George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Hancock, 14 July 1775

To John Hancock

Camp. Cambridge July 14. 1775


Since I did myself the Honour of addressing you the 10th Instt nothing material has happened in the Camp. From some authentick & later Advices of the State of the Ministerial Troops & the great Inconvenience of calling in the Militia in the midst of Harvest, I have been induced for the present to waive it;1 but in the mean Time recruiting Parties have been sent throughout this Province to fill up the Regiments to the Establishment of the Provincial Congress.2 At the same Time that I received these Advices, I also obtained a List of the Officers of the Enemy killed and wounded in the late Battle at Charles Town which I take this Opportunity to inclose.3 The great Scarcity of fresh Provisions in their Army has led me to take every Precaution to prevent a Supply, for this Purpose I have ordered all the Cattle & Sheep to be drove from the low Grounds & Farms within their Reach4—A Detachment from General Thomas’s Camp on Wednesday Night went over to Long Island & brought from thence 20 Cattle & a Number of Sheep with about 15 Labourers who had been put on by a Mr Ray Thomas to cut the Hay &c. By some Accident they omitted burning the Hay & returned the next Day at Noon to complete it; which they effected amidst the Firing of the Shipping with the Loss of one Man killed & another wounded.5

Last Evening also a Party of the Connecticut Men stroll’d down on the Marsh at Roxbury & fired upon a Centry which drew on a heavy Fire from the Enemys Lines & floating Batteries, but attended with no other Effect than the Loss of one killed by a Shot from the Enemy’s Lines6—In the mean Time we are on both Sides continuing our Works, but there has been no other Movement than what I have noticed above. I shall endeavour to give a regular & particular Account of all Transactions as they occur which you will please to lay before the Hon. Congress. I have the Honour to be Sir, Your most Obed. & very Hbble Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Joseph Reed’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; LB, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; copy, NjMoHP; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. This letter was read in Congress on 24 July 1775 (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 , 2:203).

1For a discussion of the steps taken by the Massachusetts provincial congress to call out part of the colony’s militia as a temporary reinforcement for the Continental army, see GW to James Warren, 10 July 1775, n.2. At 9:00 p.m. on 12 July 1775, Joseph Reed wrote to James Warren: “By some late intelligence from Boston received this day of the State and Situation of the Enemy in and about Boston His Excellency the Genl is of opinion that the Reinforcement of the Militia proposed to the Congress, may [be] dispensed with at present, without any Injury to the Public Service; The Time of Harvest, the expected Troops from the Southward and the repeated Calls, which have been made of the like Nature from this Province, are strong Reasons to postpone this Measure if consistent with Safety; and as these Advices are so authentic as to deserve Confidence, the General hopes his determination will be agreeable to the Congress. You will therefore be pleased to Communicate this to them, in order, that the most early Countermand may be given to Orders if already Issued, or prevent them if they have not” (Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

2For the sending of Massachusetts officers on recruiting service, see General Orders, 10 July 1775.

3The unsigned enclosure, which is dated “Roxbury July 11th 1775,” gives ninety-two as the number of British officers who were killed or wounded at the Battle of Bunker Hill although only ninety names are listed. Some general intelligence from behind the enemy lines is also included in the enclosure: “A Gentleman who got out of Boston Monday July 10th says that the Inhabitants were numbered & amounted to 6573 The Soldiers—women & Children, to 13600–300 Tories are chosen to Patrole the Streets, 49 of a night—Very Sickley from 10 to 30 funerals in a day, & no Bells allow’d to Toll, Master [James] Lovell taken up & put in Goal, which being in consequence of Some Letters found in Doctr [Joseph] Warren’s pockets; & Master [John] Leach also, Released out of Goal, 4, Mr [Shrimpton] Hunt saying that he wish’d the Americans might kill them all, was confin’d in Goal—11 dead of the wounded prisoners at Charlestown. Collo. [Moses] Parker dead, he having declard at his last hour, if he got well he would do the same, The Officers saying Damn the Rebells that they wou’d not flinch—A Great number of floating batteries are building & 5 Transports & 3 Sloops are Sail’d for Hay & Wood to the Eastward. This Gentleman also says that the Officers & Soldiers Triumph Very much at the Death of Doctr Warren saying it is Better to them than five hundred men” (DNA:PCC, item 152).

4For the removal of livestock in the area around Chelsea, see General Orders, 13 and 15 July 1775.

5Long Island in Boston Harbor was a source of much-needed livestock and hay for the British garrison at Boston. On Tuesday evening, 11 July, Maj. Benjamin Tupper led about four hundred volunteers in a raid on the island to seize the livestock and any Loyalists that they might find. Setting off in whaleboats from Germantown on Hough’s Neck a short distance east of Braintree, the raiding party avoided the British warships in the harbor and landed on Long Island about ten o’clock in the evening. In a house and barn on the island, they found fifteen men and two or three women, who had been sent there to mow hay by Nathaniel Ray Thomas (1731–1787), a Loyalist from Marshfield who had fled to Boston after the Battle of Concord. They made prisoners of the mowers and took them to Dorchester in the whaleboats along with the captured livestock. “Our Heroes came of in triumph not being observed by their Enimies,” Abigail Adams wrote to John Adams on 16 July 1775. “This spiritted up other[s]. They could not endure the thought that the House and barn should afford them [the enemy] any shelter. They did not distroy them the night before for fear of being discoverd” (Butterfield, Adams Family Correspondence description begins Lyman H. Butterfield et al., eds. Adams Family Correspondence. 13 vols. to date. Cambridge, Mass., 1963–. description ends , 1:245–51). In a daring daylight raid on the morning of 12 July, a second American party, which consisted of 136 men commanded by Lt. Col. John Greaton, set out in ten whaleboats from Moon Island, located between Long Island and Squantum Point, to burn not only the buildings on Long Island but also the approximately seventy tons of hay that was stored there in bundles awaiting shipment to Boston. The American raiders succeeded in crossing the half-mile strait between the two islands and in setting fire to the buildings and hay but not without being detected by British warships. “A number of armed cutters immediately Surrounded the Island, [and] fired upon our Men,” Abigail Adams reported to her husband. “They came of with a hot and continued fire upon them, the Bullets flying in every direction and the Men of Wars boats plying them with small arms. Many in this Town [Braintree] who were spectators expected every moment our Men would all be sacrificed, for sometimes they were so near as to be calld to and damnd by their Enimies and orderd to surrender yet they all returnd in safty” (ibid.). See also Richard Cranch to John Adams, 24 July 1775, ibid., 258–60. The one soldier who was killed was hit by enemy fire on Moon Island while covering the retreat of the others.

6“Last night a party undertook to capture the enemy’s sentries, but did not succeed,” Samuel Bixby wrote at Roxbury on this date. “The party was discovered, & fired upon, & a smart skirmish took place. We lost one man belonging to the Connecticut forces” (“Bixby Diary,” description begins “Diary of Samuel Bixby.” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society 14 (1875–76): 285–98. description ends 290). Maj. Gen. William Heath, who was also at Roxbury, noted: “The British fired several cannon, and a Connecticut soldier was killed in the street, near the George tavern. The shot entered his body, drove it some distance, and lodged in him in a remarkable manner” (Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs description begins Rufus Rockwell Wilson, ed. Heath’s Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint. New York, 1904. description ends , 33).

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