George Washington Papers

From George Washington to James Otis, Sr., 16 August 1775

To James Otis, Sr.

Head-Quarters, Cambridge, August 16, 1775.


Sir: I am informed that Captain Oldien, or some other person, has stopped the baggage of the officers taken at Machias, as a compensation for some expense incurred, which the General Court did not think proper to allow him. A procedure of this kind would, in my opinion, much dishonour the American arms, and be attended with very disagreeable consequences. I trust therefore, Sir, that the General Court need only to be informed of the transaction to do what is proper; and, as the prisoners are entirely under their direction, will, before they remove them to the place of their destination, give such orders in the matter as to prevent any reasonable cause of complaint.1 I am, very respectfully, Sir, your most obedient humble servant,

Go. Washington

Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 2:147.

1The name appears as “Captain Obrien” in Fitzpatrick, Writings, 3:426–27. Jeremiah O’Brien (1744–1818) of Machias, District of Maine, was one of the American leaders in the fighting which occurred at the town on 11 and 12 June 1775. See Committee of the Massachusetts Council to GW, 11 Aug. 1775, n.3. O’Brien subsequently took command of a British sloop captured in that engagement, and on 16 July he, with the aid of another American vessel commanded by Benjamin Foster, seized the British schooner Diligent and her tender Tatamagouch off Machias. O’Brien and Foster escorted the officers and sailors captured on those two vessels to Cambridge, and on 12 Aug. O’Brien submitted a bill totaling £244 12s. to the Massachusetts General Court for the expenses incurred in conveying the prisoners from Machias. He also claimed £41 1s. for his own time and expense in guarding them (Andrew Magoun Sherman, Life of Captain Jeremiah O’Brien, Machias, Maine [Morristown, N.J., 1902], 94–96). The General Court resolved on this date to pay O’Brien “One Hundred Pounds, towards his Account . . . he giving Security for the same, with one Surety to this Colony Treasurer, until he brings proper Vouchers to support said Account” (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 ., 75). The General Court also today authorized O’Brien to raise a company of fifty men and officers at Machias, and a week later it agreed to fund and supply two armed vessels under his command (ibid., 75, 96). During the next few years O’Brien made cruises with several different ships and succeeded in taking a number of prizes. He was captured by the British in 1780 and was confined in Mill Prison, England, from which he soon escaped. O’Brien returned to America and resumed his naval activities for the remainder of the war.

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