Papers of John Adams, volume 3

From James Warren, 3 December 1775 Warren, James JA From James Warren, 3 December 1775 Warren, James Adams, John
From James Warren
Watertown Decr. 3. 1775 My Dear Sir

I Returned from Plymouth last Wednesday after An Absence of about 10 days. In my way I called on Mrs. Adams and found her pretty well, having recovered her Health after a Bad Cold which threatoned A fever. From her I received the Inclosed Letter,1 which I presume will give you A full Account of herself and Family. I came to Watertown with full Expectation of receiving several of your favours. You may Guess my disappointment when I found not One. Doctr. Morgan who with his Lady had lodged in my Chamber the Night before had left a Packet Containing Letters &c. to your Friend, which I have taken proper Care off. This Gentleman I have not yet seen. He was Attended next day by the Surgeons of the Army, and Escorted to head quarters, in state. I propose to see him Tomorrow, 346and shall look on him with all the reverence due to so Exalted A Character as you give him.

Revere returned here on Fryday. No Letters by him from you or my Other Friend at Congress. I have run over my Sins of Omission and Commission, to see if they were Unpardonable and at last presumed to Account for it from the Nature, and Magnitude of the Business you are Engaged in, and the Constant Application it requires.

I Congratulate you on the success of our Northern Army. We have no late Accounts from Arnold, but have sanguine Expectations that before this the whole Province of Canada is reduced. You will no doubt have heard before this reaches you that A Lieutenant Colonel and A Considerable Number of Men had come off from Arnolds detachment and returned here.2

Our Army here have taken possession of and fortified Cobble Hill, which the Enemy seem to view without any Emotion not haveing fired A Gun. It is said they Confidently rely on our Army's dispersing when the Terms of their Inlistment Ends, and leaving the Lines defensless, and an easy Conquest to them. Howe I believe has received such Intelligence and Assurances from One Benja. Marston3 who has fled from Marblehead to Boston. This fellow is A Cousin of mine. Had ever any Man So many rascally Cousins as I have. I will not presume any danger of that kind tho' I own My anxiety is great. Our Men Inlist but slowly and the Connecticut Troops behave Infamously. It was with difficulty the General prevented their going off in great Numbers last Fryday. However they Consented finally to return to their duty till the Army could be Reinforced.

The General on the first day of our meeting had Represented to the Court the difficulties he laboured under and the dangers he Apprehended, and desired A Committee to Confer with him and the other General Officers. A Committee went down. The result of the Conference was that 5000 Men should be immediately raised in this and New Hampshire Colony and brought into Camp by the 10th. Instant, to supply the deficiencies in the Army by the going off, the Connecticut Troops, and the Furlows the General is Obliged to give the New Inlisted men by way of Encouragement. Genl. Sullivan Undertook to raise 2000 of them, and we reported that the rest should be raised in several parts of this Colony, and Yesterday sent off, more than 20 of our Members to Effect it,4 knowing no Other way as our Militia is in a perfect state of Anarchy some with, and some without Officers. If they don't succeed I know not where I shall date my next letter from, but I have such An Opinion of my Countrymen as to believe 347they will. The only reasons I know of that are Assigned by the Soldiers for their Uneasiness, or rather backwardness to Enter the service again are the Increase of the Officers wages lately made and the paying them Contrary to their Expectation, and former usage by Calender instead of Lunar Months. The last I have given you my opinion of in a former Letter,5 and the first I think was very Unluckily timed. I have till lately thought it A favourable Circumstance that so Many Men were raised in these Goverments. I begin to think Otherways and many reasons operate strongly to make me wish for more Troops from the Southern Goverments.

