George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major John Grizzage Frazer, 14 April 1776

From Major John Grizzage Frazer

Boston April 14th 1776:


I now enclose you a more particular Accot of the Vessels, left by the Enemy at Boston; also an Inventory of the Ordnance and Ordnance stores.1 I have not included those that are at the Castle-Island, because General Ward informs me, that the Province claim the whole of them. we have found within this week, Anchors and Cables, worth at least £3,000 Sterling. they weigh from 35 hundred weight, down to 500 Wtt (meaning the Anchors.) taken out in three or four fathom water, at low tide. I hope the Continental Congress, will allow us, salvage, upon these as well as other things, which we have secured. I have had only 12 Men employed constantly, in clearing the Docks &cc., which do not belong to the Army.2 On thursday last, the people at Cohassett observing a Brigg coming up the Bay, armed themselves, and mann’d three or four whale-boats, went off and found her to be a merchant-man, boarded and took her. she was from the West-Indies, laden with Rum & Sugar, Rum 300 Hhds, for General Howe’s army, which they expected to find here.3 On friday morning last, ran away from the Renown, ship of war now lying in Nantasket-Road, 8 british seamen, that belonged to her; who brought off the Cutter, & landed at Point-Shirley, and are now in this town. Commodore Manly’s crew, that he took in the last rich prize, are in close prison in this Town. Mr Jackson, Brush and 3 others, were examined by the General Court, who were all committed to prison, Yesterday, Brush in Irons.4 I expect to settle all my Accots and finish all matters in my late Department this Week; and shall be much obliged to you, to give me leave to come to New York, to have a final settlement with Colo. Mifflin, and deliver up the Books &cc.5 Mr James Gray who did the Business in my department, before my appointment, has liv’d with me ever since, and think he is the most proper person to succeed me now, as he is very capable, and understands the nature of the business very well, and I hope your Excellency will be pleased to appoint him, which will infinitely oblige me, as he will be left entirely without business, when I give up the place, and he has been in the American Army as long as any in it. Colo: Mifflin knows him very well, and has very good opinion of him.6 Major Parke tells me he proposes to set out for New York on Wednesday next; if he does, he will leave a vast number of Accots unsettled, and other affairs unfinish’d—the General Court of this province, want some of the Barracks upon Winter Hill, to cover 1000 men which are to be raised immediately, and stationed at Noddles Island. I hope your Excellency & Lady had a pleasant Journey to New York—and am Sir your most Obedient Humble Servt

John G. Frazer


1Following the British evacuation of Boston on 17 Mar., Frazer, as an assistant quartermaster general, took an active role in inventorying and securing the various military stores and sailing vessels left behind by the enemy. On 18 Mar. Frazer sent a rough preliminary “Inventory of Sundry Stores” to GW, and two days later he submitted a more complete and detailed “Inventory of Stores belonging to the King & left in Boston, taken the 18th & 19th March 1776, by Order of Thomas Mifflin Esq. Quarr Mastr General of the Continental Army.” Both of these inventories, written and signed by Frazer, are in DLC:GW. The copy of Frazer’s inventory of 20 Mar., in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, that GW sent to Congress on 24 Mar. 1776 is printed as an appendix to GW’s letter to Hancock of that date. The two inventories enclosed in Frazer’s letter to GW of this date, both dated 14 April, complete his survey of Continental acquisitions at Boston. The “List of Vessels remaining in Boston Harbour” cannot be found in DLC:GW, but it is printed in Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 4th ser., 5:934–35. This list describes forty-five vessels by type, tonnage, and owners but does not name them. In many cases their cargoes and condition are mentioned. Frazer’s ordnance inventory of this date, which is in DLC:GW is printed as an appendix to this letter. It is fuller than Ezekiel Cheever’s ordnance inventory of 22 Mar. which is printed as an appendix to GW to Hancock, 27 Mar. 1776.

2Frazer appealed directly to Congress for extra compensation in a letter to Hancock of this date. “The Men,” he wrote Hancock, “expect to be allow’d Salvage besides their pay for every thing taken beyond lowwater mark, as well as for the Cargoes of Salt which wou’d all have been lost, had not we us’d the greatest industry to have got it out, as the Vessells were all left scuttled—Your Honours will judge whether this demand is resonable, and please to let me know your determination; If you think my Extraordinary trouble is worth any more, than my pay as Assistant Qr Master General, you’l please to make me what allowance you think proper” (DNA:PCC, item 78). Congress referred Frazer’s letter to a committee on 7 May and apparently took no further action on it (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 , 4:330–31; see also Frazer to Hancock, 1 June 1776, DNA:PCC, item 78).

3On Thursday 11 April, twenty-six men in three boats captured the snow Industry, James Furse, master, and took it into Cohasset. The vessel, which was bound from Grenada to Boston, carried 354 puncheons of rum, 49 barrels of sugar, 10 barrels of coffee, 3 tons of hay, some wood, and about ten barrels of pork and beef (Boston-Gazette, and Country Journal, 15 April 1776).

4In an order of 12 April the Massachusetts council directed the Boston jailer to confine five of the prisoners who recently had been captured aboard the brigantine Elizabeth: Crean Brush, William Jackson, Peter Ramsey, Edward Keighley, and Richard Newton. Brush and Jackson, who were notorious Loyalists, and Ramsey, the vessel’s master, were to be kept “each in an apartment by himself, without the Privelege of Pen, Ink, Paper or Candle,” and Brush for “better Security” was be put “into Handcufts immediately” (Clark and Morgan, 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 , 4:779). Crean Brush (c.1725–1778), an Irish-born lawyer who before the war lived at Westminister in the New Hampshire Grants (now Vermont), particularly antagonized Massachusetts Patriots with his strong-armed tactics in carrying out Gen. William Howe’s orders of 10 Mar. 1776 to seize and evacuate any goods in Boston shops and warehouses that might benefit the Continental army (ibid., 282–83; see also John Rowe’s diary, 11 Mar., and Brush to James Robertson, 25 Mar. 1776, ibid., 297, 501–3). The Elizabeth was one of two vessels that Brush had loaded with such goods, merchandise that Patriots considered stolen rather than legally confiscated. Brush remained in jail until November 1777 when he escaped in women’s clothing furnished him by his wife. He apparently committed suicide the following May. William Jackson (c.1731–1810) was a well-to-do Boston merchant who had defied the nonimportation agreements. He was banished to England in 1778.

5Robert Hanson Harrison replied to Frazer on 25 April from New York: “In respect to your comg here to Settle the Accounts of your late departmt, his Excellency not only permits but desires It as highly necessary” (DLC:GW). Frazer wrote Hancock on 14 April that he hoped to finish his work in Boston “in about two Weeks, when I shall render an Account of the Whole of my proceedings to Colo. Mifflin Q.M.G.” (DNA:PCC, item 78).

6“As to the Appointment of Mr Gray or any other person to succeed you,” Harrison wrote Frazer on 25 April, “It is a matter entirely with Genl Ward, his Excellency desired & Empowered him to make Appointmts of such as he thought woud Answer the public good” (DLC:GW). Gen. Artemas Ward in his orders of 14 April appointed Thomas Chase assistant quartermaster general (Ward’s Orderly Book, MHi).

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