George Washington Papers

From George Washington to James Warren, 30 July 1775

To James Warren

Camp at Cambridge July [30] 1775


I have Consider’d the Application made me yesterday, from the General Court, with all the Attention due to the Situation of the People in whose Behalf it is made, & the Respect due to such a Recommendation1—Upon refering to my Instructions & Consulting with those Members of Congress who are present as well as the General Officers, they all agree that it would not be consistent with my duty to detach any Part of the Army now here on any Particular Provincial Service. It has been debated in Congress and Settled that the Militia or other Internal Strength of each Province is to be applied for Defence against those Small and Particular Depredations which were to be expected, & to which they were Supposed to be competent.2 This will appear the more Proper, when it is considerd that every Town & indeed every Part of our Sea Coast which is exposed to these Depredations would have an equal Claim upon this Army: It is the Misfortune of our Situation which exposes us to these Ravages, against which in my Judgment no such Temporary Relief would possibly secure us—The great Advantage the Enemy has of transporting Troops by being Masters of the Sea will enable them to harrass us by Diversions of this kind; & Should we be tempted to pursue them upon every Alarm, The Army must either be so weaken’d as to Expose it to Destruction or a great Part of the Coast be Still left unprotected: Nor indeed does it appear to me that such a Pursuit would be attended with the least Effect: The first Notice of Such an Incursion would be it’s actual Exicutio⟨n⟩ & long before any Troops could reach the Scene of Action—the Enemy would have an Oppy to accomplish their Purpose & retire—It would give me great Pleasure to have it in my Power to extend Protection & Safety to every Individual, but the Wisdom of the General Court will anticipate me in the Necessity of Conducting our Operations on a General and impartial Scale, so as to exclude any first Cause of Complaint & Jealousy.

I beg Sir you will do me the Honour to Communicate these Sentiments to the General Court & to apologize for my involuntary Delay. As we were alarm’d this Morning by the Enemy & my Time taken up with giving the Necessary Directions.3

I shall be happy in every Oppy of Shewing my very great Respect & Regard for the General Court of Massachusetts Bay—And am Sir Your most Obedt & very hume Servt


LB, in Thomas Mifflin’s writing, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; copy, NjMoHP; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The copy in PCC, item 152, was enclosed in GW to Hancock, 4–5 Aug. 1775. Although all of the manuscript copies of this letter are dated 31 July 1775, internal evidence indicates that it was written on 30 July. The General Court’s application of “yesterday” was that of 29 July (see note 1), and the alarm of “this Morning” was apparently that of 30 July (see note 3), although there was another alarm on 31 July.

1A committee consisting of Benjamin Church, Benjamin Woodbridge, and Dummer Sewall from the house of representatives and James Otis and William Sever from the council called on GW on 29 July to “inform him of the distress’d Situation of the Inhabitants of the Eastern Parts of this Colony, and know of him, if he can, consistent with his Instructions, and the general Service, order a Detachment there, to prevent the Enemy from Ravaging the Country, and Plundering the Inhabitants of their Cattle, Sheep, Wood, &c. to supply themselves” (Mass. House of Rep. Journal, July–Nov. 1775 sess. description begins A Journal of the Honorable House of Representatives of the Colony of the Massachusetts-Bay in New-England. Watertown, Mass., 1775. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 24). The committee reported verbally to the council later in the day that GW “gave them for answer that it was the expectation of the Congress that each Colony should defend their own Sea coast at their own proper expense” (“Mass. Council Journal,” July 1775–Feb. 1776 sess. description begins In Journals, Minutes, and Proceedings, State of Massachusetts Bay, 1775–1780. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records.) description ends , 16–17). GW’s letter of this date was read in both houses of the General Court on 31 July.

2In a resolution of 18 July Congress recommended forming both regular companies of militia and companies of minutemen for local defense and urged “that each colony, at their own expence, make such provision by armed vessels or otherwise, as their respective assemblies, conventions, or committees of safety shall judge expedient and suitable to their circumstances and situations, for the protection of their harbours and navigation on their sea coasts, against all unlawful invasions, attacks, and depredations, from cutters and ships of war” (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 , 2:187–90).

3Lt. Paul Lunt of Col. Moses Little’s Massachusetts regiment wrote in his journal for 30 July, that “Last night, twelve o’clock, a party of General Washington’s Riflemen crept within the Regulars’ sentries, but being discovered were fired upon, which occasioned a skirmish between them and the Regulars’ main guard. . . . Between the hours of twelve and one o’clock we had an alarm, and we were all paraded, and there was an immediate cry for volunteers to follow such officers as would head them, when all our company marched out to follow the officers wherever they went, and some part of every company in the regiment. We marched up into the fort, and were ordered [to] ground our arms and wait for orders: the alarm was occasioned by the Regulars intrenching upon Charlestown Common. The intent of the volunteers was to go down and beat them off, but upon further consideration the generals thought it not prudent to proceed, they being under cover of their cannon upon Bunker’s Hill and the floating batteries and the ships. The generals ordered us to return, and be ready at a moment’s warning” (“Lunt’s Book,” description begins “Paul Lunt’s Book.” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society 12 (1871–73): 192–207. description ends 196). For a brief account of the night’s events by GW, see GW to Hancock, 4–5 Aug. 1775.

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