March 9 . Yeフerday evening a Captain Irvine, who eツaped from Boフon the night before, with Six of his crew, came to Head Quarters and gave the following Intelligence "That our Bombardment and Cannonade cauテd much ブrprize in Town, as many of the Soldiery ヂid they never heard or thought we had Mortars or Shells."
"That テveral of the Officers acknowledged they were well and properly directed. That they occaナoned much diフreピ and confuナon; that the Cannon Shot, for the greateフ part went thro' the Houテs and he was told, that one took of the Legs and Arms of 6 men lying in the Barracks on the Neck; That a Soldier who came from the Lines there on Tueヅay Morning Informed him, that 20 men had been wounded the night before; It was alバ reported that others had been hurt, and one of the Light Horテ torn to pieces by the exploナon of a Shell, this was afterwards contradicted; That early on Tueヅay Morning Admiral Shuldam diツovering the Works our People were throwing up on Dorcheフer Heights, immediately テnt an Expreピ to General Howe to inform him, that it was neceピary that they ドould be attacked and diネodged from thence, or he would be under the neceピity of withdrawing the Ships from the Harbour under his command; That preparations were directly made for that purpoテ as it was ヂid, and from twelve to two OClock, about 3000 men embarked on board the Tranパorts which fell down to the Caフle, with a deナgn of Landing on that part of Dorcheフer next to it, and attacking the Works at 5 O'Clock next morning; That Lord Piercy was appointed to command, and that it was generally believed the attempt would have been made, had it not been for the Violent Storm which happened that night, as I have mentioned before; That he heard テveral of the privates and one or two Serjeants ヂy, as they were embarking that it would be another Bunker Hill affair. He further Informs that the Army is preparing to leave Boフon, and that they will do it in a day or two..."
"Notwithフanding the report from Boフon that Hallifax is the place of their Deフination, I have no doubt but that they are going to the Southward of this, and I apprehend to New York..."
The British evacuation of the city of Boston was completed by the 17th of March, 1776, but the British did not leave the vicinity immediately. The fleet lingered a while in Boston Harbor, raising some concern as to their motives. According to General Washington, in a letter he dispatched to the Massachusetts Provincial Legislature on the 21st:
"Er'e now, I was in hopes of congratulating you on the departure of the Miniフerial Troops, not only from your Capital, but Country. That they フill remain in the Harbour, after having been five days embarked, affords matter for パeculation, and, collected as their force is now, of apprehenナon."
On the 24th the General issued General Orders to his troops in which he noted the non-movement of the British fleet:
"The Enemy フill continuing in the harbour, without any apparent cauテ for it, after Winds and Weather have favoured their ヂiling, leaves abundant reaバn to ブパect, that they may have バme deナgn of aiming a blow at us before they depart. The General therfore in the フrongeフ terms imaginable, recommends to the commanding Officer of every Corps, to prevent his men that are off duty, from フraggling, but to have them ready to turn out at a moments warning, with their Arms & Ammunition in good order For this purpoテ a フrict attention is to be paid to Roll calling, and all delinquents テverely puniドed..."
On the 25th of March, in a letter to Joseph Reed, his friend from Philadelphia and secretary,Washington expressed his amazement at the lack of activity on the part of the British:
"Since my laフ, things remain nearly in フatus quo. The enemy have the beフ knack at puzzling people I ever met with in my life. They have blown up, burnt, and demoliドed the Caフle totally, and are now all in Nantaヌet Road, have been there ever ナnce Wedneヅay, what doing, the Lord knows. The Boフonians think their フay abバlutely neceピary to fit them for テa, as the veピels, neither in themテlves nor loading, was in any degree fit for a voyage, being loaded in great haフe and much diバrder..."
Finally, on the 28th of March, General Washington was able to send the following favorable message to Joseph Reed:
"General Howe has a grand manoeuvre in view, or has made an inglorious retreat. Yeフerday evening the remains of the British fleet left Nantaヌet Road, and, (except an armed veピel or two,) hath left the coaフ quite clear of an enemy. Six more regiments will inフantly march for New York, two days hence another, and a day or two after that our whole force, except about three or four regiments, to erect ブch works as ドall be adjudged neceピary for the テcurity of this place. In three or four days from this date, I ドall follow myテlf..."
When George Washington mentioned that "Six more regiments will instantly march for New York..." he was refering to the fact that he had, on the 19th of March, directed Brigadier General William Heath to take command of a Brigade consisting of the 5th, 16th, 19th, 24th and 25th Regiments and march to the environs of New York City. The regiments chosen for the defense of New York included those commanded by Generals John Greaton, John Patterson and John Stark, and Colonels William Bond and Charles Webb. Two artillery regiments and General John Sullivan's Rifle Regiment were also directed to become part of General Heath's Brigade. General Washington's army that arrived at New York over the next few weeks would become the largest he would command during the course of the American Revolutionary War; it would number between 25,000 and 28,000 men by August, 1776. Leaving Major General Artemas Ward in charge of the Continental Forces in the province of Massachusetts Bay, General Washington arrived in the vicinity of New York City and established his headquarters there on 14 April. From that time, until well into July, the general kept his Patriot army active in constructing fortifications around the city of New York and on Long Island. By May 1, Washington was able to write to General Charles Lee to tell him:
"We have done a great deal of work at this place. In a fortnight more, I think the city will be in a very reパectable poフure of defence. Governor's Iネand has a large and フrong work erected, and a regiment encamped there. The point below, called Red Hook, has a ノall, but exceeding フrong barbet battery; and テveral new works are conフructed, and many of them almoフ executed at other places..."
