To the Massachusetts General Court
Cambridge 29 Decr 1775
Having never considered the four Independant Companies, which have been doing duty at Braintree, Weymouth & Hingham in the same point of view, as the rest of the army, Altho some Orders may have gone to or for them, Thro the hurry of business, nor Included them in my returns to Congress, according to the Brigade Majors report from Roxbury, I do not think myself Authorized to direct pay for them, without first laying the matter before Congress, which I shall do by inclosing an exact Transcript of your representation of the case, with this Single remark, that as they were not Regimented, & were doing duty at some distance from these Camps, I did not know whether to consider them as part of the Continental Army, & therefore had not Ordered them payment heretofore.1
With respect to the other requisition contained in your Resolve of the 20, I do not think myself at liberty to Extend the Guards of this Camp beyond Squantum & Chelsea, both fit places for Observation—This was my sentiment of the matter, when the Committee did me the honour to call yesterday, But as It appeared to be of some importance to this Government, I did not care to determine upon it without asking the opinion of some of the principal Officers in this Army, whose sentiments I am happy to find, coincide with my own.2
This might be assigned as one, among other reasons to shew, that I did not consider these four Companies as part of the Continental Troops, That there were times in the course of the past summer when I should not have Suffered them to have remained at the places they were posted, If I had conceived myself vested with power to have withdrawn them.
I would not have It inferred from hence that I do not think it my duty & with the greatest chearfulness shall Undertake to March Troops, If these lines are not to be exposd by it, to any place in this or the Neighbouring Governments, to oppose an Invasion; But whilst the body of the ministerial Troops continue in Boston, and the circumstances of this army remain as they are, It must be my first Object to Guard these Lines. I am with great respect Gentn &c.
LB, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.
1. The Massachusetts council wrote to GW about this matter on 30 Oct., and on 26 Dec. the General Court approved the following representation: “The Committee of both Houses ‘appointed to wait on, & represent to his Excellency Genl Washington, the circumstances of four Companies now doing duty in the Towns of Braintree, Weymouth and Hingham—setting forth, by whose Order they were raised—That they were then considered as part of the 13600 Men agreed to be inlisted by this Colony—Where they have done duty &c.—And to request that his Excellency would order them to be paid by the United Colonies,’ beg leave to represent; That as the propriety of such an Order, depends upon various circumstances; and as many important matters are constantly soliciting his Excellencys attention, the Comtee report the following state of Facts, to be laid before him, so that he may be the better enabled to answer the Request of this Court.
“Upon application from the Towns aforesaid (as also from those of Chelsea & Malden) on or about the first of May last, to the Comtee of Safety of this Colony, who then had the direction of raising & Stationing the forces within the same, praying that they wou’d (from a consideration of the Situation of said Towns, and that the Enemy could land in any of them, from Boston Harbour, within an hour after they enter their Boats, and in some parts, in less than half an hour; and also that they could from thence easily penetrate into the Country) Order a Detachment from the Camps, as a Guard, to be stationed in these Towns. The said Committee of Safety, with the Council of War, after full enquiry & deliberation determined, that it was necessary that a party should be constantly Stationed on the Sea Coasts of these Towns to watch the motions of the Enemy, and prevent their landing. But as no Troops could well be spared at that time, from either of the Camps of Cambridge or Roxbury, they directed that there shou’d immediately be raised, one Company in Hingham, one in Weymouth, and two in Braintree (also two at Chelsea & Malden) and that these Companies should be joined to such Regiments in future, as should be directed. The Men were raised as Ordered, and were then, and ever have been consider’d as part of the 13600 Men to be raised by this Colony: They were so considered by the Genl Officers, and have been employed in such Services, place and places, as the Commanding Officer at Roxbury, hath from time to time directed, as will appear by his Orders to the several Captains of said Companies, some Copies of which accompany this representation. A Company from Roxbury was, as soon as the State of that Camp would admit of it, detached to the Assistance of these four Companies, and upon their being Order’d back in August last two other Companies, also part of the Continental Army, were sent to supply their place, and the place of a Company drawn from Cohasset, a Town adjoining to Hingham. When these four Companies were raised, this Colony had it not in contemplation to raise Men for the general defence of the Sea Coasts; and they never have been considerd by us, in any other point of view, than as part of our quota for the common defence; and being Stationed far within the narrow limits of the Harbour of Boston, his Excellency will undoubtedly from all these Considerations, grant the reasonable request of this Court, and order these Forces to be paid by the United Colonies” (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 , Nov. 1775–Feb. 1776 sess., 77–79; “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 , 397–99. GW enclosed a copy of this representation in his letter to Hancock of 31 Dec. 1775.
2. On 20 Dec. the council appointed Benjamin Lincoln to a committee to wait on GW “and desire him, that he would inform this Court to what Limits he will extend his Guards,” and on 25 Dec. the house of representatives added James Warren and Nathan or Seth Cushing to the committee (DLC:GW; see also “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 , 385; 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 , Nov. 1775–Feb. 1776 sess., 63, 73. This committee also delivered the representation concerning the companies at Braintree, Weymouth, and Hingham.