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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 1


Search for a response to this letter.

Docno: ADMS-04-01-02-0174

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1775-07-31

Abigail Adams to John Adams

I do not feel easy more than two days together without writing to you. If you abound you must lay some of the fault upon yourself, who have made such sad complaints for Letters, but I really believe I have wrote more than all my Sister Delegates. Their is nothing new transpired since I wrote you last, but the sailing of some transports, and 5 deserters having come into our camp. One of them is gone I hear to Phyladelphia. I think I should be cautious of him—no one can tell the secret designs of such fellows whom no oath binds—he may be sent with assassinating designs. I can credit any viliny that a Ceasar Borgea would have been guilty of—or Satan himself would rejoice in. Those who do not scruple to bring poverty, Misiry, Slavery and Death upon thousands will not hesitate at the most diabolical crimes—and this is Brittain. Blush o! Americans that ever thou derivest thy origin from such a race.
We learn from one of these Deserters that our ever valued Friend Warren, dear to us even in Death; was [not] 1 treated with any more respect than a common soldier, but the [sav]age wretches call'd officers consulted together and agreed to sever his Head from his body, and carry it in triumph to Gage, who no doubt would have “grin'd horrible a gastly smile,” instead of imitating Ceasar who far from being gratified with so horrid a Spectacle, as the Head even of his Enimy, turned away from Pompeys with disgust and gave vent to his pitty in a flood of tears.
“How much does pagan tenderness put christian Benevolence to shame.” What Humanity could not obtain, the rights and ceremonies of a Mason demanded. An officer who it seems was one of the Brotherwhood requested that as a Mason he might have the body unmangled, and find a decent interment for it. He obtaind his request, but upon returning to secure it, he found it already thrown into the Earth, only { 270 } with the ceremony of being first placed there, with many bodies over him2

“Nor writ his Name whose tomb should pierce the Skies.”

“Glows my resentment into Guilt? What Guilt

Can equal voilations of the Dead?

The Dead how sacred! Sacred is the Dust

Of this Heaven-labourd form erect, divine!

This Heav'n assum'd Majestick robe of earth.”

Thus far I wrote and broke of[f]. Hearing there was a probability of your return I thought not to send it, but the reception of yours this morning of July 23, makes me think the Day fart[h]ur of[f] than I hoped. I therefore will add a few lines tho very unfit. I have had a very Ill Night. Just recoverd from the rash, I went out yesterday to attend the funeral of a poor fellow who the Night before fell in Battle as they were returning from the Light house. (I catchd some cold.) A Sabbeth Evening there was a warm fire from Prospect Hill and Bunkers Hill, begun first by the Riffel men taking of their Gaurds. 2 Men upon our side were kill'd, 5 of their guards were killd, 2 taken. I believe my account will be very confused, but I will relate it as well as I am able. A Sabbeth Evening a number of Men in Whale Boats went of from Squantom and Dorchester to the light house, where the General Gage had again fixd up a Lamp, and sent 12 carpenters to repair it. Our people went on amidst a hot fire from 30 Marines who were placed there as a guard to the tory carpenters, burnt the dwelling house, took the Torys and 28 Marines, kill'd the Leiunt. and one Man, brought of all the oil and stores which were sent, without the looss of a man till they were upon their return when they were so closely persued that they were obliged to run one whale boat ashore and leave her to them. The rest arrived safe except the unhappy youth whose funeral I yesterday attended, who received a Ball thro the temples as he was rowing the boat. He belong'd to Road Island. His name was Griffin. He with 4 wounded Marines was brought by Capt. Turner to Germantown and buried from their with the Honours of War. Mr. Wibird upon the occasion made the best oration (he never prays you know) I ever heard from him. The poor wounded fellow[s] (who are all wounded in their arms) desired they might attend. They did and he very pathetacally addressd them; with which they appeard affected. I spoke with them. I told them it was very unhappy that they { 271 } should be obliged to fight their best Friends. They said they were sorry—they hoped in God an end would be speadily put to the unhappy contest. When they came, they came in the way of their Duty to releave Admiral Montague—with no thoughts of fighting—but their situation was such as obliged them to obey orders, but they wish'd with all their souls they that sent them here had been in the heat of the Battle, express'd gratitude at the kindness they received, said in that they had been deceived, for they were told if they were taken alive, they should be Sacrificed by us. Dr. Tufts Dress'd their wounds.
I had a design to have wrote you something about a talk'd of appointment of a Friend of Mine to a Judicial Department, but hope soon to see that Friend, before his acceptance may be necessary.3 I enclose a complement coppied by a Gentleman from a peice in the Worcester paper signed Lycurgus.4
I can add no more as the good Col. Palmer Waits only my compliments to Mrs. Miflin, and tell her I do not know whether her Husband is safe here. Belona and Cupid have a contest about [him.] You hear nothing from the Ladies, but about Major Miflins easy address, politeness, complasance &c. &c. Tis well he has so agreable a Lady at Phyladelphia. They know nothing about forts, intrenchments &c. when they return5 or if they do they are all forgot and swallowed up in his accomplishments.

