Papers of John Adams, volume 4

To William Tudor, 24 August 1776 JA Tudor, William To William Tudor, 24 August 1776 Adams, John Tudor, William
To William Tudor
Dear Sir Philadelphia August 24. 1776

Your Favours of 18 and 19 of August are before me. I am much obliged to you for them, and am determined to pursue this Correspondence, untill I can obtain a perfect Knowledge of the Characters of our Field Officers.

If the Colonell quits the Regiment Austin will certainly be promoted, unless Some Stain can be fixed upon his Character, Since he has been in the Army. His Genius is equal to any one of his Age. His Education is not inferiour. So far I can Say of my own Knowledge. If his Morals, his Honour, and his Discretion, are equal there is not a Superiour Character of his Age in the Army. If I could Speak with as much Confidence of these as of those, I should not hesitate one Moment to propose him for the Command of a Regiment.

You mention a Major Lee in Glovers Regiment. I wish you had given me more of his Biography and Character. Captn. Jos. Lee the Son of Coll. Jer. Lee, has so much Merit, that I think he ought to be promoted. I never heard of these two Gentlemen before. I mean of their being in the Army. Are they Men of Reflection? That is the Question. Honour, Spirit, and Reflection, are Sufficient to make very respectable Officers, without extensive Genius, or deep Science, or great Literature. Yet all these are necessary to form the great Commander. You Say there are Several other young Officers of Parts and Spirit in that Regiment, I wish you had mentioned their Names and Characters. You Say they will never “basely cringe.” I hope not: but I also hope, that they will distinguish between Adulation and Politeness: between Servility and Complaisance: between Idolatry and Obedience: A manly, firm attachment to the General, as far as his Character and Conduct are good, is a Characteristic of a good Officer, and absolutely necessary to establish Discipline in an Army.

I have a great Character of Lt. Coll. Shepherd and Major Brooks. I wish you would write me a History of their Lives. I know nothing of them. If Brooks is my old Friend Ned of Mistick,1 as Mr. Hancock this Evening gave me some Reasons to suspect, and if he deserves the 491Character I have received of him, as I doubt not he does, if he is not promoted before long, it shall be because I have no Brains nor Resolution. I never, untill this Evening Suspected that he was in the Army. Pray tell me what Regiment he is in.

The Articles of War, are all passed but one—that remains to be considered. But I fear, they will not be made to take Place, yet. Gentlemen are afraid, the Militia, now in such Numbers in the Army, will be disquieted and terrified with them. The General must quicken this Business, or I am afraid it will be very slow. Every Body seems convinced of the Necessity of them, yet many are afraid to venture the Experiment. I must intreat you to write me, by every Post.

Let me intreat you, Mr. Tudor, to exert yourself, among the young Gentlemen of your Acquaintance in the Army, to excite in them, an Ambition to excell: to inspire them, with that Sense of Honour, and Elevation of sentiment without which they must, and ought to remain undistinguished. Draw their Attention to those Sciences, and those Branches of Literature, which are more immediately Subservient to the Art of War. Cant you excite in them a Thirst for military Knowledge? Make them inquisitive after the best Writers, curious to know, and ambitious to imitate the Lives and Actions of great Captains, ancient and modern. An Officer, high in Rank, should be possessed of very extensive Knowledge of Science, and Literature, Men and Things. A Citizen of a free Government, he Should be Master of the Laws and Constitution, least he injure fundamentally those Rights which he professes to defend. He Should have a keen Penetration and a deep Discernment of the Tempers, Natures, and Characters of Men. He Should have an Activity, and Diligence, Superiour to all Fatigue. He should have a Patience and Self Government, Superiour to all Flights and Transports of Passion. He Should have a Candour and Moderation, above all Prejudices, and Partialities. His Views should be large enough to comprehend the whole System of the Government and the Army, that he may accommodate his Plans and Measures to the best good, and the essential Movements of those great Machines. His Benevolence and Humanity, his Decency, Politeness and Civility, Should ever predominate in his Breast. He should be possessed of a certain masterly, order, Method, and Decision, Superiour to all Perplexity, and Confusion in Business. There is in Such a Character, whenever and wherever it appears, a decisive Energy, which hurries away before it, all Difficulties, and leaves to the World of Mankind no Leisure, or opportunity to do any Thing towards it, but Admire, it.

