Papers of John Adams, volume 3

From William Heath, 23 October 1775 Heath, William JA


From William Heath, 23 October 1775 Heath, William Adams, John
From William Heath
Camp at Cambridge Octr. 23rd: 1775 Dear Sir

I have to acknowledge the Honor of the Receipt of yours of the 5th. Instant, and shall think myself fortunate if by writeing or Otherwise, I can in the least Contribute to the Good of my Country, or Advantage of my Native Colony.

It is not Surpriseing that Jealousies do Subsist, and that Misrepresentations have been made, respecting our Colony by some, But Such will be despised, by the Wise the Generous and Brave, who will be rightly Informed before they Censure.

A publication in one of the Connecticut Papers Some Time Since, ascribed the Honor of the noble Resistance made at Bunkers Hill on the 17th. of June last, to a Number of Officers by name, belonging to that Colony,1 Some of Whom as I am Informed were not on the Hill, Whilst other Brave Officers belonging to our Colony, such as Colonels Prescott, Brewer, Gardner, Parker &c. who nobly fought, and Some of whom fell, are not even mentioned. But this Account was detested by the Brave Putnam and others of that Colony.

There are in the Massachusetts Regiments Some few Lads and Old men, and in Several Regiments, Some Negroes. Such is also the Case with the Regiments from the Other Colonies, Rhode Island has a Number of Negroes and Indians, Connecticut has fewer Negroes but a number of Indians. The New Hampshire Regiments have less of Both. The men from Connecticut I think in General are rather stouter than those of either of the other Colonies, But the Troops of our Colony are Robust, Agile, and as fine Fellows in General as I ever would wish to see in the Field. We have many Good Officers also, altho Some few have been Disgraced, viz Colos. Gerrish, and Mansfield, and Major Gridley for Backwardness in Duty on the 17th. of June. Some few also have been Guilty of Peculation.

On the 15th. Instant Doctor Franklin, Mr. Lynch, and Colo. Harrison, Arrived at our Camp, the next morning Four Regiments of my Brigade (the other Two being Chiefly on Command, at Medford, Chelsea, Malden &c.) were Under Arms and Reviewed by those Gentlemen. These Regiments are Entirely of our own Colony; and those 231Gentlemen can Inform you how much Inferior they were, either in appearance or Discipline to the other Troops which they Saw.

But why should we tell of the Troops of this or that Colony, we are now One; and Jealousy and Misrepresentation should be banished. In every Colony doubtless there are Some bad mixed with the Good. The Riflemen So much Boasted of by many before their arrival, have been Guilty of as many Disorders as any Corps in Camp, and there has been more Desertions to the Enemy from them, then from the whole Army Besides, perhaps Double. But these were Foreigners, and there is in that Corps as Faithfull and Brave Officers and Soldiers as in any Other. It would be Ungenerous to Characterize the Troops of any Colony, from the Conduct of a few Scounderels. In short we have a Fine Army, and no Colony has Reason to be ashamed of their own Troops as a Body, altho they may as to Some Individuals. Men who Judge wisely will not Expect Suddenly that Regularity in an Army (may I not say) Raised almost from Chaos, that is to be found in an Army of Veterans. We are in a fine way, one thing only is wanting, had we been furnished with it, we should e're this have presented you Some pleasing Laurels of victory. But here I must Close, requesting you to present my Best Regards to my Honor'd Friends, Hancock, Cushing, Adams, and Pain. I am your Engaged Brother in the Cause of America and very Humble Servt

W Heath

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To John Adams Esqr. at Philadelphia”; docketed: “Gen. Heath. Octr. 23. 1775.”


A letter to the printer signed “A Friend to Truth” (Connecticut Courant, 31 July). Heath's complaint is a good example of provincial sensitivity, for the letter obviously means to call attention to Connecticut officers “whose conduct in the battle . . . has not been publickly noticed.” The writer begins by naming three officers mentioned in the New London newspapers, but he wants to celebrate the names of all who distinguished themselves and hopes that justice will be done to others as soon as their names become known. Unfortunately, it is only by implication that the letter refers solely to Connecticut officers, and unfortunately, too, he begins with a panegyric to Gen. Putnam, who a number of Massachusetts men felt had already been given more than his due.

