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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 5

Docno: ADMS-06-05-02-0126

Author: Sullivan, John
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1777-05-28

From John Sullivan

[salute] My Dear Friend

I Recollect That I Stand Indebted to you one Letter for your favor of the 22d. Feby and have nothing to plead in Excuse for nonpayment but want of Ability. I had Just before I was honoured with your Letter received a Fall from my Horse which Disabled me from writing. I Soon after went to the Eastward1 and did not return till the 15th Instant. Since which I have been much Engaged in getting matters in order at this post. I wish with you that our Army could do more than it has done but in Truth we had at the Time of your Letter and through the whole of the winter but a Miserable Army. I know not how many men we have on paper in our Different posts. When we attacked Trenton we had not 4000 men present—when Genl. Cadwallader Joined us with the Militia and the Enemy Marched to attack us we had not 6000 and the Enemy ten (they Say fifteen) 1200 of ours were old Troops.2 When the Militia were Dismissed and the old Troops went Home we had not 1200 fit for Duty for Some time; with this truly Despicable Army we kept the Enemy at Bay all winter and I think we did as much as could be Expected. I think with you that More might have been done at Providence;3 and by General Heath at Fort Independence4 but there are misteries in our warfare that I cannot unriddle. He that Sacrifices an Army a post or anything Else is Sure of preferment if he can get a person to write a Sensible Letter in his favor or if he has Capacity or Modesty to do it himself. If a man is Intoxicated Every afternoon and Employs himself well in Cursing, and kicking officers much better than himself yet if he writes a Good Letter Dances a Minuet To a Miracle is a good Jolly Companion and can Neglect his Duty with a good grace by Dancing attendance to persons of Influence he is Sure to be promoted and Esteemed. Believe me Dear Sir that an Honest Clytus5 was of more Service to Alexander in time of Danger than all Pompeys pretty Dancers were to him at the Battle of Pharsalia.6 One Instance of Congress Despising and Neglecting a Clytus I can give you in the Case of Colo. Stark.7 He was Ever known to be an Exceeding good officer. He was as Brave as Cesar,8 was the first person who raised an American Regiment did more with his Regiment than any one Else at Bunker Hill and all the officers that were in Canada will acknowledge that the Continent are not { 210 } more Indebted to any one officer for Securing that Retreat than to him. Added to this he has Seen More Actions than any officer in our Army without Exception. Yet when he Stood the 4th Colo the 11th was put over his head. The Consequence was the Resignation of one of the best officers that Ever graced an Army. His own State regretted the Loss and did all in their power which was for the assembly to return him their thanks and Express their Concern at his being Superseded. I am Exceeding Sorry that being a fighting officer is not So good a recommendation for promotion in America as writing and Dancing. I am Sure never to get promotion in that way as I can neither write or Dance.
You Complain that Little is Done by our Army; I fear my old Friend That much Less will be done if The Same Criterions for the appointment and promotion of officers remains. I dont mean by this that General Poor is a bad officer. He is an Exceeding good one but, there ought to be an Exceeding good reason for putting a younger officer over an older officers head—and the reasons ought not to be Collected from a Letter Let the Scribe write Ever So good a hand—Now my Dear friend permit me to Say Something concerning myself which you have Seldom been Troubled with—
You will please to recollect that I was one taken prisoner that I Lost all I had about me. That I was a prisoner when Long Island was abandoned. General Washington So Constantly Employed my Aid De Conges9 that Every thing in my Quarter was Lost. When New York was abandoned my Quarters there Suffered in the Same Manner. My remaining things were down from Canada by the time I was Exchanged and I was ordered when marching to Join General Washington Last Winter to Leave them at Peaks Kill. When the Descent was made on that place I Lost Eight Suits of Cloathes and all my Camp Equipage that remained. I am now ordered to this place where I am oblidged to keep a Seperate post from Genl Washington. There are no Taverns in Town. Therefore all Gentlemen of Course come to head Quarters to Eat and Drink. You will please to Recollect That all my Wages and Rations Amount with the Rations of my Aid De Conges to about Seven Dollars pr Day. That will purchase me 3½ Bottles of wine pr Day at the present price of 2 Dollars pr Bottle. I am oblidged to Expend Seven or Eight and Maintain my family in other Articles at my own Expence. At this Rate I am Sure to be Ruined as well in Estate as in Constitution. This will { 211 } be a miserable reward for my Services in the Common cause. I must beg you to favor me with your opinions to a few Questions viz Whether there is a probability of my having any allowance for my Baggage.
Whether Congress Looks upon this as a Seperate Post. Whether it would not be as Reasonable for Congress to Raise the Wages of General officers as that of all others in the Army. And Whether there can be a Shadow of Reason in my being reduced to the Necessity of Spending my Estate and Constitution in the Service while Some others are making their Fortunes; my Dear Sir with the highest Affection and Esteem I am your most Sincere friend and Humble Servant
[signed] Jno Sullivan
1. On 20 March the Independent Chronicle reported that on 17 March, Sullivan had passed through Boston on his way to New Hampshire.
2. Terminal punctuation supplied. Since Sullivan crossed out “which only” and substituted “ours,” ending the sentence here seems plausible.
3. That is, to dislodge the British at Newport, R.I.
4. See William Tudor to JA, 7 March, note 2 (above).
5. Plutarch tells how Cleitus, who was one of Alexander the Great's Companions, and who had saved Alexander's life on one occasion, spoke out boldly in reminding the proud Alexander that he was not the son of Jupiter Ammon, but a human being, son of Philip. Cleitus went on to defend Macedonians against ridicule for their defeat by barbarians and taunted Alexander for trying to stifle free expression at his table. Both men and others present had been drinking freely; but to the horror of all, Alexander ran Cleitus through for his frankness (Plutarch's Lives, transl. Bernadotte Perrin, Loeb Classical Library in 11 vols., Cambridge, 1914–1926, 7:371, 373).
6. Plutarch describes Pompey's tactic at Pharsalia as massing cavalry on his left wing to oppose Caesar's best legion. Caesar countered by bringing up reserves and instructing them not to throw their javelins but to use them to put out the eyes of the cavalrymen, who would flee to protect their handsome faces (same, 5:295, 297).
7. John Stark of New Hampshire, who had been named a colonel by his state about a month before his countryman Enoch Poor. Poor, however, was promoted to Continental brigadier general in February and Stark not until October, after the Battle of Bennington (Heitman, Register Continental Army, p. 446, 515).
8. Comma supplied.
9. Aide in charge while Sullivan was on leave?

