J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

“We found every thing exactly the reverse”

On 3 July 1775, Gen. George Washington took command of the Continental Army in Cambridge and started to assess the situation. He had come from Philadelphia with Gen. Charles Lee, an experienced British officer.

The next day, Lee wrote to Robert Morris in Philadelphia with a critical assessment:

We arrived here on Sunday before dinner. We found every thing exactly the reverse of what had been represented.

We were assured at Philadelphia that the army was stock’d with Engineers. We found not one. We were assur’d that we should find an expert train of Artillery. They have not a single Gunner, and so on so far from the men being prejudiced in favour of their own Officers They are extremely diffident in ’em and seem much pleased that we are arrived.

The men are really very fine fellows, and had they fair play would be made an invincible army. We are working hard to strengthen our different posts—And if the enemy will give us time for three or four days we shall I think be quite secure. I believe the loss of the regulars in the last affair was probably very heavy All accts concur in it.
Indeed, both armies were still reeling from the Battle of Bunker Hill—the New Englanders because they had lost, the British because their victory had cost them so many men. Lee threw himself into strengthening fortifications that could keep the redcoats from coming out of Charlestown to Cambridge. Unknown to him, the British commanders in Boston had decided that such an effort would be futile.

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