Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: March 6, 1776

March 6, 1776

Congress receives a number of letters from George Washington that prompt an even greater concern with 1) the availability and distribution of arms and troops, and 2) who were to command the forces on multiple fronts from Canada to the southern department.  Robert Treat Paine writes that “America never can support her freedom until we have a sufficient source of arms and ammunition of all species.”

Link to date-related documents.

Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

A letter from General Washington, dated 26th February, 1776, was read, and referred to the committee to whom the other letters from the General have been referred.

A letter from J. Palmer, enclosing a report of a committee of the general assembly of Massachusetts, respecting lead, was read:

Resolved, That the committee appointed on the 31st of July last, concerning the collection and refining of lead etc., be discharged and that the business of that committee be referred to the committee appointed on the 23 of February, to consider ways and means of promoting and encouraging the manufactures of salt-petre, &c.

Resolved, That the letter from J. Palmer, with the enclosed report, be referred to the last mentioned committee.

A letter from General Washington, dated 18 and 21 February, enclosing the result of a Council of War, was read.

Resolved, That Brigadier General Thomas be appointed to command the forces in Canada, and that General Washington be directed to order him immediately to “repair to that province.”

Several members of the marine committee are absent.

Resolved, That their places be supplied by Samuel Huntington, for Connecticut, Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant, for New Jersey, Benjamin Harrison, for Virginia, and Edward Rutledge, for South Carolina.

Resolved, That the Secret Committee be directed to send to New York and the southern department 5 tons of powder for the use of the continental troops.

To return to the colony of Maryland the powder borrowed by Mr. Harrison,

To return to the committee of safety of Pennsylvania, the powder borrowed of them:

To deliver to the delegates of the three counties on Delaware, one ton of powder, for which they are to be accountable,

To return to the colony of New York the powder borrowed of that colony

To the delegates of New Jersey, one ton of powder, for which the said colony to be accountable.

Resolved, That the president acquaint General Schuyler, that the Congress judge it necessary he should remain at Albany to make the proper arrangements respecting the army destined for Canada, and therefore that he establish his head quarters at Albany.

Resolved, That Thomas Bullet. be appointed deputy adjutant general in the southern department, with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Resolved, That the Secret Committee be directed to deliver to Colonel Wayne the arms in their possession retaining so many as will be necessary for the guard that is to attend the powder to Cambridge.

Adjourned to 10 o’Clock to Morrow.

John Hancock to John Thomas (Brigadier General)

The Situation of Canada, being at this Juncture an Object of the greatest Importance to the Welfare of the United Colonies, the Congress have been anxious to fix upon some General Officer, whose military Skill, Courage and Capacity will probably insure Success to the Enterprise. In Major General Thomas they flatter themselves they will not be disappointed.  Accordingly I do myself the Honor to enclose your Commission as Major General; and shall only add, that Congress have the firmest Reliance on your exerting yourself to the utmost. I beg Leave to refer you to General Washington for the necessary Instructions on your Expedition.

John Hancock to George Washington

Since my last I have had the honor of Receiving your Letters of the 24th and 30th of January, [and the] 9th, 14th, 18th, 21st and 26th of February, which were communicated to Congress.  

The Congress highly Approve your Care and Attention in stopping Lord Drummond’s Letter, and entirely concur with you in Sentiment, with Regard to his Lordship’s officious and unwarrantable Zeal. [Washington’s February 14 letter]

The Situation of the Middle and Southern Colonies hath engaged the Attention of Congress. These are divided into two Departments, the Middle comprehending New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland, under the Command of a Major General and two Brigadier Generals; the Southern comprehending Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia, under the command of a Major General and four Brigadier Generals. As there is Reason to think the Force of our Enemies will be directed against the Colonies in the Southern Department, Major General Lee is appointed to that Command….

And that our Affairs in Canada may be under the Direction of an able Officer, and General Schuyler’s Health not permitting him to go thither, or if he could, as his Presence is so necessary in New York, the Congress have promoted Brigadier General Thomas to the Rank of a Major General, and directed him to repair to Canada and take the Command of the Continental Forces in that Quarter.  I have accordingly enclosed his Commission, and am to desire you will give him orders to repair, with all Expedition, to his Post….  

With Regard to Arms, I am afraid we shall, for a Time, be under some Difficulty. The Importation is now more precarious and dangerous. To remedy this, a Committee is appointed [February 23] to contract for the making Arms; and as there is a great Number of Gunsmiths in this and the neighboring Colonies, I flatter myself we shall soon be able to provide ourselves without Risk or Danger.  But we must, like other States engaged in the like glorious Struggle, contend with Difficulties.  By Perseverance and the Blessing of God, I trust, if we continue to deserve Freedom, we shall be enabled to overcome them.  To that Being, in whose Hands is the Fate of Nations, I recommend you and the Army under your Command.

Robert Treat Paine to Joseph Palmer

America never can support her freedom until we have a sufficient source of arms and ammunition of all species among ourselves, and the more these sources are distributed among the colonies, the greater the security of external and internal peace.  In pursuance of this idea, I am of a committee who are laboring to push saltpetre and gunpowder making through all the colonies, and are also devising methods to establish a regular and extensive manufacture of muskets, and hope soon to exhibit….

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.