A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Robert Treat Paine Papers, Volume 3

From Thomas Cushing
Cushing, Thomas RTP
Watertown March 18 1776 Sir,

I received your Favor of the 6th Instant, am Glad to hear more Powder is arrived at Philadelphia. The Court met the 13th Instant. The members tell me that the People in all parts of the Government are making Salt Petre very rapidly. Some are of opinion we shall have made in this Province by the month of June near one hundred Tons. I doubt whether quite so much, but beleive shall have a very considerable quantity. The Powder Mill at Andover will be ready to work in a few days. That at Stoughton in about a week or Ten days. The saltpetre you sent is not so good as that our People make by Twenty pr. cent. I am very sorry to Inform you that I cannot find that we have any Oar in this Province that will do to make Cannon. I applied some time ago to the owners of the Furnace at Providence to make the Cannon for the Ships Building in this 180Province, but they sent me word that they could not supply me, as they had Engaged to make as many for the Colony of Rhode Island as they could possibly finish by the time they would be wanted, and Mr. Durfy1 has been there lately to procure some & finds those they have made prove to be bad2; they have made some since but have not as yet proved them. They hope they will answer. I can expect no supply from that Quarter & therefore if pigs cannot be sent from Philadelphia we must have the Cannon from thence, and therefore should be glad you would immediately Inform me Whether Cannon can be had from Philadelphia New York or Maryland & how soon. Mr. Hobart is Building an Air Furnace but is so slow in his Motions that I fear whether he will be able to make the Cannon seasonably. He designs to use sea Coal in his Air furnace. He has engaged one hundred Tons thro’ my interposition, at Plimouth which will be handy for him. People here think you are mistaken in apprehending that Pig Iron is not so good as Oar. They say Vast Quantities have been transported from America to Great Britain for the Purpose of making Cannon. Our Ships are going on very fast, as many men are Employed about them as can possibly be of any Service. I have been very lucky in getting Hemp, as also a number of large Anchors that weigh from 250 to 310 weight which our People have lately taken from the men of Warr. The British Troops have evacuated the Town of Boston in great precipitation & in a very ignominous manner but upon the Subject must refer you to Mr. Hancock to whom I have wrote pr. this Conveyance.3 A Detachment of our Troops have gone into Boston and this Day General Washington & his Suit dined with Captain Erving.4 In great haste I remain yr. Freind and most humble Servt.

T. Cushing

RC ; addressed: “To The Honble. Robert Treat Paine at Philadelphia. Free”; endorsed.


Thomas Durfee (1721–1796) was a wealthy farmer and landowner in Freetown, which he represented in the General Court at this time. On Feb. 6, Durfee, Capt. Josiah Batcheldor, Jr., of Beverly (1736–1809), and Col. Jerathmeel Bowers of Swansea (1717–1799) were appointed as a committee to supervise the building of “Ten Sloops of War, of One Hundred and Ten Tons, or Fifteen Tons each, suitable to carry from Fourteen to Sixteen Carriage Guns, Six and Four Pounders” (Journals of the House of Representatives of Mass., 51, pt. 2:253; Schutz, Legislators of the Mass. General Court, 210).


On this trip to Rhode Island, Durfee had been in contact with Nicholas Brown, who responded in a letter dated Mar. 9, 1776: “our Furnace is now going & makeing Cannon but as we have a Contract in part made with our Govert. tho not quite settled” cannot now take on more (Nicholas Brown 181Papers, John Carter Brown Library, Providence, R.I.). On the various problems surrounding the cannon manufactured by the Browns, see below, Thomas Cushing to RTP, Sept. 9, 1776.


George Washington also wrote to John Hancock on the occasion of the withdrawal of the British army from Boston: “It is with the greatest pleasure I inform you that on Sunday last, the 17th Instant, about 9 O’Clock in the forenoon, The Ministerial Army evacuated the Town of Boston, and that the Forces of the United Colonies are now in actual possession thereof. I beg leave to congratulate you Sir, & the honorable Congress—on this happy Event, and particularly as it was effected without endangering the lives & property of the remaining unhappy Inhabitants. I have great reason to imagine their flight was precipitated by the appearance of a Work which I had Order’d to be thrown up last Saturday Night, on an Eminence at Dorchester which lay nearest to Boston Neck, call’d Newks Hill. The Town, although it has suffer’d greatly is not in so bad a state as I expected to find it . . .” (Washington to Hancock, Mar. 19, 1776, in The Papers of George Washington: Revolutionary War Series, 3:489–490).