There is nothing perhaps upon which the Character of a General So 492much depends, as the Talent of Writing Letters. The Duty of a constant Correspondence with the Sovereign, whether King or Congress, is inseparable from a Commander in any Department, and the Faculty of placing every Thing, in the happiest Point of Light is as usefull as any, he can possess. I fear this is too much neglected by our young Gentlemen. I know it is by you, who can write but will not.

Geography is of great Importance to a General. Our Officers should be perfect Masters of American Geography. Nothing is less understood. Sensible of this, Since I have belonged to the Board of War I have endeavoured to perswade my Colleagues of its Importance and We are making a Collection of all the Maps, extant, whether of all America or any Part of it, to be hung up in the office, So that Gentlemen may know of one Place in America where they may Satisfy their Curiosity, or resolve any doubt. I should be obliged to you, if you would inquire at every Print sellers shop in New York, and of every Gentleman, curious in this Way concerning American Maps, in the Whole or Part and send me an Account of them. Mr. Hazard2 is as likely to know as any Man, in New York. I should never find an End of Scribbling to you, if I had nothing else to do.3 I am, yours &c.,

John Adams

RC (MHi: Tudor Papers); docketed: “Phila. Augt 24th. 1776”; LbC (Adams Papers).


Tudor referred to Maj. John Brooks. JA's friend was Rev. Edward Brooks (1734–1781), Harvard graduate, ardent whig, and, following his joining the U.S.S. Hancock in 1777, the first American navy chaplain (Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 14:146–149). Brooks became the paternal grandfather of Abigail Brown Brooks, future wife of Charles Francis Adams ( Adams Family Correspondence , 1:6, note 1).


Ebenezer Hazard (1744–1817), bookseller and postmaster of New York city, later surveyor general and postmaster general of the Continental post office ( DAB ). For a more particular account of the maps, see JA to AA, 13 Aug. ( Adams Family Correspondence , 2:90–92).


This final sentence has more substance than is apparent from the RC. The LbC reveals that JA had meant to end the letter after discussing the Articles of War, where he made the notation: “Coll Tudor.” Two paragraphs later JA again tried to stop, writing, “I should never, find an End of Scribbling . . . I am,” and adding the notation: “Coll Tudor.” Then he added the paragraph on geography and maps and the final notation: “Sent. Aug. 24.”

From Benjamin Lincoln, 24 August 1776 Lincoln, Benjamin JA From Benjamin Lincoln, 24 August 1776 Lincoln, Benjamin Adams, John
From Benjamin Lincoln
My dear Sir Boston August 24th. 1776

Mrs. Adams mentioned to me last evening that you wanted to know the state of our forts, the number of men we have to support the lines and the number of cannon in the town and vicinity of Boston. She desired I would write upon those matters.1


We have on Fort Hill in Boston a square fort about an hundred feet Curtin with four Bastions, a good ditch with pickets therein; a small fort at Charlestown point, near where the regular troops landed on that ever memorable day—June 17th. 1775; an oblong fort at Noddles Island with four bastions, the internal square 125 by 100 feet, fraised at the foot of the parapet; a small Hexagon on Governor's Island, with a block-house in the center of it, thrown up rather with design to keep possession of this height, than from any expectation we have of annoying the enemy therefrom; not finished; a square fort at Dorchester Point about 125 feet Curtin with a Redan in the center of each Curtin, fraised as that on Noddles Island; two small works are raising on Dorchester Heights, it is thought necessary to keep possession of these posts, which are considered as a key to the town of Boston.