I Pity our Good General who has A greater Burthen on his Shoulders, and more difficulties to struggle with than I think should fall to the Share of so good A Man. I do every thing in My power to releive him, and wish I could do more. I see he is fatigued and worried. After all you are not to Consider us as wholly Involved in Clouds and darkness. The Sun shines for the most part, and we have many Consoleing Events. Providence seems to be Engaged for us. The same Spirit and determination prevails to Conquer all difficulties. Many Prizes have been taken by our Cruisers, and A Capital one last week carried into Cape Ann, of very great value perhaps £20,000 sterling. A Brigantine from England with a A Cargo Consisting of Almost every Species of Warlike stores except powder and Cannon. 2,000 very fine small Arms with all their Accoutrements, four Mortars one which Putnam has Christened and Called the Congress the finest ever in America, Carcases, Flints Shells, Musket Balls, Carriages &c. &c. These are principally Arrived at head quarters and the great Mortar is a Subject of Curiosity. I hope we shall be Able to make good use of them before Long. A small Cutter has since been taken loaded with provisions from Nova Scotia to Boston and Carried into Beverly the first by a Continental Vessel, the second by A private one.6 All serves to distress them and Aid us.

The Reinforceing the Army has Engrossed the whole Attention of the General Court since their Meeting. The Manufactory of Salt Petre proceeds but slowly, tho it is made in small quantities. Our General Committee seem to me too much Entangled with perticular Systems, and general Rules to succeed. In practice they have done nothing. Coll. Orne and Coll. Lincoln have made tryals in the recess and succeeded According to their wishes. They Affirm the process to be simple and easy and that great quantitys may be made. They shew Samples of what they have made, and it is undoubtedly good. No Experiments with regard to Sulphur have yet succeeded. We have 348good prospects with regard to Lead. Coll. Palmer has promised me to write you on that Subject.7

I hope soon to hear from you. The Confidence in the Congress prevailing among all ranks of People is Amazeing, and the Expectation of great Things from you stronger than ever. It gives me great pleasure to see the Credit, and reputation of my two perticular friends, Increasing here.8 Their late disinterested Conduct, as it is reported here does them much Honour. A certain Collegue of yours has lost or I am mistaken A great part of the Interest he Undeservedly had.9 Major Hawley is not yet down.10 What he will say to him I know not. Paine I hear is gone to Gratify his Curiosity in Canada.11 A good Journey to him. He may possibly do as much good there as at Philadelphia tho' I find some People here would not have pitched on him for the Business we suppose he is gone on, and perhaps there are some who would not have done it for any. Many men you know are of many Minds.12 My regards to my Friends. I thank Mr. Adams and Mr. Collins for their kind Letters. Shall write Mr. Adams first opportunity. I am yr. Sincere Friend,

Adieu JW

The Great Loss at Newfoundland of Men &c. I think may be Considered as An Interposition of Providence in our favour.13

Doctr. Adams has Just called on me to Acquaint Me that Mr. Craige who has been Apothecary to the Army is like to be superceeded, and Mr. Dyre Appointed in his room.14 As he Appears to me a very clever fellow and such Changes do us no good I could wish it might be prevented.

RC (Adams Papers); docketed in an unidentified hand: “Warren Decr 3. 1775”; also “Mr Gerry.”


AA to JA, 27 Nov. ( Adams Family Correspondence , 1:328–331).


See Warren to JA, 14 Nov., note 2 (above).


Benjamin Marston (1730–1792) fled Marblehead on the night of 24 Nov. and ultimately followed the army to Nova Scotia in March 1776 (Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 12:439–454).


The resolve to raise 3,008 men was adopted on 1 Dec., and the committee to put it into effect was appointed the next day (Mass., House Jour. , 1775–1776, 3d sess., p. 7, 9–10; see also John Sullivan to JA, 21 Dec., below).


Warren to JA, 14 Nov. (above).


The Nancy, a brig not a brigantine, and the sloop Polly were captured by Capt. John Manley of the Lee on 28 and 27 Nov. (Clark, Washington's Navy , p. 60–61).


Joseph Palmer to JA, 2 Dec. (above).


This and the following seven sentences were copied by Thomas Cushing and given to Robert Treat Paine; a copy of them in Cushing's hand is in the Robert Treat Paine Papers (MHi). Paine himself explained how Cushing was able to make the copy. After JA had read Warren's letter he returned it unsealed to the bearer with instructions, according to the bearer's story, to deliver it to the other Massachusetts delegates. JA had intended it to be delivered to Samuel Adams, but the bearer, not finding him, handed it to Cushing, who, 349because it was unsealed, thought it was simply news from the province (Paine to Joseph Hawley, 1 Jan. 1776, Dft, MHi: Robert Treat Paine Papers). Cushing could not resist copying out the jibe at Paine and himself.


