortar which we have got to Cambridge, looks as if he could Play his Part to perfection.6 I am ever Affectionately Yours

Horatio Gates

My best respects to Mr: Allen Senior7 and Mr: Bob Morris, to whom I have not Time to write, but if you please You may shew them this.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7The report confused Quebec with Montreal, which Montgomery had captured on Nov. 13 after Gov. Carleton, hopelessly outnumbered, had sailed down river with his few men and his most valuable stores. On Dec. 9 a report from Providence, supposedly emanating from American headquarters, announced the capture of Quebec on Nov. 17: Pa. Gaz., Dec. 20, 1775. In fact the assault occurred at the end of the year and was a disaster.

8Before Burgoyne’s departure from England the King and Lord North had agreed that he should return and report on the situation. Gage had been ordered home, and had turned over the command to Howe and sailed on Oct. 11. Sir John Fortescue, ed., The Correspondence of King George the Third . . . (6 vols., London, 1927–28), III, 203–4; John R. Alden, General Gage in America . . . (Baton Rouge, La., 1948), p. 283.

9The Concord, out of Glasgow laden with dry goods and coal worth more than £3600, had been captured by Capt. John Manley and brought into Marblehead on Dec. 3. Washington, in a letter to Congress on Dec.7, echoed Gates’s opinion that the army must have the cargo. Naval Docs., II, 1245, 1258, 1322.

1The Connecticut militia had enrolled on seven- and five-month terms, which were expiring at the beginning of December. The men’s insistence on returning home was not apparent until late November, and they had to be kept until Massachusetts and New Hampshire had furnished replacements; otherwise the enemy, it was assumed, would overrun the lines. They were kept, against their will, until the new levies began to arrive. Freeman, Washington, III, 569–80.

2In early November Congress appointed a committee of three to confer with Schuyler. Thomas Johnson was a Maryland delegate and BF’s colleague on the committee of secret correspondence. The ad hoc committee was not “sent to Montreal,” but was expected to go into Canada. It reached Ticonderoga, went no farther, and urged that another committee be sent when travelling conditions were better. JCC, III, 317, 339–41, 350, 447, 451.

3In late October 300 men had withdrawn without authorization from Arnold’s expedition against Quebec; a court martial had acquitted their commanding officer the day before Gates wrote. Freeman, Washington, III, 562–65, 567, 574–5; Christopher Ward, The War of the Revolution (John R. Alden, ed.; 2 vols, New York, 1952), I, 175–6.

4After the capture of Ticonderoga in May Arnold set out with fifty men for the fort at St. Johns, which he captured and then evacuated; part of the booty was a seventy-ton sloop.

5Lord Pitt has appeared briefly above, XXI, 518 n; he was serving as an aide to Carleton. Ethan Allen had joined Montgomery’s expedition and been captured the previous September.

6For Chase, like Johnson a Maryland delegate, see his letter to BF above, Aug. 4. The first performance of Aaron Hill’s Zara, organized by Burgoyne and with his own prologue and epilogue, was announced for Dec. 2 in Faneuil Hall: Mass. Gaz., Nov. 30, 1775. The mortar was part of a cargo of military supplies in an ordnance brig captured by Capt. Manley, and was christened the “Congress.” Naval Docs., II, 1247, 1261, 1284.

7William Allen (1704–80), the Philadelphia merchant and, until 1774, chief justice of Pennsylvania, has appeared frequently in earlier volumes; for his career see the DAB.

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