Benjamin Franklin Papers

The Commissioners to Canada to [William Heath], 5 April 1776

The Commissioners to Canada to [William Heath3]

ALS: National Archives

Off Constitution fort4 April 5th. 1776.

On Board The Rhode Island packet

We this Evening arrived here, and from Curiosity Mr. Chase and Mr. Carroll went ashore,5 and found the State of the fort as follows: 3 Companies of Minute Men, Captain Moffats, Capt. Raymonds, and Capt. Woshons, Consisting of 5 Lieutenants, 6 Serjeants, 8 Corporals, 2 Drummers, a fifer and 102 privates. Mr. Seth Marvin 1st. Lieutenant of Capt. Moffats Company has now the Command.6 On the South Bastion are 13 6 [pounders] and 1 9 pounder mounted. On the East Bastion are 7 9 [pounders] and 1 6 pounder mounted; there are 81 Quarter Barrells and 1 whole Barrell of powder; about one half of the privates are armed and about 60 Bayonets among them. In the block House are 8 double fortified 4 pounders mounted. The Fort on the Land-Side is intirely open. There is not one Gunner or Artillery Man in the fort. Nothing but pork, Beef and flour, no Vegetables; no Barrack Master. The Minute Men work about 6 Hours in the Day and that with great Reluctance.

We are informed by Capt. Bondloe that at Pooplopens Kill there are 180 Troops under the Command of Lieutenant Lee,7 that 6 32 pounders, and all other Necessaries for Cannon, except powder, arrived there the 3rd Inst. The fortifications directed by Congress 15 Feby, and laid out by Mr. Smith, remain wholy neglected.8

Hearing of the Arrival of part of the fleet at the Hook We thought it proper to give You this Information by Express.9 You will be pleased to communicate the Substance of the above to Congress. We are Sir Your obedient Servants

B Franklin
Saml. Chase
Ch. Carroll of Carrollton

Notation: Letter from Franklin Chase and Carrol enclosed in general Putnams of the 7th April. 1776

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3The letter, in Chase’s hand, does not indicate the addressee, whom Carroll identified as Heath: Journal, pp. 40–1. The Major General (1737–1814) had been ordered to New York on March 19, to take command if he found no senior officer present. Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, IV, 409. In fact, as noted below, it was Gen. Putnam who received and forwarded the letter.

4The only fort in the Highlands at the time, on what had been Martelaer’s Rock and was coming to be known as Constitution Island; it is across from West Point at the narrowest part of the river. The party had left New York late on April 2, and been delayed by a severe storm and a split mainsail: Journal, pp. 38–9.

5Their curiosity was doubtless not idle, for the fortification had become a matter of controversy. On Feb. 15 Congress had stopped construction, although the existing works were to be garrisoned, and had ordered a new battery erected to the east of the island and another, which developed into Fort Montgomery, below it on the west bank at the confluence of Popolopen Kill. JCC, IV, 152–3. In June work was resumed on Fort Constitution; see H. Crampton Jones, “History of Constitution Island,” New York History, XXXIII (1952), 280–5.

6Thomas Moffatt and Samuel Raymond were captains of minutemen in Orange County and “Woshon” was, we presume, Ebenezer Woodhull, captain of light horse and adjutant; the three were apparently fellow townsmen in Bowling Grove. Seth Marvin had just been nominated for a captaincy. Public Papers of George Clinton . . . (10 vols., New York and Albany, 1899–1914), I, 266–7; V, 679; James A. Roberts, New York in the Revolution (2nd ed., Albany, 1898), p. 253; Force, 4 Amer. Arch., V, 252.

7“Bondloe” was William Bedlow, one of the commissioners appointed by the New York provincial congress, on orders from the Continental Congress, to supervise the fortification of the Highlands. Thomas Lee was a lieutenant in the continental line. Jones, op. cit., pp. 280–1; Heitman, Register of Officers, p. 261.

8Captain William Smith was chief engineer at New York under Gen. Lee, who had a high opinion of him. In late February Smith had briefly inspected the area and mapped out fortifications, and his report went to Congress. Lee Papers, I, 356; Dave R. Palmer, The River and the Rock: the History of Fortress West Point, 1775–1783 (New York, [1969]), p. 51.

9The letter was delivered to Gen. Putnam, who had just assumed command at New York; he did not forward it by express because the report about the enemy fleet proved to be unfounded. Force, 4 Amer. Arch., V, 811.

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