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Congress of Massachusetts met, and attended him to Cambridge.
JULY 2, 1775.] On his arrival, that body presented him a respectful address, in which they expressed their entire satisfaction with his appointment, and pledged the most effectual co-operation with his measures, in their power. His answer was well calculated to increase the attachments to his person, and the confidence in his talents, which the public already entertained.
“ Gentlemen, your kind congratulations on my appointment and arrival, demand my warmest acknowledgments, and will ever be retained in grateful remembrance. In exchanging the enjoyment of doinestic life, for the duties of my present honourable, but arduous situation, I only emulate the virtue and public spirit of the whole province of Massachusetts, which, with a firmness and patriotism without an example, has sacrificed all the comforts of social and political life, in support of the rights of mankind, and the welfare of our common country. My highest anıbition is to be the liappy instrument of vindicating these rights, and to see this devoted province again restored to peace, liberty and safety.”
The British army, at this time, commanded by General Gage, was strongly posted in three divisions ; on Bunker's Hill, a mile from the ferry of Charles's River, on Cop's Hill, in Boston, and on Roxbury neck. These fortified posts secured the isthmus of Boston, and that of Charlestown, the only avenues by land into those towns. Floating batteries and armed ships, stationed in the waters which surround Boston, supported the positions of the British, and kept open the communication between them.
The American army was posted at Roxbury, Cambridge, and on Winter and Prospect Hills, in front af Bunker's Hill. These positions formed a crescent of twelve miles in extent. After reconnoitring the situation of the enemy, and examining the state of his own army, the General attempted a better organization of the troops. He formed them into three divisions; the division at Roxbury formed the right wing of the army, and was commanded by General Ward ; the division on Prospect and Winter Hills, composed the left wing, and was commanded by General Lee; and the troops at Cambridge formed the centre, and were commanded by General Washington in person. The forces were deemed incompetent to defend this extended camp, but the situation of the country did not favour a more compact arrangement; nor could the neighbouring country be otherwise defended from the depredations of the enemy.
These positions were secured by lines and forts; and a few companies of men were posted in the towns, around Boston Bay, most exposed to annoyance by British armed vessels.
General Washington found himself embarrassed by the total want of system in every department of the army. In the execution of the duties of his commission, it became necessary to open a correspondence, not only with the Continental Congress, and with most of the governments of the colonies, but also with the committees of all those towns which furnished supplies for the army. In a letter to Congress on this subject he observes,
" I should be extremely deficient of gratitude, as well as justice, if I did not take the first opportunity to acknowledge the readiness and attention which the Congress, and the different committees have shewn, to make every thing as convenient and agreeable as possible ; but there is a vital and inherent principle of delay, incompatible with military service, in transacting business through such various and different channels. I esteem it my duty, therefore, to represent the inconvenience that must unavoidably ensue from a dependence on a number of persons for supplies, and submit it to the consideration of Congress, whether the public service will not be the best promoted by appointing a commissary general for the purpose.'
An inquiry into the state of the magazine of powder, was among the first cares of General Washington, and three hundred and three barrels in store was the return made to him. Soon after he discovered that this return embraced the whole quantity brought into camp, without deducting what had been expended : and that there remained on hand only sufficient to furnish the army with nine cartridges a man. While the greatest caution was used to keep this alarming fact a secret, the utmost exertions were employed to obtain a supply of this article of absolute necessity in war.. Application was made to all the Colonies, and measures were adopted to import powder into the country. The immediate danger was soon removed by an arrival of a small quantity, sent from Elizabethtown, in New Jersey. Under the perplexities which arose from the defect of arms, the want of clothing and magazines, from the want of engineers, and from the confused state of the staff department, the mind of General Washing: ton was, in some measure, cheered by a view of the men who composed his troops. “ It requires," says be, in a letter to the President of Congress, “no military skill to judge of the difficulty of introducing proper discipline and subordination into an army, while we have the enemy in view, and are daily in expectation of an attack; but it is of so much importance, that every effort will be made that time and circumstances will admit. In the mean time, I have a sincere pleasure in observing that there are materials for a good army; a great number of able bodied men, active, zealous in the cause, and of unquestionable courage. The details of the departments of the paymaster, quartermaster and commissary, fell
General Washington, and he urged Congress to fill them. Being himself authorised to make the appointments, he called to his assistance the general staff, which is necessary for the regular support and expeditious movements of an army; and assiduously prosecuted plans to organize and discipline his troops.
General Gage had, at his disposal, a force consisting of eight thousand men, and, by the aid of his shipping, he was enabled to direct it to any point of the extended lines of the Americans, whose army did not amount to more than fourteen thousand and five hundred men. General Washington was fully apprized of his danger, and early summoned the general officers to deliberate upon the expediency of attempting to support their present position, or of taking one in their rear more compact. The council with unanimity advised to remain in their present lines. The reasons in support of this opinion were, the immediate effect which a retrograde movement would have to animate the British, and to depress the American troops; the unfavourable impression that would be made upon the public mind; the devastation of the fertile country that must be opered to the enemy, and the difficulty of finding a strong position in the rear. As a precautionary measure, it was determined that they would not take possession of the heights of Dorchester, nor oppose the attempt of General Gage to gain them. In case of an attack and defeat, the Welsh mountains in Cambridge, and the rear of the lines in Roxbury, were appointed as places of rendezvous. The enemy was watched with vigilant attention; and any movements which threatened a distant invasion, were communicated to Congress, and to the executives of the provinces particularly exposed.