Thursday, September 15, 2011

Letters from the Front: Jedediah Huntington to Jabez Huntington, 18 Jan 1776



"The General has been waiting with great Anxiety to see the Regiments upon the new Establishment with their full Compliment of Men...[he] is startled when thinks on our extensive Lines all alike exposed to an Attack or Surprise from our Enemies and that we have so few to man them..."


It was now January 1776 and the crisis that Jedediah Huntington predicted in his December letter had now come to pass: the Continental troops raised for 1775 were disbanding and heading home, while the new regiments for the 1776 campaign were not yet full. As Huntington notes, agents in the countryside (possibly Loyalists) were doing their utmost to slow or stop this process. Continental troops were an absolute necessity for continuing the American war effort. The militia were only required to serve for limited terms and, moreover, did not have to leave their state/colony. Continental regulars could be taken anywhere within the rebelling colonies, and their long-service meant that they could be trained to professional performance standards. The lack of sufficient numbers of reliable troops, who were capable of manning the siege lines against British sorties, constituted a fundamental threat to the American cause. One can only imagine how history might have turned out differently if the British had made a concerted push from their quarters during this period.

WPT III






Sol Feinstone Collection No. 590
Jedediah Huntington to Jabez Huntington, 18 Jan. 1776. Camp at Roxbury, Massachusetts.
Transcribed by Andrew Dauphinee August 2011

“Camp at Roxbury Jany.18th. 1776

Hond Sir

The General has been waiting with great Anxiety to see the Regiments upon the new Establishment with their full Compliment of Men, the commanding Officers of Regiments had given him Hopes that before this Time it would be accomplished; for a temporary Security he has, with Difficulty, prevailed with about half of the Militia, who were called in to continue in Service a Fortnight longer than their first Engagement still hopeing Recruits would come in – but we begin to be discouraged - - The General is startled when thinks on our extensive Lines all alike exposed to an Attack or Surprise from our Enemies and that we have so few to man them - - - It has been determined on by a Council of General Officers to apply to the Neighbouring Colonies for large Draughts from their Militia, no less I understand than four Complete Regiments (of same size of the established ones) from Connecticut _ this must be complied with at a great Expense and not without many Difficulties and I suspect with but slow Progress after all they will not become good Soldiers by the Time they will be dismissed the standing Troops by [pg 1] the coming and going of occasional ones will be kept in some Degree of Confusion - - In this View of the Case how much is to be wished that by some Means or other the established Regiments might get their Quota of Men and thereby prevent Delay, Danger & Expense.
We are told here that many Persons in the Country make it their Business to dissuade Men from inlisting, from what Motives I cannot conceive.
I wish not to see the Militia or rather that the Necessity may be removed____but I ought not to be over anxious___The Matter lies with able Heads___ it is moreover in the Hands of an allusive Soverign.
my Love and Duty to all to whom I owe them_________I remain your affect & dutiful Son,
Jed Huntington

[pg 2]”

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