George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel James Clinton, 13 July 1776

From Colonel James Clinton

Fort Constitution [N.Y.]
July 13th 1776

May it Please Your Excellency

Your Express of the 12th I just now Received and will Endeavour to Comply with the Contents.1

We had a most Unfortunate Accident Happend here Yesterday Afternoon, as Lieut. Bryant and one Nicoll both of the Artillery was Scaleing out a Couple of Cannon which we had Just Mounted before having flashed a Little Powder out of one of them, and not Spungeing Her properly, when the Lieut. was putting in the Wad the Cannon went off, and shott of His Hand, and Blowed Nicoll Several Yards, as he was Standing by to Ram Down the Charge, Nicoll is Mortally wounded the Lieut. had his Right Arm Cut Off.2

We want more Officers of the Artillery Here very much, as Lieut. Bryant is a Great Loss to Us, we are scarse of Gun flints and Good Arms. I Am Your Excellencys Most Obedient Humble Servant

James Clinton Coll


1GW’s aide-de-camp Richard Cary wrote James Clinton on 12 July: “This is just to Inform you that two Men of War & three Tenders have this Afternoon passed by our Forts & Gone up the North River past Kings Bridge, you will therefore take such Measures as to put the Forts under your Command in the Best State of Defence Possible, to Annoy the Enemy, You are also to Dispatch Expresses along the River that no Vessels may fall into their Hands & to Give Notice of this Manuœvre to the Commanding Officer at Albany, with all the Expedition Possible. . . . P.S. I have it in Command farther to Desire you would take the Carpenters from the Vessels which are Building at Poughkeepsie and Prepare those Vessels which were taken from the Tories, and are now at Esopus ⟨&⟩ Kingston, to be made Use of as fire Rafts, also to make Rafts in any other way Expeditiously, that will answer the purpose of Harrassing the Ships which are Gone up the River” (NNgWHM).

2The loss of an arm did not prevent John Bryant (1742–1816) from serving long and usefully as an ordnance officer. A native of Boston, Bryant marched to Ticonderoga with Benedict Arnold in May 1775, and in August 1775 he joined Col. Richard Gridley’s regiment of Massachusetts artillery as a sergeant. He soon became an acting second lieutenant in that regiment, and on 1 Jan. 1776 he was commissioned a first lieutenant in Knox’s regiment of Continental artillery. By 1 Jan. 1777 Bryant was sufficiently recovered from his accident at Fort Constitution to accept appointment as a captain-lieutenant in Col. David Mason’s corps of artillery artificers stationed at Springfield, Massachusetts. The Board of War named Bryant director of the Springfield laboratory in 1781, and by 1783 he was deputy commissary of military stores at Springfield, a position that he held for many years (see the Board of War’s orders, 15 June 1781, DNA:PCC, item 148, and William Hawes to Benjamin Lincoln, 22 Oct. 1783, DNA:PCC, item 149).

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