George Washington Papers

Council of War, 9 July 1775

Council of War

[Cambridge, 9 July 1775]

At a Council of War held at Head Quarters Cambridge July 9th 1775.

Present His Excelly General Washington

M. Generals Ward B. Genls Thomas
Lee Heath
Putman Greene1

The General laid before the Council a Letter from Mr Warren President of the Congress of Massachusetts Bay inclosing a Letter from Mr Gerry of Marblhead dated July 8th.2

1. A Question was proposed & considered viz. What is the Numbr of the Enemy in & near Boston, including the Troops formerly & lately arrived, & there expected, the Tories who may take Arms, such Sailors as may be spared from the Fleet & the Negroes—Upon which it was agreed, that from the best Intelligence the Force on the Side of the Enemy now amounts to about Eleven thousand, five hundred Men.3

2d A Question was proposed, & considerd whether it is expedient to keep & defend the Posts at present occupied, or to retire farther back into the Country: Upon which it was unanimously determd that the publick Service requires the Defence of the present Posts.4

3. A Question was proposed what Number of Troops may be necessary for the present Service in & near Boston to defend the Posts now occupied against the Force supposed to be employed against us. Upon which it was agreed that the Army for the above Purpose ought to consist of at least 22,000 Men.

4. As by the Returns now made the Number of effective Men is far short of the above Estimate a Question was made in what Manner the Deficiency shall be supplied5 And it was agreed that the same ought to be done by sending an Officer from each Company of the Forces raised in Massachusetts Bay to recruit the Regiments to which they respectively belong, to the Establishment fixed by the provincial Congress; The Colonies of Rhode Island & Connecticut being already engaged in recruiting;6 And that in the mean Time his Excelly the General do apply to the provincial Congress of this Province for their Assistance in procuring a temporary Reinforcement; subject to the same military Rules as the Army now raised; Inasmuch as the present Extent of Lines & the great Probability of an early Attack render such Reinforcement indispensably necessary.7

5. As the Events of War are uncertain & a Want of a proper Rendezvous might in Case of any Misfortune occasion a Dissolution of the whole Army, it was proposed to appoint a proper Place for this Purpose in Case our present Situation should not be tenable.

Nemine Contradicente. N.C. Agreed that the Welch Mountains near Cambridge & in the Rear of the Roxbury Lines is a suitable Place.8

6. A Question was proposed whether it is expedient to take Possession of Dorchester Point or to oppose the Enemy if they should attempt to possess it.

Unanimously Agreed in the Negative as to both.9

7. N.B. That 10 Horses with Bridles & Saddles be provided in order to carry Intelligence from the Out Posts & Camps.10

8. That a Beacon be erected on Blue Hill.11

D, in Joseph Reed’s writing, DLC:GW; copy, in Joseph Reed’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DNA: RG 93, Miscellaneous Numbered Records (“Manuscript File”), 1775–84; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The copy in PCC, which was enclosed in GW’s letter to Hancock of 10–11 July 1775, does not include decisions number seven and eight. The copy in RG 93 omits decision number eight. An extract containing only decisions number three and four was enclosed in GW’s letter to James Warren of 10 July 1775 (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 , 482–83, n.1).

1Nathanael Greene (1742–1786), commander of the Rhode Island forces, was one of the eight brigadier generals appointed by the Continental Congress on 22 June. He became a major general in August 1776 and rendered invaluable service to the American cause as Continental quartermaster general from 1778 to 1780 and as commander of the Southern army from 1780 to 1783.

2Neither letter has been found.

3Transport ships carrying four regiments of reinforcements from Ireland arrived at Boston at various times between 22 June and 19 July 1775, bringing the strength of the British regular forces in the town to about six thousand men fit for duty and about fourteen hundred sick or wounded. See also Schuyler to GW, 1 July 1775, n.3.

4GW expressed his personal views on this question in his letter to Richard Henry Lee of 10 July 1775.

5The returns showed that the American army outside Boston consisted of about sixteen thousand men, of whom about fourteen thousand were fit for duty. See GW to Richard Henry Lee, 10 July 1775.

6GW instructed the Massachusetts colonels to send out recruiting officers in General Orders, 10 July 1775. The authorized strength of each Massachusetts regiment was 590 men. Nathanael Greene wrote to Deputy Gov. Nicholas Cooke of Rhode Island on 9 July: “A General Council of War was held to Day at Cambridge, at the close of which his Excellency General Washington, directed me to acquaint you, that he thinks it necessary that the recruits be forwarded as Soon as possible, and What Tents are made or can be got made be forwarded as Soon as may be, The Captains or one of the Subbalterns come forward with the recruits of each Company. I am informed by his Excellency that the expense is to be a Continental expence, this you may be assured off—And as every Government will receive pay for the number of Troops they send I hope the People will enlist chearfully” (Jones, “Cooke Correspondence,” description begins Matt B. Jones, ed. “Revolutionary Correspondence of Governor Nicholas Cooke, 1775–1781.” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, n.s., 36 (1926): 231–353. description ends 255).

7GW wrote to James Warren about these reinforcements on 10 July 1775. See especially note 2.

8In his first version of this paragraph, Reed wrote that the Welch Mountains lay “about 5 Miles from Cambridge,” but in a second version written at the end of the draft, he changed the wording to “near Cambridge.” The Welch Mountains were probably the hills at Newton, Massachusetts.

9Reed also rewrote this paragraph at the end of the draft. In his first version the two questions involved were rendered as separate items, numbered six and seven.

10GW requested these horses from the Massachusetts provincial congress in his letter to James Warren of 10 July 1775.

11The Great Blue Hill, located a short distance south of Milton, has an elevation of 635 feet, providing a view of the entire Boston area.

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