From Samuel Osgood<choice> <sic> Jr.</sic> <corr resp="apeds"> </corr> </choice>, 23 October 1775 Osgood, Samuel JA


From Samuel Osgood, 23 October 1775 Osgood, Samuel Adams, John
From Samuel Osgood Jr.
23 Oct. 1775 1

Without apologizing for interrupting you a short Moment I have to inform you that Genl. Frye not receiving any Intelligence respecting himself, and being informed that Genl. Washington had received Word from the Honorable Congress that the Appointment of another 232Brigadier was suspended for the present, he left us about the 10th of Octr. unable to account for his not having any particular Intelligence. But when he arriv'd at Cambridge the Mistery was partly unfolded by Mr. Mifflin who had, in a Letter received a Paragraph to this Purport “In Congress we have had some warm Words respecting a Brigadier General. A southern Gentleman was put up but did not obtain some of the southern Gentlemen themselves not voting for him,” from which Genl. Frye draws this Conclusion “that for Peace and Unitys sake our worthy Members would not push the Matter; after a short Suspension of the Affair a more favourable Moment might offer itself.” Thus it stands in Genl. Fryes Mind who doubts not your Inclination to serve him if it may be done consistent with his above Inference otherwise he desires it not.2

The Army is in good Spirits and enjoys unusual Health: prospered and protected by Heaven as we have hitherto been can we but succeed when we have drawn the Sword from the purest Principles of Virtue, to defend the noblest of Causes? Forbid the Tho't that we should sink and Tyranny be indomitable.

If the Cloud thikens with impenetrable Darkness we shall have the Pleasure to fight in the Shade.

New England is the Nusery of brave and hardy Men. She alone Stems the intended rapid Progress of our unnatural Enemy, as yet, and from the Specimen we have had of the Riffle Men I can but conclude she must do it. Genl. Lee wishes they were all in Boston. Genl. Gates says before we have any Action let the Rifle Men be removed to a Distance from the Camp. A Number of them have deserted and gone over to the Enemy.

With the Assistance of the Wealth of the southern Governments the continental Congress will long support in the Field a numerous and brave Army. I am not insensible, that not a Tory Province upon the Continent that has been by Appearance so tho'roughly contemned as ours. It is hard to see it trampled upon by her Sisters, when every Circumstance serves to corroborate the mental Evidence that not one of them all would have received the Shock and bore it with unshaken and unyielding Bravery as ours has done.

But Sir, the Cause we are engaged in peremptorily forbids all Jealousy which is the King Demon of all Tormentors. It is an indisputable Fact that our southern Brethren have not annexed the same Ideas to the Word Liberty as yet that we have neither have we annexed the same to the Words, Honor, Politeness and Dominion which has not a Tendency to make us the most cordial and unreserved Friends: But 233I hope all these Things will be winked out of Sight till Peace is established upon a solid Basis.

The famous Waters Machine from Connecticutt is every Day expected in Camp. It must unavoidably be a clumsy Business as its Weight is about a Tun. I wish it might succeed and the Ships be blown up beyond the Attraction of the Earth for it is the only Way or Chance they have of reaching St. Peters Gate.3

I am, Sir, extremely sorry it was not in Genl. Wards Power to treat the Honorable Committee from Congress with those Marks of Friendship and Politeness which would have afforded him much Satisfaction. In not doing which he cannot be tho't deficient. Very soon after their Arrival he had the Pleasure to wait upon them at the General's and asked them separately and repeatedly to afford him an Opportunity of waiting upon them at Roxbury. Genl. Ward was again called to Cambridge before they had finished their Business and then told Genl. Washington that by his other Invitation he meant to have them dine with him and renewed the Request (Genl. Washington and Family also I suppose). His Excellency told Genl. Ward after the Business was finished he would give him Intelligence of it. The Day they had about compleated their affairs I was at his Excellency's and heard him inform the Gentlemen that they were to dine with Gen. Ward the next Day. After this the Connecticutt Officers in Camp at Roxbury sent an Invitation to his Excellency and the Honorable Committee to dine with them upon Turtle the next Day. Compliments were returned and the Invitation accepted. Genl. Ward told Colo. Harrison and Mr. Lynch after they came to Roxbury he expected them to dine with him: they both told him they did not know but they were to dine with him till they had got to Roxbury. They took the Invitation to be the same. The next Day they were to set out upon their Journey.

