George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Massachusetts General Court, 6 October 1775

To the Massachusetts General Court

Head Quarters [Cambridge] Octob. 6. 1775.

Gentlemen

On the 29th August I did myself the Honour of addressing you on the Complaint of the Quarter Master respecting Wood for the Army—The Recess of the House of Representatives prevented any Steps being taken upon it: I must now beg Leave to recall your Attention to my Letter of that Date as the Evil is increasing & more alarming as the Winter approaches. Little or no Wood is brought in & it is apprehended the Owners keep it back to impose an unreasonable Price.1

The Communication at Winnisimet Ferry which was opened for the Relief of the unhappy Sufferers at Boston, is now turned into a Convenience for the Enemy. A whole Week has some Times elapsed without a Boat being permitted to com⟨e⟩ out; & there have been many Irregularities there which the Distance & my other Engagements have prevented my attending to—Before I gave any Orders upon the Subject I thought proper to communicate my Intentions to you, that if there were any special Reasons against the proposed Alteration you may have an Oppy of making me acquainted with them.2

By an Estimate laid before me by the Quarter Master General I find it will be impracticable to provide sufficient Barracks for the Troops before the Season is too far advanced without appropriating many of the Houses in & about Cambridge to this Use.3 Many of the Inhabitants who had deserted them are now returning under the Protection of the Army: I feel a great Repugnance to exclude them from what is their own, but Necessity in this Case I fear will supersede all other Considerations—I must beg the General Court to act upon it. I am most respectfully Gentlemen Your most Obed. Hbble Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Joseph Reed’s writing, M-Ar: Revolution Letters; LB, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The LS is addressed “to the Presidt of the Council of Massachusett’s Bay to be communicated to the Honorable House of Representatives.”

1The house of representatives read this letter and the one of 29 Aug. during this afternoon and referred them to a joint committee of the house and council. The council concurred the next day. The orders appointing the seven members of the joint committee, signed by William Cooper, speaker pro tem of the house, and Perez Morton, deputy secretary of the council, appear on the last page of GW’s letter of this date. See also Mass. House of Rep. Journal 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 , July–Nov. 1775 sess., 145, and “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 , 213. Several weeks passed before the General Court acted to remedy the shortage of firewood. On 3 and 4 Nov. the house and council appointed a committee to assist the quartermaster general in obtaining hay and wood for the army and authorized the committee to spend up to £2,000 to purchase either cut wood or standing trees. The committee was also empowered to “enter the Woodlands of such of Our Enemy’s as have fled into Boston, and after having apprized the Wood thereon standing or so much of it as they shall think necessary to take, that they apply to Genl Washington for Ax Men, or otherwise cause the same to be Cutt and transported to the Camp” (copy of resolution, DLC:GW; see also Mass. House of Rep. Journal 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 , July–Nov. 1775 sess., 229–30; “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 , 284–85; and James Warren to John Adams, 5 Nov. 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 , 3:280–85).

2Fearing that the refugees coming from Boston to Chelsea by the Winnisimmet ferry might spread smallpox through the countryside if not better controlled, the General Court resolved on the afternoon of 5 Oct. “that the Committee appointed to Attend at Chelsea, be ordered to retire, & give no further attendance, and that no Boats pass and repass that Ferry from and to Boston. And whenever it shall appear to this Court, that General Gage is disposed to Comply with his Engagements for a general liberation of the Inhabitants of Boston & their Effects, this Court will be ready to receive and make suitable Provission for said Inhabitants” (copy of resolution, DLC:GW; see also Mass. House of Rep. Journal 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 , July–Nov. 1775 sess., 141; “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 , 208). On 22 Oct. Joseph Reed wrote to Loammi Baldwin: “It is the General’s express Order that no more Boats come over to Winnisimet or that Shore where you command from Boston: If you have not already apprized the Boatmen of this Order you are to do it the first opportunity & in Case they persist after being warned to the Contrary you are to fire upon them. Should a Boat come out with Mrs Fenton you are to permit her & such Passengers as come with her to land & then give them the above Caution: But this Boat is to be the last till farther Orders” (DLC:GW).

3See Thomas Mifflin’s estimate of the cost of building barracks, dated 5 Oct., printed as Enclosure II in GW to Hancock, 12 Oct. 1775.

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