George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Hancock, 29 June 1776

From John Hancock

Philadelphia June 29th 1776.


I do myself the Honour of transmitting sundry Resolves, respecting the further Augmentation of the Continental Forces. The Congress have thought it expedient, to order a German Battalion to be raised, as soon as possible, to be employed in such Manner, as will be most likely, to defeat the Designs of our Enemies, and to promote the Cause of American Liberty.1

Your Favour of the 27th Inst. with its several Enclosures, came to Hand yesterday. As the Congress will not sit this Day, I shall take the earliest Opportunity, on Monday, of laying their important Contents before them.2

The Loss of Canada is, undoubtedly, on some Accounts, to be viewed in the Light of a Misfortune. The Continent has been put to great Expence in endeavouring to get Possession of it. It is highly probable too, that our Enemies will receive additional Strength, both of Men and Supplies from it. Yet, on the other Hand, there is a Mixture of good Fortune attending it. That our Army should make so prudent a Retreat, as to be able to save their Baggage, Cannon, Ammunition, sick &c. from falling into the Hands of the Enemy, is a Circumstance, that will afford a partial Consolation and reflect Honour upon the Officers who conducted it. Considering the superiour Force of the British Troops, and a Retreat as unavoidable, every Thing has been done, which, in such a Situation, could be expected. In short, Sir, I am extremely glad, our Army is likely to get safe out of Canada.

I am to request, you will please to order Col. Stevenson, and one other Field Officer of that Corps, to repair to this City, to confer with the Delegates of Virginia and Maryland, on the most proper Steps, to fill up the Companies, as expeditiously as possible. If there are any Subaltern Officers of that Corps, whom you can recommend it is the Desire of Congress, they should be promoted in Preferrence to those now to be taken into Pay.3 I have the Honour to be Sir, your most obedt hble Sevt

John Hancock Presidt

11 oClock. I have this moment Rec’d your favr of 28th which shall be laid before Congress I have also Rec’d by Post a Letter from Brigadr General Whitcomb Returning his Commission, & desiring to be Excus’d on Accot of Age & a Diffidence of not being able to Answer the Expectation of Congress.4

The Inclos’d Copy of a Letter came to my hands, which I thought best to Transmit to you.5 I am Yours

J. Hancock, Pt

LS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA:PCC, item 12A. The postscript to the LS and a few minor changes in the main body of the letter are in Hancock’s writing.

1Hancock enclosed copies of Congress’s resolutions of 27 June authorizing the raising of the German battalion in Pennsylvania and Maryland and of additional riflemen in Maryland and Virginia. Another enclosed resolution directed GW to send Congress a complete list of all officer vacancies in the army with recommendations for filling them (DLC:GW; see also 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 , 5:486–88).

2Congress read GW’s letter on Monday, 1 July (ibid., 503).

3In its resolution of 27 June authorizing the raising of additional riflemen, Congress appointed Hugh Stephenson of Virginia as colonel of a rifle regiment to be composed of the three unregimented Virginia and Maryland rifle companies at New York City and six new companies to be recruited in those two colonies. Moses Rawlings of Maryland was appointed lieutenant colonel of the regiment, and Otho Holland Williams of Maryland was named its major (ibid., 486).

4Congress had appointed John Whitcomb of Massachusetts a brigadier general in the Continental army on 5 June (ibid., 420).

5This enclosure has not been identified.

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