That is, Thomas Cushing.


Hawley, a good friend of Cushing's, arrived at Watertown for the General Court on 15 Dec. (Hawley to JA, 18 Dec., below).


Paine had been named with Robert R. Livingston and John Langdon as a committee to confer with Gen. Schuyler at Ticonderoga; in fact, JA was on the committee that drafted instructions for the guidance of the three men (JA's Service in the Congress, 13 Sept. – 9 Dec., No. IX, 2 Nov., above). Warren shows his pique by implying that Paine's trip was a junket.


This whole passage underlines the growing dissatisfaction among the leadership in Massachusetts, at least as represented by Warren and JA, with the moderate positions of Cushing and Paine. Cushing was replaced in Jan. 1776, and Paine, although he retained his seat in the congress, broke with Warren and became more embittered with JA (Mass., House Jour. , 1775–1776, 3d sess., p. 165; Paine to Warren, 5 Jan. 1776, enclosed with Warren to JA, 31 Jan., below). Paine's ranking below JA on the bench of the superior court became known to Paine when he returned from Ticonderoga. For comments on the ranking, see Warren to JA, 20 Oct. and 5 Nov. (above). There is no reason to think that Paine saw these comments, but he needed only to see the positions to feel aggrieved. JA was a major figure in these disputes, but how much he was directly involved is unclear. He had not yet taken his seat on the Council when the election of delegates took place (Perez Morton to JA, 19 Jan. 1776, note 1, below). Joseph Palmer and Warren, however, kept him informed of the correspondence passing between Paine and others (for example, Tr of Paine to Palmer, 1 Jan. 1776, below). Yet there seems to have been no violent public dispute between the two men at the congress, perhaps because Hawley advised Paine by letter that for the good of the country he “Stifle every private resentment, incompatable with the public good” (24 Jan. 1776, MHi:Robert Treat Paine Papers). Hawley may also have talked with JA in Watertown. AA, however, was not willing to let the friction subside; she told JA that Paine's attack on Warren had caused Paine to become “an object of contempt” ( Adams Family Correspondence , 1:350–352 and note 2).


See Joseph Palmer to JA, 2 Dec., note 10 (above).


Dyre remains unidentified. Andrew Craigie (1743–1819) remained Apothecary to the American Army, a post to which he had been appointed by Benjamin Church in response to the resolve of the congress on 27 July creating the position ( JCC , 2:209–210, 211). Craigie was named Apothecary General in 1777 and remained in that position for the rest of the war (same, 7:232; 15:1214; DAB ).

From Elbridge Gerry, 4 December 1775 Gerry, Elbridge JA From Elbridge Gerry, 4 December 1775 Gerry, Elbridge Adams, John
From Elbridge Gerry
Water Town Decr. 4. 1775 Dear sir

I received your Favour of the 5th of Novr and the Enquiries relative to Vessels suitable to be armed, Commanders and Seamen to man the same, secure places for building new Vessels of Force &c. are important in their Nature, and to have the same effectually answered I propose to submit them as soon as may be to the Court that a Committee may be raised for obtaining the Facts from the Maritime Towns.1

I congratulate You on the Success of the Continental privateers 350which have lately brot in one of the ministerial store Ships and several other prizes of which You will doubtless have a List from the General. A privateer is fitting out by Private persons at New Port to mount 14 Guns and I hope soon to give an Account of several by the Government and many more by Individuals. The late Act and Resolve for fitting out armed Vessels in this Colony,2 I apprehend will have a good Effect, having already animated the Inhabitants of the Seaports who were unable to command much property, to unite in Companies of twenty or thirty Men and go out in Boats of 8 or 10 Tons Burthen which they call “Spider Catchers”. One of these the last Week brot in two prizes, the last of which was a Vessell of 100 Tons burthen from Nova Scotia loaded with potatoes and 8 or 10 head of Cattle. Two Days since I was at Marblehead and the Lively, prepared for a Decoy,3 appeared about two Leagues off and so deceived one of the Continental Commanders then in the Harbour that he put to Sea after her. One of the Spider Catchers like a brave Fellow gave likewise Chase to the Frigate, and by the Time they had got within Reach of her Guns they found their Mistake and were obliged to make Use of their Heels whilst the Ship with a Cloud of Sail pursued and pelted them; they Ran with great Dexterity and like Heroes escaped.

