"Congratulate me on my freedom have obtained my discharge from the Army—in consequence have changed my condition from a public Servant, to a private Gentleman, Gentleman indeed..."
In my final blog post as the Sol Feinstone Scholar at the David Library, we fast-forward to the end of the Letters from the Front collection. In December 1783, the Continental Army was in the process of demobilizing after nearly eight years of warfare. Officers were receiving their discharges and settling long-overdue accounts. Lieutenant Oliver Rice of the 4th Massachusetts had been engaged in the American struggle for independence since the very beginning. Starting as a private in the Lexington Alarm company in April 1775, he later rose to the rank of sergeant in the 4th Continental Regiment in 1776, sergeant-major of the 9th Massachusetts in 1777, was commissioned an ensign on June 2, 1778 and promoted to lieutenant on September 5, 1780. He finally received his discharge from Continental Army on November 3, 1783. The Sol Feinstone Collection preserves several more of his letters from 1782 and 1783, which detail the hardships the characterized the closing years of the Continental Army. In his final letter to his brother (transcribed in full below), Oliver vividly describes the fate that awaited most American officers-- a long trip home in an impoverished state after many years of faithful service to the cause of independence and liberty. While most accounts of the American Revolution focus on the sacrifices of American officers and soldiers, few remember the relatively poor treatment these freedom fighters received in the post-war period. Rice's letter is a potent reminder that, despite tales of glory, the cost of warfare, then as now, is heavy and extends well into the post-war period.