George Washington Papers

General Orders, 17 March 1776

General Orders

Head Quarters, Cambridge, March 17th 1776.

Parole Boston.Countersign St Patrick.1

The Regiments under marching orders, to march to morrow morning at sun-rise.2

Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

The British evacuated Boston this morning, and the fuller set of orders that appear under this date in Artemas Ward’s orderly book indicates GW’s immediate response to that event: “The Guards on plowed hill are to be removed to Bunker Hill, & Sentinels placed so as not only to observe any approach from Boston & the Sea, but to prevent any person or persons from diging after hidden treasures in Charlestown, and to prevent all intercourse with Boston thro’ that communication. The other Guards to be the same; those at Roxbury & Dorchester to be increased & continued so while the fleet lies in Nantasket Road. The Inhabitants of Charlestown should immediately assemble, such of them it is ment as buried any part of their effects, & endeavor to search after it, Whilst the guards are continued there to protect it. To prevent any improper search, a time should be agreed on & speedily, for the whole to begin at once least any advantage should be taken. No Officer or Soldier to go into Boston without leave, under the severest punishment, and if any Soldier presume to plunder he shall be punished without mercy. The Regts which were to have marched this morning are to be ready to march tomorrow by sunrise; all the others to hold themselves in readiness to follow. 4 will march the next Day & be notified thereof in the morning” (MHi).

Robert Hanson Harrison communicated additional orders to General Ward in a letter of this date: “As the Wind is fair and the Ships are still in Nantasket road, his Excellency is extremely apprehensive that General Howe has some scheme in view & designs of taking advantage of the hurry, bustle & confusion among our Troops which he may immagine his departure to have occasioned, he therefore requests that you will give Orders to the several Regiments to be very alert and vigilant and ready to Act upon the Shortest noti[c]e If there shall be a necessity, and all be at their proper Quarters, and that you will use the utmost care & caution to prevent the men from strolling about & Suffer none of ’em to go in to Boston. If the Ships continue in the Road at Night, It is his Excellency’s command that the Several Guards shou’d be strengthned rather than diminished, as Continuing there (Wind & weather permitting ’em to sail) affords a strong & violent presumption that something is Meditating” (MHi: Ward Papers).

1Artemas Ward’s orderly book gives the countersign for this date as “Evacuate” (MHi).

2For the previous marching orders for this detachment commanded by Gen. Heath, see General Orders, 14, 15, and 16 Mar. 1776.

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