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The American Revolution
Revolutionary War: Northern Front, 1775-1777
George Washington to John A. Washington

In the following letter from Washington to his brother John, Washington describes the situation in Boston leading up to the evacuation of that town by British forces. How does Washington describe the actions he took to force the British from Boston? What does Washington think the British will do next? What attitude does Washington exhibit concerning his army and "serving the Cause"?

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The Want of Arms, Powder &ca., is not peculiar to Virginia, this Country of which doubtless, you have heard such large and flattering Accounts, is more defficient of each than you can conceive, I have been here Months together with what will scarcely be believed; not 30 rounds of Musket Cartridges a Man; have been obliged to submit to all the Insults of the Enemy's Cannon for want of Powder, keeping what little we had for Pistol distance. Another thing has been done, which added to the above, will put it in the power of this Army to say what perhaps none other with justice ever could. We have maintain'd our Ground against the Enemy, under the above want of Powder, and we have disbanded one Army and recruited another, within Musket Shot of two and Twenty Regiments, the Flower of the British Army, when our strength have been little if any, superior to theirs; and, at last, have beat them, in a shameful and precipitate manner out of a place the strongest by Nature on this Continent, and strengthend and fortified in the best manner and at an enormous Expence.

As some Acct. of the late Manouvres of both Armies, may not be unacceptable, I shall, hurried as I always am, devote a little time to it.

Having received a small supply of Powder then; very inadequate to our wants, I resolved to take possession of Dorchester Point, laying East of Boston; looking directly into it; and commanding (absolutely) the Enemy's Lines on the Neck (Boston) To effect this, which I knew would force the Enemy to an Ingagement, or subject them to be enphiladed by our Cannon, it was necessary, in the first Instance to possess two heights (those mentioned in Genl. Burgoyne's Letter to Lord Stanley in his Acct. of the Battle of Bunkers Hill), which had the entire command of it. The grd. at this time being froze upwards of two feet deep, and as impenetrable as a Rock, nothing could be attempted with Earth; we were obligd, therefore to provide an amazing quantity of chandeliers and Fascines for the Work, and on the Night of the 4th, after a previous severe Cannonade and Bombardment for three Nights together to divert the Enemy's attention from our real design, we removed every material to the spot under Cover of Darkness, and took full possession of those heights without the loss of a single Man.

Upon their discovery of the Works next Morning, great preparations were made for attacking them, but not being ready before the Afternoon and the Weather getting very tempestuous, much blood was Saved, and a very important blow (to one side or the other) prevented. That this remarkable Interposition of Providence is for some wise purpose, I have not a doubt; but as the principal design of the Manouvre was to draw the Enemy to an Ingagement under disadvantages, as a premeditated Plan was laid for this purpose, and seemed to be succeeding to my utmost wish, and as no Men seem'd better disposed to make the appeal than ours did upon that occasion, I can scarce forbear lamenting the disappointment, unless the dispute is drawing to an accommodation, and the Sword going to be Sheathed.

But to return, the Enemy thinking (as we have since learnt) that we had got too securely posted, before the Second Morning to be much hurt by them, and apprehending great annoyance from our new Works resolved upon a retreat, and accordingly Imbark'd in as much hurry, precipitation and confusion as ever Troops did the 17th, not taking time to fit their transports, but leaving King's property in Boston to the amount, as is supposed, of thirty or £40,000 in Provisions, Stores, &ca. Many Pieces of Cannon, some Mortars, and a number of Shot, Shells &ca. are also left; and Baggage-Waggons, Artillery Carts &ca. which they have been Eighteen Months preparing to take the Field with, were found destroyed, thrown into the Docks, and drifted upon every shore. In short, Dunbar's destruction of Stores after Genl. Braddock's defeat, which made so much noise, affords but a faint Idea of what was to be met with here.

The Enemy lay from the 17th. to the 27th. In Nantasket and King's Roads, abt. Nine Miles from Boston, to take in Water (from the Islands thereabouts surrounded by their shipping) and to fit themselves for Sea. Whither they are now bound, and where their Tents will be next pitched, I know not; but as New York and the Hudson's River are the most important objects they can have in view, as the latter secures the communication with Canada, at the same time that it seperates the Northern and Southern Colonies; and the former is thought to abound in disaffected Persons, who only wait a favourable oppertunity, and support, to declare themselves openly, it became equally important for us to prevent their gaining Possession of these advantages; and, therefore, as soon as they Imbarked I detachd a Brigade of Six Regiments to that Government, so soon as they Sailed, another Brigade compos'd of the same number, and to morrow another of Five will March. In a day or two more I shall follow myself and be in New York ready to receive all but the first. . . .

I believe I may, with great truth affirm, that no Man perhaps since the first Institution of Arrays ever commanded one under more difficult Circumstances, than I have done, to enumerate the particulars would fill a volume, many of my difficulties and distresses were of so peculiar a cast that in order to conceal them from the Enemy, I was obliged to conceal them from my friends, indeed from my own Army, thereby subjecting my Conduct to interpretations unfavourable to my Character, especially by those at a distance, who could not, in the smallest degree be acquainted with the Springs that govern'd it. I am happy however, to find, and to hear from different Quarters, that my reputation stands fair, that my Conduct hitherto has given universal Satisfaction, the Addresses which I have received, and which I suppose will be published, from the General Court of this Colony the same as our Genl. Assembly and from the Selectmen of Boston upon the evacuation of the Town and my approaching departure from the Colony, exhibits a pleasing testimony of their approbation of my conduct, and of their personal regard, which I have found in various other Instances; and wch, in retirement, will afford many comfortable reflections.

The share you have taken in these Publick disputes is commendable and praiseworthy; it is a duty we owe our Country; a claim posterity has on us. It is not sufficient for a Man to be a passive friend and well-Wisher to the Cause. This, and every other Cause of such a Nature, must inevitably perish under such an opposition, every person should be active in some department or other, without paying too much attention to private Interest. It is a great stake we are playing for, and sure we are of winning if the Cards are well managed. Inactivity in some, disaffection in others, and timidity in many, may hurt the Cause; nothing else can, for Unanimity will carry us through triumphantly, in spite of every exertion of Great Britain, if link'd together in one indissoluble Bond; this they now know, and are practising every stratagem which Human Invention can divise, to divide us, and unite their own People, upon this principle it is, the restraining Bill is past, and Commissioners are coming over. The devise to be sure is shallow, the covering thin, But they will hold out to their own People that the Acts (complain'd of) are repealed, and Commissioners sent to each Colony to treat with us, neither of which will we attend to &ca. this upon weak Minds among us will have its effect, they wish for reconciliation; or in other Words they wish for Peace without attending to the Conditions.
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