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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 3


Search for a response to this letter.

Docno: ADMS-06-03-02-0145

Author: Osgood, Samuel
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1775-11-04

From Samuel Osgood Jr.

I have no other excuse for troubling you with another Letter but to inform you that my other ought to have been dated at Roxbury Camp Octr. 23d. pardon me the Neglect.
Our worthy Generals have all been together this is the third Day. Tomorrow I hope will finish it marking as some are pleased to term it the black Sheep among the Officers and I suppose the white are to receive enlisting Orders and their Commissions immediately.1 May Heaven remove from us all dangerous Altercations and verify in us the Proverb that if we are smote upon one Cheek we may disposed to turn the other. Otherwise I am perswaded our Colony will not acquiesce in the Determination respecting those that are to be field Officers in the Army to be rais'd.
As the Regiments are reduced from 38 to 26 we must necessarily { 275 } have many Officers Struck out of the List and some are for dismissing as many as possible. The Courtier or something more vile appears in the tame Submission of our own Generals who not boldly asserting their just Rights yield if not favor Incroachment excepting one2 who always seeks that repose of Mind which arises from reflecting that he has always endeavored to prevent Oppression in every Form.
I have many Observations to make upon the Method taken to raise the new Army but have not Time at present. Only poor Massachusetts is like to be cut into flitters therefore I fear we shall not have an Army so soon as it will be absolutely necessary to have one. I am Sir with the greatest Respect your most Humble Servt.
[signed] Saml. Osgood junr
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To The Honble. John Adams Esqr. Member of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia favd. by Capt. Price.”
1. Out of necessity Washington was in the process of implementing the decisions reached during the visit of the congressional committee in October. The maintenance of an army in the field was his prime consideration, for Connecticut enlistments ran out on 10 Dec. and others on the 31st. Moreover, he needed an army with standardized units and a regular chain of command in which personal jealousies would be minimized. To this end the congress decreed that the army be established at 20,372 men, made up of regiments of 728 men each (28 regiments less 12) rather than of 40 regiments of varying sizes ( JCC , 3:321, 322; French, First Year , p. 509, 761). This establishment meant a significant decrease in the number of officers and the demotion of some of those that remained in service. Thus, it threatened the New England system, in which the company or regiment was the personal domain of the officer commanding it, in which generals kept their rank as colonels and colonels as captains to maintain control over regiments and companies. Washington and his generals had to decide which officers to retain and how to persuade men to re-enlist when they did not know who their officers were to be. By the end of December, only about 6,000 men had re-enlisted. Obviously reorganization was not the sole cause of this disappointing result. Homesickness, lack of activity, shortages of firewood and clothing as winter approached also had their effect. It was local tradition that one went home from a campaign when the enlistment period was up. Soldiers had not yet learned to think of themselves as fighting for a cause extending beyond their own colonies; provincial rather than nationalistic attitudes persisted (French, First Year , ch. 31).
2. Osgood is probably referring to his immediate superior, Gen. Artemas Ward.