The Power of a Letter

March 24, 1776
Washington Wrote a Letter to the Continental Congress

You can learn a lot from reading old letters. Fortunately for Americans interested in the country’s early history, George Washington was a talented and frequent letter writer. On March 24, 1776, General Washington wrote a letter to the Continental Congress (the governing body of the American revolutionaries). In it, he described how he had made the city of Boston safe from future attack by the British, but that the mischievous British fleet would not leave the Boston harbor. It was his second letter to Congress about the attack on Boston.

In an earlier letter on March 19, Washington described in detail his siege of Boston: He took over a good, high position on Dorchester Heights, above the British-held city, and fired cannons on the city and harbor. The British troops evacuated. Washington couldn’t believe that they still remained on their ships in the harbor after their defeat. He wrote the March 24 letter, expressing his “surprize and disappointment” that the fleet was still causing trouble. He prepared a strong defense of the town just in case they should return.

Washington armed Fort Hill, another high ground facing the water, so that it “will greatly annoy any Fleet the Enemy may send against the Town, and render the Landing of their Troops exceedingly difficult, If not Impracticable.” The Continental Congress gave Washington a gold medal and a letter of thanks for capturing Boston.

Washington wrote back with his thanks and also declared his devotion to the American people. Because of Washington’s letters, we know all this about him and the siege of Boston.