Adams Family Correspondence, volume 2

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 1 September 1777 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Adams, 1 September 1777 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My dear Philadelphia September 1. 1777. Monday

We have now run through the Summer, and altho the Weather is still warm, the fiercest of the Heats is over. And altho the extream Intemperance of the late Season has weakened and exhausted me, much, yet I think upon the whole I have got thro it, as well as upon any former Occasion.

A Letter from General Washington, dated Saturday, informs that our light Parties have brought in four and twenty Prisoners, more.1 So that the Prisoners and Deserters, since Mr. Howe landed is near an hundred.

The Question now is, whether there will be a general Engagement? In the first Place I think, after all that has past it is not good Policy for Us to attack them unless We can get a favourable Advantage of them, in the Situation of the Ground, or an Opportunity to attack a Detachment of their Army, with superiour Numbers. It would be imprudent, perhaps for Us, with our whole Force to attack them with all theirs.

But another Question arises, whether Mr. Howe will not be able to compell Us to a General Engagement?—Perhaps he may: but I make a Question of it: Washington will maneuvre it with him, a good deal to avoid it. A General Engagement, in which Howe should be defeated, would be ruin to him. If We should be defeated, his Army would be crippled, and perhaps, We might suddenly reinforce our Army which he could not. However all that he could gain by a Victory would be the Possession of this Town which would be the worst Situation he could be in, because it would employ his whole Force by Sea and Land to keep it, and the Command of the River.

Their principal Dependence is not upon their Arms, I believe so much, as upon the Failure of our Revenue. They think, they have taken such Measures, by circulating Counterfeit Bills, to depreciate the Currency, that it cannot hold its Credit longer than this Campaign. But they are mistaken.

We however must disappoint them, by renouncing all Luxuries, and by a severe OEconomy. General Washington setts a fine Example. He has banished Wine from his Table and entertains his Friends with Rum and Water. This is much to the Honour of his Wisdom, his Policy, and his Patriotism, and the Example must be followed, by banishing sugar, and all imported Articles, from all our Families. If Necessity should reduce Us to a Simplicity of Dress, and Diet, be-336coming Republicans, it would be an happy and a glorious Necessity.


RC (Adams Papers).


Washington's letter was dated at Wilmington, 30 Aug., was read in Congress on 1 Sept. ( JCC , 8:699), and is printed in his Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, 9:148.

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 2 September 1777 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Adams, 2 September 1777 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My dear Friend Philadelphia Tuesday September 2. 1777

I had Yesterday the Pleasure of yours of 1 from Boston, and am happy to find that you have been able to do so well, amidst all your Difficulties.—There is but one Course for Us to take and that is to renounce the Use of all foreign Commodities. For my own Part I never lived in my whole Life, so meanly and poorly as I do now, and yet my Constituents will growl at my Extravagance. Happy should I be indeed if I could share with you, in the Produce of your little Farm. Milk and Apples and Pork and Beef, and the Fruits of the Garden would be Luxury to me.

We had nothing Yesterday from the General.—Howes Army are in a very unwholesome Situation. Their Water is very bad and brackish, there are frequent Morning and Evening Fogs, which produce Intermittent Fevers in Abundance.—Washington has a great Body of Militia assembled and assembling, in Addition to a grand Continental Army. Whether he will strike or not, I cant say. He is very prudent, you know, and will not unnecessarily hazard his Army. By my own inward Feelings, I judge, I should put more to risque if I were in his shoes. But perhaps he is right.

Gansevoort has proved, that it is possible to hold a Post.2 Harkermer Herkimer has shewn that it is possible to fight Indians, and Stark has proved that it is practicable, even to attack Lines and Posts, with Militia.—I wish the Continental Army would prove, that any Thing can be done. But this is sedition at least. I am weary however, I own, with so much Insipidity.

St. Ledger St. Leger and his Party have run away. So will Burgoine. I wish Stark had the Supream Command in the Northern Department. I am sick of Fabian3 Systems in all Quarters. The Officers drink a long and moderate War. My Toast is a short and violent War. They would call me mad and rash &c. but I know better. I am as cool as any of them and cooler too, for my Mind is not inflamed with Fear nor Anger, whereas I believe theirs are with both.—If this Letter 337should be intercepted and published, it would do as much good, as another did two Years ago.


RC (Adams Papers).


Blank in MS, but JA is answering AA's letter of 22 Aug., above.


Col. Peter Gansevoort, commanding Fort Schuyler at the head of navigation on the Mohawk (Heitman, Register Continental Army ).


On the application of this adjective to Washington's strategy, see an interesting article by Albert Matthews, “Some Sobriquets Applied to Washington,” Col. Soc. Mass., Pubns. , 8 (1906):275–287.