George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Hancock, 20 January 1776

From John Hancock

Philadelphia January 20th 1776

Sir

In my former letter I mentioned the disagreeable news we received from Canada.1 The Congress have taken that matter under consideration and having examined Mr Antil and duly deliberated on the situation of our affairs in that quarter they have come to sundry resolutions which I have the honor to enclose.2

I would just observe that by Mr Antil’s examination it appears our loss is greater then what is set forth in the dispatches he brought, a copy of which was transmitted to you.3 Almost the whole of general Arnolds gallant detachment are taken prisoners having after four hours resistance been obliged to surrender at discretion. However we have the satisfaction to hear that the prisoners are treated with humanity.

The Congress are anxious as well from motives of policy as of justice and humanity to repair our losses in that quarter and if possible to gain possession of Quebec and drive our enemies out of that Country before they can be reinforced in the spring.

An active able general is wanted to take the command there and if such a one can be spared from the service at Cambridge it is their desire you should send one.4

The batallion from Pennsylvania and that from New Jersey will set forward the beginning of next week.5

As it is of great importance as well for the security and relief of our Friends as for confirming the wavering that speedy succours should arrive, I am directed to request you to detach from the Camp at Cambridge one batallion if the service there will permit you to spare one with orders to march with the greatest expedition possible to Canada.6

If this cannot be done you will at least use your utmost endeavours in stimulating the governor of Connecticut and the convention of New Hampshire to whom I write by this oppertunity to forward with the utmost dispatch the very first that can be raised in those colonies.7 You can easily conceive what effect the arrival of even one company will have on the minds of our Friends especially when they shall be satisfied that they will soon be followed by more.

The Colony of South Carolina has been so fortunate as to oblige Lord W. Campbell with the armed Vessel to quit their harbour.8 Being earnestly desirous of providing for their defence they have resolved to fit out some armed vessels, but not having seamen among themselves they have despatched Capn Cochran to the Northward to enlist a number of seamen for the service of that Colony.

Lest the offers he was empowered to make might prejudice the service the Congress have chalked out a plan for him to go by, as you will see in the enclosed extracts and I am directed to desire you will please to forward this service.9

Yesterday doctor Smith who made his escape from Frederic was brought to this town, He was taken at the little meadows on his way to Detroit & had with him letters from Conolly to the commanding officer there.10

I hinted to you in my former letter that the Congress were taking measures for the defence of the middle and southern Colonies. For this purpose over and above those destined for Canada they have ordered four batallions to be raised in New York, two in New Jersey, four in Pennsylvania one in the counties on Delaware, six in Virginia, three in North Carolina, three in south Carolina and one in Georgia each to consist of 728 men including officers making in the whole with those for Canada 34 batallions. I have the honour to be with the greatest Respect, Sir Your most Obedt hume servt

John Hancock President

This Express is Charg’d with a large Packett of Importance for the Colony of New Hampshire, I Request you will please to order it to that Colony by a fresh Express.11

I have Taken the Freedom to put under your Cover a Letter for Mr Cushing, respectg the Buildg Two Ships of Force, I must beg you to Send it him by a safe hand.12

Will you be so Obliging as when you Send into Boston about Mr Lovell, to suffer the Two Letters from Mr Webster to go in.13

Inclos’d is a Commission for Brigr Genl Frye.

LS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 12A. The LS is in Timothy Matlack’s writing except for the closing and postscript which are in Hancock’s writing. The letter-book copy, which is entirely in Hancock’s writing, does not include the postscript.

1See the 18 Jan. portion of Hancock to GW, 6–21 Jan. 1776.

2Edward Antill (1742–1789) arrived in Philadelphia on the evening of 17 Jan. with news of the American defeat at Quebec, and the next day Congress interviewed him for two hours. A native of New Jersey who had settled in Canada before the war, Antill served as chief engineer under Montgomery and was with the general when he was killed at Quebec. On 22 Jan. Congress appointed Antill lieutenant colonel of the 2d Canadian Regiment. He was captured on Staten Island in August 1777 and was exchanged in November 1780. Antill remained in the army until 1 Jan. 1783. The enclosed resolutions were those of 19 and 20 Jan. providing for the speedy reinforcement and supplying of the army in Canada (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 4:70–71, 73–76; see also the copy of those resolutions signed by Hancock and Charles Thomson in DLC:GW).

