Adams Papers

Isaac Smith Sr. to John Adams, 24 June 1775

Isaac Smith Sr. to John Adams

Salem. June 24. 1775

Mr. Adams

Long before this will reach you, you will have an Account of the Action, att Charlestown, in which though the regulars have gaind an Advantageous Cituation have paid for itt very dearly, which loss in Millitary Accheivements is lookt upon as trivial. The distruction of Charlestown is a most Melancholy seen, as Three quarters of the Inhabitants have lost there, all. Brother Kent house, W. house, as likewise sister Austin houses are all destroyed,1 and Although the Cheif of the people had removed and there Effects yet there were Considerable of Value in the Town, and likewise a great many things, belonging to Boston people, which had been left in homes to be transported into the Country not expecting any such a devastation would take place so suddenly and not being Able to get Carts have lost them, all, Among which was Doct. Mathers,2 who’s daughters came Out the day before.

You will be informed of the state of Our Affairs, by those who have the Management of them, but as we have had several times since the Engagement people who have liberty to go up, by which, some people get a chance down—One three days past and One Yesterday, a Capt. of a ship being up there to see his Owner Mr. B——, was a spectator from the begining a saturday Morning and while there being connected with many of the friends of Govermt. falsly so-called, by which his Account beleive to be as good as any One’s. He says he was on Cops hill when the orders came for the burning the Town which was about the same time the Troops landed—and was att the seeing the Wounded brought back (the dead ther’s, as well as Ours were buried, on Charlestown side). The talk was that they had lost and wounded about a Thousand about 300 of which was killed. Amongst which Numbers of a Thousand, about 80 Officers were killed and wounded, 30 of which Number were dead and many more since Amongst which was besides Majo. Pitcarn and Williams, Colo. Abbercrombie, (the latter Yesterday, Intelligence brings) haveing dyed after geting to Boston. Itt was said Majo. Sh[. . .]3 fell but he was not there. On the Other side the loss of Doct. Warren is great, and itt was a great pitty, that ever there was the least thoughts of bestowing the late honor upon him, being more wanted in Other Capacities. He was buried in Charlestown buriing place, itt is said that Offers were made that any of his friends att Boston might attend his funeral.—Yesterday Morning a Transport Arrived and landed her Troops said to be One ordered back from N York of 16 sail bound there and itts supposed a vessell has been sent to stop them from going to N York, so that itts likely we shall have them all here in a few days which iff so hope the Connecticut forces will come this way, as itt now takes a great many to secure the different passes.—Since the Marshal law has been Established in Boston the people dare not Open there Mouths scarsely. Poor Shrimpton Hunt your late Neighbour, Only saying a Saturday, that he hopt Our people would get the better was taken up and Confined itts said in gaol. A son of my late Neighbour Gore calling Over the way to his sister to see a funeral come along the paul holders left the Corps, itts said tho beleive not true and whent and put him under gaurd six hours—suppose by his fathers influence he got Clear. No person was Allowed to be On there houses, to look Out a sabbath day. None of the select Men are Allowed to come Out. T.B.4 still remains there. Mrs. Gill got Out the day I did. Your brother Smith was not in the late Engagement, being confind to his Chamber, not being well. Doct. Cotton I here has been confined with the Rheumatism and Other disorders.—We are Obstructed in business by the M[en of] Warr and Cutters, so that I have had Vessells designed here, Obliged to go round to Ipswich, which goods must be carted from thence here—but in a few days we must expect more. The people, since the last battle are removing there household goods from this Town.

I am with,5 wishing your Counsels may be conducted by An Overruleing Providence, for the purpose of a lasting Tranquility, Your hume. servant,

Isaac Smith

[Added on cover:] July 1st. A person yesterday from Boston says Jemmey Lovell is confined in gaol in the dungen for Nobody knows what. The Inhabitants have no Wood, an Account has been taken of those that are still in Boston which amount to about 5,000. The same person who says he had the best information that the Number of Officers kil’d and wounded, is rather more [than] the 84 mentioned and that 102 Sargents were kil’d and wounded, and that the 52d Rigement had lost 2 Capts. returned or 2 officers, forget which. I here the Officers say that the battle of Menden did not exceed itt.—I hope Our New Assembly or the General will make a demand of all the Inhabitants and there Effects, of those who by Contract Ought to come Out.—There is a Military Watch kept by the friends of Goverment. Martyn Gay One of the Captns.—Yours by Doct. Church have received.

