February 16, 1776


Congress spends most of the day considering “the propriety of opening the ports, and the restrictions, and the regulations of the trade of the colonies after March 1.”  Because Great Britain controlled the seas, some members stress the need to enter into treaties with other foreign powers in order to protect American trade.

Meanwhile, General George Washington has a Council of War with Major Generals Ward and Putnam, and Brigadier Generals Generals Thomas, Heath, Spencer, Sullivan, and Gates, the practicability of an attack on Boston.

“The Question being put and their Opinion demanded.

Resolved that an Assault on the Town of Boston in the present circumstances of the Continental Army is for the following reasons Judged Improper.

Because It is the Opinion of this Council that the King’s forces in the Town of Boston Comprehending New raised Corps & Armed Tories amount to a much larger Number than 5,000—furnished with Artillery, Assisted by a Fleet and possessed of every advantage the situation of the place affords—The Officers in proportion to the Number of men are so many, that the Troops there may be said with propriety to be doubly Officered.

Because Our Army is at present very defective in the Numbers this Council declared to be sufficient for the purpose of Offensive War, and also deficient in Arms to the amount of 2,000 Stand—The Militia Ordered & expected to be here by the first of the Month are not more than half arrived, so that to Assault the Town of Boston, guard the Works & Stores, there remain only 12,600 Men, militia, Commissioned & Non Commissioned Officers Included—a force not more than sufficient to defend the Lines & maintain the Blockade.

Because It appears to the Council by the Report of a m[aj]ority of the Generals commanding Brigades, that upon discoursing with the Field Officers of their respective Regiments upon the subject of an Assault, they in General declared a disapprobation of the measure as exceedingly doubtful.

Because If an Assault should be found practicable & expedient at any Time, It was declared highly necessary, that It should for some days be preceded by a Cannonade & Bombardment.

His Excellency the Commander in Chief then required the Opinion of the Council whether It would be advisable to begin a Cannonade & Bombardment with the present stock of powder.

Resolved that a Cannonade & Bombardment will be expedient and advisable as soon as there shall be a proper Supply of powder & not before, & that in the mean Time, preparations should be made to take possession of Dorchester Hill, with a view of drawing out the Enemy, and of Nodles Island also, If the Situation of the Water & other circumstances will admit of It.”

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