3Hancock apparently is referring to the documents enclosed in Schuyler’s letter to GW of 13 January.

4Congress made this request in a resolution of this date (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 4:73; see also the copy of the resolution in DLC:GW).

5Congress resolved on 8 Jan. that the 1st Pennsylvania Regiment and the 2d New Jersey Regiment “be ordered to march immediately to Albany, and there put themselves under the command of General Schuyler” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 4:39–40).

6See the resolution of 19 Jan., ibid., 70–71. A copy of the resolution is in DLC:GW.

7The letter-book copy reads “the very first Companies.” For Hancock’s letters of this date to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., and the New Hampshire convention, see Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 3:119–20 and note 1.

8Lord William Campbell (c.1732–1778), royal governor of South Carolina, took refuge on a warship in Charleston Harbor during September 1775. He sailed from the harbor on 10 Jan. after the South Carolinians occupied several fortified positions that threatened his anchorage. A former naval officer, Campbell served as a volunteer in Gen. Henry Clinton’s unsuccessful attack on Charleston in June 1776 and was wounded in the action at Sullivan’s Island. He returned to England in December 1776 and died there in September 1778, possibly from the effects of his wound.

9Robert Cochran (1735–1824), a native of Boston who had moved to Charleston some years earlier, was ordered by the South Carolina council of safety on 31 Dec. 1775 to recruit as many as five hundred seamen in New England for service in South Carolina. See the council’s minutes for that date in Clark, Naval Documents description begins William Bell Clark et al., eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 11 vols. to date. Washington, D.C., 1964–. description ends , 3:325–29. The plan that Congress stipulated for Cochran in a resolution of 19 Jan. was “that he offer to each able bodied seaman the wages of eight dollars per month, and that he pay to them upon inlisting nine dollars bounty, and, upon their arrival in South Carolina, the farther bounty of five dollars.” Congress instructed Cochran to “repair immediately to the camp at Cambridge, and take the advice and direction of General Washington on this affair, and proceed to inlist his seamen in such parts of the country as will be the least prejudicial to the continental service” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 4:67–68; see also the copy of this resolution in DLC:GW). For GW’s response, see GW to Hancock, 30–31 Jan. 1776. On 16 Feb. the Massachusetts General Court gave Cochran permission to recruit a maximum of 300 men in that colony (Clark, Naval Documents description begins William Bell Clark et al., eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 11 vols. to date. Washington, D.C., 1964–. description ends , 3:1316–17).

10John Ferdinand Dalziel Smyth escaped from confinement at Frederick, Md., on 30 Dec. 1775 and was recaptured on the Youghiogheny River in western Pennsylvania on 12 Jan. 1776 (see Smyth, Tour description begins J. F. D. Smyth. A Tour in the United States of America: containing An Account of the Present Situation of that Country; The Population, Agriculture, Commerce, Customs, and Manners of the Inhabitants; Anecdotes of several Members of the Congress, and General Officers in the American Army; and Many other very singular and interesting Occurrences . . .. 2 vols. London, 1784. description ends , 2:259–69). Smyth escaped again in January 1777 and succeeded in reaching the British lines.

11See Hancock to the New Hampshire convention and Josiah Bartlett to the New Hampshire Committee of Safety, both this date, in Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 3:117–20.

12Thomas Cushing (1725–1788), one of the Massachusetts delegates, left Philadelphia on 2 Jan. and arrived at Cambridge on 15 January. He did not again serve in Congress but took a seat on the Massachusetts council. For Cushing’s efforts to build two vessels for the Continental service, see Cushing to Hancock, 20 Jan. 1776, in Clark, Naval Documents description begins William Bell Clark et al., eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 11 vols. to date. Washington, D.C., 1964–. description ends , 3:875, and Hancock to Cushing, 1, 13, 16 Feb., 6, 7 Mar., 3 April 1776, in Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 3:182–83, 243–45, 263–64, 340–41, 348–50, 483–84.

13Pelatiah Webster (1726–1795) was a prominent merchant in Philadelphia who during the war years published a number of notable essays on public finance. For the efforts to exchange James Lovell, see Hancock to GW, 6–21 Jan., n. 1, GW to William Howe, 30 Jan., and Howe to GW, 2 Feb. 1776.

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