A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.
close
-
The Adams Papers Digital Edition is undergoing active maintenance while we work on improvements to the system. You may experience slow performance or the inability to access content. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. We will endeavor to return to full capabilities as soon as possible.

Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 2


Search for a response to this letter.

Docno: ADMS-04-02-02-0279

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1777-09-21

Abigail Adams to John Adams

I immagine before this reaches you some very important Event must take place betwen the two Armies. Affairs on all Sides seem to be workd up to a crisis, How is putting his whole force in action and seems determined to drive or be driven.
I feel in a most painfull situation between hope and fear, there must be fighting and very Bloody Battles too I apprehend. O! how my { 347 } Heart recoils at the Idea. Why is Man calld Humane when he delights so much in Blood, Slaughter and devastation; even those who are stiled civilizd Nations think this little Spot worth contending for, even to Blood.
We have confused accounts of a Battle at the Northward Last fryday, in which the Enemy were put to flight. God grant it may prove true. Vigorous Exertions now on all sides may prove of the most happy concequence and terminate this cruel War. I long for a decissive Battle—and for peace, an honourable peace. I hope the enemy are as much in our power as you fancy them.
Have just read a hand Bill giving a perticuliar account of the engagement, at the Northward.1 You will have it long before this reaches you. The loss of Ticondoroga has awakened the sleeping Genious of America and call'd forth all her Martial fire, may it never again be lulld to rest till crownd with victory and peace. Good officers will make good Soldiers. Xanthippus, the Lacedaemonian General who had been educated in the Discipline of Sparta, and learnt the Art of War in that renowned and Excellent School, when he was call'd to assist the Carthaginians, who had been defeated in several Battles against the Romans, declared publickly, and repeated it often in the hearing of their officers, that the misfortune[s] of the Carthaginians were oweing intirely to the incapacity of their Generals, and he proved clearly to the Counsel that by a conduct opposite to the former they would not only secure their dominions but drive the Enemy out of them. Upon his accepting the command of the Carthaginians, the gloomy conste[r]nation (says Rolin) which had before seized the whole Army was succeeded by joy and Alacrity. The Soldiers were urgent to be led against the Enemy, in the firm Assurance of being victorious under their new leader and of obliterating the disgrace of former defeats. Xanthippus did not suffer their ardour to cool but led them on to Battle and entirely routed and deafeated the Romans making Regulas their prisoner. That General who a few days before was insolent with Victory, inexorable to the conquerd, and deaf to all their Remonstrances in a few days experienced by the fate of war a sad reverse of fortune.
This is a case I think very similar to our own, may it prove so in the end. Their are two ways says Rolin of acquiring improvement and instruction, first by ones own experience, and secondly by that of { 348 } other men. It is much more wise and usefull to improve by other mens miscarriages than by our own.
We have not yet Received any inteligance from the Southern Army since the accounts of the engagement on the 11th, which must have been very severe upon both sides. You now experience what we sufferd when the Army lay this way. I feel very anxious for their Success. The Suspence which the distance occassions is painfull but still I find very different sensations between having the Enemy at such a distance and having them in my own Neighbourhood. I hope you will all look to your own Safety. As you are not calld to action, kidnapping would be rather dissagreable but were you in the Army I should dispise myself for such a Sentiment—as much as I did a certain Gentleman who was in the Horrours a few days ago upon hearing that General Washington had retreated within six miles of Phi[ladelphi]a. If How should get possession of that city it would immediately negotiate a peace. I could not help warmly replying, that I did not believe it even tho that should be the case and the General with his whole Army should be cut of. I hoped then that an Army of women would oppose him. Was it not the Sarassens who turnd their Backs upon the Enemy and were slain by their women who were placed behind them for that purpose?
Your favours of 2d. and 8th. reachd me upon the 20th. Your observation[s] with regard to Luxery are very just, but trade and commerce will always support it. The Necessity of the times will be a temporary restraint upon it, and put us upon seeking Resources among ourselves. An instance of that may be seen in the progress which is made of grinding corn storks and boiling the Liquor into Molasses. Scarcly a Town or parish within 40 miles of us but what have several mills at work, and had the experiment been made a month sooner many thousand Barrels would have been made, no less than 80 have already been made in the small Town of Manchester. It answers very well to distill, and may be boild down to Sugar. There are two mills sitting up in this parish. They have 3 Rollers one with cogs and two smooth, the storks are striped of the leaves and tops so that tis no Robbery upon the cattle, and the juce ground <out>. Tis said 4 Barrels of juice will make one of Molasses, but in this people differ widely. They have a method of refining it so that it looks as well as the best imported molasses.
Thus you see we go from Step to Step in our improvements. We can live much better than we deserve within ourselves. Why should we borrow foreign Luxeries. Why should we wish to bring ruin upon our• { 349 } selves. I feel as content when I have Breakfasted upon milk, as ever I did with Hyson or Suchong.
Coffe and sugar I use only as a rarity. There are none of these things but I could totally renounce. My dear Friend knows that I could always conform to times and circumstances. As yet I know nothing of hardships. My children have never cried for Bread, nor been destitute of cloathing—nor have the poor or the needy gone empty from my Door whenever it was in my power to assist them.
Heaven grant that I may continue to receive its Blessings. One of its greatest is that I can subscribe myself wholy Yours.
RC (Adams Papers); addressed in John Thaxter's hand: “To The Honble: John Adams Esqr. in Congress Philadelphia To be left at the Post Office”; postmarked: “BOSTON 29 SE”; endorsed (perhaps not contemporaneously): “Portia,” to which is added in an unidentified hand: “1777.”
1. Burgoyne's repulse in the battle of Freeman's Farm or Stillwater (also known as the first battle of Bemis Heights) occurred on 19 September. No “hand Bill” reporting this action in Boston at so early a date as 24 Sept. has been found.

