This volume covers the middle months of the siege of Boston when George Washington faced the delicate task of disbanding one army and recruiting another, all within musket shot of the British forces. Throughout the fall of 1775, assisted and sometimes thwarted by congressmen, New England officials, and fellow officers, Washington laid plans not merely to keep a besieging force around Boston and provide his men with winter necessities, but also to remodel the army to make it more efficient and truly continental, intermixing officers and men without regard to their colonial identity.
The numerous official letters Washington wrote and received during this period, his daily general orders, the records of his councils of war, and the minutes of his important October conference with a congressional committee reveal a competent military administrator and committed patriot attempting to create a professional American army which would transcend the narrow localism of the colonial past well in advance of the Declaration of Independence.
Unwilling to risk an attack on the main British army in Boston during the fall of 1775, Washington encouraged and monitored two major offensive efforts elsewhere; the outfitting of a small fleet of armed vessels to disrupt the flow of British supplies by sea to Boston and Canada and the two-pronged invasion of Canada led by Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold. Washington also dealt with the treasonous intrigues of Benjamin Church and John Connolly and with the burning of the seaport of Falmouth. He also received several unsolicited schemes for attacking the British fleet in Boston Harbor, a steady stream of personal pleadings for discharges and a laudatory verse written by the black poet Phyllis Wheatly.
Substantial portions of Washington’s correspondence for this period concern his personal business and family affairs. Most notable are the fourteen letters from his Mount Vernon manager, Lund Washington. They offer rare views into the daily operations of the plantation as well as into Washington’s finances and land dealings. They provide valuable information about plans for remodeling the mansion house, proposals for defending it against British attack, and Martha Washington’s travels culminating in her journey to join her husband at Cambridge.
Philander D. Chase, ed., The Papers of George Washington: Revolutionary War Series volume 2, September – December 1775. Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 1987.
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