The Situation of the Army at this Time is critical, the Men declining to inlist on the Terms proposed by the General. The Connecticut Forces are with much Difficulty persuaded to tarry 'till the 10th of the present Month, at which Time it is expected they will all leave the Camp. The Court have ordered in 3000 of the Militia and General Sulliven is gone to New Hamshire for 2000 more to be all in by the Time mentioned. The Men are dissatisfied at the Reduction of their Wages by payment according to Calendar instead of lunar Months while the Officers Wages are augmented. They likewise dislike the new Arrangement in which Officers are displaced and all the Field Officers belonging to some Counties are dropped—and No Bounty they say is offered. These are the Difficulties complained of, as far as I can collect and whether just or not I will not undertake to determine. I wish that a patriotic Spirit in the Men would outweigh such trifling Considerations, but since it is otherwise the Enquiry naturally arises, what must be done? To loose the Affections of so great a Number of brave Men, who perhaps are led to be pecuniary by Suspicions that they are not treated with the Genoristy exercised towards the officers and that ought to be exercised also to them, may not be that prudent; indeed however mistaken they may be, It may prove fatal to the Continent should their Affections be lost and I have 351Reason to think it will be the Case if the Matter is not overruled by the honorable Congress before the last of the present Month. It will be peculiarly unhappy after a Series of the most happy Events in Favour of the Colonies, if a trifling Consideration compared with the Object of their Struggles should disaffect and defeat them. I have great Confidence in the Wisdom of the Congress and apprehend they will think it necessary to conciliate the Affections of the Soldiers and gain their Confidence, since without these an Army may be altogether useless. I hope this will be done and the Army reinforced in proportion to our Enemies and there will be little Danger of the Enemy's prevailing in this part of the Continent.

The military Stores are at the present Time all at Cambridge excepting what are wanted at Roxbury, but is this altogether prudent since a place may be fortified a few Miles in the Country and what are not wanted for immediate Use be kept therein. This is a Matter belonging to the General, but it is nevertheless wished here that it was otherwise regulated.

I hope the Army will in future be reinforced from the Southern Colonies since the Number of Men raised from this Colony has so increased the Burthen of Husbandry on those left behind that We found a Difficulty in apportioning 3000 Men only as a temporary Reinforcement to the Army, and as the Colony will probably be the Seat of War it will be expedient to have a powerful militia ready to reinforce at a short Notice. This We are destitute of at present as nothing is done to organize our Militia. Mr. Fessenden is waiting and gives me only Time to assure You sir that with much Respect I remain your most obedet. and very hum ser

Elbridge Gerry

P.S. By Mr. Sullivan from Biddeford We are just informed that another Store Ship is carryed into Portsmouth;4 he Came thro that Town so that there is little Reason to doubt it.

RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “Mr Gerry Decr 4. 75.”


On 9 Dec. Gerry submitted JA's request for information to the General Court, which referred it to a committee composed of Gerry, James Warren, and Azor Orne. When the three men reported on 11 Dec., the General Court resolved to request the seacoast towns to complete a blank form with the information wanted by JA and return it as soon as possible (Mass., House Jour. , 1775–1776, 3d sess., p. 32, 33–34). No record of the returns has been found.


See James Warren to JA, 20 Oct., note 11 (above).


Commas supplied.


This may have been the schooner Rainbow, Capt. John McMonagle, containing potatoes and turnips for Boston that was captured by the Warren, under Capt. Winborn Adams, on 25 Nov. and carried into Portsmouth ( Naval Docs. Amer. Rev. , 2:1152–1153, 1217; see also the New-England Chronicle, 30 Nov.).