Papers of John Adams, volume 4

To Horatio Gates

From Jonathan Trumbull

From Joseph Ward, 23 March 1776 Ward, Joseph JA From Joseph Ward, 23 March 1776 Ward, Joseph Adams, John
From Joseph Ward
Sir Boston 23 March 1776

The 17th Instant the Pirates all abandoned their Works in Boston and Charlestown and went on board their Ships, and on the 20th they burnt and destroyed the works on Castle Island. They now lye in Nantasket Road waiting for a fair wind; we keep a vigilant eye over them lest they should make an attack on some unexpected quarter. The particulars with regard to the Seige, the Stores taken, &c. you will receive from better authority, therefore it is unnecessary for me to mention them. Our Troops behaved well, and I think the flight of the British Fleet and Army before the American Arms, must have a happy and very important effect upon the great Cause we engaged in, and greatly facilitate our future operations. I wish it may stimulate the Congress to form an American Government immediately. If, after all our exertions and successes, while Providence offers us Freedom and Independence, we should receive the gloven cloven foot of George to rule here again what will posterity, what will the wise and virtuous through the World say of us? Will they not say, (and jusly) that we were fools who had an inestimable prize put into our hands but had no heart to improve it! Heaven seems now to offer us the glorious privilege, the bright preeminence above all other people, of 61 image 62 image 63 being the Guardians of the Rights of Mankind and the Patrons of the World. It is the fault of the United Colonies (a rare fault among men) they do not sufficiently know and feel their own strength and importance. Independence would have a great effect upon the Army, some now begin to fear that after all their fatigue and hazards in the Cause of Freedom, a compromise will take place whereby Britain may still exercise a power injurious to the Liberty Peace and Safety of America: Cut the Gordian knot, and the timid and wavering will have new feelings, trimming will be at an end, and the determined faithful friends of their Country will kindle with new ardour, and the United Colonies increase in strength and glory every hour.

Yesterday I saw your Brother, who informed that Mrs. Adams and your Children were well.

General Ward, on account of his declining health, has wrote his Resignation to the President of the Congress.1 I expect the greatest part of the Army will march for New York, or the Southern Colonies as soon as the Fleet is gone to Sea; and the Troops that remain here will be employed in fortifying the most advantageous Posts to defend the Town and harbour. I do not much expect the Enemy will make any attempts to regain possession of Boston, for I think they are sufficiently convinced that they cannot penetrate the Country in this part of America; 'tis probable they will try their fortune to the Southward and if they fail there the game will be up with them. We hear many accounts about Commissioners coming from Britain to treat with the Colonies separately, or with the Congress. Many fear we shall be duped by them, but I trust the congress is too wise to be awed by the splendor or deceived by the cunning of British Courtiers.

I know not of one discouraging circumstance attending either our civil or military affairs in this part of the Continent. I have lately heard with pleasure that the Farmer 2 is become an advocate for Independence.

Wishing the Congress that Wisdom which is from above, I am Sir with much Respect Your most Humble Servant, Joseph Ward

RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “Ward Mar 23. 1776.”


Although Gen. Ward resigned on 22 March, the congress did not accept his resignation until 23 April, after Ward had written again on 12 April requesting that he be relieved. As Washington saw it, Ward was of two minds about resigning, for some of Ward's officers did not wish to see him leave (PCC, No. 152, I; No. 159; JCC , 4:300; Washington, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, 4:453). Acceptance of his resignation did not relieve him of duty, however, and Washington continued sending him orders, for there was no 64one to take Ward's place. On 21 Aug. the congress requested that he stay on, later giving him a special designation—“major general commanding in a separate department” ( JCC , 5:694; 6:931). Ward was finally relieved when Gen. Heath took over his command in March 1777 (Washington, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, 7:231; see also DAB and Charles Martyn, The Life of Artemas Ward, N.Y., 1921, p. 216–217, 223, 231, 240).


Ward may be referring to John Dickinson's assuming command of a force of Philadelphia Associators sent to strengthen the American Army at New York, an act which impressed even JA (JA to John Trumbull, 13 Feb., above; JA to AA, 13 Feb., Adams Family Correspondence , 1:346–347).