|You are here: Home >> American Archives|
thigh; the other a private, by the explosion of a shell, which also slightly wounded four or five more.
Our taking possession of Dorchester-Heights is only preparatory to taking post on Nuke-Hill, and the point opposite the south end of Boston. It was absolutely necessary that they should be previously fortified, in order to coyer and command them. As soon as the works on the former are finished and complete, measures will be immediately adopted for securing the latter, and making them as strong and defensible as we can. Their contiguity to the enemy will make them of much importance and of great service to us.
As mortars are essential and indispensably necessary for carrying on our operations, and for the prosecution of our plans, I have applied to two furnaces, to have some thirteen-inch ones cast with all expedition imaginable; and am encouraged to hope, from the accounts I have had, that they will be able to do it. When they are done, and a proper supply of powder obtained, I flatter myself, from the posts we have just taken and are about to take, that it will be in our power to force the Ministerial Troops to an attack, or to dispose of them in some way that will be of advantage to us. I think from these posts they will be so galled and annoyed, that they must either give us battle or quit their present possessions. I am resolved that nothing on my part shall be wanting to effect the one or the other.
It having been the general opinion that the enemy would attempt to dislodge our people from the hills, and force their works as soon as they were discovered, which probably might have brought on a general engagement, it was thought advisable that the honourable Council should be applied to, to order in the Militia from the neighbouring and adjacent towns. I wrote them on the subject, which they most readily complied with; and, in justice to the Militia, I cannot but inform you that they came in at the appointed time, and manifested the greatest alertness and determined resolution to have acted like men engaged in the cause of freedom.
When the enemy first discovered our works in the morning, they seemed to be in great confusion, and, from their movements, to have intended an attack. It is much to be wished that it had been made. The event, I think, must have been fortunate, and nothing less than success and victory on our side, as our officers and men appeared impatient for the appeal, and to have possessed the most animated sentiments and determined resolution.
On Tuesday evening, a considerable number of their troops embarked on board of their transports, and fell down to the Castle, where part of them landed before dark. One or two of the vessels got aground, and were fired at by our people with a field-piece, but without any damage. What was the design of this embarkation and landing, I have not been able to learn. It would seem as if they meant an attack; for it is most probable that, if they make one on our works at Dorchester, at this time, they will first go to the Castle, and come from thence. If such was their design, a violent storm that night, and which lasted till eight oclock the next day, rendered the execution of it impracticable. It carried one or two of their vessels ashore, which have since got off.
In case the Ministerial Troops had made an attempt to dislodge our men from Dorchester-Hills, and the number detached upon the occasion had been so great as to have afforded a probability of a successful attack being made upon Boston, on a signal given from Roxbury for that purpose, agreeable to a settled and concerted plan, four thousand chosen men, who were held in readiness, were to have embarked at the mouth of Cambridge River, in two divisions: the first under the command of Brigadier-General Sullixan; the second under Brigadier-General Greene the whole to have been commanded by Major-General Putnam. The first division was to land at the Powder-House, and gain possession of Beacon-Hill and Mount Whoredom; the second at Bartons Point, or a little south of it, and, after securing that post, to join the other division, and force the enemys gates and works at the Neck, for letting in the Roxbury Troops. Three floating batteries were to have preceded and gone in front of the other boats, and kept up a heavy fire on that part of the town where our men were to land. How far our views would have succeeded, had an opportunity offered for attempting the execution, is impossible for me to say. Nothing less than experiment could determine with precision. The plan was thought to be well digested, and, as far as I could judge, from the cheerfulness and alacrity which distinguished the officers and men who were to engage in the enterprise, I had reasons to hope for a favourable and happy issue.
The Militia, which were ordered in from the adjacent towns, brought with them three days provision. They were only called upon to act under the idea of an attack being immediately made, and were all discharged this afternoon.
I beg leave to remind Congress, that three Major-Generals are essential and necessary for this Army; and that, by General Lees being called from hence to the command in Canada, the left division is without one. I hope they will fill up the vacancy by the appointment of another. General Thomas is the first Brigadier, stands fair in point of reputation, and is esteemed a brave and good officer. If he is promoted, there will be a vacancy in the Brigadier-Genrals, which it will be necessary to supply by the appointment of some other gentleman that shall be agreeable to Congress. But justice requires me to mention that William Thompson, Esq., of the Rifle Regiment, is the first Colonel in this department, and, as far as I have had an opportunity of judging, is a good officer and a man of courage. What I have said of these two gentlemen, I conceived to be my duty, at the same time acknowledging that whatever promotions are made will be satisfactory to me.
March 9.Yesterday evening a Captain Irvine, who escaped from Boston the night before, with six of his crew, came to Head-Quarters, and gave the following intelligence: That our bombardment and cannonade caused a good deal of surprise and alarm in town, as many of the soldiery said they never heard or thought we had mortars or shells; that several of the officers acknowledged they were well and properly directed; that they made much distress and confusion, That the cannon shot, for the greatest part, went through the houses; and he was told that one took off the legs and arms of six men lying in the barracks on the Neck. That a soldier, who came from the lines there on Tuesday morning, informed him that twenty men had been wounded the night before. It was reported that others were also hurt, and one of the light-horse torn to pieces by the explosion of a shell. This was afterwards contradicted. That early on Tuesday morning, Admiral Shuldham, discovering the works our people were throwing up on Dorchester-Heights, immediately sent an express to General Howe, to inform him, and that it was necessary they should be attacked and dislodged from thence, or he would be under the necessity of withdrawing the ships from the harbour which were under his command. That preparations Were directly made for that purpose, as it was said; and from twelve to two oclock, about three thousand men embarked on board the transports, which fell down to the Castle, with a design of landing on that part of Dorchester next to it, and attacking the works on the Heights at five oclock next morning. That Lord Percy was appointed to command. That it was generally believed the attempt would have been made, had it not been for the violent storm which happened that night, as I have mentioned before. That he heard seyeral of the privates and one or two sergeants say, as they were embarking, that it would be another Bunker-Hill affair.
He further informs, that the Army is preparing to leave Boston, and that they will do it in a day or two. That the transports, necessary for their embarkation, were getting ready with the utmost expedition. That there had been great movements and confusion among the troops the night and day preceding his coming out, in hurrying down their cannon, artillery, and other stores, to the wharves, with the utmost precipitation, and were putting them on board the ships in such haste that no account or memorandum was taken of them. That most of the cannon were removed from their works, and embarked and embarking. That he heard a woman say, which he took to be an officers wife, that she had seen men go under the ground, at the lines on the Neck, without returning. That the ship he commanded was taken up, places fitted and fitting for officers to lodge, and several shot, shells, and cannon, already on board. That the Tories were to have the liberty of going where they please, if they can get seamen to man the vessels, of which there was a great scarcity; that on that account many vessels could not be carried away, and would be burnt. That many of the inhabitants apprehended the town