John Adams to Abigail Adams
June 8. 1777
Upon an Invitation from the Board of War of Pensilvania, a Committee was appointed a few days ago to go down Delaware River and take a View of the Works there, erected with a View to prevent the Enemy from coming up to Philadelphia by Water. Mr. Duer, your humble servant and Mr. Middleton made the Committee.1
Yesterday we went, in three Boats, with Eight Oars each. Mr. Rittenhouse, Coll. Bull and Coll. Deane, went from the Pensilvania Board of War. General Arnold, General De Coudrai, an experienced french officer of Artillery, Monsr. Le Brune, an Engineer, and Mr. Rogers an Aid de Camp of Gen. De Coudray were in Company.2
We had a Band of Musick in Company which is very agreable upon the Water.
We went first to Billingsport, about 10 Miles down the River on the Jersey side, where the River is obstructed with Vesseaux de Frizes, and where a large Fort is laid out with a great deal of Work done upon it.
We then came back to Fort Island, or Province Island, where the River is obstructed again, and the only Passage for shipps is commanded by a Fort of 18. 18. Pounders. Here lay the Fire ships, Fire Rafts, floating Batteries, Gallies and the Andrew Doria, and the fine new Frigate Delaware.
We then crossed the River and went to Red Point3 on the Jersey side, where Coll. Bull has thrown up the strongest Works that I have ever seen. Here We dined, and after Dinner Coll. Bull ordered out his Regiment upon the Parade, where they went through their Exercises and Maneuvres, very well.
We had a long Passage home and made it 9 o Clock before We reached the Wharf. We suffered much with the Heat, yet upon the whole it was an agreable day.
Upon our Return to Town We expected to hear some News but not a Word had been received. All is quiet still. How long will this Calm continue?
I begin to suspect We shall have an unactive Campaign—that How will shut himself up, in some impregnable Post, and lie still. We shall see, however, and I think We shall trouble him whether he moves or lies still.
RC (Adams Papers).
1. They were appointed on 3 June “to view the works and defences erected at, and near Billingsport, and report their opinion, whether those works ought to be completed or demolished” (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 8:414). There is an excellent map showing the terrain below Philadelphia and the river and shore defenses in 1777, printed by William Faden, 2d edn., London, 1783, and reproduced in Leonard Lundin, Cockpit of the Revolution, Princeton, 1940, facing p. 336.
2. Philippe Tronson du Coudray, a learned and egotistical French artillery officer who had recently arrived with extravagant promises from Silas Deane, was to prove much the most controversial among all his countrymen who served in America; see JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 2:263–264, and references there. His recommendations for improving the Delaware fortifications are printed in Penna. Archives description begins Pennsylvania Archives. Selected and Arranged from Original Documents in the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1935; 119 vols. in 123. description ends , 1st ser., 5:360–363. Among the numerous officers who accompanied him to America were two Le Brun brothers and Nicolas Roger (Lasseray, Les français sous les treize étoiles description begins André Lasseray, Les français sous les treize étoiles (1775–1783), Macon and Paris, 1935; 2 vols. description ends , 1:278–279; 2:391–394).
3. Red Bank, Gloucester co., N.J., site of Fort Mercer.