To the Massachusetts Council
Cambridge Jany 10. 1776
In the confused & distordered state of this Army, occasioned by such Capital changes as have taken place of late, I have found it almost impossible to come at exact returns of the strength of our Lines—Not till last night was I able to get in the whole, Since the dissolution of the old Army; by these I find myself weaker than I had any Idea of, and under the necessity of requesting an exertion of your Influence & Interest to prevail upon the Militia of this Government, now in the pay of the Continent, to continue till the last of the month & longer if requisite—I am Assured that those of New Hampshire will not stay any longer than they ingaged for, notwithstanding our weak state and the Slow progress we make in recruiting, which by the last weeks report, amounts to but little more than half of our usual Compliment, owing it is said to the number of men going or expectg to goe into the Provincial Service at or near their own Homes.1
I am more & more convinced that we shall never raise the Army to the New Establishment by voluntary Inlistments, It is therefore necessary that this & the Neighbouring Governments should consider in time & adopt some other expedient for effecting it.2
The Hurry I was in the other day when your Committee did me the honour to present a petition from a person (whose name I have forgot) wanting to be employ’d in the Continenl Army prevented me from being so full on the Subject as I wished.
I shall beg leave therefore at this time to Add, that I hope Your Honourable Board will do me the Justice to beleive, that It will give me pleasure at all times to pay a proper respect to any recommendation coming from them, And that the reason why I do not now Encourage such kind of Applications as was made is That the New Army was arranged as near the plan & agreable to the Orders of Congress (Altho some unavoidable departures & Changes have taken place) as It was in my power to Comply with—And the Officers thus constituted ordered to recruit—every attempt therefore of others, not of this appointment must counteract & has been of infinite prejudice to the service—They Infuse Ideas into the minds of the men, they have any influence over that by engaging with them or which is tantamount not engaging with others, they shall be able to force themselves into the service; Of this we have numberless Instances; I am therefore anxious to discourage every attempt of the kind, by Convincg such persons that their engaging a Company will not bring them in—If such persons could once be convinced of this the business of this Army would go on more smoothly & with much more regularity & order—In short Gentlemn It is scarce possible for me to convey to you a perfect Idea of the trouble & vexation I have met with in getting this matter fixed upon some settled footing—One day an Officer wou’d serve, another he wou’d not & so on, that I have hardly known what steps to pursue for preserving of Consistency & advancing the good of the service, which are the only Objects I have in view; I have no friend I want to bring in, nor any person with whom I am the least connected that I wish to promote. I am Gent. with much esteem &c.
LB, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.
1. The completed regimental returns of the previous night showed 8,212 men enlisted in GW’s army. See GW to John Sullivan, this date. That number did not include 3,000 Massachusetts and 2,000 New Hampshire militiamen engaged to serve from 10 Dec. to 15 Jan. (see GW to the Massachusetts General Court, 29 Nov., n. 1, GW to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., 2 Dec., and note 3, GW to Hancock, 4 Dec., and the Massachusetts General Court to GW, 7 Dec. 1775, n. 1). On 8 Jan. GW informed a committee of the General Court (John Taylor, Samuel Phillips, Jr., Seth or Nathan Cushing, and Abraham Fuller) of the need to extend the service of the Massachusetts militiamen. “From the best information his Excellency could get,” the committee reported to the General Court later that day, “the New-Hampshire Militia were determined to return home after the expiration of the Time they engaged for—And he apprehended it would be necessary for the Whole of the Militia of this Colony now in Camp to remain there until the last of this Month.” On 9 Jan. the General Court “strongly recommended” to the militiamen that they “re-inlist themselves to serve in the . . . Army until the last Day of January Instant, or for such a Part of said Time as his Excellency General Washington shall require” (Mass. House of Rep. Journal, Nov. 1775–Feb. 1776 sess. description begins A Journal of the Honourable House of Representatives. At a Great and General Court or Assembly for the Colony of the Massachusetts-Bay in New-England. Boston, 1776. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records.) description ends , 123, 126, 134–35; 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 , 434, 443; a printed copy of the resolution of 9 Jan. is in DLC:GW).
2. Both houses of the General Court read GW’s letter of this date on 11 Jan. and referred it to a joint committee consisting of John Adams, Jedediah Foster, Josiah Stone, Dummer Jewett, and Eleazer Brooks. The committee recommended two days later “that a Committee of both Houses be appointed to wait on the General, and to assure him that this Court are zealously disposed to do every Thing in their Power, to promote the Recruiting of the American Army and to acquaint him, that they cannot be of opinion that the public service will be promoted, by offering a Bounty at the seperate Expence of this Colony or any other Encouragement beyond that which has been ordered by the Congress that they are still further from an opinion that, the same service can be promoted by any coercive Measures, or any other Expedients than voluntary Inlistments: But that this Court is willing if his Excellency shall approve of this Measure, to recommend, any further temporary Draughts from the Militia, that may be necessary to supply the present Deficiencies to be continued untill the first of April next, and also to exert the Influence of this Court, by recommending to the Select Men and Committees of Correspondence and others to exert themselves and employ their Influence among the People, to promote and encourage by all reasonable Methods the Recruiting service in the several Towns” (report written and signed by John Adams [photocopy], DNA: RG 93, Photocopies of State Records; see also the copy of the report in Perez Morton’s writing in DLC:GW, and the copies in “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 , 450–51, and Mass. House of Rep. Journal, Nov. 1775–Feb. 1776 sess. description begins A Journal of the Honourable House of Representatives. At a Great and General Court or Assembly for the Colony of the Massachusetts-Bay in New-England. Boston, 1776. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records.) description ends , 140). The General Court accepted the committee’s report on 15–16 Jan. and appointed John Adams, James Warren, and Joseph Hawley a committee to confer with GW about recruiting, firearms, and money (ibid., 149, 151, 153–54; resolutions of 15 and 16 Jan. appended to the committee report of 13 Jan., DNA: RG 93, Photocopies of State Records; and DLC:GW). The committee attended the council of war held in Cambridge on 16 Jan. (GW to John Adams, 15 Jan., and Council of War, 16 Jan. 1776).