John Thaxter to John Adams
York Town Jany: 28th. 1778
One day last week a number of british waggoners, who were carrying Cloathing &c. to some of their soldiers in our power, had the honor of being introduced to a goal, for attempting to pass counterfeit money. These waggoners with a number of Serjeants of the enemy, were sent out by Genl: Howe, and permitted to pass by Genl: Washington’s leave. When they arrived at Lancaster, they din’d or took lodgings there, and endeavoured to impose a counterfeit bill in payment of their reckoning. This induced some suspicions, that they might be furnished with some considerable quantity of said money; and upon examining their pockets, a pretty large Sum was found to be lodged there. The people, alarmed at this Villany, immediately applied to proper Authority to have these Villains confined. Upon which, they were apprehended and committed to close goal. The one that did actually pass the money, it is said, will hardly return a waggoner, before trial, to the General. If he is not hanged, I shall think Justice is hunted from our Courts.
Congress has adopted Retaliation at last; a copy of the resolution I have the honor to enclose you.1 I think it a debt of Justice and humanity our poor soldiers, in their power, have a right to think due to them. It would be needless to mention the Cruelty and Inhumanity that have been invariably and uniformly exercised towards them; it is a matter of too much notoriety. The delay of this measure has been construed into timidity. I hope they will now be convinced to the Contrary.
A most valuable prize has been taken by the Jersey Militia. She was bound to Philadelphia from New York. The ice obstructed the navigation up the Delaware in such a manner as to force her so near shore as give the militia an opportunity of firing Cannon balls from Reedy Island. Her Cargo consists of 300 hogsheads of loaf sugar, near 200 of Rum, a quantity of Tea and a number of other articles of English goods. There were 90 Soldiers on board.
Yesterday afternoon and this morning was spent by a Committee of Congress in hearing Doctors Shippen and Rush. Dr. Rush informed me this morning, that he imagined the favorite System of Shippen’s would be essentially altered in consequence of it. Dr. Brown says in a letter, that one half of the soldiers that died last year, perished by the present medical Establishment. A shocking black picture indeed Dr. Rush painted. But by all accounts it is a just one. It is a very melancholy reflection, that buildings erected for the relief and comfort of the sick and wounded, should become tombs to them. A bad System and a bad administration have produced great mischiefs in the Hospital. Peculation and embezzlement of Stores prevail as much in this department as in others. I do not alledge these things without authority or proof. They are facts too well authenticated.2
Please to give my respects to Mrs. Adams and love to the Children.
I am Sir, with great respect your very Hble Servt.,
J. Thaxter Junr.
RC (Adams Papers); docketed by JA in old age: “John Thaxter Jan 28 1778.” Enclosure not found; see note 1.
1. This was presumably the report of the Board of War brought in on 21 Jan. setting forth British mistreatment of American prisoners and recommending retaliatory measures (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 10:74–81). It was to have been followed by a published manifesto, which, however, was not adopted until the following 30 Oct. (same, p. 81–82, and 12:1080–1082, 1281; see also Burnett, ed., Letters of Members description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress, Washington, 1921–1936; 8 vols. description ends , 3:42–43).
2. Rush wrote Pres. Laurens on 25 Jan. offering to furnish proof for his charges against Dr. William Shippen’s management of the Continental hospitals. On the 27th a committee was appointed to hear both doctors. The committee and Congress sustained Shippen, and on the 30th Rush resigned. See Rush’s letters to JA, 22 Jan., 8 Feb., and to Laurens, 25, 30 Jan. (Letters, 1:190–194, 199–200); JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 10:92, 93–94, 101.