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To John Adams Esqr. a Member of the Continental Congress Philadelphia”; postal marking: “Camb Post paid 1/”; docketed “June 24. 1775” in a hand the editors believe is probably that of Rev. William Gordon (1728–1807), of Jamaica Plain (Roxbury, Mass.), the historian of the American Revolution. Docketings in the same hand appear on some scores of letters received by JA from this date through the following fifteen months (until early Oct. 1776), after which they disappear. The only possible explanation of these (if they are indeed in William Gordon’s hand) is that Gordon somehow gained access to at least a portion of JA’s letter files at some point after the latter date. Since in 1775 JA thought Gordon vain, talkative, and injudicious (Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 2:174), and since no external evidence is yet known to the editors of Gordon’s using JA’s files—indeed JA replied evasively when Gordon asked for assistance on his History (Gordon to JA, 27 March 1777, Adams Papers, MHS, Procs. description begins Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections and Proceedings. description ends , 63 [1929–1930]:338; JA to Gordon, 8 April 1777, LbC, Adams Papers, JA, Works description begins The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, ed. Charles Francis Adams, Boston, 1850–1856; 10 vols. description ends , 9:461–462)—it is very surprising to find traces of his hand in the Adams Papers. The identification of persons by their handwriting being a treacherous business, the editors’ conclusion that Gordon consulted and docketed some of JA’s early Revolutionary correspondence is put forth tentatively and in the expectation, or at least the hope, that it will be confirmed or disproved by evidence still to be found. But Gordon’s spidery hand is highly individualistic and not easily mistaken for anyone else’s. He was also a very pertinacious man and investigator, as shown by his letters gathered and edited by Worthington C. Ford (MHS, Procs. description begins Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections and Proceedings. description ends , 63 [1929–1930]: 303–613) and by the references to privately owned materials in the preface, text, and notes in his 4-volume History, eventually published in London in 1788. He had, moreover, something of a habit of marking up the papers he examined when preparing his book. (For an example in the Washington Papers, which he inspected at Mount Vernon in 1784, see Benjamin Rush, Letters description begins Letters of Benjamin Rush, ed. L. H. Butterfield, Princeton, 1951; 2 vols. description ends , 1:185.) And it may be pointed out, finally, that references in his correspondence show that Gordon and his wife visited AA in Braintree on a rather familiar footing at times when JA was absent. Light on this and on more important matters would doubtless be obtainable if Gordon’s own papers survive and could be found. He spent his last years, died, and was buried at Ipswich in England. With the exception of a single letter (Jefferson to Gordon, 2 July 1787, in Jefferson’s Papers, ed. Boyd, 11:525), the present editors, though they have made extensive inquiries, have found no traces of what must once have been a formidable mass of correspondence and other MSS in Gordon’s possession. Apparently they were not dispersed. But if not, were they entirely destroyed, or do they lurk somewhere more or less intact?

1Thus in MS. “Brother Kent” was Ebenezer Kent, who had married the writer’s sister Anna. “Sister Austin” was Mary Smith, wife of Ebenezer Austin. See Adams Genealogy. “W. house” very likely means warehouse, Kent being a merchant.

2Rev. Samuel Mather, Harvard 1723, “last and least of a great dynasty,” minister of the Tenth Congregational Society in Boston, where, though not a loyalist, he remained throughout the siege (Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates description begins John Langdon Sibley and Clifford K. Shipton, Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cambridge and Boston, 1873– description ends , 7:216–238).

3Illegible. Probably Maj. William Sheriff is meant.

4Thomas Boylston.

5Thus in MS. Word or words omitted?

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