George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Colonel Joseph Phillips, 12 October 1776

From Colonel Joseph Phillips

[c.12 October 1776]

The Address of Joseph Phillips, Colonel of a Battalion of Jersey Levies, Sheweth: That your Excellency’s adressor, hath viewed with infinite regret, the Enemies Ships of War passing by us up the North River, opposite Mount Washington, with impunity: owing in a great measure, he humbly conceives, to the bad Construction of some of our Batteries, & the want of others in more suitable places: To remedy which, he begs leave to propose, that he (with the fatigue Men of Genl Heard’s Brigade if your Excellency pleases) will finish the Battery on the Rocks near the River side, which he began in July last; & will also construct & compleat another small one for four Guns, a little above, nearer Mount Washington, that will rake or scour the River side both up & down; the Embrasures of which, made so, that a piece of Ordnance may either be elevated or Depressed, as occasion may require. Your Excellency’s Addressor, with very great deference, is Confident that Cannon planted & properly Mann’d at the proposed Batteries, will annoy the Enemies Shipping abundantly more than those at any other place or places contiguous to our Vesseaux De Frize.1

Your Addressor begs leave to mention that he hath some little experience in the Engineers Branch that he acquired in the course of Five Years that he served His Britanic Majesty last War, tho’ not immediately employed as an Engineer, yet under the special instruction & direction of Capt. Harry Gordon on the Ohio, & Col. Patrick Mackellar &c. in the West Indies, having served with them at the Seiges of Martinico & Havannah.2 He hath no sinister, or Ostentatious motive that influences him, his only ambition is to contribute his Mite, to the service of his Native Country, and merit your Excellency’s approbation—for whom he possesses the most profound regard & Esteem And is His most Obedt humble Servt

Jos. Phillips


1Robert Hanson Harrison replied to Phillips on this date: “I have it in charge from his Excellency, the Commander in Cheif, to return you his most thankfull acknowledgments for the proposition contained in your address and to inform you, that he not only approves of the same, but wishes you to proceed with the Works which you have mentioned. The generous motives which Induced you to lay the measure before him in his estimation do you the highest honor & are such as he would be happy to see prevail generally thro the Army” (DLC:GW).

2Harry Gordon (d. 1787), a Scottish engineer who helped to build Braddock’s Road in 1755 and was attached to the Royal American Regiment the following year, began supervising the construction of Fort Pitt at the Forks of the Ohio in September 1759. Patrick Mackellar (1717–1778), another Scottish engineer who had served on the Braddock campaign, was appointed chief engineer of the frontier forts in 1756. Mackellar acted as chief engineer for Gen. Jeffrey Amherst at the siege of Louisburg in 1758 and for Gen. James Wolfe at Quebec in 1759. During the winter of 1762, Mackellar conducted the siege operations for Gen. Robert Monckton’s expedition against Martinique in the West Indies, and the following spring and summer, he served as chief engineer for the earl of Albemarle’s successful attack on Havana, Cuba. Gordon also participated in the siege of Havana. After the French and Indian War, Gordon and Mackellar both had long and distinguished careers in the British corps of engineers. Gordon served in the West Indies from 1767 to 1773, and during the campaign of 1776, he was chief engineer in Canada, a position that he soon resigned over a question of rank. Gordon returned to the West Indies in 1783 and died on his way to England four years later. Mackellar served as chief engineer at Minorca from 1763 until his death fifteen years later, rising to the rank of colonel of engineers in August 1777.

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