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rather preparing to make one. However, let their designs have been what they may, I have the satisfaction to inform you that, on Sunday morning last, they totally evacuated the town, and we are now in full possession, upon which event I beg leave to congratulate you; and more so, as the town is in a much better situation than was expected. Added to this, they have left, by means of their precipitate retreat, stores of one kind and another to a pretty considerable amounta particular detail of which, or estimation of their value, I have not yet got. Notwithstanding they have abandoned the town, and there have been favourable winds for their departure, they are still lying with their fleet in Nantasket-Road; but for what purpose, is a matter of much conjecturesome supposing their vessels to have been loaded with such hurry and confusion as to be unfit for sea, and to require sundry things and arrangements to be settled previous to their going out; but for my own part, I cannot but suspect they are waiting for some opportunity to give us a stroke at a moment they conceive us to be off our guard, in order to retrieve the honour they have lost by their shameful and scandalous retreat, diminishing from that lustre and renown which British Armies were wont to boast, and justly claimed as their right. Suspecting them of such motives, I shall not detach any more of the Army than what is gone already, until they have taken their departure and quitted the coast.
I heartily thank you for your kind attention to my last requisition, and am glad that the companies you have ordered are of the Militia; the trouble and inconveniences occasioned by them being far less than what generally attend volunteers. Nothing but necessity and the importance of New-York to us in the present contest, could have induced the application, and, therefore, as soon as they can be spared by the arrival of our Army, they will be at liberty to return home to their common and necessary employments, except such as may choose to inlist and continue in service.
In compliance with your request, I shall direct the troops, or some of them that go from hence after the Ministerial Fleet are gone, to pursue their route on or near the sea-coast, if they can be accommodated with covering and provisions, that they may be ready to oppose the enemy in case they make any attempt upon your Colony about the time of their g6ing, though that is what I do not apprehend. I rather suppose, when they once set out, that they will repair to New-York, or wherever bound, with all possible despatch, to secure the place they are destined for by surprise, lest preparations should be made to receive and prevent them.
I am, sir, with great regard and esteem, your most obedient servant, &c.,
To Governour Trumbull.
GENERAL WASHINGTON TO GOVERNOUR COOKE.
Cambridge, March 21, 1776.
SIR: Your favours of the 13th and 19th instant 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, although 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 the 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 entirely cut off by their possessing it, and give them the command of Hudsons 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 publick 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. Lest 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 honourable General Assembly, I shall with cheerfulness and pleasure direct some of the last divisions that go from hence to pursue the route you wish, if they can be accommodated with covering and provisions, and shall be ever ready and happy to render Rhode-Island, of 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 their most obedient servant,
To Governour Cooke.
GENERAL HOWE TO THE EARL OF DARTMOUTH.
MY LORD: It is with great regret I am obliged to inform your Lordship that, after my struggles to supply the Army with provisions from the Southern Provinces and the West-Indies, (from whence none of the vessels have yet returned,) and after an anxious expectation of more transports to convey the troops, stores, civil officers, inhabitants, and effects, the enemy, by taking possession of and fortifying the commanding heights on Dorchester-Neck, in order to force the ships by their cannon to quit the harbour, has reduced me to the necessity either of exposing the Army to the greatest distresses by remaining in Boston, or of withdrawing from it under such straightened circumstances. The importance of preserving this force when it could no longer act to advantage, did not leave any room to doubt of the propriety of its removal; and since my determination, taken on the 7th instant, I have exerted every expedient to accomplish the arduous task, which was executed on the 17th following in the forenoon, without the least molestation from the Rebels, the transports having been previously watered and fitted for sea in every respect, excepting the article of provisions, in the view of complying with his Majestys commands for a movement from Boston as soon as I might be enabled to effect it.
In order to explain to your Lordship more clearly the state I was reduced to in the article of provisions, I have enclosed a return extracted from the Commissary-Generals reports between the 12th of February and 4th of March; also, the tonnage of transports at the time of embarkation.
The Rebels, about the latter end of January, erected new works and batteries on a point of land opposite to West-Boston, at a place known by the name of Phippss Farm, which, lying under cover of their strongest posts, and so situated as to be supported by their whole force from Cambridge, was not to be prevented. Soon afterwards the Militia of the country was called in, and having intelligence that the enemy intended to possess themselves of Dorchester-Neck, I ordered a detachment from Castle-William on the 13th of February, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Leslie, and one composed of Grenadiers and Light-Infantry from Boston, commanded by Major Musgrave, to pass over the ice, with directions to destroy the houses, and every kind of cover whatever upon that peninsula; which was executed, and six of the enemys guard made prisoners.
On the 2d instant, at night, the Rebels began a cannonade upon the town, from Roxbury and Phippss Farm, and threw some shells from both places, without doing any personal damage, and but little to the buildings. The same was repeated on the evenings of the 3d and 4th, by which only six men were wounded; the fire being returned from our batteries, but at such a distance as to be very uncertain in the execution.
It was discovered on the 5th, in the morning, that the enemy had thrown up three very extensive works, with strong abattes round them, on the commanding hill on Dorchester-Neck, which must have been the employment