A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Robert Treat Paine Papers, Volume 3

From David Cobb
Cobb, David RTP
My Dear Sir, Boston July 29th, 1776

As there is a general stagnation of Public News in this part of America; my Journal this week can’t afford you but little entertainment; but as I mean to continue this Method of writing, concluding that you must from it receive the best information of what is going on here, you will, I doubt not, be willing to take the bad with the Good.

Monday 22d. The Militia of this Town were this day call’d forth to draft out every 25th Man for the Nothern Army

Tuesday, 23d. The Jamaica Ship that was carried into Cape Ann came into this Harbour today for sale.1

Wednesday, 24th. Sundry of our Prisoners that broke out of Halifax Goal came to Town last night; among ’em are Capt. Martindale & his Officers & Lieut. Scott who was wounded & taken at Bunker’s Hill.2

Thursday 25th. News arriv’d by the way of Providence that Genll. Lee had defeated Genll. Clinton at South-Carolina. We are doubtfull of the truth of it.3

Fryday 26th. The Jamaica Ship taken by Derby’s Letter of Mark, that I mentioned last Sunday was not carried into Salem; but was yesterday retaken by a Frigate as she was coming in, off Newbury in sight of Land.

Saturday 27th. A confermation, by the post, of Genll. Lee’s Engagement, receiv’d with great Joy, but no Letter from you. I much expected one.

Sunday 28th. Two of the Continental Privateers have taken a Ship from Halifax to New York laiden with English Goods, Provisions & Tories, & carried her, this Morning, into Marblehead; among the Tories are Benja. Davis & Son & two Semple Scotchmen.4 You’ll have a share of this Cargo. Two transports of Germain Troops have arriv’d at Halifax & are gone from thence to New York.

In the course of the week past we have had a number of our Eastern Wood Vessells taken by a Frigate & some arm’d Vessells that are Cruizing on the Eastern Shore & in this Bay; the Frigate that took three of258 ’em, put all the Crews aboard one of the Vessels & sent ’em off, after saying that they must not blame them for taking their Vessells as they were absolutely oblig’d to do it by their orders, & damn’d very heartily both Men & Measures that oblig’d ’em to commit such Pyracies on the Americans. We suffer amazingly for want of some heavy Ships to Guard our Coasts.

Do send me a Letter weekly, if possible, if its nothing more than a News paper inclos’d with R. T. P. at the Bottom. Our Powder Mills are both at work, thô that at Stoughton is not yet compleated, but when it is, the Master Workman tell’s me, he’ll turn out at the rate of 600 lb. of powder per Day; it will cost the Provence almost £3000 Sterling.

Your Family were all well when I heard from ’em last, but we have had little or no communication with the Country for this week or two on Acct. of our being pox’d.

I am Dear Sir your constant Friend & much oblig’d Servant, David Cobb

Just now the Tories were Landed at the Long Wharf from Marblehead & were attended from thence to the Prison by 2 thousand people; the Women from the Windows asking Davis5 whether he wanted any Gingerbread, refering to his treatment of the little Chreldren when they were going out of Town last Year. I wish the Devil had ’em.

RC ; addressed: “To The Honble. Robert Treat Paine Esqr. At Philadelphia per post”; postal stamps: “Boston,” “29 July”; endorsed.


Capt. Joseph White in the Massachusetts privateer sloop Revenge took the Anna Maria (Naval Documents of the American Revolution, 5:1178).


“Last Tuesday Evening came to Town from Halifax, Lieutenant William Scott, who was unfortunately taken Prisoner at the Battle on Bunker’s-Hill, the 17th of June, 1775. He made his escape by breaking through the Goal in which he was confined, as did also about14 others; among whom are, Capt. Simon Martindale, and his two Lieutenants. Mr. James Carpenter, with 5 others, that had made their Escape also, and got as far as Windsor, 45 Miles from Halifax were pursued by a large Body of Men, overtaken, carried back, and loaded with Irons.” Scott also reported that James Lovell was still imprisoned at Halifax although in good health and good spirits (New-England Chronicle, July 25, 1776).


News of Gen. Charles Lee’s victory over Gen. George Clinton at Sullivan’s Island was conveyed by letters Lee to General Washington (July 1) and to John Hancock and the Congress (July 2). Although just a rumor to Cobb in Boston on July 25, he was able to have it confirmed two days later (The Papers of George Washington: Revolutionary War Series, 5:168–172, 385).


