From John Langdon
Portsmouth New Hampshire 10th May 1776
This will be handed you, by George Marchant who says he’s one of the Riflemen that went from Cambridge, under General Arnold to Attack Quebeck, was taken prisoner, crossing the river at that place, sent to England in Irons, has just return’d, by way of Hallifax, from whence he made his Escape with some others in a small Boat, he arrived at Old York,1 yesterday, when he inform’d the Committee of that place, of his having Letters from England, which he had Concealed in the Waistband of his Britches, they tho’t fit to open the letters; and sent them on to the Committee of this place, who have directed me to dispatch the Man, with the Letters to Congress, after having called on you, in the way there, I’ve therefore Furnished him with Necessaries, and given strict directions to proceed with all possible dispatch to Head quarters at New York, as Express to your Excellency, with the inclos’d Letters, and as they contain matters of Importance, no doubt you’ll think proper, to forward them to Congress.2
This Man informs us, that the Troops at Hallifax, are in a most deplorable Condition, for want of Provision, this is Confirm’d by several others, who have Escaped from thence, and arrived at this place within this few Days. I am with the greatest Respect Your most Obedt Servant
LS, enclosed in GW to Hancock, 18 May 1776, DNA:PCC, item 78; LB, DNA: John G.M. Stone Collection.
1. Langdon is referring to York in the District of Maine.
2. George Merchant, a soldier in Capt. Daniel Morgan’s rifle company, was captured while on guard duty outside Quebec on 14 Nov. 1775, the day after most of Arnold’s detachment crossed the St. Lawrence River (“John Joseph Henry’s Journal” in Roberts, March to Quebec description begins Kenneth Roberts, ed. March to Quebec: Journals of the Members of Arnold’s Expedition. New York, 1938. description ends , 353–54). According to an account of Merchant’s captivity related by a delegate to Congress later this month, “he was sent to London and put in Bridewell in Irons. Sawbridge (the Lord Mayor) went to him, Examined him and had him immediately discharged & sent down to Bristol, Where a number [of] Gentn. procured him a passage to Hallifax. He left Bristol the 24th of March, . . . And tho Searched at Hallifax two or three times, brought undiscovered a Number of Letters and Newspapers to the Congress, by which we are possessed of all their plans for the destruction of America” (Caesar Rodney to Thomas Rodney, 22 May 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 , 4:61–63; see also Higginbotham, Morgan description begins Don Higginbotham. Daniel Morgan: Revolutionary Rifleman. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1961. description ends , 38–39 and note 15, and Dandridge, Shepherdstown description begins Danske Dandridge. Historic Shepherdstown. Charlottesville, Va., 1910. description ends , 142). Merchant arrived in Philadelphia on the evening of 20 May, and on 30 May Congress rewarded him with pay from the time of his captivity to 15 June and a gratuity of $100 (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 , 4:405).
Merchant brought copies of the treaties that the British crown had made with various German princes to obtain mercenary troops, English newspapers as recent as 20 Mar., and several letters to Congress and private individuals (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 , 4:369; Thomas Stone to James Hollyday?, 20 May 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 , 4:46–54). Among those letters were some from Arthur Lee, a Virginian living in London and acting as Massachusetts’s agent there, whom Congress’s secret committee of correspondence had recently asked to serve as one of its agents. Lee’s letters, all of which are unsigned, include a short note of 13 Feb. 1776 addressed to Benjamin Franklin at Philadelphia, covering a long letter of the same date addressed to Cadwallader Colden at New York, and a similar letter addressed to Colden dated 14 Feb., which may have been covered by a note of that date to his brother Richard Henry Lee (DNA:PCC, item 83; see also Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 4th ser., 4:1125–28, and Wharton, Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed. The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States. 6 vols. Washington, D.C., 1889. description ends , 2:71–78). The two letters addressed to Colden contain detailed intelligence about the strength of the British troops and German mercenaries being sent to America, the dates of their departures from Europe, and their destinations. By addressing those letters to Colden, the former royal lieutenant governor of New York, and by wording them ambiguously, Lee hoped to get them past British authorities in the event they were intercepted on the way to America. The context of both letters and the covering letter addressed to Franklin suggest that they were intended for Richard Henry Lee. For a further discussion of these letters, see GW to Richard Henry Lee, 18 May 1776, n.1; see also GW to Franklin, 20 May, 17 June, and Franklin to GW, 21 June 1776. For the forwarding of the other papers brought by Merchant, see GW to Hancock, 18 May 1776, n.1.