Papers of John Adams, volume 5

From Nathanael Greene

To James Warren

To James Bowdoin, 16 April 1777 JA Bowdoin, James


To James Bowdoin, 16 April 1777 Adams, John Bowdoin, James
To James Bowdoin
Sir1 Philadelphia April 16. 1777

It is difficult to ascertain with Precision the Designs of the Enemy: But by the best Intelligence We can obtain their Malice and Revenge against New England, is implacable.

Their Intentions, most probably, are, to come over the Lakes and enter N. England by that Way, to attack it by the Way of Rhode Island, and also by the Way of the North or the East River. An Armament, may possibly be destined to Cheasapeak Bay by Way of Diversion.

The Surest Way to defend New England is, to send along all your continental Troops to their Destinations at Fish kill and Ti.

Congress have this day passed a Resolution in the Offensive Stile.2 The Character of New England, is concerned in the Execution of it. I hope in God, that little Banditti of the Halt and blind in Rhode Island will be destroyed in all Events. If it costs us Thousands of Lives it ought to be done. But I believe by an Expedition prudently conducted, they may be driven off or made Prisoners without any considerable Loss.3 I am sir with great Respect your most obt. Svt

John Adams

RC (M-Ar:vol. 196:421).


Bowdoin was a member of the Council. This same day Samuel Adams and James Lovell drafted a message, possibly to the speaker of the House, which was to be sent in the name of the Massachusetts delegation and enclose the congressional resolution mentioned below (Burnett, ed., Letters of Members , 2:326–327).


The congress recommended that Rhode Island with such forces as it had, aided by Massachusetts and Connecticut militiamen from towns near Rhode Island's borders, attack the British on the island of Rhode Island. Further, Washington was directed to appoint a general officer to lead the attack ( JCC , 7:272–273). Much against his wishes, Gen. Clinton had been ordered in Nov. 1776 to take several thousand troops to Newport to secure that area as a safe anchorage for the British fleet. Soon after their arrival, Clinton sailed back to England, leaving Hugh 154Percy, his second in command, in charge. Control of the Newport area bottled up in Narragansett Bay the American fleet under Como. Esek Hopkins (William B. Willcox, Portrait of a General: Sir Henry Clinton in the War of Independence, N.Y., 1964, p. 119, 122).


The proposed expedition did not take place at this time. In Aug. 1777 a surprise attack was planned. Land forces led by Gen. Joseph Spencer were to be supported by fire ships and Continental naval forces from Providence. The actual operation, mounted in October, was a dismal failure ( JCC , 8:661–662).