Adams Family Correspondence, volume 2

Abigail Adams to John Adams

Abigail Adams to John Adams

357 John Adams to Abigail Adams, 24 October 1777 JA AA


John Adams to Abigail Adams, 24 October 1777 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
My dearest Friend York Town Octr. 24. 1777

It is with shame that I recollect that I have not written you more than two or three Letters these 5 Weeks, and those very short.

News I am afraid to write, because I never know untill it is too late what is true. From last Sunday to this Moment Fryday afternoon 4 o Clock, We have been in a state of tormenting Uncertainty concerning our Affairs at the Northward. On Sunday, We had News, from the Committee of Albany, through Governor Clinton and G. Washington, of a Capitulation of Burgoine and his whole Army.1 To this Moment We have no Express from Gates, nor any Authentic Confirmation.2

Howe has drawn his Army into the City and Washington is at Germantown. Supplies will be cutt off, from the British Army, in a great Measure.

I am &c. yours forever, John Adams

We shall finish a Plan of Confederation in a few days.3

RC (Adams Papers).


The earliest news of Burgoyne's capitulation reached York on Sunday the 19th, though this was actually premature, since Burgoyne had only offered to surrender on the 14th, the letter of the Albany committee, transmitted through various hands, was dated the 15th, and the Saratoga convention was not signed until the following day. See the very careful and enlightening editorial note on the transmission of the news, with locations of the relevant texts, in Burnett, ed., Letters of Members , 2:526–527. The record in JCC is incomplete and otherwise unsatisfactory on this important affair.


The reason was that Lt. Col. James Wilkinson, Gates' adjutant, took twelve days to bring Gates' dispatch of the 18th and a copy of the convention from Saratoga to York. Dawdling sociably on the way, he did not arrive until 31 Oct. ( JCC , 9:851), by which time the news he brought had reached Congress from various unofficial sources. In a letter written many years later, Thomas McKean recalled that Samuel Adams had formally proposed that Congress reward Wilkinson by voting him “a pair of spurs” (McKean to JA, 20 Nov. 1815, Adams Papers). JA's recollection was that his own “impatience” had never in his life been “wrought up to an higher pitch, than by the total failure of all Intelligence Official and unofficial from Saratoga, for so long a time after We had heard a confused fugitive rumour of the defeat of Burgoine,” and that on the morning after Wilkinson's arrival “a jocular Suggestion was thrown out in a private Conversation” among JA, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock, “that it would be proper to present the Courier with a horsewhip and a pair of Spurrs” (to McKean, 26 Nov. 1815, PHi). What in fact happened, however, was that Congress on 6 Nov., acting on Gates' strong recommendation, breveted Wilkinson a brigadier general ( JCC , 9:870). Wilkinson's own account of his journey from Saratoga and arrival in York, with the text of Gates' dispatch which he carried and of other pertinent documents, is in James Wilkinson, Memoirs of My Own Times, Phila., 1816, 1:323–332

358 3.

This was premature. Debate over the Articles of Confederation had occupied Congress during the present session intermittently since early April, but a final text to be submitted to the states for adoption was not agreed on until 15 Nov., some days after JA had left York for Braintree. See JCC , 9:907–928, and entries under Articles of Confederation in index to JA's Diary and Autobiography .