I should be very unwilling to suppose that it was designed to place Genl. Ward in such a Light to the Honorable Committee as to make him appear deficient in Point of good Manners. These Affairs give no small Pain and Uneasiness. Was he sure the Conduct was pointed he would choose to Leave the Service. For before this his Tho'ts were employed upon the Subject of Resignation by Reason of his Ill state of Health. The Service is very Burthensome But especially the two or three first Months since which Genl. Ward has never enjoyed scarecly a tolerable State of Health and I fear it will Occasion his Resignation sooner or later doubt not but he then laid the Foundation for those consequent Disorders which will long trouble him. His Health would not permit him to tarry now was not the Cause the best that ever 234any Person was engaged in (Vizt.) that of preserving for himself and Family the civil and sacred Rights and Priviledges which God and Nature have bestowed upon him, and not only so but infinitely more, those of a Country extensive and formed to flourish, however it may be marked out for the Rod of Chastisment and Life and Property may be sported with as Objects of little or no Value. But an immutable Enemy to Tyrants and tyrannical Measures he is willing to Sacrifice his own Peace and Quiet and devote himself to sufferings that others may not after him inherit Chains and Slavery. I am Sir your most obedient Humble Servt.,

Samuel Osgood junr.4

N.B. a Week after the Gentlemen arrived Genl. Ward received your Favor. His Ill State of Health will not permit him to write in Return5 therefor, is much obliged to you for it.

P.S. Pardon me I did not expect to write half so much.

RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “Sam. Osgoods Letter Oct. 1775”; in a later hand, the insertion, “25th.”


Osgood refers to his letter of the 23d when he writes to JA on 4 Nov. (below).


The attempt to appoint Joseph Frye a brigadier general aroused sectional rivalries that prevented a decision when his name first came up in Sept. 1775. Col. John Armstrong of Pennsylvania had equal support. Frye did not receive his appointment until 10 Jan. 1776; Armstrong had to wait until 1 March, when the congress selected six additional brigadier generals ( JCC , 3:257; 4:47, 181; Burnett, ed., Letters of Members , 1:204, 307 and note).


Osgood had probably heard about the American Turtle, a submarine built by David Bushnell (1742–1824) at Saybrook, Conn., from Benjamin Franklin, who had inspected the vessel on his way north with the committee from the congress. Bushnell began building it soon after Lexington and Concord with the apparent intention of using it against the British in Boston Harbor. By October construction and testing had been completed, but minor problems, particularly a means of lighting the interior when the vessel was submerged, prevented it from being ready for action until after Boston had been evacuated. It was tried out in 1776 and 1777 in New York and Philadelphia, but difficulty in attaching the mine that it carried to the bottoms of British ships caused it to fail. Bushnell then gave up his project, which had produced the first workable submarine ( DAB ; Frederick Wagner, Submarine Fighter of the American Revolution, N.Y., 1963, p. 1–47; Dr. Benjamin Gale to Silas Deane, 9, 22 Nov., 7 Dec., and 1 Feb. 1776, Conn. Hist. Soc., Colls. , 2 [1870]: 315–318, 322–323, 333–335, 358–359). The submarine was finally tried out against the British fleet at New York in Sept. 1776, but failed because of difficulty in attaching the mine that it carried to the bottoms of British ships. Bushnell then gave up the project, which had produced the first workable submarine (Frederick Wagner, Submarine Fighter of the American Revolution, N.Y., 1963).


Osgood was an aide to Gen. Ward ( DAB ).


But see the next document. Ward's letter from JA has not been found.