Papers of John Adams, volume 4

To Thomas Mifflin

To Francis Dana

From Samuel Holden Parsons, 15 August 1776 Parsons, Samuel Holden JA From Samuel Holden Parsons, 15 August 1776 Parsons, Samuel Holden Adams, John
From Samuel Holden Parsons
Dear Sir New York 15th. Augt. 1776

Your Favors of the 3d. and 11th. Instant I received this Day for which I am much obliged. I know not whither the Promotion of Generals will give perfect Content, the Uneasiness amongst the Brigadiers who are promoted I beleive will Satisfy them,1 the Promotion of Colonels I dont hear objected to, except that None One from Rhode Island are not promoted;2 on my Part I ought to be contented when you have done much more than my most sanguine Expectations gave Reason to hope, at this Time. The Two Regiments of Tyler and Durkee are Satisfied. To the Majority of these Regiments I beg Leave again to recommend to you Captain James Chapman of Tyler's Regiment, the first Captain, an officer faithful and Approved in a Variety of Campaigns the last and present War, of a liberal capacious Mind,463 image well acquainted with Men and in every Respect an able good Officer universally esteemed as such, he has already a temporary Appointment by the General which is all he can do. Capt. Dier of Col. Durkee's Regiment is Son to Col. Dier, and a Gentleman of a liberal extensive Education and has every Character of a Soldier, he is the Second Captain and without Exception the best Man in the Regiment for a Majority. The first Captain is an honest Man, (and that is a good Character), but by no Means fit to command. I know I may write in Confidence to you, and therefore will endeavor to give the Characters of your Officers as I am able from my Acquaintance, tho' I think the Task hard and not the most agreable.

Colonels 3
Whitcomb has no Trace of an Officer, his Men under no Government
Reed A good Officer not of the most extensive Knowledge but far from being low or despicable
Prescot A Good Soldier to fight no Sense after Eight o'Clock A M
Little A Midling Officer and of tolerable Genius, not great
Serjeant has a pretty good Character but I have no Acquaintance
Glover is said to be a good Officer but am not acquainted
Hutchinson An easy good Man not of great Genius
Baley is Nothing
Baldwin a Personable Man but not of the first Character
Learned Was a good Officer, is old, Superanuated and Resigned
Greaton An excellent Disciplinarian his Courage has been questioned, but I dont know with what Justice
Bond I dont know him
Patterson A Good Officer of a liberal Education, ingenious and Sensible
Lt. Colonels 4
Shephard an excellent Officer none before him, of good Understanding and good common Learning
Jacobs is less than Nothing
Wesson An Able Officer
Clap Pretty good
Reed Pretty good
Moulton Am not acquainted
Henshaw Am not acquainted
Johonnot Very good a fine Soldier and an extensive Acquaintance
Majors 5
Sprout a good, able, Officer
Brooks an Officer, Soldier, Gentleman and Scholar of the first Character
Smith a midling Officer
Haydon a good Officer faithful and prudent not of the most Learning or great Knowledge of the World

Lt. Col. Nixon I had forgot he is a discreet good Officer not of the greatest Mind.6

Col. Ward is a diligent faithful Man and a good Soldier.

These are all the Field Officers from your State which I at present recollect with whom I have any Acquaintance; amongst them all tis my Opinion Lt. Col. Shephard would make as good an Officer as any at the Head of a Regiment and that Major Brooks would Honor any Command he Should be appointed to, he is now a Major of Col. Wibb's Regiment7 and as fit to command a Regiment as any Man in the Lines. Thus you have my Opinion without disguise and I am sure you will make no improper Use of it. Lt. Col. Shephard is a Man of great Spirit he highly resents Col. Learned's being sent for to command the Regiment after his Resignation; I think we shall loose an able good Officer if he leaves the Service and one who was always Col. Learned's equal, at least, before he lost his Health and his Powers of Mind were impaired. I wish him to have the Regiment. Am sure no Man better deserves it. Several Young Gentlemen in the Service I think justly Merit further Notice from their good Conduct and liberal Education and largeness of Mind; Capt. Warham Park8 of West Field is not the most inconsiderable of the Number. Tudor, Osgood, and Ward I am well acquainted with and think they will honor their Country in any Military Character. Orne I dont know, Warren I imagine will do Justice to your Expectations; but we much differ in our Ideas of a military Character or I am totally deceived in Lincoln who may serve his Country well in a civil Department, but I imagine has very little of the Soldier.

