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GENERAL WARD TO MASSACHUSETTS ASSEMBLY.
Boston, April 16, 1776.
SIR: As I am left in Boston with the command of the Continental Troops in this Colony, I think it my duly to acquaint the honourable House with my situation. Five regiments are in this Colonytwo in Boston, one at Dorchester-Heights, one at Charlestown, and one at Beverley. These regiments were stationed by General Washingtons order. In Boston there are not seven hundred men fit for duty, at Beverley, not three hundred. I by no means think it prudent to take any men from Beverley, as all the prizes taken from the enemy remain there uncondemned, and considering near fifty of that regiment are on board the Continental privateers. The troops that marched to the southward were hurried off. Chief of the cannon then fit for service were ordered away, that we had not many, if any, cannon in our most advanced posts to annoy the enemy with if we had been attacked; and the stores scattered from Medford to Dorchester; the teams so drained off that we are not able to procure teams to move the ordnance and ordnance stores as I could wish. The harbour is now open to our enemies. The men-of-war have it in their power to cannonade the town of Boston. If the enemy should return, is it not possible for them to carry the town of Boston, and the lines we have occupied for ten months, and scatter destruction in all the adjacent towns? Nay, is it not probable? If such should be the case they would get to themselves more honour and more advantage than by vanquishing any other Colony in New-England; and our disgrace and dishonour would be in proportion. I would not willingly exaggerate matters, and fear when there was no occasion for fear. This matter has lain heavy on my mind ever since they evacuated the town. It appears to me indispensably necessary that the channel should forthwith be stopped, in whole or in part, so as to render it impassable to strangers with large ships. There is nothing to hinder the men-of-wars men from landing in Braintree, Squantum, or Dorchester, in the night, and spreading destruction all around them, and getting off without much difficulty, provided they know our state; and we have reason to fear that many among us would readily give them information of the same. I would by no means pretend to dictate to the honourable House. I mention them with submission, and with a mind full of anxiety for the future well-being of my country; and am, sir, your very humble servant,
SENTIMENTS RELATIVE TO FORTIFYING BOSTON HARBOUR.
The necessity of immediately securing the harbour of Boston is acknowledged by all. The neglect of it gives great anxiety and uneasiness. Whether the variety of sentiments, relative to the mode of execution, has not contributed to prevent it, I am not able to say. The fortifying near the town of Boston can have only that town for its object. Our other towns within Hull and Pulling-Point, also our navigation, must be almost as much exposed as ever. A plan that would take in the whole, if practicable, must certainly be the most eligible. That it is practicable, there is no doubt. There is no army to hinder our beginning at the entrance into the harbour. The places there are admirably well calculated for fortifying, and some of them are of such importance that, should the enemy take possession of them, we should have occasion to rue the day, and curse our neglect.
Hull is the outermost land next to the bay surrounded by water, except by a long neck, or beach, connecting it with the main. On it are two eminences, well adapted for fortifying the one, Point Alderton one mile and three-eighths from Beacon-Island, the other, called Lorings Hill, or North-Head. This town is a situation of the greatest importance, being such as would enable the enemy, if they once possessed and fortified it, (with the help of their shipping,) to keep off any army that we could raise. Not forty thousand men, perhaps, could dislodge them. The land is one of the most fertile spots in the Provincewould afford them pasturage, hay, grain, and vegetables of every kind; houses deserted by the inhabitants would afford them a safe lodging. They would have the entire command of Hingham, Weymouth, Braintree, and, indeed of the whole seaboard, unless measures to prevent this were then pursued; the expense of which would probably ten times exceed what need now be expended to prevent it. The possession of this, with Pecticks Island would secure them a safe harbour within Nantasket Gut for ships from twenty to thirty guns; and they would be as well accommodated for distressing us, and making inroads into the country, as if they possessed Boston. Now, by considering what it would be to them, may sufficiently show what it might be to us, and the necessity of our immediately fortifying it, together with Pecticks Island but a little distance from the north head of Hull, or Lorings Hill so called, and not exceeding half a mile. Within musket shot of this, vessels passing through the gut must come; and within this gut, on the south side of Hull, there would be as fine a retreat for privateers, and other vessels, as can anywhere be found; from all which it appears that these two places ought to be instantly fortified.
For the more effectual security of the harbour, Georges Island is the best of any in it. Was this strongly fortified, and well furnished with every necessary, with common success it would prevent any ship-of-war from passing. All ships-of-war, from twenty guns and upwards, must pass by it to go through the Narrows or through the western passage, that is, by the Moon and west end of Long-Island, and must come within musket shot of it. Fronting the channel, the land is so high that it would be difficult for a ship to bring her guns to bear, and they must be exposed to a fire in their course up as far as shot could reach them. If it is thought best to risk our defence upon forts, without blocking up the channel, it cannot well be effected without fortifying this Island; and a strong fortress here, with those on Hull and Pecticks Island and the aid of two or three row-galleys, would probably secure the harbour, having first driven out the fifty-gun ship that now lies here, which, it is imagined, might be easily done.
But if Georges Island is not fortified, the harbour may be secured by stopping up the Narrows by hulks or vaisseaux-de-frise, fortifying the Moon and west end of Long-Island. It is affirned that there is a sufficient depth of water through the western passage for ships of any burden. Whether there is or not, may be easily ascertained; but if there is, what matter is it if the Narrows are stopped up forever? These two Islands, together with Pecticks Island and Hull, well fortified, and Narrows blocked up, would be a security to a greater part of the harbour, with the aid of galleys. These might keep off any vessels that would come through Broad Sound, and would be a noble protection to the Islands; and if such could be immediately obtained, they would greatly facilitate the operations on the Islands.
The foregoing plan, well executed, would be productive of innumerable advantages. It would secure Hull, (a rich spot of land,) give the inhabitants possession of their houses and improvements of their lands, and afford a fine harbour for vessels within Nantasket. We should be able to discover our enemys ships long before they could injure us, Hull affording a most extensive prospect. The Islands in the harbour might be improved the present summer; from whence vast quantities of pasturage, hay, grain, and sheep, be raised, and cattle fattened; a constant communication, by water, to all the places within the harbour; Boston be supplied with fresh fish, and all other necessaries, for which they must shortly be much straitened. A vast charge of land-carriage for goods brought into the out-ports might be saved. In short, so many are the advantages that would result herefrorn, that it would compensate for any expense that we should be at; and if we mean to enjoy any commerce, it is indispensably necessary. The door of trade is now wide open; and who will venture to come into this port if, after having run the risk of seas and enemies, they must here be taken in the harbour? If we mean to avoid much larger expenses, and to secure ourselves against an
*MAY 7, 1776. The Committee of both Houses, to whom is referred the consideration of a Letter from General Ward, have considered the same, and, from various circumstances, are led to conclude that the probability of the enemys return to this Colony is such as renders it highly necessary that part of the Militia he called to the lines near Boston with all possible despatch; and that due care be immediately taken to provide proper magazines of provisions, and sufficient supply of intrenching tools and camp utensils for their use and support.
All which is humbly submitted.