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ISAAC SEARS TO GENERAL LEE.
Jamaica, March 7, 1776.
SIR: It is a duty that I owe to my commander to acquaint him of my proceedings in executing the order he gave me. Yesterday afternoon I arrived at Newtown, and tendered the oath to four of the greater Tories, which they swallowed as hard as if it was a four-pound shot that they were trying to get down. On this day, at eleven oclock, I came here, when I sent out scouting parties, and have been able to catch but five Tories, and they of the first rank, who swallowed the oath. The houses are so scattered, it is impossible to catch many without horses to ride after them; but I shall exert myself to catch the greatest part of the ringleaders, and believe I shall effect it, but not in less than five days from this time. I can assure your Honour that there are a set of villains in this County, and believe the better half of them are waiting for support, and intend to take up arms against us; and it is my opinion that nothing else will do but removing the ringleaders to a place of security.
From your most obedient, humble servant,
To General Lee.
GENERAL WASHINGTON TO JOSEPH REED.
Cambridge, March 7, 1776.
DEAR SIR: Your favour of the 18th ultimo came to my hands by post last night, and gives me much pleasure, as I am led to hope I shall see you in my family again. The terms upon which you come will be perfectly agreeable to me; and I should think you neither candid nor friendly if your communications on this subject had not been free, unreserved, and divested of that false modesty which too often prevents the elucidation of points important to be known. Mr. Baylor seeming to have an inclination to go into the Artillery, and Colonel Knox being desirous of it, I have appointed Mr. Moylan and Mr. Palfrey my Aids-de-camp; so that I shall, if you come, have a good many writers about me.
I think my countrymen made a capital mistake when they took Henry out of the Senate to place him in the field; and pity it is that he does not see this, and remove every difficulty by a voluntary resignation. I am of opinion that Colonel Armstrong, if he retains his health, spirits, and vigour, would be as fit a person as any they could send to Virginia, as he is senior officer to any now there, and I should think could give no offence; but to place Colonel Thompson there, in the first command, would throw everything into the utmost confusion; for it was by mere chance that he became a Colonel upon this expedition, and by greater chance that he became first Colonel in this Army. To take him, then, from another Colony, place him over the heads of several gentlemen under or with whom he has served in a subordinate character, would never answer any other purposes than that of introducing endless confusion. Such a thing surely cannot be in contemplation; and, knowing the mischiefs it would produce, surely Colonel Thompson would have more sense, and a greater regard for the cause he is engaged in, than to accept of it, unless some uncommon abilities or exertions had given him a superior claim. He must know that nothing more than being a Captain of Horse in the year 1759 (I think it was) did very extraordinarily give him the start he now has, when the rank was settled here. At the same time, he must know another fact, that several officers now in the Virginia service are much his superiors in point of rank, and will not, I am sure, serve under him. He stands first Colonel here, and may, I presume, put in a very good and proper claim to the first brigade that falls vacant; but I hope more regard will be paid to the service than to send him to Virginia.
The bringing of Colonel Armstrong into this Army as Major-General, however great his merit, would introduce much confusion. Thomas, if no more, would surely quit, and I believe him to be a good man. If Thomas supplies the place of Lee, there will be a vacancy for either Armstrong or Thompson; for I have heard of no other valiant son of New-England waiting promotion since the advancement of Frye, who has not done, and I doubt will not do, much service to the cause.
I am sorry to hear of your ill-fated fleet. We had it, I suppose because we wished it, that Hopkins had taken Clinton and his transports. How glorious would this have been! We have the proverb on our side, however, that a bad beginning will end well. This applies to land and sea service. The account given of the business of the Commissioners from England seems to be of apiece with Lord Norths conciliatory motion last year, built upon the same foundation; and, if true that they are to be divided among the Colonies to offer terms of pardon, it is as insulting as that motion, and only designed, after stopping all intercourse with us, to set us up to view in Great Britain as a people that will not hearken to any propositions of peace. Was there ever anything more absurd than to repeal the very acts which have introduced all this confusion and bloodshed, and at the same time enact a law to restrain all intercourse with the Colonies for opposing them? The drift and design are obvious; but is it possible that any sensible nation upon earth can be imposed upon by such a cobweb scheme, or gauze covering? But enough.
March 9th. Colonel Bulls still waiting to see a little further into the event of things gives me an opportunity of adding, that, from a gentleman out of Boston, confirmed by a paper from the Selectmen there, we have undoubted information of General Howes preparing with great precipitancy to embark his troops; for what place, we know notHalifax; it is said. The Selectmen, being under dreadful apprehensions for the town, applied to General Robertson to apply to General Howe, who, through General Robertson, has informed them, that it is not his intention to destroy the town, unless his Majestys Troops should be molested during their embarkation, or at their departure. This paper seems so much under covert, unauthenticated, and addressed to nobody, that I sent word to the Selectmen that I could take no notice of it; but I shall go on with my preparations as intended. The gentlemen above-mentioned, out of Boston, say, that they seem to be in great consternation there; that one of our shot from Lambs Dam disabled six men in their beds; and that the Admiral, upon discovering our works next morning, informed the General that, unless we were dispossessed of them, he could not keep the Kings ships in the harbour, and that three thousand men, commanded by Lord Percy, were actually embarked for that purpose. Of the issue of it you have been informed before. I am, &c.
GENERAL WASHINGTON TO PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS
[Read March 15, 1776.]
Cambridge, March 7, 1776.
SIR: On the 26th ultimo I had the honour of addressing you, and then mentioned that we were making preparations for taking possession of Dorchester-Heights. I now beg leave to inform you, that a Council of General Officers having determined a previous bombardment and cannonade expedient and proper, in order to harass the enemy, and divert their attention from that quarter, on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday nights last, we carried them on from our posts at Cobble-Hill, Lechmeres Point, and Lambs Dam. Whether they did the enemy any considerable, and what injury, I have not yet heard, but have the pleasure to acquaint you that they greatly facilitated our schemes, and would have been attended with success equal to our most sanguine expectations, had it not been for the unlucky bursting of two thirteen and three ten-inch mortars, among which was the brass one taken in the ordnance brig. To what cause to attribute this misfortune, I know not; whether to any defect in them, or to the inexperience of the bombardiers.
But to return. On Monday evening, as soon as our firing commenced, a considerable detachment of our men, under the command of Brigadier-General Thomas, crossed the neck, and took possession of the two hills, without the least interruption or annoyance from the enemy; and, by their great activity and industry, before the morning advanced the works so far as to be secure against their shot. They are now going on with such expedition that, in a little time, I hope they will be complete, and enable our troops stationed there to make a vigorous and obstinate stand.
During the whole cannonade, which was incessant the last two nights, we were fortunate enough to lose but two men: one a Lieutenant, by a cannon balls taking off his