George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Artemas Ward, 16–17 June 1776

From Major General Artemas Ward

Boston 16[–17] June 1776.


Last evening I received Major Harrison’s Letter of the tenth Instant, and agreeable [to] your desire have directed Lieut. Machin to be ready as soon as possible to set out for New York.1

The thirteenth Instant at evening I order’d five hundred men with proper officers, a detachment of the Train with a thirteen inch Mortar, two eighteen pounders, and some small Cannon, under the command of Col. Whetcomb, to take post on Long Island to annoy the Enemy’s Ships, the necessary works were thrown up in the Night and the next morning our Cannon and Mortar began to play upon the Pirates which soon drove them all out of the Harbour.2 The fleet consisted of thirteen in number, the Renown of fifty Guns, several smaller Ships of war, and some transports with Highlanders on board, as near as we could judge there were about eight hundred troops on board the transports. They blew up the Light House as they went off, and then put to sea with their fleet. I think it probable they will leave some Frigates to cruize in the Bay.

A number of the Colony troops and militia were to have thrown up a Battery the same night on Petticks Island, and Nantasket head,3 but by some unforeseen obstructions they did not get their Cannon ready in time, however they gave the Enemy a number of shot as the Ships passed through the Channel. Our shot cut away some of their yards and rigging, and several went into the Ships sides; but the Shells from the Mortar terrified them most; they returned a few shot from the Commodore’s Ship without any effect, and got under sail with all expedition.

I have proposed to the General Court to anchor a decoy Ship where the man of War lay, with a broad pendant, in order to draw in the Transports which may be coming this way.

No Paymaster nor money for the troops stationed here has yet arrived, which delay has occasioned great difficulty as there is now more than three months pay due to the Men; I have endeavoured to borrow the money of the General Court, but have not succeeded, the Treasury being nearly exhausted by large demands. I am Your Excellencys Obedient Humble Servant

Artemas Ward

P.S. Several Invalids belonging to the marching Regiments have applyed to me to be turned over to other Regiments, as they were not able to march, but I did not think myself authoris’d to comply with their request. I have discharged three or four who were likely to be of no service but a burthen to the Continent.

P.S. June 17. I have just received information that the Continental Privateers have taken and brought into Nantasket in this Harbour a Ship and a Brig from Glasgow with two hundred and ten Highland troops on board, with their baggage; the Ship mounted six carriage guns, and fought the Privateers some time before she struck, we had four men wounded, the Enemy had three privates killed and a Major, and eight or ten men wounded. The prisoners are coming up to Town among whom is a Colonel. Any further particulars that may be of importance I shall forward as soon as I can learn them.4

LB, DLC:GW; copy (extract), enclosed in GW to Hancock, 23 June 1776, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy (extract), DNA:PCC, item 169. Each extract consists of the letter’s second and third paragraphs and the second postscript.

1“I am commanded by his Excy,” Robert Hanson Harrison wrote Ward on 10 June, “to request you to send immediately to this place Lt [Thomas] Machin of the Train, provided, he does not belong to either of the Artilly Companies, in Boston—If he does not, he will come with all possible dispatch” (DLC:GW).

2Col. Asa Whitcomb’s force occupied a position on Long Island overlooking Nantasket Road, the principal anchorage in Boston’s outer harbor.

3Peddocks Island and Nantasket Head also overlook Nantasket Road.

4The British transports George and Annabella were captured in Boston Harbor on 16 June by six American armed vessels assisted by a Massachusetts gun crew at Point Alderton on the south side of the harbor. For a full account of this engagement, see Clark, George Washington’s Navy description begins William Bell Clark. George Washington’s Navy; Being an Account of His Excellency’s Fleet in New England Waters. Baton Rouge, La., 1960. description ends , 160–64. Each transport carried a company of troops from the 2d Battalion of 71st Regiment of Foot (Fraser’s Highlanders). Major Menzies, who was killed aboard the George, was buried with military honors in Boston on 18 June (see William Gordon to GW, 19–20 June, and note 9).

Archibald Campbell (1739–1791), a member of Parliament and lieutenant colonel of the 2d Battalion of the 71st Regiment, was captured aboard the George. For his account of the engagement, see his letter to William Howe of 19 June 1776 in 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 , 5:619–21. Campbell, who was a well-respected military engineer, entered the British army in 1757 as a lieutenant in the 63d Regiment of Foot and two years later became a subengineer in the Royal Engineers. Promoted to engineer extraordinary with the rank of captain-lieutenant in 1763, Campbell was detached from the army in 1768 to serve as chief engineer for the East India Company in Bengal. He returned to England in 1773 with a large fortune, which he used the following year to secure a seat in Parliament from the Stirling burghs. In November 1775 Campbell was appointed to command the 2d Battalion of Simon Fraser’s new Highland regiment, and on 29 April 1776 he sailed with the regiment from Greenock, Scotland. Although Campbell was paroled soon after his capture at Boston, he was not exchanged until May 1778. In October 1778 Gen. Henry Clinton appointed him to lead an expedition against Savannah. After the city fell in January 1779, Campbell returned to England, where he was promoted to colonel. He served as lieutenant governor of Jamaica from 1781 to 1782 and as the colony’s governor from 1782 to 1784. In 1785 he was knighted and made governor of Madras.

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