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Robert Treat Paine Papers, Volume 3

From William Livingston
Livingston, William RTP
Elizabeth Town 27 March 1776 Dr. Sir,

I just now received the inclosed,1 but as I do not care to take it upon myself to give directions concerning it, I beg you to lay it before the Committee, & procure their answer to Mr. Lewis as soon as possible. The man of war’s men set fire to the ship bleu mountain valley last night, but it being discovered before it got much head, was happily extinguish’d.2 If they appear on such another frolic, I believe the Towns men here will make them repent it. I am Sir your most humble Sert.

Wil. Livingston

RC ; addressed: “To Robert T. Paine Esqr. at the Congress In Philadelphia. Free”; endorsed.


Enclosed letter from Francis Lewis to William Livingston, Mar. 20, 1776, on the supply of cannon and shot is published in Letters of Delegates, 3:417–419.


The Blue Mountain Valley, commanded by Capt. James Hamilton Dempster, was a transport from England “with Coals, Porter, Potatoes, Hogs, & Horse Beans designed for the ministerial Troops at Boston.” A combined force of Continental troops under William Alexander and Elias Dayton captured the ship on Jan. 23 and took it into Elizabethtown, N.J. On the night of Mar. 26 men from the H.M.S. Asia set fire to the Blue Mountain Valley but without much success (Naval Documents of the American Revolution, 3:1200–1203, 4:547).

Extract from the Minutes of the Continental Congress
Continental Congress
Monday, April 1, 1776 Dr. Sir,

Resolved, That Mr. M’Kean and Mr. Paine be directed to examine the gaol and particularly the apartments where Kirkland, Connolly, Smith and Cameron are confined, and reported what is necessary to be done to have them safely and securely kept.1

Printed in Journals of the Continental Congress, 4:246.


On Mar. 28, Congress had directed that John Connolly, John Smith, and Moses Kirkland, British military prisoners in the Philadelphia jail who were planning an escape, be held in solitary confinement “in separate apartments” and prevented from speaking with anyone without special orders from Congress. The “Committee for Prisoners” reported back to Congress on Apr. 6 commenting upon the “unprecedented severities” under which American prisoners had been detained by the British. It recommended that Connolly, Smith, Kirkland, and Allan Cameron be moved into the old Philadelphia jail “closely confined in separate apartments,” that Capt. Thomas Gamble not be exchanged at the present time, that Capt. Duncan Campbell be allowed to live with his family in Burlington, N.J., and that each colony be directed to “take especial care that none of those confined by order of the Congress be suffered to escape” (Journals of the Continental Congress, 4:239, 261–262).

To Joseph Palmer
RTP Palmer, Joseph
Philadelphia, April 2d, 1776.

The evacuation of Boston by the king’s troops, and the repossession of it by the right owners, agitates my mind with a thousand queries and calculations. As yet we know so little of the state in which they have left the 186town in general, or the possessions of individuals in particular, that I do not consider myself as yet come to my feelings about the matter; amidst all the joys there must be many scenes of distressing wo. I have not the least reason to doubt the general court will direct many circumstances relating to this occurrence with wisdom and expedition; if, therefore, I mention some matters that occur to me, I trust you will attribute it rather to my desire to help in the common cause, than to an inclination to direct. Would it not be serviceable to appoint some honest, skilful persons, to take an account of all damage done to the houses, furniture, goods, merchandise, and property of every kind, and by whom done, as near as may be; this may be applied to two uses at least, first, to make a fair representation to the world of the injury done us; (what use this may be applied to we do not yet know;) and also sufferers may expect and receive, perhaps, some compensation, which, without such an early estimate, may be very unequally distributed.

I wish, also, that those persons who have tarried in town through the whole siege, who are most capable, might be called upon to draw up as correct a narrative of the whole proceedings of the enemy, and the distress of the inhabitants, and particularly the behaviour of the tories, collectively and individually, as may be. I should think it by no means advisable to destroy our lines as yet; if it be in the power of the exiled tories to cause the town to be again attacked they will effect it; I doubt not there will be great consultations to fortify the harbour against men-ofwar; if we have cannon enough it may be done. I wish much to know what is become of the cannon that belonged to the castle; I fear they are carried off or destroyed. Those cannon which they have spiked up may easily be bored out.

* * * * * *1

The scene of action is only changed; the efforts of the enemy will be more vigorous elsewhere. I mention this, because I can easily conceive, that people who have been long harassed are too apt to sink into ease when immediate danger seems to be withdrawn. Canada and New-York are now grand objects of attention, and very interesting to New-England.

Pray be kind enough to send me as particular an account of the state of affairs in Boston as you conveniently can; who of the tories are left behind; how they behave, and what they say for themselves? whether Master Lowel2 and other prisoners were carried off? whether they have taken away the bells? whether any quantity of merchandise is left? any 187sulphur or other matters that we want? any cash? are the records of the province, superior and inferior and probate courts, left? Have they carried off the lifeless carcase of the charter, as one of their own party that was slain, or have they left it putrefying to contaminate the air? These, and such other matters as you may think worthy of note, will be very agreeable to me, not merely as matters of curiosity, which in this case I think is very natural, but as facts which may be of service to know; the place they have gone to is a material fact.

Original not located; reprinted from the New-York Review and Atheneum Magazine, Apr. 1826, 2:400–402.


Ellipsis in the printed transcript.


James Lovell (1737–1814) graduated from Harvard in 1756 and taught in Boston schools until the outbreak of the Revolution. The British arrested him on June 27, 1775, because he had conveyed military intelligence to the American troops at Bunker Hill and took him to Halifax as a prisoner when Boston was evacuated by the troops on Mar. 17, 1776. They released him in a prisoner exchange for Philip Skene on Nov. 3, 1776. While returning home, Lovell was elected to the Continental Congress, which he joined on Feb. 4, 1777. He continued in Congress until 1782 when he returned to Boston, where he later served as naval officer for the port ( ANB ).