Adams Family Correspondence, volume 3

Cotton Tufts to John Adams, 2 November 1778 Tufts, Cotton JA Cotton Tufts to John Adams, 2 November 1778 Tufts, Cotton Adams, John
Cotton Tufts to John Adams
Dear Sr. Weymouth Nov. 2. 1778

I wrote to You the latter End of last July1 which I hope You have received before this Time, by what Vessel it was sent I am not able to say. We were then making Preparations for an Attack on Rhode Island, a fine Body of Troops were raised with great Expedition and furnished 113with every Thing necessary. On the 8th. of Augt. they landed on Rhode Island (under the Command of Genl. Sullivan) without Opposition the Enemy having deserted their outposts and retired to their main Fortress about a Mile from the Town. On the 9th. Our Army advanced, possessd themselves of an Eminence about 1 ½ Miles distance and went on to make regular Advances, every thing seemd to promise Success, Count De Estang covering the Seige with his Shipping and every thing was preparing for a general Attack, the Fleet to attack on one Side, a Body of the Counts Troops to enter the Town whilst our Army would act on another side. It was the general Opinion that a few Days would give them the entire Possession of the Enemys Works.—On the 12th. P.M. Howes Fleet from New York appeared off, Count De Estang immediately went in pursuit of them, Howe put to sea, the Count pursued the Chase. In the Night a most violent Storm at N.E. came on—the 13th the Storm was furious, the Wind blew almost an Hurricane, a more violent Wind and Rain I scarce ever remember, it threw down Fences, beat down the Corn and tore up many Trees, scarce any Apples were left on the Trees especially on the north East Side. Not a Twentieth part of the Cyder has been made this Year that has been made in the scarcest Season that I ever remember. In the Middle of September in every Orchard Many of the Trees on the north east side were in blow2 and green Apples are now to be found on many Trees. I saw several Rods of Province Rose Bushes three Weeks agone full blown, the Season having been very warm almost ever since the Storm.—But to return, the Siege was carried on with Vigour, the Return of the Fleet was dayly expected—this however did not take Place untill the 18th. or 19th. Their distant Appearance gave Joy, but when they came in they were found to be in a shatterd Condition, the Admirals ship dismasted in the Storm and the whole sufferd greatly, the Cesar missing (she parted from the Fleet and got into Boston). A Council was held on Board the Fleet and it was determined to sail for Boston and there refit. A Part of the Fleet could not be left, as their orders from the King were to keep together. This was rather mortifying to our Army. (However though the Fleet immediately set sail for Boston) the Seige was continued untill on the 28th. orders were given to remove all the Cannon, Stores &c. to Butts Hill about a Mile from the Ferry leaving behind a party of Men to amuse the Enemy. This was effected on the Evening of the 28th. without the Loss of any Thing. Towards Morning of the 29th. the whole Body of the Enemy came out, attacked the Party, they 3 retreated the Enemy pursuing untill they approached near the main 114Body of our Army, which brought on a very obstinate Engagement. At length the Enemy gave Way and in their Turn retreated leaving many slain and Wounded. Intelligence of a large Reinforcement coming from New York induced General Sullivan on the 30th. to leave the Island which was accomplished without leaving any thing behind or without any Opposition from the Enemy. The Reinforcement arrived the next Day.4 The Enemys Account of their Loss during the Seige and the Battle of the 29th. is about 300—other Accounts say not much short of 1000. Ours amounted to about 200 as near as I can collect in the Slain, wounded and missing. I have given You as succinct an Account of this Expedition as I am able and should have enlarged had Time permitted. I hardly know an Event that gives us a more striking Proof that Providence gives Victory to whomsoever he will. A Storm shall block the best concerted Plan and the most promising Appearances shall end in Disappointment, Sic Deus voluit Amen.

The Convention Troops are orderd to the Back Parts of Maryland and Virginia and are to march this Week. This is said to be in consequence of General Clintons informing Genl. Washington that the Convention was broke and that his Master would not any longer pay for their Support.—This is the news of the Day, but of this You will have more authentic Intelligence.5—Yours and our Connections are in Health. Remember me to Yr. Son. Accept the affectionate Regards of Yr. Friend.6

RC (Adams Papers).


Actually on 5 Aug.; see Tufts' letter of that date, above.


“A state of blossoming; bloom; chiefly in phrases in blow, in full blow, etc.” ( OED , “Blow,” noun 3).


Overwritten and more or less illegible. Text and sense are both difficult to follow in this passage, and it has been slightly repunctuated by the editors.


This sentence was added by Tufts at the end of his letter for insertion here.


For a summary account of the current negotiations and orders respecting the Saratoga Convention Troops, see Alexander J. Wall, “The Story of the Convention Army, 1777–1783,” N.Y. Hist. Soc., Quart. Bull., 11:67–99 (Oct. 1927), especially p. 86–91.


