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Robert Treat Paine Papers, Volume 3

From Ebenezer Cowell
Cowell, Ebenezer RTP
Philadelphia 9th. March AD 1776 Sr.,

I Ebenezer Cowell of Trenton for value receivd promise to pay unto Robert Treat Paine, James Willson Samll. Huntington Francis Lightfoot Lee & Lewis Morris a Committee of Congress Two hundred & Sixty 179Seven Spanish Milld. dollars or the value thereof in Continental Currency Witness my hand,

Ebenezer Cowell Witness John Legg

MS ; endorsed: “Ebr. Cowell’s note to a comtee. of Congress R.T.P. & others. 9 March 1776.”

From Abraham Hunt
Hunt, Abraham RTP
Trenton 12th March 1776 Sir,

I recd. yours by Mr. Cowell and observe the Contents. I will undertake to receive the Gunlocks of Mr. Cowell & to observe your further Directions about the matter & am Sir your hble. Servt.

Abm. Hunt

RC ; addressed: “To Robt. Treat Paine Esqr. in Congress Philadelphia”; endorsed.

From Thomas Cushing
Cushing, Thomas RTP
Watertown March 18 1776 Sir,

I received your Favor of the 6th Instant, am Glad to hear more Powder is arrived at Philadelphia. The Court met the 13th Instant. The members tell me that the People in all parts of the Government are making Salt Petre very rapidly. Some are of opinion we shall have made in this Province by the month of June near one hundred Tons. I doubt whether quite so much, but beleive shall have a very considerable quantity. The Powder Mill at Andover will be ready to work in a few days. That at Stoughton in about a week or Ten days. The saltpetre you sent is not so good as that our People make by Twenty pr. cent. I am very sorry to Inform you that I cannot find that we have any Oar in this Province that will do to make Cannon. I applied some time ago to the owners of the Furnace at Providence to make the Cannon for the Ships Building in this 180Province, but they sent me word that they could not supply me, as they had Engaged to make as many for the Colony of Rhode Island as they could possibly finish by the time they would be wanted, and Mr. Durfy1 has been there lately to procure some & finds those they have made prove to be bad2; they have made some since but have not as yet proved them. They hope they will answer. I can expect no supply from that Quarter & therefore if pigs cannot be sent from Philadelphia we must have the Cannon from thence, and therefore should be glad you would immediately Inform me Whether Cannon can be had from Philadelphia New York or Maryland & how soon. Mr. Hobart is Building an Air Furnace but is so slow in his Motions that I fear whether he will be able to make the Cannon seasonably. He designs to use sea Coal in his Air furnace. He has engaged one hundred Tons thro’ my interposition, at Plimouth which will be handy for him. People here think you are mistaken in apprehending that Pig Iron is not so good as Oar. They say Vast Quantities have been transported from America to Great Britain for the Purpose of making Cannon. Our Ships are going on very fast, as many men are Employed about them as can possibly be of any Service. I have been very lucky in getting Hemp, as also a number of large Anchors that weigh from 250 to 310 weight which our People have lately taken from the men of Warr. The British Troops have evacuated the Town of Boston in great precipitation & in a very ignominous manner but upon the Subject must refer you to Mr. Hancock to whom I have wrote pr. this Conveyance.3 A Detachment of our Troops have gone into Boston and this Day General Washington & his Suit dined with Captain Erving.4 In great haste I remain yr. Freind and most humble Servt.

T. Cushing

RC ; addressed: “To The Honble. Robert Treat Paine at Philadelphia. Free”; endorsed.


Thomas Durfee (1721–1796) was a wealthy farmer and landowner in Freetown, which he represented in the General Court at this time. On Feb. 6, Durfee, Capt. Josiah Batcheldor, Jr., of Beverly (1736–1809), and Col. Jerathmeel Bowers of Swansea (1717–1799) were appointed as a committee to supervise the building of “Ten Sloops of War, of One Hundred and Ten Tons, or Fifteen Tons each, suitable to carry from Fourteen to Sixteen Carriage Guns, Six and Four Pounders” (Journals of the House of Representatives of Mass., 51, pt. 2:253; Schutz, Legislators of the Mass. General Court, 210).


On this trip to Rhode Island, Durfee had been in contact with Nicholas Brown, who responded in a letter dated Mar. 9, 1776: “our Furnace is now going & makeing Cannon but as we have a Contract in part made with our Govert. tho not quite settled” cannot now take on more (Nicholas Brown 181Papers, John Carter Brown Library, Providence, R.I.). On the various problems surrounding the cannon manufactured by the Browns, see below, Thomas Cushing to RTP, Sept. 9, 1776.


George Washington also wrote to John Hancock on the occasion of the withdrawal of the British army from Boston: “It is with the greatest pleasure I inform you that on Sunday last, the 17th Instant, about 9 O’Clock in the forenoon, The Ministerial Army evacuated the Town of Boston, and that the Forces of the United Colonies are now in actual possession thereof. I beg leave to congratulate you Sir, & the honorable Congress—on this happy Event, and particularly as it was effected without endangering the lives & property of the remaining unhappy Inhabitants. I have great reason to imagine their flight was precipitated by the appearance of a Work which I had Order’d to be thrown up last Saturday Night, on an Eminence at Dorchester which lay nearest to Boston Neck, call’d Newks Hill. The Town, although it has suffer’d greatly is not in so bad a state as I expected to find it . . .” (Washington to Hancock, Mar. 19, 1776, in The Papers of George Washington: Revolutionary War Series, 3:489–490).


John Erving (c. 1692–1786), a wealthy Boston merchant originally from the Orkneys, was an odd choice as Washington’s first dinner host. A member of the Council for some twenty years, Erving declined the offer of a seat on General Gage’s Mandamus Council, but his sons John and George accepted. All three of his surviving sons became Loyalists, and at least one of had just left Boston with the British troops. Two daughters were married to Loyalists, while two others were the wives of notable Whigs, Col. Samuel Waldo and James Bowdoin (Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 2nd ser., 5:9–16).