Much time hath been spent in removing the ruins at Castle William, we are throwing up a line to encircle the whole height of the Island, within which a Citadel may be built. We have laid out, and are now erecting a fort on the east head of Long Island 180 by 90 feet, one bastion, in the center of the curtin fronting Ship Channel, two demi-bastions to clear the short curtins and a redan in the center of the curtin fronting Nantasket-Road. We have on the height of Hull, N.E. of the town, a pentagon with five bastions, sufficient to contain 1000 men. The parapets are nearly finished, the people are now employed in the ditch and glacis; also an out work at the north point of the town, next to the channel, open in the rear to the fort on the hill and will be commanded by it. In addition to these it will be necessary for us to raise a small redoubt on Point Alderton Allerton, in order to keep possession of that height; should the Enemy possess themselves of it, they might greatly annoy us in our fort at Hull, and cut off our communication by land with the main. It may be necessary also that a work of the same kind be thrown up on Pettix Island.

We suffer greatly for want of tents and are under the necessity of building barracks enough at the several posts to cover all the men necessary to be employed in the works, who are more than sufficient to garrison them when finished, or to transport them by water daily, which is at the expence of most of their time, for we have to conform to the winds, tide &c., &c.,

All the continental troops are ordered from this State, most of them have left it. We have two regiments in the pay of this State, one commanded by Col: Whitney, the other by Col: Marshall of Boston, there are about six hundred men in each of these, they want about one hundred men each to make up their complement. We have seven 494companies of Artillery, fifty men in each, commanded by Col: Crafts, and we have four companies, called independents, they are from Braintree, Weymouth and Hingham and make about two hundred men in the whole.

Upon an application from Congress for the last 1500 men for the Nothern service, the Court ordered that every 25th. man in this State as well those born on the alarm list as those of the train-band should be drawn out and two regiments formed for the service aforesaid, beginning at the western line of this State and extending eastward so far as to complete the two regiments; the remainder were ordered to the lines at Boston.

On the removal of the continental troops the Council ordered, the General Court not then setting, another draught of every 25th. man born on both the lists as aforsaid to be made, formed into companies, and marched to Dorchester Heights, there to be formed into regiments; these are to serve on the continental establishment, and untill the first day of December next, six or eight hundred of those are in, the remainder are soon expected; there has been great delay. I imagine it hath not arisen from a backwardness in the people to man the lines, but from there being so many men already absent that they have been constrained to gather in their harvest. When the whole, which are ordered are collected, with the three regiments and four companies aforesaid, they will make about 4000 men round the harbor of Boston. Is not this a number far insufficient to make any tolerable stand, should we be attacked, considering the extent and number of our works, how difficult it will be to reinforce the garrisons on the Islands, or remove men from one of them to another, how greatly our Militia have been thinned, how many of them disarmed last winter when they left the continental service, and that the men in this town are most of them without arms? Sometime past by order of the Council an account of ordnance was taken, 321 pieces of cannon were found, good and bad, in and near Boston; since the return, the Court have ordered to the different parts of this State and on board the Vessels about 100. 85 have been claimed as private property and carried off including those that have failed in proving. We have now about 136 pieces in this town and at the several forts, 58 of them from 18 to 42 pounders; most of the remainder are quite small, the greatest part of whole are without trunnions, many of them have been stocked, and others that are worth doing will be finished in a short time. This mode of repairing them will undoubtedly answer our purpose.

Mr. Cushing wants 24 9 and 12 pounders for Capt. M'Niels Ship2 49514 of them I suppose will be spared him. I am Sir with great regard & esteem your Honor's most obedt. humble Servt:

Benja: Lincoln

PS Cant we be supplied with some large Cannon from the Southward soon.

RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “General Lincoln Aut 24. 1776.”


See AA to JA, 25 Aug. and JA to AA, 4 Sept. ( Adams Family Correspondence , 2:106–108, 117–118).


Capt. Hector McNeill was named on 15 June commander of the Continental frigate Boston ( JCC , 5:444; see also Gardner Weld Allen, “Captain Hector McNeill, Continental Navy,” MHS, Procs. , 55 [1921–1922]: 46–54, and accompanying documents, including McNeill's autobiography, p. 54–152).