John Erving (c. 1692–1786), a wealthy Boston merchant originally from the Orkneys, was an odd choice as Washington’s first dinner host. A member of the Council for some twenty years, Erving declined the offer of a seat on General Gage’s Mandamus Council, but his sons John and George accepted. All three of his surviving sons became Loyalists, and at least one of had just left Boston with the British troops. Two daughters were married to Loyalists, while two others were the wives of notable Whigs, Col. Samuel Waldo and James Bowdoin (Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 2nd ser., 5:9–16).

From Abigail Paine Greenleaf and Abigail Greenleaf
Greenleaf, Abigail Paine Greenleaf, Abigail RTP
Taunton March 25 1776 Dear Brother,

We have been expecting you home this many weeks past. Thought sure at Mr. Adams arrival you would set out, and not having a line from you so long confirm’d the opinion. But, I am determined to send you a short account of our health and proceedings.

April 5. I began to write as you see but was hindred. We have had a sick family this four weeks past your wife was taken with an Eruptive fever that prevails here. She had it slight but soon after, Sally was seiz’d. She continues very weak still. Has been sick four week. My Eunice and in a few days Polly were took down, then Betty, and now your son Tommy. Tis a very ugly disorder but does not prove mortal. It has been all round the country this winter. Doctr. Blanchard1 say he has seen forty down with it at once in the camps.

Mrs. Paine and I intended t’ve wrote largely by this opertunity but you must excuse us this time. We are both fatuig’d and she is not very well has a sore throat a disorder that few escape.


Mr. Greenleaf is in Boston. I suppose has or will write to you but I hear is very busy. We are more favour’d then many others. Our office is safe. A ball from Lechmeres point enter’d the house and broke my largest Glass. This is all the perticulars I’ve received.

Mr. Greenleaf wrote he shou’d fetch me assoon as t’was proper. We have been so taken up here.

April 7. A child wak’d or some other call forc’d me to leave writing. I now begin again. The Doctr. just reviv’d us with a letter from you dated Mar: 25. We have your own hand to support us in our expectations of seeing you & when we have time shall vindicate ourselves. You see I have taken great pains to write this. The family is so sick that I have not one moment. Naby boby & charlee myself & seth are all that can move. No help to be had, some can’t come others are afraid of the distemper. Your wife can’t write. She has suffer’d greatly this five days with her throat it now seems going off her fever is lower setts up a little. Sally & Tommy are better. My girls throat are worse, more physick oh dear. May we be carried safe through this trying correction. I’ve no time to think of Boston or any affairs but what relates to our family.

Mrs. Paine desires me to write that Mr. Cobb has paid the rent for the pasture. She is loth to have any more money of him as he has paid his debt. He don’t refuse but she chuses you shou’d know that he says so and as soon as she can write will send you an account of his conduct. Shall not pay seth till she has further orders from you. Supposes you will send money. Cloth can not be made for you shirts for health and flax and labourers are wanting and you must certainly be in want soon. It is to be had in Boston tho: high.

I intended this by Mr. Breck but cou’d not finish it soon enough to send to Boston and he setts out from there to morrow. By him we shall expect to hear from you. Doct. Blanchard will carry this to the post. He is going with the hospital to N. York. Mr. Barnum is going Chaplain and Mr. Reads son of Titicut supplys his place here. I recolect we rec’d a letter tother day with a Book for Bob, and Docr. Smiths Oration. Are grateful for every favour. May a Blessing attend you. I’ll write again next post and am your Oblig’d Sister

Abigail Greenleaf
Dear Uncle,

Please to accept my most gratefull thanks, for your remembrance of me, & my Sisters. I wrote to you last January from Coll: 183Leonards at Raynham, where I spent three months. Wonder if you ever had it; I fear it did not arrive safe, as you have not mentioned it. Boston’s being again restored to us in such, a manner, gave us unspeakable Pleasure, but the whole Family have been so distressed, with this Sickness that I have hardly time to realize it. I hope we shall soon be reinstated in Family Circumstances, & that we shall have Sufficient business, to enable my Parents to spend the remainder of life in a comfortable way, free from fatiguing care. We all long for your return Sir that may thank you in Person for your great kindness, before we leave your hospitable roof. Cousin Sally sends her Duty to her Pappa, with a Petition for a book. I intend soon to write, when we are well eno’ for me to find Leasure. My Sisters joyn me in Duty to you Sir, accompanied with our best wishes for your health & Prosperity. I am my dear Uncle your ever dutifull & much obliged Niece

Abigail Greenleaf

RC ; addressed: “To Honble: Robert T. Paine Esqr: Member of the Continentl: Congress in Philadelphia. Free”; endorsed.


Probably Samuel Blanchard of Boston, who served as surgeon’s mate, June-August 1775. Later as a surgeon he was listed among prisoners sent from Halifax to Boston, November 1777 (Massachusetts Soldiers & Sailors of the Revolutionary War, 2:154).