[salute] Adieu my Dearest Friend and allways believe me unalterably yours,

[signed] Portia
RC (Adams Papers); addressed in John Thaxter's hand: “To The Honble: John Adams Esq. at Philadelphia To the Care of Major Mifflin.” Enclosure missing; see note 4.
1. Here and below, MS is torn by seal.
2. AA is reporting only a part of the rumors that circulated then and later about British indignities to Joseph Warren after his death in Bunker Hill battle, where he fought as a volunteer and not as an officer. Their precise extent is now known from a letter, only recently published, written a few days after the battle by the British officer who commanded the burial detachment. This was Capt. Walter Sloane Laurie, who wrote from “Camp on Charles Town Heights” to an unidentified correspondent, 23 June 1775: “Doctor Warren, President of the Provincial Congress, and Captain General, in the Absence of Hancock and [Samuel] Adams, and next to Adams, in abilities, I found among the Slain, and stuffed the Scoundrel with another Rebel, into one hole, and there he, and his seditious principles may remain” (quoted in Sigmund Diamond, “Bunker Hill, Tory Propaganda, and Adam Smith,” NEQ , 25:367 [Sept. 1952]). In April 1776, soon after the British evacuation of Boston, Warren's body was identified, exhumed, and reburied from King's Chapel in the Old Granary with public and Masonic honors; see AA 's account in her letter to JA of 7–11 April 1776, below.
3. This is a hint, well in advance of the fact, that JA was to be appointed to the Superior Court of Massachusetts. In the following October he was appointed chief justice by the Council (under the legal fiction that the Gov• { 272 } ernor was “absent”); see AA to JA , 25 Oct., below, and note 5 there.
4. Not now with the letter. The piece referred to, signed “Lycurgus” in Mass. Spy, 12 July, answered “Democritus,” who had argued that only “men of common understanding” were qualified to be representatives in the General Court. “Lycurgus” pointed out that the principal leaders of the patriot cause were college-educated, many of them being members of the learned professions, and praised highly the Massachusetts delegates to the Continental Congress, to whom “Democritus'” observations were “affrontive.”
5. That is, when the ladies return from visits to the American headquarters in Cambridge.

Docno: ADMS-04-01-02-0175

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1775-08-10

Abigail Adams to John Adams

[salute] Dearest Friend

Tis with a sad Heart I take my pen to write to you because I must be the bearer of what will greatly afflict and distress you. Yet I wish you to be prepaired for the Event. Your Brother Elihu lies very dangerously sick with a Dysentery. He has been very bad for more than a week, his life is despaired of. Er'e I close this Letter I fear I shall write you that he is no more.
We are all in great distress. Your Mother is with him in great anguish. I hear this morning that he is sensible of his Danger, and calmly resigned to the will of Heaven; which is a great Satisfaction to his mourning Friend's. I cannot write more at present than to assure you of the Health of your own family. Mr. Elisha Niles lies very bad with the same disorder.—Adieu.
I have this morning occasion to sing of Mercies and judgments. May I properly notice each—a mixture of joy and grief agitate my Bosom. The return of thee my dear partner after a four months absence is a pleasure I cannot express, but the joy is overclouded, and the Day is darkened by the mixture of Grief and the Sympathy I feel for the looss of your Brother, cut of in the pride of life and the bloom of Manhood! in the midst of his usefulness;1 Heaven san[c]tify this affliction to us, and make me properly thankful that it is not my sad lot to mourn the loss of a Husband in the room of a Brother.
May thy life be spaired and thy Health confirmed for the benefit of thy Country and the happiness of thy family is the constant supplication of thy Friend.2
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To John Adams Esqr.”
1. JA 's tribute to his brother Elihu, who “had commanded a Company of Militia all Summer at Cambridge,” is in his Diary and Autobiography , 3:326.
2. From this it appears that the speed { 273 } of JA 's return journey surprised everyone, including his wife, and that urgent business in the General Court caused him to pause in Watertown before proceeding to Braintree, where he had evidently hoped to turn up on his own doorstep unannounced after nearly four months' absence. The editors' inference in a note in JA's Diary and Autobiography (2:166), that he first went home and then to Watertown to attend the Council, is therefore wrong. During the rest of August JA spent weekends at home and weekdays attending the Council until the General Court adjourned on the 24th. AA came with him to Watertown for the last three days of the session. After a final weekend at home he left early on Monday the 28th for Philadelphia, but stayed for two or three days' further attendance in Council before leaving Watertown, probably on 1 September. See his Diary and Autobiography , 2:167–168, and references there; JA to Mercy Warren, 26 Aug., Warren-Adams Letters , 1:104–105; AA to Mercy Warren, 27 Aug., printed below.