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The American Revolution
Revolutionary War: Northern Front, 1775-1777
George Washington to Nicholas Cooke

On March 21, 1776, General Washington wrote the following letter to Nicholas Cooke, Governor of Rhode Island. According to the letter, what does Washington think the British will do next? Why does he think that will be the case? What support does Washington offer Governor Cooke for the defense of Rhode Island?

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Cambridge, March 21, 1776.

Sir: Your favors of the 18th and 19th Insts. I received, and am extremely sorry to hear that your Militia are so deficient in Arms. I fear the misfortune is too common, nor do I know how it will be remedied. In this Army, altho' I have pursued every mode I could devise for procuring them, there is still a great deficiency and a considerable number of Men without any in their hands. The peculiar situation of Rhode Island and its extensive Sea Coast, had not escaped my mind; I well know the Enemy have it in their Power to do it considerable damage, unless there is a Sufficient force to repel their Attempts: But it is the opinion of the General Officers here, that their destination is against New York, the Importance of which, as it secures the free and only Communication between the Northern and Southern Colonies, which will be intirely cut off by their possessing it, and give them the Command of Hudson's River and an easy pass into Canada; makes it absolutely and indispensably necessary, for the whole of this Army, which is but inconsiderable, (except that part of It which will be left here to secure the Stores, Barracks and other Public property), to be marched from hence for its defence with all possible expedition. It is an object that should Command our first attention, and if lost, will be of the most fatal consequence to us in the present unhappy and Interesting struggle. Least any Attempts should be made against you, I shall give orders to the Officers Commanding Brigades, If they have intelligence of an Invasion, upon their March, that they forthwith return to your Succour. I shall also Order the Officer, who will be left here, to do the same with the Troops under his Command, whenever occasion may require It.

Agreeable to the request made by you and your Honble General Assembly, I shall with chearfulness and pleasure direct some of the last divisions that go from hence, to puruse the Route you wish, If they can be accomodated with Covering and Provision, and shall be ever ready and happy to render Rhode Island or any other place any Services in my power that may be compatible with the General good. I am Sir, with sentiments of the highest regard, Your and theirs &c.
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View the original document from the George Washington Papers. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.