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Robert Treat Paine Papers, Volume 3

From David Cobb
Cobb, David RTP
Taunton July 16th 1775 Sunday My Dear Sir,

That natural Indolence of Disposition with which I am curs’d, & those little unforeseen accidents of Time which have depriv’d Kingdoms of their purposes, have prevented me from writing; ’till I begin sensible to feel what my Parsons tell me every Sunday (or more properly once in a year) that the procrastinating any Duty encreases the deficulty 69of perform it. Thus much for an excuse. Your four Letters of the 28th May, 9th, 10th of June & 5th of July1 are safely come to hand, and as it gives me great pleasure to hear of such Unanimity presiding in the Congress; so that pleasure, if possible is encreas’d, by knowing that your Health & good Spirits are still continued to you. It is so long since I wrote you last, and the Military operations since being so numerous, that to particularize them wou’d take up more paper than you’d have patience to read & more time than I can conveniently spare; and as you must be inform’d of all the Transactions of Note, either by the Public papers or by private Intelligence, let it suffice for me to say, that the Battles of Hog-Island & Bunkers Hill will eternize the Memory of Infant American Soldiers.2 Dr. Warren is gone. Coll. Gardner3 is dead and Coll. Parker,4 who was taken prisoner has since died of his wounds in Boston. These are losses we shall feel for the present, but we’ll have the World to know that from their Ashes will rise Thousands of Warren’s, Gardner’s and Parker’s that shall carry, if need be, the American Standard to the Capital of the Empire.

Within this week past our Army have burn’t Brown’s, and the other Houses adjacent, on the Neck, which the Regulars improv’d as Guard Houses, and plunder’d two Guns, a Drum etc., without the loss of a Man kill’d or wounded; soon after which they clear’d Long Island of the stock that was upon it, took about 14 prisoners and came off indiscover’d; but as they had not burnt the Hay, Barnes, Houses &c., a party of ’em were desireous of returning in the day time to do it, which they effected, but were oblig’d to return thro’ a heavy fire from the Ships, arm’d Boats, &c., with the loss only of one man kill’d & one missing. These are bold actions.

Intrenchments are forming in diverse parts of Roxbury, and one was thro’d up on the marsh beyond Roxbury Burying ground towards Boston, whilst the Enemy in plane Ground kept a constant fire, and not a Man hurt. These little incidents serve to make our Soldierry vastly bold and enterprising.

A great number of Whale Boats, say 200, were, sometime last week bro’t to Roxbury and last Thursday were convey’d over to the North side of Roxbury Hill down towards the Marsh, for what purpose we know not, but suspect hot work pretty soon. Thus much for Camp Intelligence. Now to come to our domestic Affairs. At our last Election for Deligates, you was join’d with Coll. George5 & Deacn. Simn. Williams6; and last Monday we chose our Representatives, when you & Coll. Williams were elected. Our Friend George G—7 is develish mad that he can’t obtain his 70Election, as he thinks himself a pritty good Son now; but he must eat humble pye for two or three years yet for his past curs’d behaivour. Old Father Baylies8 is as noisey as ever and the Doctr. is as firm as Atlas and almost as big. Your Family are very well, your Garden is in a fine scituation, your Hay is in your Barn and your Oats are the finest in Town. Mr. Greenleaf Family are all at your House & live agreeable. He is most commonly at Head Quarters, engag’d either in the post office, trying experiments or some other trifling matter. The Old Gentn. and Family are well, & desir’d to be remember’d, he by advancing from one degree of patriotism to another has at last arriv’d to the perfect Man. John McWhorter9 from a trifling incident that happen’d at the Weymouth Alarm, in which I was oblig’d to take his Gun by force, has wag’d an eternal war with the Neighbourhood and now lives in a surly, morose, malicious, damn’d Scotch looking manner without conversing with his Family or Friends.