On 21 May, General Washington wrote a letter to Major General Israel Putnam, who would be in charge of the troops at New York during Washington's absence.
"The Congreピ having been pleaテd to ナgnify a deナre that I ドould repair to Philadelphia, in order to adviテ and conブlt with them on the preテnt poフure of affairs, and as I am on the point of テtting out accordingly; I have to deナre that you will cauテ the different Works now in agitation to be carried on with the utmoフ expedition, to this end I have wrote to the Provincial Congreピ (of this Colony) for Tools and have hopes of obtaining them. Apply therefore accordingly, take an exact acct. of what you receive.
"The Works upon Long Iネand ドould be compleated as expeditiouネy as poピible, バ ドould thoテ in and about this Town, and upon Governor's Iネand. If New Works can be carried on without detriment to the old, (for want of Tools) I would have that intended at Powles Hook, テt abt. immediately as I conceive it to be of Importance, in like manner would I have that at the Narrows begun, provided Colo. Knox, after his arrangement of the Artillery ドould find that there are any fit pieces of Cannon to be パared for it; otherwiテ, as I have no longer any dependance upon Cannon from Admiral Hopkins, it wd. be uテleピ.
"The Barriers of thoテ Streets leading from the Water are not to be meddled with; and where they have been pull'd down are to be repaird, and (erected) near the Water if more advantageous.
"As it does not appear to me improbable that the Enemy may attempt to run paフ our Batteries in, and about the Town, and Land between them and the woody grounds above Mr. Scot's, I would have you imply as many Men as you can in throwing up Fleches at proper places, and diフances within that パace in order to give oppoナtion in Landing but if there are not Tools enough to carry on the other (more eピential) Works and theテ at the ヂme Inフant you are not to neglect the firフ but eフeem theテ as テcondary conナderations only...
"As I have great reaバn to fear that the Fortifications in the High lands are in a bad ナtuation, and the Garriバns on Acct. of Arms worテ; I would have you テnd Brigadier Lord Stirling with Colo. Putnam (and Colo. Knox if he can be パared) up there, to テe report and direct ブch alterations, as ドall be judg'd neceピary for putting them into a fit, and proper poフure of defence..."
Meanwhile, at Halifax, Nova Scotia, Admiral Lord Richard Howe was preparing an armada of some 300 transport and supply vessels, ten ships of the line and twenty frigates to transport his brother, General William Howe's force of 32,000 men to New York. The British army included, in addition to eight British regiments, 12,000 men hired as mercenaries in the German states of Brunswick, Hesse Cassel, Hesse Hanau, Waldeck, Anspach Bayreuth and Anhalt Zerbst, and 3,500 Scot Highlanders. (The original intention was that the German mercenaries would be stationed in Ireland to relieve the British troops there, who would then be transferred to America, but the Irish Members of Parliament objected to the idea, and the Germans were sent to America.)
The British plan was to take control of the harbor of New York, and thusly, the Hudson River, thereby drivng a wedge between New England and the other colonies. Lord George Germain's Ministry had attempted, and accomplished, the first part of a very difficult feat: the raising of a very large army and the transport of it across the ocean to bring the war to a quick end. It should be noted that the British Ministry, under Lord Germain, was divided into the Cabinet, which made the decisions on what expeditions should be undertaken and the particulars of how many troops should be deployed and where, when, how and so forth those deployments should occur; the Secretaries Of State, who had the responsibility and authority to issue orders to the Treasury, the Admiralty, Ordinance and the Commander-In-Chief of the army to undertake the expeditions; and the King, who had a say in whether the expeditions should proceed. Then there was the Navy Board, which had the responsibility to make arrangements for transport ships and the victualling of those ships for the long journey across the Atlantic. Despite the obstacles inherent in the segregation of the authority and duties within the British Ministry, the largest British force ever assembled for a foreign campaign was set into motion by the middle of June and began to arrive on Staten Island on the 30th of that month. On the 29th of June, 1776 Samuel Webb was one of a group of Americans who were serving as lookouts on Staten Island. He made the following notation in his personal journal:
"This is the fleet which we forced to evacuate Boフon and went to Halifax laフ March, where they have been waiting for reinforcements, and have now arrived here with a view of putting their curテd plans into execution."
News of the arrival of the British fleet reached General Washington at his headquarters in the city of New York on the 29th and he immediately wrote a letter to Brigadier General William Livingston requesting that additional troops be sent into the city for its defence. In that letter, Washington stated that:
"Since Colo. Reed left this, I have received certain Information from the Hook, that about forty of the Enemy's Fleet have arrived here, and others now in Sight, that there cannot be a Doubt, but the whole Fleet will be in this Day, and To-Morrow. I beg not a Moment's Time may be loフ in テnding forward ブch Parts of the Militia, as Colonel Reed ドall mention..."
To the Congress General Washington wrote:
"When I had the Honor of addreピing you Yeフerday, I had only been informed of the arrival of Forty five of the Fleet in the Morning; ナnce that have received Authentic Intelligence from ブndry perバns, among them from General Greene, that one hundred and ten ヂil came in before Night, that were counted, and that more were テen about duヌ in the offing. I have no doubt, but that the whole that ヂiled from Hallifax, are now at the Hook."