Benjamin Church to General Thomas: Repair to Cambridge Forthwith

in about Warren

by Dr. Benjamin Church, Jr.

To General Thomas

“In Committee of Safety –

Camb. May.10.1775 –

Sir- As we are meditating a Blow against our restless Enemies – We therefore enjoin you as you would Evidence your Regard to Your Country, forthwith upon Receipt of this Order to repair to the Town of Cambridge, with the men inlisted under your Command.-

We are &c

Benja Church junr Chairman”

Source:  Thomas Addis Emmet Collection, New York City: New York Public Library, microfilm reel 5, #5231

Commentary:  Early in the Siege of Boston, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress’ Committee of Safety could assert operational command over military forces.  In this note committee member and acting chairman Dr. Benjamin Church orders militia General Thomas, leader of the Southern siege lines based in Roxbury, to immediately move his entire force to Cambridge.  If carried out, the Patriot militia would have left the only land approach to Boston completely unguarded.  The British could have sallied forth across Boston Neck, taken possession of the developing siege lines near Fort Hill, and continued on to attack from behind the Patriots’ center and headquarters at Cambridge.

From what we now know of Benjamin Church’s secret correspondence with British General Thomas Gage, we wonder whether this order was part of a nefarious scheme or a foolish mistake.  Did General Thomas obey?  What did Joseph Warren, president pro tem of the Provincial Congress and oft times chair of the Committee of Safety, have to say about this episode?

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