George Washington Papers

General Orders, 6 March 1776

General Orders

Head Quarters, Cambridge, March 6th 1776

Parole Letchmore.Countersign Putnam

Stephen Moylan & William Palfrey Esqrs. are appointed Aids-De-Camp, to his Excellency the Commander in Chief; they are to be obeyed as such.

Thursday the seventh Instant, being set apart by the Honorable the Legislature of this province, as a day of fasting, prayer, and humiliation, “to implore the Lord, and Giver of all victory, to pardon our manifold sins and wickedness’s, and that it would please him to bless the Continental Arms, with his divine favour and protection”—All Officers, and Soldiers, are strictly enjoined to pay all due reverance, and attention on that day, to the sacred duties due to the Lord of hosts, for his mercies already received, and for those blessings, which our Holiness and Uprightness of life can alone encourage us to hope through his mercy to obtain.1

The Brigadiers General Heath and Frye, to send for their respective Colonels immediately, and with them appoint the Officers, & Soldiers, from each of their brigades, to be selected for the command under the Brigadiers General Sullivan and Green, to direct that they be the best and most approved Soldiers; that their Arms, Ammunition and Accoutrements, are compleat and in proper order, and the whole to be ready to turn out upon the shortest notice.2 Genl Heath to report the names of the Colonels and Field Officers, who are appointed for this service, to His Excellency, as soon as possible.

Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

Horatio Gates communicated GW’s orders to Gen. Artemas Ward at Roxbury in a letter of this date. “His Excellency,” Gates wrote to Ward, “has Order’d the Bearers Capts. [ ] with Two more Companies of Colonel Thompsons Riffle Regiment to Join your Command; & desires you will direct Capt. [Robert] Cluggage with The Two Companies He march’d from hence [to] Return to Cambridge—As it will be Night before These Two Companies get to Roxbury, it will not be necessary to send either them, or the three Companys under Capt. Stevenson [Hugh Stephenson], upon Dorcester Heights, before Nine O Clock tomorrow morning; as it will not be High Water before One in the Afternoon; The Five Companies of Riffle men intended to reinforce the Post on Dorchester Heights, may be Daily withdrawn at Half Ebb Tide as there is no need of keeping them constantly upon Duty.” Gates added in a postscript: “While the Riffle men are employ’d in this Service, they should be exempted from all Other Duty” (DNDAR). Aaron Wright, a private in Capt. John Lowdon’s Pennsylvania rifle company posted at Prospect Hill, wrote in his journal entry for 6 Mar. 1776: “We were ordered to march to Roxbury, whence we marched through Dorchester town to Dorchester Neck, where our men were building forts” (“Wright’s Journal,” description begins “Revolutionary Journal of Aaron Wright, 1775.” Historical Magazine, and Notes and Queries concerning the Antiquities, History, and Biography of America 6 (1862): 208–12. description ends 211). Sgt. Henry Bedinger of Capt. Stephenson’s Virginia rifle company, one of five companies of riflemen that had helped occupy Dorchester Heights on the nights of 4 and 5 Mar., noted in his journal entry for 6 Mar.: “Nothing appeared as If we were going to be attacked, Capt. Stephenson Ordered us to March off the [Dorchester] point About Two O’Clock in the afternoon in View of the Enemy. About 5 O’Clock came two Companies of Riflemen from Cambridge and Relieved those Who had been on the point with us.” For the following day Bedinger wrote: “All the Riflemen are ordered on the point by 9 Oclock in the forenoon, &c. Came off at 3 O Clock” (Dandridge, Shepherdstown description begins Danske Dandridge. Historic Shepherdstown. Charlottesville, Va., 1910. description ends , 130; see also General Orders, 3 Mar. 1776).

1On 20 Feb., the last day of its recent session, the Massachusetts General Court chose 7 Mar. as a fast day, noting that it had been “the laudable Practice of this Government to recommend and appoint Days for Fasting and Prayer upon solemn and special Occasions, besides our Annual Fasts” and that “this Court apprehend that the present Time is big with the most Important Events to this and the other Colonies, and that these Events are in the Hand of the Supreme Governor of the Universe” (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 , 311–12; 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 , 597).

2William Heath was intended for this command instead of Nathanael Greene. The mistake is corrected in the General Orders for 10 Mar. 1776.

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