Papers of John Adams, volume 5

From John Sullivan

To Nathanael Greene

From Samuel Cooper, 29 May 1777 Cooper, Samuel JA


From Samuel Cooper, 29 May 1777 Cooper, Samuel Adams, John
From Samuel Cooper
My dear Sir Boston 29th. May. 1777

I wish, with you, that N. England may not fail to furnish their Quota of the Continental Army even to a single man;1 but am afraid we shall not be able to accomplish it soon. Some Towns have already rais'd and sent forward their full Proportion. This has done much more, besides Manning the State Vessels and Privateers: but others are yet greatly deficient; and yet all Circum-212stances consider'd, I rather wonder that so much, than no more has been done, by the whole. Manly has been gone more than a Week accompanied with McNeal, and two private Ships of War, besides others of smaller Force, making a Fleet of 10 or 12. I took much Pains for this Accommodation and Junction. The General Court encourag'd it by their Votes of Indemnification &c. to the Owners: and we ev'ry Moment expect some good News. I hope you have done great Service by the Navy Board. The Nomination for this State pleases me. We hear our Army in the Jerseys is now strong en'o to advance nearer the Enemy.2 I hope the Campain on our Part will be more than defensive. Assailants have commonly more Spirit and more Success than Defendants. The burning the Stores of St. Johns, and the late Action at Long Island conducted by Meigs bode well.3

Yesterday was our Election of Councillors: a large Number of the Representatives, perhaps 20 or 30 from Hampshire Berkshire &c. would not vote, being for a single Assembly. I hope this Sentiment will not prevail. They could chuse no more than thirteen by nine o'Clock; and then adjourn'd to this Morning. Cushing is not in, but may perhaps be chosen.4

I enclose you a Letter from Salem on Behalf I suppose of unhappy Tory condemn'd to be shot by a Court martial. He is Grandson of Col. Pickman.5 His Family and Their Friends are much distress'd. I am told the Case is referr'd to Congress, and that Genl. Heath has most impartially stated it. You will be able to judge from that whether Mercy may be shown to this Criminal and his anxious Friends without Injury to the Publick: It is said by some He is insane. But I am not particularly acquainted with Facts and Circumstances. One Thing I throughly know, that I am with the warmest Attachment Your Obedt. humbl. Servt.

RC (Adams Papers).


Cooper's language parallels that in JA's letter of 6 May to Joseph Palmer (above), which Cooper may have seen.


Probably a reference to Gen. Adam Stephen's skirmish on 10 May at Piscataway, in which he claimed great success only to have Washington upbraid him for his exaggerations (Washington, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, 8:47, 53). A glowing account of the American “success” appeared in the Independent Chronicle for 29 May.


The Boston Gazette for 19 May, under a Hartford dateline of 12 May, quoted a letter from Fishkill: “Seven Stores of the enemy are consumed by fire at St. John's, in which were the rigging for their vessels.” The action at Sag Harbor under command of Lt. Col. Return Jonathan Meigs on 24 May brought the destruction of twelve British ships and the capture of ninety prisoners. The Independent Chronicle for 29 May quoted a letter to Gov. 213Trumbull from Gen. Parsons, who had ordered the expedition, describing the destruction of the ships and supplies. Meigs was later given a sword by the congress for his exploit (Washington, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, 8:139–140, 143; JCC , 8:579–580).


Thomas Cushing was elected at large (Independent Chronicle, 5 June).


On 5 May, Peter Pickman Frye of Capt. Samuel King's company in Col. Thomas Marshall's 10th militia regiment was found guilty of desertion with intent to join the enemy. An appeal of relatives and friends apparently secured a stay of execution until the congress could consider the case. A letter, presumably enclosed with Cooper's, from the Salem Committee of Correspondence, Inspection, and Safety, signed by Richard Derby Jr., chairman, stated that Frye was “a Person, whom they think, from their knowledge of him, is not possessed of a common share of understanding: and that he is really incapable of committing a Crime, maliciously and with design, deserving so severe a Punishment.” The Board of War, reporting on the case on 20 June, authorized Gen. Heath to grant a pardon if he found that Frye was truly incompetent and only for that reason, “and by no means on account of friends or connexions, who should never be considered when public justice demands vicious men to suffer.” Frye's grandfather was Col. Benjamin Pickman, prominent Salem merchant (Boston Gazette, 12 May; Heitman, Register Continental Army , p. 333, 381; PCC, No. 42, III, f. 25; JCC , 8:483–484; James Duncan Phillips, Salem in the Eighteenth Century, Boston, 1937, p. 244–245). Frye was pardoned in early September (Independent Chronicle, 18 Sept.).