George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Augustine Washington, 20 June 1775

To John Augustine Washington

Philadelphia June 20th 1775.

Dear Brother,

I am now to bid adieu to you, & to every kind of domestick ease, for a while. I am Imbarked on a wide Ocean, boundless in its prospect & from whence, perhaps, no safe harbour is to be found[.] I have been called upon by the unanimous Voice of the Colonies to take the Command of the Continental Army—an honour I neither sought after, nor desired, as I am thoroughly convinced; that it requires greater Abilities, and much more experience, than I am Master of, to conduct a business so extensive in its nature, and arduous in the execution, but the partiallity of the Congress, joind to a political motive, really left me without a Choice; and I am now Commissioned a Generl & Commander in Chief of all the Forces now raisd, or to be raisd, for the defence of the United Colonies—That I may discharg[e] the Trust to the Satisfaction of my Imployers, is my first wish—that I shall aim to do it, there remains as little doubt of—how far I may succeed is another point—but this I am sure of, that in the worse event, I shall have the consolation of knowing (if I act to the best of my judgment) that the blame ought to lodge upon the appointers, not the appointed, as it was by no means a thing of my own seeking, or proceeding from any hint of my friends.

I am at liberty to inform you, that the Congress, in a Committee (which will I dare say be agreed to when reported) have converted to a Continental Currency—have ordered two Million of Dollars to be struck for payment of the Troops &ca and have voted 15,000 Men as a Continental Army—which number will be augmented, as the strength of the British Troops will be greater than was expected at the time of passing that vote.1 Genl Ward—Genl Lee—Genl Schuyler—and Genl Putnam—are appointed Major Genls under me—the Brigadier Genls are not yet appointed. Majr Gates Adjutant Genl—I expect to set out to morrow for Boston2 & hope to be joind there in a little time by Ten Companies of Rifle men from this Provence, Maryland, & Virginia3—for other Articles of Intelligence, I shall refer you to the Papers, as the Printers are diligent in collecting every thing that is stirring.

I shall hope that my Friends will visit, & endeavour to keep up the Spirits of my Wife as much as they can, as my departure will, I know, be a cutting stroke upon her; and on this acct alone, I have many very disagreeable Sensations—I hope you & my Sister,4 (although the distance is great) will find as much leisure this Summer, as to spend a little time at Mt Vernon[.] My sincere regards attend you both as also the little ones and I am Dr Sir Yr most Affecte Brother

Go: Washington


GW’s brother John Augustine Washington (1736–1787) lived at Bushfield in Westmoreland County, Virginia. At this time he was a member of the Westmoreland County committee of safety and apparently an officer in the Westmoreland independent company. He represented his county at the third Virginia convention during the summer of 1775 and at the fourth Virginia convention the following winter.

1For a discussion of these resolutions, see GW to Burwell Bassett, 19 June 1775, n.1.

2GW left Philadelphia on 23 June.

3On 14 June Congress authorized the raising of six companies of riflemen in Pennsylvania, two in Maryland, and two in Virginia. Two additional Pennsylvania rifle companies were approved on 22 June. Each company was to consist of 4 officers, 4 sergeants, 4 corporals, a drummer or trumpeter, and 68 privates (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 , 2:89, 104). “These are said,” John Adams wrote to Elbridge Gerry on 18 June 1775, “to be all exquisite marksmen, and by means of the excellence of their firelocks, as well as their skill in the use of them, to send sure destruction to great distances” (Taylor, Papers of John Adams description begins Robert J. Taylor et al., eds. Papers of John Adams. 17 vols. to date. Cambridge, Mass., and London, 1977–. description ends , 3:25–27). The riflemen, who were to be employed as light infantry, were directed to join the army besieging Boston as soon as possible. The first rifle companies arrived in late July and the remainder in August (GW to Schuyler, 28 July 1775).

4GW is referring to his sister-in-law, John Augustine Washington’s wife, Hannah Bushrod Washington.

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