Connecticut

Jonathan Trumbull Sends Good News to George Washington

Connecticut Gov. Jonathan Trumbull was the only colonial governor to side with the patriots during the American Revolution.

Jonathan Trumbull

Jonathan Trumbull

When Gen. Thomas Gage arrived in Boston in the spring of 1774, he wrote to Trumbull saying he was ready to cooperate ‘for the good of his Majesty’s service.’ Trumbull had other ideas. After the Battles of Concord and Lexington, Gage asked Trumbull for help. Trumbull replied that the British troops would ‘disgrace even barbarians’ and accused Gage of unprovoked attacks on his Majesty’s subjects.

George Washington called Jonathan Trumbull “the first of the patriots.” He wrote frequently to Trumbull, asking for more men, food, cannon and the always-scarce gunpowder for the Continental Army.  Trumbull complied, earning Connecticut the nickname ‘The Provision State.’

Since the British had cut off trade routes to the Caribbean,

Connecticut farmers thus benefited from Trumbull’s relationship with Washington. They found the Continental Army a ready market for their food and livestock, especially as the British had cut off trade routes to the Caribbean.

Jonathan Trumbull Writes a Letter

In August 1775, Washington had taken command of the rebel troops in Cambridge, Mass. The siege of Boston dragged on. A letter that Jonathan Trumbull then wrote to Washington on August 11 that month shows him deftly managing the movement of men and materiel.

Trumbull wrote from Lebanon, Conn., where he maintained a store known as the War Office.

trumbull store

The Trumbull store, aka the War Office

“Sir,” it begins. “Yesterday twelve o’ clock received your letter by Major Johnson; immediately gave the necessary directions,” he wrote.

He then describes how he sent some companies to New London and some to New Haven. He then wrote that he ordered Col. Webb to take his station at Greenwich with the companies that didn’t march.

More Requests

Trumbull then goes on to tell Washington that on the same day he received a letter from Brig. Gen. David Worcester, stationed at the Oyster Ponds on Long Island.

“[H]e had with him four hundred and fifty men, besides militia, designing to preserve the stock at that place. The ships were then plundering Gardiner’ s Island; the people on the island had left it. He applied to me for three hundred pounds of powder.”

Trumbull then wrote that he sent Wooster some powder “not withstanding our exhausted condition.”

“I am informed a quantity of powder for the camp is to be at Hartford this evening, and more to follow soon. We have none lately arrived, which is daily expected. I request your direction that of the next quantity that comes to Hartford, there may be lodged there so much as you shall judge expedient; if what is expected do arrive in the mean time, shall have no occasion to use your allowance.”

I am, most respectfully, Sir, your most obedient very humble servant,

JONATHAN TRUMBULL.

His Excellency General Washington.

With thanks to American Archives at Northern Illinois University Libraries.  Photo: Detail from ‘Jonathan Trumbull engraving circa 1855’ courtesy Yale University Manuscripts & Archives Digital Images Database. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons. This story was updated in 2021.

 

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