Docno: ADMS-04-02-02-0280

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1777-09-30

John Adams to Abigail Adams

[salute] My best Friend

It is now a long Time, since I had an Opportunity of writing to you, and I fear you have suffered unnecessary Anxiety on my Account.—In the Morning of the 19th. Inst., the Congress were allarmed, in their Beds, by a Letter from Mr. Hamilton one of General Washingtons Family, that the Enemy were in Possession of the Ford over the Schuylkill, and the Boats, so that they had it in their Power to be in Philadelphia, before Morning. The Papers of Congress, belonging to the Secretary's Office, the War Office, the Treasury Office, &c. were before sent to Bristol. The President, and all the other Gentlemen were gone that Road, so I followed, with my Friend Mr. Merchant [Marchant] of Rhode Island, to Trenton in the Jersies. We stayed at Trenton, untill the 21. when We set off, to Easton upon the Forks of Delaware. From Easton We went to Bethlehem, from thence to Reading, from thence to Lancaster, and from thence to this Town, which is about a dozen Miles over the Susquehannah River.—Here Congress is to sit.
In order to convey the Papers, with safety, which are of more Importance than all the Members, We were induced to take this Circuit, which is near 180 Miles, whereas this Town by the directest Road is { 350 } not more than 88 Miles from Philadelphia. This Tour has given me an Opportunity of seeing many Parts of this Country, which I never saw before.1
This Morning Major Throop arrived here with a large Packett from General Gates, containing very agreable Intelligence, which I need not repeat, as you have much earlier Intelligence from that Part than We have.2
I wish Affairs here wore as pleasing an Aspect.—But alass they do not.
I shall avoid every Thing like History, and make no Reflections.
However, General Washington is in a Condition tolerably respectable, and the Militia are now turning out, from Virginia, Maryland and Pensilvania, in small Numbers. All the Apology that can be made, for this Part of the World is that Mr. Howes march from Elke to Philadelphia, was thro the very Regions of Passive obedience. The whole Country thro which he passed, is inhabited by Quakers. There is not such another Body of Quakers in all America, perhaps not in all the World.
I am still of Opinion that Philadelphia will be no Loss to Us.
I am very comfortably situated, here, in the House of General Roberdeau, whose Hospitality has taken in Mr. S[amuel] A[dams], Mr. G[erry] and me.3 My Health is as good as common, and I assure you my Spirits not the worse for the Loss of Philadelphia.
Biddle in the Continental Frigate at S. Carolina has made a noble Cruise and taken four very valuable W.I. Prizes.
Continue to write me by the Post, and I shall pay my Debts.
1. For more details on the first part of this “Tour” see JA's Diary and Autobiography , 2:264–267; see also JA to AA , 14 Sept., above, and note there.
2. “Major Throop” (as New Englanders persisted in spelling his name) was Robert Troup of New York, an aide-decamp to Gen. Gates. He brought one or more letters from Gates of 22 Sept. that contained numerous enclosures and reported the action at Freeman's Farm on the 19th and antecedent events. These were read in Congress on 1 Oct., and on the 4th Troup was promoted to a lieutenant colonelcy ( JCC , 8:756; 9:770; see also Burnett, ed., Letters of Members , 2:503–505, 509).
3. Daniel Roberdeau (1727–1795), of Philadelphia and York, was of Huguenot descent, a brigadier general in the Pennsylvania militia, and a delegate to the Continental Congress, 1777–1779 ( DAB ). For further comments on his career and family see JA to AA , 7 and 9 Oct., below.