To John Hancock
New York Sunday  June 1775 5 OClock P.M.
Upon my Arrival here this Afternoon I was informd that an Express was in Town from the provincial Camp in massachusets Bay; and having seen among other papers in his possession a Letter directed to you as president of the Congress I have taken the Liberty to open it.
I was induced to take that Liberty by several Gentlemen of New York who were anxious to know the particulars of the Affair of the 17th Inst. and agreeable to the Orders of many Members of the Congress who judgd it necessary that I should avail myself of the best Information in the Cour[s]e of my Journey.1
You will find Sir by that Letter a great want of Powder in the provincial Army; which I sincerely hope the Congress will supply as speedily & as effectually as in their Power.2
One thousand pounds in Wt were sent to the Camp at Cambridge three days ago from this City; which has left this Place almost destitute of that necessary Article; there being at this Time from the best Information not more than four Bbs. of powder in the City of N. York.3
I propose to sett off for the provincial Camp to Morrow and will use all possible Dispatch to join the Forces there.4
Please to make my Compliments to the Gentlemen of the Congress & beleve to be Sir Your Obliged humle Obdt
LS, in Thomas Mifflin’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; copy, NjMoHP. All copies of this letter are dated 24 June. For the correct date and GW’s arrival in New York City, see GW to the Continental Congress, this date, source note and n.2. Sunday fell on 25 June, not 24 June, in 1775.
1. GW opened the letter of 20 June 1775 from the Massachusetts provincial congress to the Continental Congress, containing a general account of the Battle of Bunker Hill. A sketchy report of the battle reached Philadelphia on 22 June, the day before GW left that city. Other accounts soon followed, but apparently none to date were so authoritative or complete as this one (Richard Henry Lee to GW, 29 June 1775). “We think it our indispensable duty to inform you,” wrote the members of the Massachusetts provincial congress, “that reenforcements from Ireland, both of horse and foot, being arrived, the number unknown, and having good intelligence that general Gage was about to take possession of the advantageous posts in Charlestown, and on Dorchester point, the committee of safety advised, that our troops should prepossess them, if possible; accordingly, on Friday evening, the 16th instant, this was effected by about twelve hundred men.” There follows a detailed account of the battle on the following day. The letter then continues: ”The number of killed and missing on our side is not known; but supposed by some to be about sixty or seventy, and by some, considerably above that number. Our most worthy friend and president, Doct. [Joseph] Warren, lately elected a major general, is among them. This loss we feel most sensibly. . . . Three colonels, and perhaps one hundred men are wounded. The loss of the enemy is doubtless great. By an anonymous letter from Boston, we are told, that they exult much in having gained the ground, though their killed and wounded amount to about one thousand; but this account exceeds every other estimation. The number they had engaged is supposed to be between three and four thousand. If any error has been made on our side, it was in taking a post so much exposed” (William Lincoln, ed., The Journals of Each Provincial Congress of Massachusetts in 1774 and 1775, and of the Committee of Safety [Boston, 1838], 365–66, Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). For American casualties, see GW to Hancock, 10–11 July 1775, Document II. Letter Sent, n.29, and for British casualties, see GW to Hancock, 14 July, n.3; 21 July 1775 (third letter), n.3.
2. The members of the Massachusetts provincial congress said: “As soon as an estimate can be made of public and private stocks of gunpowder in this colony, it shall be transmitted without delay; which, we are well assured, will be very small, and by no means adequate to the exigencies of our case. We apprehend, that the scantiness of our stock of that article cannot fail to induce your honors still to give your utmost attention to ways and means of procuring full supplies of it. We feel ourselves infinitely obliged to you for your past care in this respect” (Mass. Prov. Congress Journals description begins William Lincoln, ed. The Journals of Each Provincial Congress of Massachusetts in 1774 and 1775, and of the Committee of Safety. Boston, 1838. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 365–66). In response to an earlier Massachusetts plea for gunpowder, the Continental Congress on 10 June resolved that the New England colonies should “immediately furnish the American army before Boston with as much powder out of their town, and other publick stocks as they can possibly spare.” All colonies were directed to collect saltpeter and sulfur for manufacturing gunpowder (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 , 2:85–86). The shortage of gunpowder, nevertheless, remained a persistent problem during the siege of Boston.
3. On 20 June the New York provincial congress, learning that about thirteen hundred pounds of gunpowder could be bought in New York City, authorized the purchase of the entire supply and directed that 1,000 pounds be sent to the army near Boston and 300 pounds to Ticonderoga (N.Y. Prov. Congress Journals description begins Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety, and Council of Safety of the State of New-York, 1775–1776–1777. 2 vols. Albany, 1842. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 1:47). “Bbs.” is apparently an abbreviation for barrels.
4. GW’s determination to pursue his journey to Cambridge without undue delay undoubtedly was reinforced by the last paragraph of the letter from the Massachusetts provincial congress to the Continental Congress: “We beg leave humbly to suggest, that, if a commander in chief over the army of the United Colonies should be appointed, it must be plain to your honors, that no part of this continent can so much require his immediate presence and exertions, as this colony” (Mass. Prov. Congress Journals description begins William Lincoln, ed. The Journals of Each Provincial Congress of Massachusetts in 1774 and 1775, and of the Committee of Safety. Boston, 1838. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 365–66). GW left New York City on the afternoon of 26 June.