This letter was sent by “Mr. John Jenks (formerly my Apprentice) now a Surgeons Mate to the General Pickering Privateer from Salem” (Tufts to JA, 12 Feb.– 12 April 1779, below).

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 6 November 1778 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Adams, 6 November 1778 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My dearest Friend Passy Novr. 6 1778

We have received Information that so many of our Letters have been thrown overboard, that I fear you will not have heard so often from me, as both of us wish.


I have written often. But my Letters have not been worth so much as other Things which I have sent you. I sent you a small Present by Captain Niles. But he is taken by a Jersey Privateer. I sent you also, some other Things by Captain Barnes, and what affects me quite as much, I sent the Things that my dear Brother Cranch requested me to send, by the same Vessells. These Vessells were chosen because they were fast Sailers, and so small as to be able to see Danger before they could be seen, but all is taken and sent into Guernsy and Jersy.1

By Captain Tucker I sent you the whole of the List you gave me of Articles for the Family. These I hope have arrived safe. But I have been so unlucky, that I feel averse to meddling in this Way. The whole Loss is a Trifle it is true: but to you, in the Convenience of the Family, and to Mr. Cranch in his Business they would have been of Value. If the Boston arrives, the little Chest she carries to you will be of service.

My Anxiety for you and for the public is not diminished by Time or Distance. The great Number of accidental Dissappointments in the Course of the last summer are afflicting. But We hope for better Luck another Year.

It seems to be the Intention of Heaven, that We should be taught the full Value of our Liberty by the dearness of the Purchase, and the Importance of public Virtue by the Necessity of it. There seems to be also a further Design, that of eradicating forever from the Heart of every American, every tender Sentiment towards Great Britain, that We may sometime or other know how to make the full Advantage of our Independence by more extensive Connections with other Countries.

Whatever Syren songs of Peace may be sung in your Ears, you may depend upon it from me, (who unhappily have been seldom mistaken in my Guesses of the Intentions of the British Government for fourteen Years,) that every malevolent Passion, and every insidious Art, will predominate in the British Cabinet against Us.

Their Threats of Russians, and of great Reinforcements, are false and impracticable and they know them to be so: But their Threats of doing Mischief with the Forces they have, will be verified as far as their Power.

It is by no means pleasant to me, to be forever imputing malicious Policy to a Nation, that I have ever wished and still wish I could esteem: But Truth must be attended to: and almost all Europe, the Dutch especially, are at this day talking of G. Britain in the style of American sons of Liberty.


I hope the unfortunate Events at Rhode Island will produce no Heart Burnings, between our Countrymen and the Comte D'Estaing, who is allowed by all Europe to be a great and worthy Officer, and by all that know him to be a zealous friend of America.

I have enjoyed uncommon Health, since my Arrival in this Country and if it was Peace, and my family here, I could be happy. But never never shall I enjoy happy days, without either.

My little son gives me great Pleasure, both by his Assiduity to his Books and his discreet Behaviour. The Lessons of his Mamma are a constant Law to him, and the Reflexion that they are so to his sister and Brothers, are a never failing Consolation to me at Times when I feel more tenderness for them, than Words can express, or than I should choose to express if I had Power.

Remember me, in the most affectionate Manner to our Parents, Brothers, Sisters, Unkles, Aunts, and what shall I say—Children.

My Respects where they are due, which is in so many Places that I cannot name them.

With Regard to my Connections with the Public Business here, which you will be naturally inquisitive to know something of, I can only say that We have many Disagreable Circumstances here, many Difficulties to accomplish the Wishes of our Constituents, and to give Satisfaction to certain half anglified Americains,2 and what is more serious and affecting to real and deserving Americans who are suffering in England and escaping from thence: But from this Court, this City, and Nation I have experienced nothing, but uninterupted Politeness.

It is not possible for me to express more Tenderness and Affection to you than will be suggested by the Name of John Adams3

RC (Adams Papers).


See JA to AA, 26 July, and to Richard Cranch, 6 Aug., both above. A long entry in JA's diary for 8 Oct. records information on the defenses of the Channel Islands and proposals for retaking the numerous American prizes being sent into those busy centers of privateering activity ( Diary and Autobiography , 2:320–322).


Thus in MS. One of these may be identified with some confidence as the quarrelsome New Yorker Dr. James Smith (1738–1812), with whom JA was to have more than one disagreeable encounter. “This Man was supposed to come over from England to Paris, either to solicit some Employment, or to embarrass and perplex the American Ministers, or to be a Spy both upon the Americans and the French” (JA, Diary and Autobiography , 4:75; see also same, 2:312; 4:49–50).


AA quoted liberally from the present letter in writing to AA2, ca. 11 Feb. 1779, below.

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