George Washington Papers

Council of War, 18 January 1776

Council of War

[Cambridge, 18 January 1776]

At a Council of War, held at Head Quarters in Cambridge Jany 18 1776

Present His Excellency General Washington

  • The Honble John Adams, Member of the Honble the Continental Congress
  • Major General Ward1
  • Majr General Putnam
  • Brigadier General Heath
  • Brigadier General Spencer
  • Brigadier General Sulivan
  • Brigadier General Greene
  • Brigadier General Gates

His Excellency the Commander in Chief laid before the Council, Letters received last night from Majr Genl Schuyler, inclosing copies of Letters from Brigadier General Worcester Colonel Arnold, & Colo. Donald Campbell, containing the melancholy account of the death of General Montgomery the wounding Colo. Arnold, & the consequent failure of the Success of the Assault upon the City of Quebec on the 31st Decr last.2 His Excellency then requested the opinion of the Council whether it be proper in the present Circumstances of the Lines, to detach a reinforcement from hence, to the Succour of the Troops in Canada.

The Question being put, It was resolved, that in the present feeble state of the Regiments here, It was improper to detach any force from these Lines to Quebec or Canada.

The General then asked whether in the present critical situation of Affairs in Canada, he should in their opinion stand justified in requesting in behalf of the Continent, a supply of Troops from the New England Governments, which was unanimously resolved3 in the Affirmative—The Council then unanimously advised his Excellency the General immediately to apply to the Legislature of each of the above mentioned Colonies4 forthwith to raise a Regiment of 728 Men officers included & direct them to march with all possible expedition, by the Rout prescribed by Majr General Schuyler to Canada to be continued untill the first of January next, as part of the Continental Army: should the Affairs of the Continent require it.5

His Excellency then demanded the opinion of the Council, whether Ten Regiments of Militia of 728 Men each, Officers included, to be added to the Troops now in the lines & expected to be Inlisted, would not be a sufficient number to answer all the purposes of Offence & defence ordered and intended against the ministerial Army in Boston.

Resolved unanimously that as matters are at present circumstanced it is best that three Regiments intended for Canada, should be taken out of the thirteen which have been requested to reinforce the Army in these Lines, and that Ten Regiments only be marched to Cambridge to serve untill the first of April next.6

The Council were unanimously of opinion, that in the present Situation of the Affairs of the Colony of Rhode Island, continually subject & exposed to the Attack of the ministerial Fleet & detached Bodies of Troops; It was neither prudent, nor reasonable to demand any more Troops from thence.

A True Copy Attest

Perez Morton Dy Secry

D, in Perez Morton’s writing, DLC:GW; copy, in Thomas Mifflin’s writing, enclosed in GW to Hancock, 19 Jan. 1776, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy (photocopy), in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DNA: RG 93, Photocopies of State Records; LB, Ct: Trumbull Papers; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; copy, NjMoHP; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1Robert Hanson Harrison wrote to Artemas Ward the previous evening, requesting him, Joseph Spencer, and John Thomas to be at GW’s headquarters by 10:00 this morning for the council of war (MHi: Ward Papers). Thomas did not attend this council or the one of 16 January.

3Morton inadvertently wrote “resolved” in the manuscript.

4The Mifflin copy in PCC, item 152, includes above the line here the words “R: Island excepted.” The Trumbull letter-book copy reads “except Rhode Island.”

6For the requesting of the thirteen militia regiments, see Council of War, 16 Jan. 1776.

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