Adams Family Correspondence, volume 2

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 24 October 1777 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Adams, 24 October 1777 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My dearest Friend York Town Octr. 24. 1777

It is with shame that I recollect that I have not written you more than two or three Letters these 5 Weeks, and those very short.

News I am afraid to write, because I never know untill it is too late what is true. From last Sunday to this Moment Fryday afternoon 4 o Clock, We have been in a state of tormenting Uncertainty concerning our Affairs at the Northward. On Sunday, We had News, from the Committee of Albany, through Governor Clinton and G. Washington, of a Capitulation of Burgoine and his whole Army.1 To this Moment We have no Express from Gates, nor any Authentic Confirmation.2

Howe has drawn his Army into the City and Washington is at Germantown. Supplies will be cutt off, from the British Army, in a great Measure.

I am &c. yours forever, John Adams

We shall finish a Plan of Confederation in a few days.3

RC (Adams Papers).


The earliest news of Burgoyne's capitulation reached York on Sunday the 19th, though this was actually premature, since Burgoyne had only offered to surrender on the 14th, the letter of the Albany committee, transmitted through various hands, was dated the 15th, and the Saratoga convention was not signed until the following day. See the very careful and enlightening editorial note on the transmission of the news, with locations of the relevant texts, in Burnett, ed., Letters of Members , 2:526–527. The record in JCC is incomplete and otherwise unsatisfactory on this important affair.


The reason was that Lt. Col. James Wilkinson, Gates' adjutant, took twelve days to bring Gates' dispatch of the 18th and a copy of the convention from Saratoga to York. Dawdling sociably on the way, he did not arrive until 31 Oct. ( JCC , 9:851), by which time the news he brought had reached Congress from various unofficial sources. In a letter written many years later, Thomas McKean recalled that Samuel Adams had formally proposed that Congress reward Wilkinson by voting him “a pair of spurs” (McKean to JA, 20 Nov. 1815, Adams Papers). JA's recollection was that his own “impatience” had never in his life been “wrought up to an higher pitch, than by the total failure of all Intelligence Official and unofficial from Saratoga, for so long a time after We had heard a confused fugitive rumour of the defeat of Burgoine,” and that on the morning after Wilkinson's arrival “a jocular Suggestion was thrown out in a private Conversation” among JA, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock, “that it would be proper to present the Courier with a horsewhip and a pair of Spurrs” (to McKean, 26 Nov. 1815, PHi). What in fact happened, however, was that Congress on 6 Nov., acting on Gates' strong recommendation, breveted Wilkinson a brigadier general ( JCC , 9:870). Wilkinson's own account of his journey from Saratoga and arrival in York, with the text of Gates' dispatch which he carried and of other pertinent documents, is in James Wilkinson, Memoirs of My Own Times, Phila., 1816, 1:323–332

358 3.

This was premature. Debate over the Articles of Confederation had occupied Congress during the present session intermittently since early April, but a final text to be submitted to the states for adoption was not agreed on until 15 Nov., some days after JA had left York for Braintree. See JCC , 9:907–928, and entries under Articles of Confederation in index to JA's Diary and Autobiography .

Abigail Adams to John Adams, 25 October 1777 AA JA Abigail Adams to John Adams, 25 October 1777 Adams, Abigail Adams, John
Abigail Adams to John Adams
Boston October 25 1777 Saturday Evening

The joyfull News of the Surrender of General Burgoin and all his Army to our Victorious Troops prompted me to take a ride this afternoon with my daughter to Town to join to morrow with my Friends in thanksgiving and praise to the Supreem Being who hath so remarkably deliverd our Enimies into our Hands.

And hearing that an express is to go of tomorrow morning, I have retired to write you a few line's. I have received no letters from you since you left Philadelphia by the post, and but one by any private Hand. I have wrote you once before this. Do not fail writing by the return of this express and direct your Letters to the care of my unkle who has been a kind and faithfull hand to me through the whole Season and a constant attendant upon the post office.

Burgoine is expected in by the middle of the week. I have read many Articles of Capitulation, but none which ever containd so generous Terms before. Many people find fault with them but perhaps do not consider sufficently the circumstances of General Gates, who perhaps by delaying and exacting more might have lost all. This must be said of him that he has followed the golden rule and done as he would wish himself in like circumstances to be dealt with.—Must not the vapouring Burgoine who tis said possesses great Sensibility, be humbled to the dust. He may now write the Blocade of Saratago.1 I have heard it proposed that he should take up his quarters in the old South,2 but believe he will not be permitted to come to this Town.—Heaven grant us success at the Southard. That saying of king Richard often occurs to my mind “God helps those who help themselves” but if Men turn their backs and run from an Enemy they cannot surely expect to conquer them.

This day dearest of Friends compleats 13 years since we were solemly united in wedlock; 3 years of the time we have been cruelly seperated. I have patiently as I could endured it with the Belief that you were serving your Country, and rendering your fellow creatures essential Benefits. May future Generations rise up and call you 359Blessed, and the present behave worthy of the blessings you are Labouring to secure to them, and I shall have less reason to regreat the deprivation of my own perticuliar felicity.

Adieu dearest of Friends adieu.

Added in the hand of William Smith: Please to enquire of Mr. Reese Meredeth if he has received a Letter from my father enclosing a Bill upon Philadelphia.—Yrs.,


RC (Adams Papers); addressed in the hand of William Smith (see note 3): “To The Honble. John Adams Esqr. Member of Congress at York-Town State of Pensylvania”; endorsed (perhaps not contemporaneously): “Portia”; docketed in an unidentified hand.


An allusion to The Blockade of Boston, acted in Boston by British army officers in 1776; see AA to JA, 14 April 1776, note 4.


In allusion to the fact that the Old South Meeting House had been converted to a riding school for officers during the British occupation of Boston. See William Heath, Memoirs, new edn., ed. William Abbatt, N.Y., 1901, p. 126.


AA's cousin, William Smith (1755–1816), Harvard 1775, second son of Isaac Smith Sr. of Boston; see Adams Genealogy. AA was staying at her uncle Isaac Smith's home in Queen (later Court) Street, Boston.