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Adams Family Papers : An Electronic Archive
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John Adams autobiography, part 1, "John Adams," through 1776
sheet 52 of 53, 19 August - 2 October 1776

Staten Island, where there was nothing to oppose him. With the same Army, he found no great difficulty, in getting Long Island, where even his Talent at Strategem, which is very far from Eminent, was superiour to the Capacity of his Antagonist. After this it was easy to take New York which was wisely abandoned to him. But, Sir, the Case is altered. A Garrison is left at Staten Island, another at Long Island, a little one at Montresor's Island, another at Paulus Hook, a large Body in the City of New York and a larger still to man the Lines, across the Island, between the Seventh and the Eighth mile Stone. After such a division and distribution of his forces, I think he has nearly reached the End of his tether for this Year.
The Ennemies Forces are now in a Situation peculiarly happy, for Us to take Advantage of. . . . If an enterprizing Spirit should be indulged and encouraged, by our Commanders, in little Expeditions to Staten Island, Long Island, Montresors Island and elsewhere, you would gradually form your Soldiers for great Exploits and you would weaken, harrass and dispirit your Enemy.
Thus you see I scribble my Opinions with great Assurance, upon Subjects, which I understand not. If they are right, it is well, if wrong they will not mislead you.
General Parsons.
If these Papers should hereafter be read by disinterested Persons, they will perhaps think that I took upon too much upon me, in assuming the Office of Preceptor to the Army. To this Objection I can only reply, by asserting that it was high time, that the Army had some Instructor, or other. It was a Sc ne of Indiscipline, Insubordination and Confusion. Colonel Tudor had been my Pupil, as a Clerk m in my Office as a Barrister at Law. Colonel Knox had been a Youth, who had attracted my notice by his pleasing manners and inquisitive turn of Mind, when I was a Man in Business in Boston.General Parsons had been my junior for three Years at Colledge, and upon terms of familiarity. I had therefore no reason to suppose that either of them would take offence, at any thing I should write. Again I had formed an Opinion, that Courage and reading were

all that were necessary to the formation of an Officer. Of the Courage of these Gentlemen and the Officers in general I had no doubt. But I was too well informed, that most of the Officers were deficient in reading: and I wished to turn the Minds of such as were capable of it, to that great Source of Information. I had met with an Observation among regular Officers, that Mankind were naturally divided into three Sorts. One third of them are animated at the first appearance of danger, and will press forward to meet it and examine it; another third are allarmed at it: but will neither advance nor retreat, till they know the nature of it: but stand to meet it: thethird remaining third will run or fly upon the first thought of it. If this Remark is just, as I believed it was, it appeared to me that the only Way to form an Army to be confided in, was a systematic discipline: by which means all Men may be made Heroes. In this manner, in time our American Army was made equal to the Veterans of France and England: and in this Way the Armies of France have been made invincible hitherto: and in the same Way, they will be ultimately conquered or at least successfully resisted by their Ennemies.
In the Congress were united All the Powers of Government, Legislative, Executive and judiciary, were at that time collected in one Centre and that Centre was the Congress. As a Member of that Body I had contributed my Share towards the Creation of the Army, and the Appointment of all the Officers: and as President of the Board of War it was my peculiar Province to superintend every thing relating to the Army. I will add without Vanity, I had read as much on the military Art and much more of the History of War than any American Officer of that Army, General Lee excepted. If all these Considerations are not a sufficient Apology, for my Interference, I submit to censure. Certain it is, that these Letters and many more that I wrote, without preserving Copies, were not callculated to procure

me popularity in the Army: but on the contrary contributed to produce those misrepresentations which were diffused from that Source against me as well my Friend Samuel Adams and others. The Generals Secretaries and Aids, all from the Southward, Reed, Harrison &c. &c. were young Gentlemen of Letters, and thought full as highly of themselves as they ought to think, and much more disrespectfully of New England and even of Congress, than they ought to have thought, dictated Letters, which were not well calculated to preserve the Subordination of the military Power, to the civil Authority, which the Spirit of Liberty will always require and enforce. Of Hamilton, when he came into the Generals Family I need say nothing. For my Part I never heard of him till after the Peace, and the Evacuation of the City of New York. The World has heard enough of him since. His Petulance, Impertinence and Impudence, will makea great too great a figure in these memoires hereafter.
Resolved that a Committee of four be appointed to bring in confer with Brigadier General Mifflin. The Members chosen Mr. R. H. Lee, Mr. Sherman,Mr. J. Adams and Mr. Gerry.
Some time in the month of October 1776, I cannot from the Journals ascertain the day, worn down with continual Application, through all the heats of a Summer in Philadelphia, anxious for the State of my family at home and desirous of conferring with my Constituents on the critical and dangerous State of Affairs at home, I asked Leave of Congress to be absent, which they readily granted.
However, before I proceed to relate the Occurrences of this journey, I will copy some other Letters which ought to be inserted in this place, or perhaps they would be better thrown into an Appendix all together.
John Adams to General Parsons

Dear Sir

Your favours of the 13th and 15th are before me. The Gentlemen

you recommend for Majors, Chapman and Dier [Dyer], will be recommended by the Board of War, and I hope agreed to in Congress.
I thank you for your Observations upon certain Field Officers. Patterson,Shepherd and Brooks, make the best figure, I think, upon paper. If it is my misfortune, that I have not the least Acquaintance with any of those Gentlemen, having never seen any one of them, or heard his name, till lately. This is a little remarkable. Few Persons in the Province, ever travelled over the whole of it more than I have, or had better opportunities to know every conspicuous character. But I dont so much as know, from what Parts of the Province Shepherd and Brooks come; of what families they are; their Educations, or Employments. . . . Should be very glad to be informed.
Lt. Coll. Henshaw has been recommended to me by Coll. Reed for Promotion, as a usefull Officer. . . . But upon the whole, I think the List you have given me, dont shine. . . . I am very much ashamed of it. . . . I am so vexed, sometimes as almost to resolve to make Interest to be a Collonel, myself. I have almost Vanity enough to think, that I could make a figure in such a group. But a treacherous shattered Constitution, is an eternal Objection against my aspiring at military Command. If it were not for this insuperable Difficulty, I should certainly imitate Old Noll Cromwell, in one particular, that is, in launching into military Life, after forty, as much as I dislike his Character and Example in others. But enough of this.
I wish I could find materials, any where in sufficient quantities, to make good Officers. A brave and able Man, wherever he is, shall never want my Vote, for his Advancement: nor shall an ignorant awkward dastard, ever want it, for his dismission. Congress must assume an higher tone of discipline over Officers, as well as these over the Men.

Cite web page as: John Adams autobiography, part 1, "John Adams," through 1776, sheet 52 of 53 [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society.
Original manuscript: Adams, John. John Adams autobiography, part 1, "John Adams," through 1776. Part 1 is comprised of 53 sheets and 1 insertion; 210 pages total. Original manuscript from the Adams Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
Source of transcription: Butterfield, L.H., ed. Diary and Autobiography of John Adams. Vol. 3. Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1961.
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