George Washington Papers

General Orders, 23 March 1776

General Orders

Head Quarters, Cambridge, March 23rd 1776

Parole Cape-Fear.Countersign Moore.

Col. James Reed’s, Nixon’s, Poor’s, Prescot’s, Arnold’s,1 and Baldwins Regiments, are the first to march, under Brigadier Genl Sullivan; they are to be ready at a moment’s warng—The General flatters himself that the commanding Officer of each of these, and the other Corps, will exert themselves (as they are going to join the Troops of other Colonies) in sprucing up their men, that they may look as Soldierlike, and reputable, as possible—This, and a proper Attention to the good and orderly behaviour of the men, and the proper care of their Arms, Ammunition and Accoutrements, are qualifications essentially necessary to every commanding Officer, therefore, for their own Honor, and the Honor of the New-England Colonies, it is hoped they will diligently exert themselves at this time.

Two Companies of Artillery, with such light brass Ordnance, and Stores, as the Commanding Officer of the Artillery shall direct, are to march with Genl Sullivan.2

Col. Gridley is to apply to Genl Ward for such men, as are necessary for the Demolition of the Lines, on Boston neck, who is to see the work executed as fast as possible—The Pickets, and other useful Materials, to be preserved, and placed so as to be ready when called for, under the care of Sentries, such parts of these works as may be of Service for our defence, are to be preserved.3

Col: Knox will immediately lay out a Battery upon Charles-Town point. to be executed under the direction of Lieut. Col. Mason of the Artillery—A Field Officer, with all the men off duty, of Col. Robinsons Regiment, to march at Sun-rise to morrow morning to Charles-Town point as a working party.4

Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1The 20th Continental Regiment, which had been reserved for Benedict Arnold before he was promoted to brigadier general, was commanded by Lt. Col. John Durkee. On 10 Aug. 1776 Congress officially appointed Durkee colonel of the regiment (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 , 5:644; see also GW to the Board of War, 29 July 1776).

2Sullivan’s detachment, which was the third one that GW sent to New York, did not depart until 29 Mar. because of the British fleet’s delay in sailing from Boston Harbor. See GW to Hancock, 27 Mar., and General Orders, 28 Mar. 1776. For the march of the riflemen on 15 Mar. and of Heath’s detachment on 18 Mar., see General Orders, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17 Mar. 1776. Sullivan’s marching brigade consisted of the three regiments remaining from his old brigade at Winter Hill (James Read’s, John Nixon’s, and Enoch Poor’s regiments), two from Gen. William Heath’s old Cambridge brigade (William Prescott’s and Loammi Baldwin’s regiments), and one from Gen. Joseph Frye’s brigade at Cambridge (Arnold’s regiment).

3An unidentified Connecticut officer wrote in his diary entry for 29 Mar. that he “went on fatigue with a party, at levelling the works of the enemy on the Neck, which we demolished much faster than those villains erected” (“Camp Life in 1776,” description begins “Camp Life in 1776—Siege of Boston.” Historical Magazine, and Notes and Queries concerning the Antiquities, History, and Biography of America 8 (1864): 326–32. description ends 331).

4One of the Massachusetts militia regiments that recently had reinforced the Continental army was commanded by Col. John Robinson (1735–1805) of Westford, who had served during 1775 as lieutenant colonel of Col. William Prescott’s Massachusetts regiment, and another one was led by Col. Lemuel Robinson (1736–1776) of Dorchester, who died of smallpox in the summer of 1776.

GW apparently ordered the construction of this battery because he continued to be apprehensive that the British fleet in the harbor might attack his army at some point before sailing. “The Enemy still remaining in Nantaskett Road after so many opportunities to sail out of the Harbour,” William Palfrey wrote to Loammi Baldwin on this date, “carries with it so strong an appearance that they intend to make a push before their departure, that the General desires you would be particularly attentive to their movements, especially round Pulling point Gut & along the back of the Islands to Chelsea—If any attempt should be made it will probably be about the time of High water, You will therefore be very vigilant at those times, & if any thing should take place, immediately make the Signals agreed on” (MHi: Miscellaneous Bound Collection).

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