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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 9

Docno: ADMS-06-09-02-0306

Author: Houston, William Churchill
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1780-07-11

From William Churchill Houston

[salute] Sir

The principal military Event which has taken Place for some considerable Time past, is the Fall of Charlestown, the Capital of South Carolina. No very material Circumstances can, as yet, be added to those officially published, and which the several American Prints have given you, and the British still earlier. The Intelligence from the Southward being overland is very tedious in it's Passage; and besides this, after the Capitulation the Enemy interposed every Means by dilatory and frivolous Pretences, by what Candour will, in my Opinion, decide to be a Breach of the Spirit of their Engagements, to delay the Dispatches General Lincoln had stipulated should be sent to Congress. This is in their usual Stile; and we have daily Accounts of Cases in which they pay no Sort of regard to their Promises sacredly pledged in Favour of the Citizens. Rapines, Violences and Abuses of every Kind are committed without Reserve, and with very little Discrimination. Their Conduct is of a Piece with what they have held in every similar Instance, uninfluenced by any Principles of Honour, { 509 } Truth, Humanity or even Policy. In the Hour of Debility and Want of Preparation to oppose them, they have overun a considerable Part of the State of South Carolina; but as General Gates is collecting a Force to oppose them, and as their Cruelties and Oppressions will probably soon work up the Spirits of the People to Fury and Desperation, they will be expelled from the Country.
It seems to be the Ordination of Providence, and, though the Sufferings are severe, it seems to be the Interest of the Union, that each State, in its' Turn should be vexed with their Depredations and Barbarities. It operates an amazing Change in the Temper and Sentiments of the People, and fixes them in a rooted and resolute Determination to risque the Extremes of Destruction in Preference before Submission. It is clear and undisputed Experience, that in those States where they have made Progress, and from which they have been driven with Arms, or obliged to relinquish with Shame and Disappointment, the Flame of Liberty and Patriotism burns with more Strength and Brightness, and the Exertions of the People are most deciding and irresistible.
Every Person who has attended to the Course of our Revolution knows the Meaning of what in Words is a Paradox, that “our Misfortunes are our Safety.” The Capture of Charlestown is much to be regretted when we reflect that our Soldiers will be starved and scourged into the Enemy's Service; that the Citizens must suffer Pillagings, Conflagrations and Brutality, but it is obvious to every one that it will promote, under the Favour of Heaven, the general Cause. It has awaked a Spirit superiour to any Thing I have seen since the year 1775 and 6, a Spirit that is fast pervading the whole Comunity, a Spirit which enlivens and encreases every Day.
Cornwallis commands to the Southward with between four and five Thousand Men; Clinton has brought back to New-York a Number somewhat larger; and at the Date of this they are encamped from Philipse's on the North-river across the Country above King's-bridge. When the News of the Fall of Charlestown arrived, and the Troops were returning from thence, they came out with much Confidence and Triumph into New-Jersey, setting Fire to the Country as they passed.2 The disaffected strengthened their Expectations of Despondence and Submission among the Militia, and Desertions from the regular Troops. In every Respect they were more disappointed, than perhaps they have ever been since the Commencement of the War. Scarce a Man deserted, or Citizen adhered to them, both regulars and Militia, particularly the latter, fought them with the most des• { 510 } perate internecine Fury. The Vengeance due to their former Baseness and Barbarities cannot be forgotten. Manet alta Mente repostum.3
Considering the Disaster we have met with on a general Scale, we are not in the least dejected by it. We are more apprehensive of the Effect it will have on your Side of the Water, where such Things strike much more forcibly than here. Hope you will take the necessary Steps to prevent any unnecessary unfavourable Impressions.
Nothing but a better Supply of Money is wanting to give decisive Vigour to the War; and if we cannot get it we are not going to give up a good Cause for Want of it, however essential it may be thought.

[salute] I am, Sir with great Respect your obedt. hble. servant

[signed] Wm. Churchill Houston
RC (Adams Papers;) endorsed: “Mr Houston. recd. 16 and answered 17 Sept. 1780.”
1. On 20 Sept. JA wrote to Jean Luzac (LbC, Adams Papers), enclosing this letter and offering it for publication in the Gazette de Leyde. Luzac returned the letter without using it.
2. Houston is referring to the British forays into New Jersey on 7 and 23 June. On both occasions three to five thousand troops, mostly Germans commanded by Lt. Gen. Wilhelm von Knyphausen, sought to proceed down the road from Elizabethtown through Connecticut Farms to Springfield. In the first attack the village of Connecticut Farms was burned, but determined resistance by the New Jersey militia and reports of the imminent arrival of reinforcements from Washington's army compelled Knyphausen to retreat without reaching Springfield. In the second attack Knyphausen's troops captured and burned Springfield, but the militia and regular troops under Gen. Nathanael Greene again forced Knyphausen to retreat without achieving anything of substance (Leonard Lundin, Cockpit of the Revolution, Princeton, 1940, p. 426–434; Howard H. Peckham, ed., Toll of Independence, Chicago, 1974, p. 71, 72).
3. It remains deeply embedded in the mind.

