Papers of John Adams, volume 3

From Lemuel Robinson, 30 November 1775 Robinson, Lemuel JA


From Lemuel Robinson, 30 November 1775 Robinson, Lemuel Adams, John
From Lemuel Robinson
30 Nov. 1775 Dear sir

These Lines are to inform you of my Situation1 which in the Multaplicity of your Business is undoubtaley far from your Mind. Let it Suffice to Say an Army is Raising in which I have no part. As to the part I have taken for Several Years past to prepare for the Last Appeal is not unknown to You. At the Battle of Concord, So Called, You was there When we took post On Roxbury Hill. I was obliged to Act the part of General Till Genll. Thomas took Command and he Being a Stranger the Burden Lay upon me for a Considerable Time. The Intercepted Letters in May Mention me as the First in Command at Roxbury Camp.2 I Mention this as proff that I was not Idle. At the Time the Committee of Safety were Giving out their Orders to Raise Regiments. I was then Ordered To Marshfield with 1100 Men to dislodge the Enemy who it was Said were Strongly Reinforct. On my Return I met A Gentleman who informd me that the Committee of Safety had Determind there Should be but one Regiment in the 331County of Suffolk and that his, upon which I Continued in Camp and Did my duty Acting as 2d. To Genll. Thomas. The Officers at this Time Left the Camp to Raise Men and Men went off to List and fix for the Campaign, Till the Daily Returns wer Less then 700 Men 300 of which were of my Regiment and Relievd Every 3d. day. The duty you must be Sensable Lay hard upon me. At this Time for 9 days and Nights I Never Shifted my Cloths nor Lay down to Sleep bing obliged to do the duty Even Down to the Adjutant. And no officer of the Day, I was obligd to Patrole the Guards Every Night which was a Round of 9 Miles.3 This Took up my time So that I never Saw the Committee of Safty in Order to know the Truth, of the One Regiment Only bing Raisd. The Committee bing So Imbarast at this time that Although they Had me principally in view yet Gave out their Orders So fast that they overan their Complment before they were aware and desird me to Continue in Service Assuring me of a Regiment.4 In the Meun while Appointd me Muster and Pay Master. Thus I Continued Till Goverment took place when I was Assurd of Regiment. Several Vacancys then Hapning, the Councill Applied to Gell. Washington for a Return of Vacancis but he never made any upon which the Concill Sent him a Recommendation, in my Favour. But the Generall Saith that he is Tied up By Instructions and Cannot Admit any person who Has Not been Commissiond5 thus I am entirely Left out of the Army Although I have the Voice of Both Civil and Military in my favour. The Modeling the Army out of the Old one intirely, with Submison and Raising the pay of the officers will be Attended with many bad Consequences. The Men through the Course of the Summer Have had oppertunity to know the Officers. Those few who have behavd well will get their men. The Others Never will And as all the Officers are appointed by the Generall To Each Regiment I believe there will not be One full Regiment. The Camp is this Moment in Alarm. The Coneticut Forces whose Time is out Universally going home. No Intreaty Can Stop them. If this Should be the Case of the Rest God Only knows what will Become of us. I Expect if nothing more favourable Turns up the Militia must be Called in. I believe I Can Collect frinds Enough to hold them in on Roxbury Side once more. A Store Ship is Carried in to Cape Ann Loaded with warlike Stores Valud at £10000 Sterling.6 If you Can procure an Exeption for me with Respect to the Resolve that no officer be Admitted into the Army you will Lay me under the Greatest Obligation. I Can Assure you that my inclination to the Service is Such that I Cannot any way Content myself out of the Same.


The Inclosd is Signd as you will See by the Committee of Safety Which gave out the Orders. I Remain Your Hue. Sert.

Lemuel Robinson

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To the Honbl. Jno Adams Esqr. at the Congress in Philadelphia Free”; docketed: “Lem Robinson 1775 Nov 30th”; and enclosure.


Lemuel Robinson (1736–1776) of Dorchester was the proprietor of the Liberty Tree Tavern, where, on 14 Aug. 1769, 350 Sons of Liberty, including JA, met to celebrate the fourth anniversary of the founding of “the True Sons of Liberty.” Robinson was elected to the First and Third Provincial congresses and at the beginning of the war was lieutenant colonel in Col. Heath's Suffolk co. Regiment. Despite the problems described in the letter, perhaps because of them, Robinson was appointed by the General Court on 23 Jan. 1776 colonel of a new regiment to be raised out of Suffolk and York cos. He died soon after of smallpox (Boston Gazette, 21 Aug. 1769; JA, Diary and Autobiography , 1:341; NEHGR , 39:83 [Jan. 1885]; 49:341 [July 1895]; Mass. Provincial Congress, Jours. , p. 7, 273; Mass. Soldiers and Sailors , 13:458).


These may have been letters examined and ordered printed by the Provincial Congress on 1 May 1775. The excerpts printed, however, do not mention Robinson (Mass. Provincial Congress, Jours. , p. 173; New-England Chronicle, 2 May).


Robinson's account of his activities at Roxbury as second in command to John Thomas was quoted virtually verbatim by William Gordon in his history under the date 28 April (The History of the Rise, Progress, and Establishment of the Independence of the United States of America, 2d edn., 3 vols., N.Y., 1794, 1:337). Gordon, who neither cited his source nor mentioned Robinson's reference to Thomas, gives the impression that Robinson was in sole command. This treatment led Allen French to criticize Gordon for his handling of this episode ( First Year , p. 719). Although the light shed on Gordon's inaccuracies is interesting, of some significance is this further evidence that Gordon, barring the unlikely possibility that Robinson kept a copy of his letter, made use of JA's papers. Compare Charles Lee to JA, 19 Nov., note 2 (above).


Robinson had failed in June 1775 to raise the necessary number of men for his commission as colonel. It was William Heath that was competing with him in Suffolk co. (Mass. Provincial Congress, Jours. , p. 339, 342, 563; Wroth and others, eds., Province in Rebellion , p. 2502, 2706).


According to the instructions of the congress, colonels and officers of lesser rank had to be commissioned by the colonial governments ( JCC , 2:100–101).


The brig Nancy out of London was taken by Capt. John Manley of the Lee, a privateer, on 28 Nov. The capture of this ship was of great importance to the American Army, for it was loaded with ordnance for the British Army in Boston. Among other things, the Americans gained 2,000 muskets, 100,000 musket flints, 62,500 pounds of musket shot, 75 carbines, 11 mortar beds, and one complete 13-inch brass mortar that with its bed weighed over 5,000 pounds. This mortar, described as “the noblest piece of ordnance ever landed in America,” arrived in Cambridge on 2 Dec. and was christened by Israel Putnam “The Congress.” It exploded during the bombardment of Boston in March 1776 (Boston Gazette, 11 Dec.; Clark, Washington's Navy , p. 60–64, 74, 122).