The ship Peggy (James Kennedy, master) in the British Merchant Service was captured on July 22 by the armed schooners Franklin (John Skimmer, captain) and Hancock (Samuel Tucker, captain).259 In addition to property of Benjamin Davis, the inventory also included goods belonging to John Semple (The Papers of George Washington: Revolutionary War Series, 5:495–496, 507–509).


Benjamin Davis (1729–1805) was in a merchant partnership with his brother Edward, but when Benjamin refused to sign the nonimportation agreement they dissolved the business. He served with the Associated Loyalists and left with the evacuation of Boston in March 1776, first to Halifax and later to New York. En route to New York a gale separated his ship from the fleet and the Americans captured it. They imprisoned Davis from July 26, 1776, to June 4, 1777, along with his son Benjamin and a negro servant. Eventually he was released in a prisoner exchange, went to New York and at its evacuation settled at Shelburne, Nova Scotia, as a merchant. At the end of his life Davis returned to Boston where he died (Sabine, Loyalists of the American Revolution, 1:359–360).

From Thomas Cushing
Cushing, Thomas RTP
Dear Sir, Newbury Port July 30, 1776

You are in debt to me three or four long letters at least. It is a long time since I have received any of your Favors. How will you account for this Conduct.

I wrote you some time Ago to send me the dimensions of the Cannon you were preparing for the Ships, but have never had a line from you upon that subject; pray send me a draft of the Cannon designed for each ship, that I may have the Carriages Compleated forthwith. Let me have their dimensions very particularly & minutely—& let me know what weight of Metal you allow for the 24 Gun Frigate & what weight of Metal for the 32 Gun Ship.1 Pray when will the Cannon be here? The ships are waiting entirely for them & the Orders for Enlisting the men. Do you design the ships shall be of any servic this Summer or in the Fall. If you do, you must be more Expeditious about the Cannon. Pray let me entreat you to hurry this matter. You wrote me long ago they would be ready as soon as the Ships, but the 24 Gun frigate has been ready for them this six weeks. The ships are universally admired, & I hope they will meet your Approbation. I have just met with Capt. Dowse at this place. He is just arrived from Hallifax to which place he came from England. He left England the beginning of April. He tells me Burgoine carried out with him but 4000 men. But Genll. How went from Hallifax to New York with about 6500 or 7000 men & that the Day before Lord How Sailed from England a fleet left England with 9000 Troops & these are all they could get this Campeingn.2 That the Men of War & Transports met with the Utmost Difficulty to procure sailors & that they Came out not above half260 manned. Give my respectfull Complements to Mrs. Yard3 Miss Lucy & Mrs. Chally and all enquiring freinds. I conclude with respect Your most humble servant,

Thomas Cushing

RC ; internal address: “Robert Treat Paine Esqr.”


See Cushing to RTP, Aug. 19, 1776.


Gen. John Burgoyne (1722–1792) was sent to America in September 1774 to reinforce Gen. Thomas Gage, arriving in Boston in May 1775. He returned to England in November 1775 but was again was sent to America arriving in June 1776, this time attached to Sir Guy Carleton, the commander-in-chief in Canada. In the summer of 1777 Burgoyne reoccupied Crown Point and Fort Ticonderoga, but by September suffered a number of defeats that culminated in his surrender at Saratoga on Oct. 17 ( DNB ).

Gen. Sir William Howe (1729–1814) first served in America as a lieutenant colonel in the British Army in the French and Indian War, both at Louisburg and Quebec. In May 1775 he arrived in Boston with reinforcements for Gage and commanded the troops at the Battle of Bunker Hill. On Oct. 10, 1775, he succeeded Gage in command of the army in America (excluding Canada), but within six months he had to evacuate Boston and relocate to Halifax. There he gathered forces and in August 1776 landed on Long Island heading a combined force of some 30,000 troops. On Sept. 15, they captured New York City ( DNB ).

Richard, Lord Howe (1726–1799) had succeeded to the title Viscount Howe when his elder brother was killed at Ticonderoga in 1758; their younger brother was Gen. Sir William Howe (above). Lord Howe was promoted to vice admiral in December 1775 and in February 1776 was appointed naval commander in chief in North America ( DNB ).


From the time of its arrival in Philadelphia, the Massachusetts delegation regularly—but not exclusively—boarded at “the Stone House opposite the City Tavern then held by Mrs. Sarah Yard, which was by some Complimented with the Title of Head Quarters, but by Mr. Richard Henry Lee, more decently called Liberty Hall” (Diary & Autobiography of John Adams, 3:310).