Adams Family Correspondence, volume 2

John Adams to Abigail Adams

John Adams to Abigail Adams

351 Abigail Adams to John Adams, 5 October 1777 AA JA


Abigail Adams to John Adams, 5 October 1777 Adams, Abigail Adams, John
Abigail Adams to John Adams
Dearest Friend October 6 i.e. 5. 1777. Sunday1

I know not where to direct to you, but hope you are secure. Tis said in some part of the Jersies, but I know this only from report. I sent to Town yesterday (saturday) but the Post did not get in till the person by whom I sent came out of Town. I could not rest but sent again this morning. The Post came but brought no Letters for me, and but two for any person that I could learn, and no late intelligence.

To the removal of congress I attribute my not hearing, but I never was more anxious to hear. I want to know every movement of the Armies. Mr. Niles by whom I send this sets of tomorrow and promisses to find you and deliver this into your Hand. I doubt not you will let me hear from you by the first conveyance. Tell me where you are, how you are situated and how you do? Whether your spirits are good, and what you think of the present state of our Arms. Will Mr. How get possession of the city? Tis a day of doubtfull expectation, Heaven only knows our destiny. I observe often in the account of actions that our Men are sometimes obliged to retreat for want of ammunition, their cartridges are spent. How is this? Is it good Generalship. We never hear of that complaint in the regular Army.—There is a private expedition tis said. The Troops have all marched last monday. I own I have no great faith in it. I wish it may succeed better than I apprehend.2

No News of any importance from the Northward; I long for spirited exertions every where. I want some grand important actions to take place. We have both armies from their Shipping. Tis what we have long sought for, now is the important Day; Heaven seems to have granted us our desire, may it also direct us to improve it aright.

We are all well. I write nothing of any importance, till I know where you are, and how to convey to you. Believe me at all times unalterably yours—yours.

RC (Adams Papers); addressed in Richard Cranch's hand: “To The Honble: John Adams Esqr. in Congress (Pr. favr: of Saml. Lieut. Niles Esqr.)”; endorsed (perhaps not contemporaneously): “Portia”; docketed in an unidentified hand.


Sunday fell on the 5th in Oct. 1777.


The attack so long contemplated and at long last mounted against the British forces based at Newport, R.I., was a joint venture of Massachusetts and Connecticut, was intended to be utterly secret, and proved a fiasco. Maj. Gen. Joseph Spencer, a Connecticut officer in the Continental Line, commanded the expedition; the Adamses' friend and neighbor Joseph Palmer, brigadier general of militia, commanded the Massa-352chusetts troops. Palmer established headquarters at Tiverton, R.I., at the beginning of October, but the troops from neither state turned out promptly and in full strength; boats and other essential equipment and supplies were not forwarded as promised; the wind was never right; the officers disagreed on when to strike; morale sagged; and intelligence furnished by American deserters enabled the enemy to put itself in a good posture of defense. By late October Palmer saw that the “surprise” planned for the beginning of that month would certainly fail if now attempted, and recommended withdrawal—a move that permitted Spencer to throw the blame for failure on his subordinate. A court of inquiry acquitted Palmer, but he never lived down what many considered incompetent and negligent conduct on his part. See AA's remark (quoting Gen. Gates) about “dreaming deacons” as military commanders, in her letter to JA, 16–18 Nov., below, and Cotton Tufts to JA, 21 Nov., also below.

Palmer's letters documenting the planning of the expedition, its delays and failure, and his defense of himself thereafter, Aug. 1777–March 1778, were printed in the New Englander, 3 (1845):13–22, before his papers were dispersed. See also under Palmer in Mass. Soldiers and Sailors .