The Objection to a grant of Lands to the Soldiery can have very little Weight when it must be purchased. Let it be Scituated in one State or another, And this Purchase at the joint Expence of the United States will make the Burthen equal on the Whole and perhaps a Purchase of the Natives erected into a new Government might 465best Answer the Purposes and serve as a Barier to the other States.

The great the important Crisis is now at Hand when we must decide the Question whither we will be freemen or Slaves, I wish we may prove to our Enemies that Life without our Liberty we think not worth our Enjoyment; by the Preparations of our Enemy we expect an Attack the first Wind and Tide. I am Sir with Esteem & Regard yr. most obedt. hl Servt.9

Saml H. Parsons

RC (Adams Papers).


William Heath, Joseph Spencer, John Sullivan, and Nathanael Greene were promoted from brigadier to major general as of 9 Aug. Although his brigadier's commission bore the same date as that of the others, David Wooster was passed over, probably because of congressional criticism of his performance in Canada (Heitman, Register Continental Army , p. 9).


James Reed, John Nixon, Arthur St. Clair, Alexander McDougall, Samuel Holden Parsons, and James Clinton were all promoted from colonel to brigadier general as of 9 Aug. Cols. James Mitchell Varnum and Daniel Hitchcock, both from Rhode Island, whose commissions as colonels in the Continental Army dated from 1 Jan. 1776, as did those of Reed, Parsons, and Nixon, were passed over. St. Clair's commission was dated 3 Jan., and the two New Yorkers, Clinton and McDougall, had not held a Continental commission before becoming brigadier generals (same, p. 10, 559, 291, 461, 428, 414, 516, 161, and 368). JA had said that he would cast his vote for promotion for Varnum, Parsons, and Hitchcock (to Hitchcock, 3 Aug., above). Varnum talked to Washington of resigning (Washington, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, 5:432). For other disappointments see William Tudor to JA, 19 Aug. (below).


For the colonels, as well as for the other officers listed, only those not mentioned earlier are identified by their commands, which are listed in Heitman, passim. Joseph Read, commander of the 13th Continental Infantry; Moses Little, commander of the 12th Continental Infantry; John Bailey, commander of the 23d Continental Infantry; Loammi Baldwin, commander of the 26th Continental Infantry (Baldwin was a member of the legislature, 1778–1779, 1780, and sheriff of Middlesex co., 1780–1794— Appletons' Cyclo. Amer. Biog. ); Ebenezer Learned was 48 in 1776, and although he resigned in May, he became a brigadier general in 1777 ( DAB ).


John Jacobs of the 23d Continental Infantry; James Wesson, of the 26th; Ebenezer Clapp, of the 13th; Seth Reed, of the 15th; Johnson Moulton, of the 7th; Gabriel Johonnot, of the 14th.


Ebenezer Sprout, of the 3rd Continental Infantry; John Brooks, of the 19th (Federalist governor of Massachusetts, 1816–1822— DAB ); Calvin Smith, of the 13th; Josiah Hayden, of the 23d.


Thomas Nixon of the 4th Continental Infantry.


Charles Webb.


Warham Parks, a captain in the 3d Continental Infantry.


JA answered this letter and an earlier letter from Parsons of 13 Aug. and from his Letterbook copied his answer into his Autobiography, where it is printed (JA, Diary and Autobiography , 3:447–449).