Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: June 20, 1775

June 20, 1775

Congress provides General Washington with Six Instructions for his “better direction.” Eliphalet Dyer is “perplexed,” John Adams expresses “torment” over the selection of Generals, and Matthew Tilghman is in a state of uneasiness.

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Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

The committee appointed to draft instructions to the General, reported the same, which being read, were agreed to, and are as follows:

Instructions to George Washington

This Congress having appointed you to be General and Commander in chief of the Army of the united Colonies and of all the forces raised or to be raised by them and of all others who shall voluntarily offer their service and join the said army for the defence of American liberty and for repelling every hostile invasion thereof, you are to repair with all expedition to the colony of Massachusetts bay and take charge of the army of the united colonies.

For your better direction

  • 1st You are to make a return to us as soon as possible of all forces which you shall have under your command together with their military stores and provisions. And also as exact an Account as you can obtain of the forces which compose the British Army in America.
  • 2dly You are not to disband any of the men you find raised until further direction from this Congress and if you shall think their numbers not adequate to the purpose of security, you many recruit them to a number you shall think sufficient, not exceeding double that of the enemy.
  • 3d In all cases of vacancy occasioned by the death or removal of a Colonel or other inferior officer, you are by brevet or warrant under your seal to appoint another person to fill up such vacancy until it shall be otherwise ordered by the provincial Convention or Assembly of the colony from whence the troops in which such vacancy happen, shall direct otherwise.
  • 4. You are to victual at the continental expense all such volunteers as have joined or shall join the united Army.
  • 5. You shall take every method in your power consistent with prudence, to destroy or make prisoners of all persons who now are or who hereafter shall appear in Arms against the good people of the united colonies.
  • 6. And whereas all particulars cannot be foreseen, nor positive instructions for such emergencies so before hand given but that many things must be left to your prudent and discreet management, as occurrences may arise upon the place, or from time to that time fall out, you are therefore upon all such accidents or any occasions that may happen, to use your best circumspection and (advising with your council of war) to order and dispose of the said Army under your command as may be most advantageous for the obtaining the end for which these forces have been raised, making it your special care in discharge of the great trust committed unto you, that the liberties of America receive no detriment.

Resolved, that this Congress will tomorrow resolve itself into a committee of the whole to take into consideration the state of America.

Adjourned till tomorrow at 9 o’Clock.

Eliphalet Dyer to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr

The Intelligence we almost Daily receive here being so far Distant from where the great Operations most likely will be, makes our decisions somewhat perplexed and in many respects not so readily Accounted for. I heartily Wish, & have some reasons to hope this Congress after a few Days will move somewhere Nearer the Scenes of Action. We are Continually perplexed with New York. They must be saved if possible for the good of the whole….

John Adams to James Warren

Nothing has given me more Torment, than the Scuffle We have had in appointing the General officers….

I have never formed any Friendship or particular Connection with Lee, but upon the most mature Deliberation I judged him the best qualified for the Service, and the most likely to cement the Colonies, and therefore gave him my Vote, and am willing to abide the Consequences….

We have a great shew this Morning here. Our great Generals Washington and Lee review the three Battalions of this City. I believe there never was two thousand Soldiers created out of nothing so suddenly, as in this City. You would be surprised to behold them, all in Uniforms, and very expert both in the Manual and Maneuvres. They go through the Wheelings and Firings in sub-divisions, grand Divisions, and Platoons, with great Exactness. Our accounts from all Parts of the Continent are very pleasing. The Spirit of the People is such as you would wish.

Matthew Tilghman to Charles Carroll of Carrollton

I am long, and have been in the same state of uneasiness which you express…. R.G., L. and J.H., have found excuses to go home.  They talked of returning, but we do not expect it. I have long flattered myself with the hope of pacific measures that might avail something, but that hope has almost vanished…. It is thought Gen. Gage when the troops all arrived, will be 11 or 12,000 strong. The Provincials now have about 18,000. It is supposed they will not attack but it is generally thought that Gage will. Indeed from all circumstances I think it probable, and dreadful slaughter there will be. I wish I could have entertained you more agreeably, but I fear this is the subject on which we must speak and write for some time to come. May Heaven protect us.

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.