George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Portsmouth Committee of Safety, 19 October 1775

From the Portsmouth Committee of Safety

Portsmo. [N.H.]
19th October 1775

May it please your Excellency

We beg leave to acquaint you that an Express is just arrived here from Falmouth Casco bay informing us that on Monday last1 came in there the Canso armed Ship Capt. Mouat together with a Schooner mounting 14 Guns a large Transport & two Sloops all full of Men, that they lay at the mouth of the Harbour till Tuesday following making Signals for some Person to come off to them which being taken no notice of by the Town, they weighed their Anchors & came up and lay between the Ferryways & Papudeck2 from whence they sent on Shore a Message acquainting the Inhabitants that they had orders to fire upon the Town In consequence of this Message a Committee went on board Capt. Mouat to whom he shewed his orders from the Admiral which were that in case the Inhabitants did not forthwith deliver up their Arms and give Hostages for their future good behavior he was to destroy that Town & afterward proceed & destroy this Capt. Mouat however acquainted the Comee that in case they would deliver up part of their Arms that night he would give them till next Morning to consider of his requisition they accordingly sent on board 8 Musquets that Evening, At half after eight Yesterday this Express came away & heard a heavy firing all day afterward which began precisely at nine o Clock.3

We intreat your Excellency’s Patience, while we assure you, that the People of this Province, and of this Town in particular, have exerted every Nerve to put this Port in a proper state of defense, but that all our precautions are to no effect, for want of a sufficient quantity of Powder, our whole Stock of which at present is only Seventeen Barrells. We have therefore dispatched Mr Duing, who has orders To wait on Your Excellency before he sleeps, to request the favor of your Excellency, to spare us as much Powder, as you may think proper.4 I am very respectfully By order of the Comee of Safety Sir Your Excellency’s most obedient humble Servant

H. Wentworth, Chairman


116 October.

2Purpooduck Point (now Spring Point) is near the mouth of Portland Harbor.

3For accounts of the attack on the town of Falmouth (now Portland, Me.), see Reuben Fogg to GW, 20 Oct., and Deposition of Pearson Jones, 24 Oct., printed as an enclosure in GW to Hancock, 24 Oct. 1775. Lt. Henry Mowat of the Royal Navy commanded the armed ship Canceaux. For Mowat’s orders from Vice Admiral Samuel Graves, 6 Oct. 1775, see Clark, Naval Documents, 2:324–26 description begins William Bell Clark et al., eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 11 vols. to date. Washington, D.C., 1964–. description ends .

4Horatio Gates replied to the Portsmouth committee of safety on 20 Oct.: “The General is deeply Affected with the distress, the Savage Barbarity of The Enemy, has in all probability brought upon the Town, and unhappy Inhabitants of Falmo.—he cannot but most feelingly participate with them in their Misery; and is Grieved to the Soul, it is not in his Power immediately to Comply with your Demand, you may believe Sir, your request would without delay have been complied with, had the State of the Magazine here, made that Compliance in any degree possible. . . . P.S. The General is so busily engaged with a Committee from the Continental Congress, & the Governors of the Adjacent Colonies, that he cannot as he wished write to you himself” (DLC:GW). For GW’s sending of Gen. John Sullivan and a small party of riflemen to assist with the defense of Portsmouth, see GW to Hancock, 24 Oct., and Sullivan to GW, 29 Oct. 1775.

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