Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Letters from the Front: Defending New York City

"...3 oClock PM – there has been heard a heavy Cannonade for two Hours past up the North River between the Phenix & Rose & our Row Gallies___ particulars cannot give you yet, the General went up this Morning to see the Action..."

By July of 1776, most of the troops who had been stationed at Boston for the siege of 1775-1776 were in New York City, preparing to defend against an anticipated British attack. Among them was Jedediah Huntington, with his 17th Connecticut Regiment of the Continental Line. Huntington's letter (a complete transcript of which appears below) sheds light on the somewhat confused state of the city, as well as early signs of inflation in the American economy. Of particular note are rising prices coupled with a scarcity of linen cloth and vegetables, with Huntington noting that most commodities were being moved into the interior. The letter ends with an account of an engagement between two British frigates and a squadron of American row galleries, one of the opening acts of the disastrous New York Campaign.


Sol Feinstone Collection No. 593
Jedediah Huntington to Jabez Huntington, 29 July-3 August 1776.  Camp at New York City
Transcribed by Andrew Dauphinee August 2011

                                                                                                    “Camp NYork 29 July 1776
Hond Sir
            I wrote the 27th by Mr. Keyes I am not certain whether I did not in my Hurry forget to give you an Answer about the White & Check Hollands ― Almost all the Goods of all Kinds are moved into the Country ― white Linnens such as you yourself wear cannot be had under two Dollars or two & half P yard & others in Proportion – the poorest Checks only ¾ wide cannot be had for less than about 3/4th of a Dollar P yd per piece ―  there are holland Stripes to be had at 9 Dollars for 15yds which are narrow but middling good and are the most reasonable of any kind of Linnens that I have seen If I have Time will send you a piece P Ingraham___ The Norwich Row Galley & two from R: Island came in last Night, two from Connecticut were in before & 32 pounders put into them__ I hope they are soon to go on some Expedition, we have one built here equipped & another launched__ if the old Brig should come down soon she may happen to be taken for a Fire-ship
            Please to desire Benj Backus to send me Telamachus, a French Book which he will find among my Books (it is new)[pg 1]
            If there is a convenient Opportunity I should be glad if Ten or Dozen Bushell Oats if some Rye is with them they will be the better
            by last Accounts from Northward it appears there has been great Neglects in him who has had the Knack in Writing to make it appear that he has done every Thing that Circumstances would allow of to expedite Affairs in that Qaurter
            Several Transports with Masachusets Troops onboard are stopd at Kings Hell Gate on acct of the Small Pox
            my Love & Respects to all      & remain
                                                                                                Your affectionate Son
                                                                                                            Jed Huntington

Coffee is to be had @ 17d or 18d per W per hundd
Cheese has been sold @ 14d & 12d per W

Green Sauce of all Kinds very scarce & dear
Potatoes at the Rate of one Dollar & half P Bushell, the Want & Dearness of Vegetables is doubtless one Cause of our present Sickness

Jabez Huntington Esqr  [pg 2]
                                                                                                Camp 3d August 1776

this Letter failed of going by Ingraham ― I have to add that about 50 Ships large & small have arrived & joined the British Fleet since last Fryday Saturday ― it is generally supposed to be a Part of a Fleet with foreign Troops ― some think it may be the Fleet that has been to the Southward – the first Supposition is the most probable & that more maybe daily expected

Our Row Gallies are gone up to look for the Phenix and Rose

I have put into a Bundle of Cloaths which Mr. Fanning is sending Home a small Paper Bundle addressed to Mother contains 1 P Silk Stockings so small that I cannot wear them & 2 pair Silk & thread do & 2 Stocks which are clearly worn out

Since writing the above I have been out to buy a piece of holland Stripe to send you, but could not find a single piece in traversing half the City

I send you Mr. Fanning sends a Paper of this Day to Brr

3 oClock PM – there has been heard a heavy Cannonade for two Hours past up the North River between the Phenix & Rose & our Row Gallies___ particulars cannot give you yet, the General went up this Morning to see the Action

                                                                                                I remain Your affectionate Son
                                                                                                            Jed Huntington

Honble Jabez Huntington Esqr  [pg 3]”

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