We Have Use of Those Fine Cannon

Bronze mortars displayed at Fort Ticonderoga

in by Warren


Cambridge, April 30, 1775.

It has been proposed to us to take possession of the Fortress at Ticonderoga. We have a just sense of the importance of that fortification, and the usefulness of those fine cannon, mortars, and field-pieces which are there; but we would not, even upon this emergency, infringe upon the rights of our sister Colony, New-York. But we have desired the gentleman, who carries this letter, to represent the matter to you, that you may give such orders as are agreeable to you.

We are, with the greatest respect, your most obedient servants,


To Alexander McDougall

Source: Peter Force, American Archives. A documentary history of the English colonies in North America, from the King’s message to Parliament of March 1774 to the declaration of independence by the United States… IVth Series, published by M. St. Clair Clarke and Peter Force, 1837. Vol II, p. 450.

Commentary: Just eleven days following the fighting at Lexington and Concord, coincident with the Siege of the British in Boston just coalescing, Joseph Warren and the Massachusetts Provincial Committee of Safety accepted and charged ahead with Benedict Arnold’s proposal for a surprise raid on the British garrison of Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain. In so doing, Warren and his colleagues initiated the chain of events that would eventually break the siege and force the British to leave Boston.

Here Warren, operating in an environment of murky authority and plastic inter-colonial relations, informs Patriot leaders in New York of the planned attempt on Ticonderoga. Warren was not seeking permission for the operation, which would unfold in upstate New York. Rather, he was merely informing them, while proceeding expeditiously and in secret to empower Benedict Arnold with a Massachusetts colonel’s commission, money, gunpowder, and bayonets for the military adventure.

Arnold joined Ethan Allen just in time to take Ticonderoga by surprise on May 10, 1775. The bayonets and 100 pounds of gunpowder assigned by Massachusetts to Arnold proved not to be important to the taking of Ticonderoga. In hindsight, those items might have made a huge difference to the Patriots just a five weeks later, should they have remained near Boston and been deployed to Col. Prescott’s troops and Warren himself on Breed’s Hill, June 17, 1775.

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