Mr. Collins & Compy. past thro’ this Town last Fryday. We took all the Notice of them that the shortness of their stay wou’d admit of. I am much pleas’d with his conversation. We are all, thank God, in high spirits, and want nothing more than to meet our Enemies whenever the cause of our Country shall call for it. Whenever such a good natur’d mood come across me as has this Evening, I shall write you again; such a mood, your are sensible has not happen’d for this two Months past, but the Disorder not being periodical, I expect a return in about ten days, as I begin to perseive some symptoms of its approach. In the meantime present my respectfull Compliments to the Deligates from this Provence, and remember me to all Friends, if I have any such, in Philadelphia, and believe me to be, what I always have been, Your Much Oblig’d & sincere Friend

David Cobb

Be so good as to purchase me a Hanger, the price not to exceed a Moidore, & a pr. of Horse Pistols, if any such can be found in the City, likewise 3 lb. Cort. Peruv. opt.10 as we have no good in this part of the World. If you can convey ’em to me safely, do it, if not let ’em rest ’till you come. I forgot to mention that I am now collecting Materials for a Salt Petre Works, and intend, by the blessing of God to produc 500 C.11 between this & next April. This is not reckoning the Chickens before they are hatch’d, for I am possitive I can make it. John Cobb our ingenious Gun Smith was kill’d by Lightening last Tuesday, a great loss to us at this time. Adieu!


RC ; endorsed: “David Cobb July 26. 1775.”


None of these letters is known to have survived. Cobb had apparently not received one additional letter, dated June 17 and printed above.


Although the Battle of Bunker Hill is still considered the first major military engagement of the American Revolution, Dr. Cobb was not as accurate in suggesting that the Battle of Hog Island would be equally remembered. The latter was an American raid on Hog Island in Boston Harbor to take the livestock held there by the British Army (Allen French, The First Year of the American Revolution [Boston, 1934], 190–194).


Col. Thomas Gardner of Cambridge died July 3 of his wounds.


Lt. Col. Moses Parker of Chelmsford (1731–1775) was wounded at the battle and taken as a prisoner to Boston, where he died July 4.


Col. George Williams (1717–1803) had served as a major in the Third Regiment of Bristol County and by 1774 was a lieutenant colonel in that unit. He was representative to the Provincial Congress in 1775, and the same year was appointed to Taunton’s newly formed Committee of Inspection and Correspondence. When the Bristol County Brigade was organized in February 1776, Williams was appointed colonel of the Third Regiment. He resigned on Feb. 19, 1779, on account of advanced age and ill health. Col. Williams later served as selectman in Taunton, 1780 (Emery, History of Taunton, 371, 436, 441, 474).


Dea. Simeon Williams (1717–1794) served as a captain in the local militia and was a captain of the Third Regiment in 1774. In 1775 he was a representative to the Provincial Congress and a member of the Taunton Committee of Inspection and Correspondence. Williams also served several terms as selectman, 1760–1766, 1770, 1777 (Emery, History of Taunton, 360, 436, 474).


George Godfrey (c. 1720–1793) represented Taunton in the General Court (1770–1772, 1775, 1779, 1784), was town treasurer in 1775, and from 1775 served on the Committee of Safety. In 1776 he became brigadier general in the Massachusetts militia (Schutz, Legislators of the Mass. General Court, 232).


Nicholas Baylies (d. 1807), father of Dr. William Baylies, ran the forge at Uxbridge, Mass., until 1757 when he moved to Taunton to take over the forging operation of the ironworks there ( Sibley’s Harvard Graduates , 14:552).


John McWhorter (d. 1800) was on the alarm list but did not march on the alarm in Rhode Island, Dec. 8, 1776. However, he did later serve in Capt. Joshua Wilbore’s company for the Tiverton Alarm, August 1780. McWhorter was a sometime part-owner of the Whittington Iron Works with various members of the Leonard family (Emery, History of Taunton, 451, 466, 632).


Cortex peruviana (cinchona) is powdered bark used as an astringent and as an antiseptic, especially for patients with intermittent fevers (J. Worth Estes, Dictionary of Protopharmacology: Theraputic Practices, 1700–1850 [Canton, Mass., 1990], 47–48).


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