Docno: ADMS-06-05-02-0127

Author: Cooper, Samuel
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1777-05-29

From Samuel Cooper

[salute] My dear Sir

I wish, with you, that N. England may not fail to furnish their Quota of the Continental Army even to a single man;1 but am afraid we shall not be able to accomplish it soon. Some Towns have already rais'd and sent forward their full Proportion. This has done much more, besides Manning the State Vessels and Privateers: but others are yet greatly deficient; and yet all Circum• { 212 } stances consider'd, I rather wonder that so much, than no more has been done, by the whole. Manly has been gone more than a Week accompanied with McNeal, and two private Ships of War, besides others of smaller Force, making a Fleet of 10 or 12. I took much Pains for this Accommodation and Junction. The General Court encourag'd it by their Votes of Indemnification &c. to the Owners: and we ev'ry Moment expect some good News. I hope you have done great Service by the Navy Board. The Nomination for this State pleases me. We hear our Army in the Jerseys is now strong en'o to advance nearer the Enemy.2 I hope the Campain on our Part will be more than defensive. Assailants have commonly more Spirit and more Success than Defendants. The burning the Stores of St. Johns, and the late Action at Long Island conducted by Meigs bode well.3
Yesterday was our Election of Councillors: a large Number of the Representatives, perhaps 20 or 30 from Hampshire Berkshire &c. would not vote, being for a single Assembly. I hope this Sentiment will not prevail. They could chuse no more than thirteen by nine o'Clock; and then adjourn'd to this Morning. Cushing is not in, but may perhaps be chosen.4
I enclose you a Letter from Salem on Behalf I suppose of unhappy Tory condemn'd to be shot by a Court martial. He is Grandson of Col. Pickman.5 His Family and Their Friends are much distress'd. I am told the Case is referr'd to Congress, and that Genl. Heath has most impartially stated it. You will be able to judge from that whether Mercy may be shown to this Criminal and his anxious Friends without Injury to the Publick: It is said by some He is insane. But I am not particularly acquainted with Facts and Circumstances. One Thing I throughly know, that I am with the warmest Attachment Your Obedt. humbl. Servt.
1. Cooper's language parallels that in JA's letter of 6 May to Joseph Palmer (above), which Cooper may have seen.
2. Probably a reference to Gen. Adam Stephen's skirmish on 10 May at Piscataway, in which he claimed great success only to have Washington upbraid him for his exaggerations (Washington, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, 8:47, 53). A glowing account of the American “success” appeared in the Independent Chronicle for 29 May.
3. The Boston Gazette for 19 May, under a Hartford dateline of 12 May, quoted a letter from Fishkill: “Seven Stores of the enemy are consumed by fire at St. John's, in which were the rigging for their vessels.” The action at Sag Harbor under command of Lt. Col. Return Jonathan Meigs on 24 May brought the destruction of twelve British ships and the capture of ninety prisoners. The Independent Chronicle for 29 May quoted a letter to Gov. { 213 } Trumbull from Gen. Parsons, who had ordered the expedition, describing the destruction of the ships and supplies. Meigs was later given a sword by the congress for his exploit (Washington, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, 8:139–140, 143; JCC, 8:579–580).
4. Thomas Cushing was elected at large (Independent Chronicle, 5 June).
5. On 5 May, Peter Pickman Frye of Capt. Samuel King's company in Col. Thomas Marshall's 10th militia regiment was found guilty of desertion with intent to join the enemy. An appeal of relatives and friends apparently secured a stay of execution until the congress could consider the case. A letter, presumably enclosed with Cooper's, from the Salem Committee of Correspondence, Inspection, and Safety, signed by Richard Derby Jr., chairman, stated that Frye was “a Person, whom they think, from their knowledge of him, is not possessed of a common share of understanding: and that he is really incapable of committing a Crime, maliciously and with design, deserving so severe a Punishment.” The Board of War, reporting on the case on 20 June, authorized Gen. Heath to grant a pardon if he found that Frye was truly incompetent and only for that reason, “and by no means on account of friends or connexions, who should never be considered when public justice demands vicious men to suffer.” Frye's grandfather was Col. Benjamin Pickman, prominent Salem merchant (Boston Gazette, 12 May; Heitman, Register Continental Army, p. 333, 381; PCC, No. 42, III, f. 25; JCC, 8:483–484; James Duncan Phillips, Salem in the Eighteenth Century, Boston, 1937, p. 244–245). Frye was pardoned in early September (Independent Chronicle, 18 Sept.).
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2018.