To James Warren
Phyladelphia June 27. 1775
My dear Friend
I am extreamly obliged to you for your Favour of the 20th. of June. The last Fall, I had a great many Friends who kept me continually well informed of every Event as it occurred. But, this Time, I have lost all my Friends, excepting Coll Warren of Plymouth and Coll Palmer of Braintree, and my Wife.
Our dear Warren, has fallen, with Laurells on his Brows, as fresh and blooming, as ever graced an Hero.
I have Suffered infinitely this Time, from ill Health, and blind Eyes at a Time when, a vast Variety of great objects were crowding upon my Mind, and when my dear Country was suffering all the Calamities of Famine, Pestilence, Fire, and Sword at once.
At this Congress We do as well as we can. I must leave it to some future opportunity, Which I have a charming Confidence will certainly come, to inform you fully of the History of our Debates and Resolutions.
Last Saturday night at Eleven O Clock, an express arrived from the worthy Govr. Trumbull, informing of the Battle of Charlestown.1 An hundred Gentlemen flocked to our Lodgings to hear the News. At one O Clock Mr. H. Mr. A. and myself, went out to enquire after the Committee of this City, in order to beg some Powder. We found Some of them, and these with great Politeness, and Sympathy for their brave Brethren in the Mass, agreed, to go that night and send forward about Ninety Quarter Casks, and before Morning it was in Motion. Between two and three O Clock I got to bed.
We are contriving every Way we can think of to get you Powder. We have a Number of Plans for making Salt Petre and Gentlemen here are very confident, that We shall be able to furnish Salt Petre and Powder of our own Manufacture, and that very Soon. A Method of making it, will be published very soon by one of our Committees.2
Before this reaches you, Gen. Washington, Lee, &c will arrive among you. I wish to god, you had been appointed a General Officer, in the Room of some others. Adams and Adams Strove to get it done. But, Notions, narrow Notions prevented it—not dislike to you, but fear of disobliging Pomroy, and his Friends.
Your Government was the best We could obtain for you.3 We have passed some Resolutions concerning North Carolina, which will do a great deal of good. We have allowed them to raise 1000 Men, and to take Care of Trayters, if necessary.4 This must be kept secret.
We are sending you, Ten Companies of Rifle Men. These, if the gentlemen of the Southern Colonies are not very partial and much mistaken, are very fine fellows.5 They are the most accurate Marksmen in the World: they kill with great Exactness at 200 yards Distance: they have Sworn certain Death to the ministerial officers. May they perform their oath.
You will soon find that the Continental Congress are in, deep enough. The Commissions to the officers of the Army; the Vote for your Government; the Votes about North Carolina; and a Multitude of other Votes which you will soon hear of will convince you.
I have inclosed you an Hint about salt Petre.6 Germans and others here have an opinion that every stable, Dove house, Cellar, Vault &c is a Mine of salt Petre. The inclosed Proclamation, coincides with this opinion. The Mould under stables &c may be boiled soon into salt Petre, it is said. Numbers are about it here.
RC (MHi:Warren-Adams Coll.); addressed: “To the Hon. James Warren Esqr President of the Provincial Congress at Watertown These”; docketed: “Mr. J.A. Lettr June 1775.”
1. Although Palmer, Warren, Gerry, and Winthrop all wrote soon after the event describing the Battle of Bunker Hill (see their letters, 19–21 June, above), it was the dispatch from Trumbull arriving on 24 June that brought the first news and spurred JA and the rest of the delegation to action. The dispatch contained a letter from Trumbull to the congress that briefly mentioned the battle, and that was read to the members on 26 June, but more important, it also included a detailed account written by Elijah Hide of Lebanon, Conn., who had been a spectator on Winter Hill during the battle (PCC, No. 66; JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 2:107; Pennsylvania Gazette, 28 June). JA’s account in his Autobiography dates the arrival of Trumbull’s dispatch as 23 June, the day that Washington left for Cambridge—an indication that JA did not consult the records of the congress or a letter he wrote to AA on 23 June (Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 3:324; Adams Family Correspondence description begins Adams Family Correspondence, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1963– . description ends , 1:226–227).
2. Probably the pamphlet entitled Several Methods of Making Salt-Petre; Recommended to the Inhabitants of the United Colonies by Their Representatives in Congress, Phila. and Boston, 1775 (Evans description begins Charles Evans and others, comps., American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of All Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America [1639–1800], Chicago and Worcester, 1903–1959; 14 vols. description ends , Nos. 14584, 14585).
3. On 9 June, the congress had resolved that Massachusetts owed no obedience to a Parliamentary act that illegally changed the charter of the province, and that the Provincial Congress should call for elections to a House of Representatives, which would choose a Council. Until a royal governor was willing to abide by the charter, the offices of governor and lieutenant governor should be considered vacant, the powers of governor being exercised meanwhile by the Council (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 2:83–84). JA was not entirely happy with this solution. Years later he explained that “Although this Advice was in a great degree conformable, to the New York and Pensilvania System, or in other Words to the System of Mr. Dickinson and Mr. Duane, I thought it an Acquisition, for it was a Precedent of Advice to the separate States to institute Governments, and I doubted not We should soon have more Occasions to follow this Example” (Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 3:353–354). Still, at the time, JA remained somewhat uneasy about the advice that had been given Massachusetts. In letters to the Warrens, he pointedly asked how the government was going on (JA to James Warren, 20 June; to Joseph Warren, 21 June, above).
4. On 26 June the congress resolved that North Carolina should be allowed to raise a body of 1,000 men that would be considered part of the Continental Army with their pay provided by the congress (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 2:107).
5. But see James Warren to JA, 11 Sept. (below). On 14 June the congress voted to raise six companies from Pennsylvania and two each from Maryland and Virginia, and on 22 June two additional ones from Pennsylvania (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 2:89, 104).