Docno: ADMS-06-09-02-0307

Author: Warren, James
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1780-07-11

From James Warren

[salute] My dear Sir

My last Letters went by my Son Winslow who left this place about three weeks ago for Amsterdam and I hope will soon be Able to deliver them to you at Paris.1
At that Time I flattered myself that we should be Able to hold Charlestown, but you will find before this reaches you that the Enemy have got it, with the four Continental Ships that were ordered there last Novemr.2 This is a great reduction of our Navy and seems to be occasioned more by ill policy, than the fortune of War. It was certainly a very odd Measure to Shut up those Ships in a place where they could not possibly do any service and where probably they would be lost. The Loss of Charlestown at first seemed to have disagreeable Effects. It produced some degree of dejection, but those Effects were { 511 } soon changed for more Agreable ones. It has done more good than hurt. It has waked us from a profound Sleep, and roused every Man to Action. We shall now have a fine Army and they will be supplied and when our Allies Arrive (who by the way we yet hear Nothing more of than that they sailed the 2d: May) I dare say we shall Beat the Britons, though flushed with Victory over the Capital of a Country, which had not public Spirit enough in the midst of plenty to supply provisions for those that would fight or Courage <enough> to fight themselves. The Spirit of 75 seems to be revived. Our Papers which will be sent you will give an Account of a Brilliant Action on our side in which a few Continental Troops, and a few of the brave Jersey Militia Beat back and drove out of that Country an Army of British Savages with a loss of 7 or 800 killed and wounded.3 We have no other News. As to our Navy the Confederacy is at Philadelphia, the Deane and Trumbull are here. The latter repairing <after> her Injurys suffered by a Noble and well Conducted Action with a Ship of superior force.4 The Alliance laying in France tho' Exceedingly wanted here. Our New Constitution is Established, and is to Operate on the last Wednesday in October. The Election of Govr. Leut. Govr. and Senate to be made on the begining of Sept. Mr. B[owdoin] has again come into public Life that he may with the greater Advantage stand as a Candidate in Competition with H[ancock] for the highest honor and rank in this State. Who will Carry the Election is very uncertain. I dont Envy either of them their feelings. The Vanity of one of them will Sting like an Adder if it is disappointed, and the Advancements made by the Other if they dont succeed will hurt his Modest pride. The upper Counties will be for H. The Interest of the Other will lay in the lower ones. I dont hear who is to be the Leut. or any thing about it, only that an Interest is making for C[ushing] in the Town. If H is Cheif, why will not C. make an Excellent second. The old General Court will have one short Sessions more and then Die, and give place to a New one. One of my last gave you an Account of the proceedings of this State with regard to Money.5 Notwithstanding which it has Continued to depreciate till it got to 75 and 80 for one. There is no Accounting for it, or reasoning about it. It is progressive, retrograde, Eccentric, regular or irregular Just as the D—l will have it and No Body not even Coll. Quincey can tell why. It seems Just now to make a pause and if there is any reasoning about it I think it will in the Course of a Month return to about forty. Would you wish to hear anything of the Husbandry of the Country, I have already told you in a former Letter that we had a most horrible { 512 } winter.6 The Spring and former part of the Summer were very dry. The whole Country has suffered by droughts and some parts of it very severely. We have lately had fine rains, but they came too late for Hay and a full Crop of English Corn. I dont remember that you ever Mentioned to me your Friend the Abbe Reynal' History of the East and West Indies. I told you before that I was Exceedingly pleased with it. I like it the better because it Contains many fine reflections on Agriculture and the dignity and Advantages of it.
I shall write Nothing about your good Family as Mrs. Adams will write by this very good Opportunity herself,7 and Capt. Samson will take the best Care of all Letters to you. Please to make my regards to Mr. Dana, and remember me to Mr. Thaxter, and your two Sons, and beleive me to be with Great Sincerity Your Friend & Humbl. Servt.
[signed] J. Warren
Mr. Gerry has returned from Congress. Mr. Adams and Genl. Ward are gone. Mr. Partridge is also returned.
1. These letters were lost when Winslow Warren was captured on his voyage to Europe, but see Mercy Otis Warren's letter of 8 May, note 1 (above). In fact, the last extant letter from James Warren to JA is that of 29 July 1779, which JA received upon his return to America in early Aug. 1779 (vol. 8:98–100). The last letter from James Warren to which JA had replied was that of 13 June 1779 (vol. 8:91–94), which JA received upon returning to Paris in 1780 and which he answered on 16 March (above).
2. These were the frigates Boston, Providence, and Queen of France; and the sloop Ranger. The Queen of France had been sunk to obstruct passage of British ships, the other three vessels were captured and taken into the Royal Navy (Allen, Naval Hist. of the Amer. Revolution, p. 495, 497).
3. See William Churchill Houston's letter of 11 July, note 2 (above).
4. For an account of the Trumbull's battle with the British privateer Watt on 1 June, see the letter from William Vernon Sr. of 22 July (below).
5. Not found, but see note 1.
6. Not found, but see note 1. For a report on the harsh winter in Massachusetts, see Cotton Tufts' letter of 25 July in Adams Family Correspondence, 3:383–386.
7. As indicated by the endorsement on AA's letter of 16 July, Capt. Simeon Sampson probably carried AA's letters of 5, 16, and 24 July (same, 3:370–373, 375–377, and 381–382).
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.