George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Richard Henry Lee, 29 June 1775

From Richard Henry Lee

Philadelphia 29th June 1775

Dear Sir,

Nothing material has occurred since you left this place, except the imperfect accounts we have of the Charlestown battle, which upon the whole seems to have nothing unfavorable to our great cause, but the loss of Dr Warren—To an infant Country, it is loss indeed, to be deprived of wise, virtuous, and brave Citizens. I hope however, still to hear, that our Enemies have lost Characters very useful to them. We received the account of this engagement late on Saturday evening last, and a few of us immediately applied to, and prevailed with the Committee of this City, to dispatch 90 odd quarter Casks of powder to the Camp, which I hope will arrive safe and in good time.1

We are this day informed in Congress that the six Nations and Canada Indians are firmly disposed to observe a strict nieutrality, and I think we shall endeavor to cultivate their friendship.2 The Congress has been engaged these two days about the mutiny and military regulations, and at last we shall adopt those of Massachusetts with very few alterations.3 You will see that we have again taken up the business of entering Canada, and have left the propriety of it to Gener. Schuyler. If it can be done, in a manner agreeable to the Canadians, it will certainly shut the door against dangerous tampering with the Indians on all our Western frontiers.4 Nothing has yet been done about a Military Hospital, and I suppose we shall wait for your return of the state of the Army—Dr Shippen says that three young Gentlemen here, perfectly compitent, will be ready when called on, to se[r]ve in the capacity of Surgeons.5 I have only to assure you, that it will always make me happy to hear from you, and that I am, with great regard, dear Sir, Your Affect. and obedient servant

Richard Henry Lee

ALS, DLC:GW. The cover includes the notation “favored by General Gates.”

Richard Henry Lee (1732–1794) of Westmoreland County, Va., was first elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1758, the same year that GW first became a burgess, and the two men subsequently served together not only in that body but also in the first two Virginia conventions and both Continental Congresses. A son of one of Virginia’s oldest and proudest families, Lee bitterly resented Parliament’s encroachments on colonial rights. During the Stamp Act crisis, he emerged as a leading defender of those rights and began a lifelong political alliance with Patrick Henry, whose stirring oratory he complemented with his own considerable oratorical skills. In the Continental Congress Lee became deeply involved with the problems of confederation and diplomacy. Poor health caused him to give up his seat in 1779, but he later regained political prominence as an Antifederalist.

1Although the Continental Congress received a brief report about the Battle of Bunker Hill on 22 June, it did not learn of Dr. Joseph Warren’s death on the battlefield until 11:00 p.m. on Saturday, 24 June, at which time, John Adams said, “an hundred Gentlemen flocked to our Lodgings to hear the News. At one O Clock Mr. H[ancock] Mr. [Samuel] A[dams] and myself, went out to enquire after the Committee of this City, in order to beg some Powder. We found Some of them, and these with great Politeness, and Sympathy for their brave Brethren in the Mass. agreed, to go that night and send forward about Ninety Quarter Casks, and before Morning it was in Motion” (Adams to James Warren, 27 June 1775, in 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 , 3:49–51).

2This favorable intelligence apparently was contained in several letters and speeches from the chiefs of the Stockbridge Indians that were read in Congress on this date (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 , 2:110–11). The delegates, nevertheless, had reason to apprehend that the northern tribes might not be steadfast in their neutrality, for other reports indicated that royal officials were already meeting with some success in their efforts to turn the Indians in New York and Canada against the Patriots. See GW to Schuyler, 25 June 1775, n.4, and Hancock to GW, 28 June 1775, n.1. With those other reports in mind, Congress resolved on 1 July that if any Indians were induced “to commit actual hostilities against these colonies, or to enter into an offensive Alliance with the British troops,” the colonies should retaliate by making alliances “with such Indian Nations as will enter into the same, to oppose such British troops and their Indian Allies” (ibid., 2:123). For the American efforts to persuade the northern Indians to remain neutral, see in particular GW to Schuyler, 20 Aug. 1775, and Schuyler to GW, 27 Aug. 1775.

3GW was appointed on 14 June to the committee that was charged with drafting “Rules and regulations for the government of the army,” and he apparently attended at least one meeting of that committee before leaving Congress. Those rules and regulations, or articles of war as they are usually called, were finally approved by Congress on 30 June (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 , 2:90, 111–23 Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 3:336). For the articles of war adopted by the Massachusetts provincial congress on 5 April 1775 for the use of that colony’s troops, see 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 , 120–29. The Continental articles of war include an additional sixteen articles relating to furloughs, musters and returns, sutlers, pardons, the personal effects of deceased officers and enlisted men, and the signing of the articles by all members of the army. The Continental articles also define more specifically the punishments imposed by court-martials than do the Massachusetts articles.

4For Congress’s instructions to Schuyler regarding Canada, see Hancock to GW, 28 June 1775, n.1.

5On 19 July Congress appointed a committee “to report the method of establishing an hospital,” and eight days later it approved the creation of “an hospital for an army, consisting of 20,000 men” (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 , 2:191, 209–11). William Shippen, Jr. (1736–1808), professor of anatomy in the medical school of the College of Philadelphia, was Richard Henry Lee’s brother-in-law. GW visited Shippen’s house on several occasions while attending the First and Second Continental Congresses (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 3:274–75, 284, 329–30). Shippen was appointed in July 1776 to be chief physician for the militia units from Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland that were formed into a flying camp, and November 1776 he assumed responsibility for the Continental army’s sick and wounded west of the Hudson River. He became director general of all Continental army hospitals in April 1777. The three young surgeons may be those who were at Cambridge in early August. See GW to Committee of the Massachusetts Council, 4 Aug. 1775.

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