Thursday, September 1, 2011

Letters from the Front: Jedediah Huntington to Jabez Huntington, 4 Dec. 1775. Roxbury Camp, Massachusetts.

"I fear as to our numbers, the new Regiments fill up but slowly-great many of the Soldiers regardless the most important consequence, are determined to leave the Service."

In this installment of the Letters from the Front series, we continue with the war as seen by Jedediah Huntington. Almost a month has passed since his previous letter and events have moved quickly for the Continental Army as well as for Huntington's personal life. Thanks to the success of the privateers, the Continental Army received a much-needed supply of arms and ammunition, alleviating shortages that had left many troops unarmed. 

Huntington next notes the beginning of a crisis that would come to a head in January 1776: the recruitment of new regiments. In contrast to professional armies of the day, where soldiers enlisted for life or for a significant stretch of years (generally no less than three), the Continental soldiers enlisted for a mere one year for the first half of the war. As a result, the Americans were forced to raise a new army every year. Huntington will remain Colonel of the 8th Connecticut Regiment until 10 December, but is already engaged in raising his new unit, the 17th Connecticut Regiment: since units were re-raised every year, their designations changed annually. Thus the 1st Connecticut Regiment of 1775 was not the same unit as the 1st Connecticut Regiment of 1776. This enlistment practice threatened the army's viability as a military force by draining it of man-power during vital periods as well as throwing the administrative structures into chaos. It was a largely unrecognized miracle that the Continental Army managed to survive through this annual cycle.

Huntington's letter ends with a reference to personal tragedy: his wife, who was ill in November, has now died, leaving him depressed and conflicted over a possible return to his home on leave. The final lines in this letter, along with other documents that will appear in this series, shows inaccuracy of the stereotypical view of New Englanders as stolid, hind-bound individuals who never expressed their feelings. Our thanks go to Library Administrative Assistant Brian Graziano for his assistance in transcribing this document.


Sol Feinstone Collection No. 588
Jedediah Huntington to Jabez Huntington, 4 Dec. 1775. Roxbury Camp, Massachusetts.
Transcribed by Brian Graziano August 2011

“Roxbury Camp, December 4, 1775

Hond Sir,

Kind Providence among other publick Fervors has cast a noble Prize of your enemies into our hands, one of our Privateers commanded by Capt. Mandy has taken without firing so much as a single gun, or loss of a man, a Brig laden with all kinds of Ordinance Store- everything we want except powder- more than 2,000 stands of Arms-100,000 Flints- 30 ton of Musket Ball-fine brass 15 inch mortar- Shells- Carkases- &c &c &c If we now had Plenty of one Article I think we should be able to disquiet our enemy in Boston___ but I would not boast, there are too many adverse Things to set against the prosperous__I fear as to our numbers, the new Regiments fill up but slowly-great many of the Soldiers regardless the most important consequence, are determined to leave the Service. I wonder at them, I don’t see what they will do at Home in these dull times__ but home they will go__ I have enlisted 109 men into my regiment, some others have done better, some not so well, but however I hope matters will be better than my Fears___ Our enemies in Boston have moved all the Cannon from the South Part of the Town to the back Part of it in Opposition to Cobble Hill__ the Interviews & Conference on the Lines lately have been very Friendly in Appearance__ we don’t very well like their seeming Good Humor- we fear they will find us in too defenseless a State__ The General expects 3000 Minute Men from this Colony and 2000 from New Hampshire by the 10th of this Month, then all the Continental [pg 1] Troops will be dismissed except those newly enlisted___ imported Turkeys are sold in Boston for 10 Dollars each –lean beef @ [illegible] - Potatoes & Turnips at 8/ P bushel. The Town are gone into a general Inoculation for Small Pox___ General Burgoine goes to England the first wind. The Play House in Fanueil was opened last Saturday Night on the Occasion___it bodes not ill that this Hero who came out to make Havock among us is so soon returning___the Cannon I mentioned being moved to the back Part of the Town were those planted at the Wharves & in the Streets & Avenues__ I purpose to obtain leave to come home as soon as I see the Regiment in a fit Condition to leave it___thou whenever I turn my thoughts to the place where I spent so many happy days, I feel a Heaviness that I hardly know how to Support my domistick Seat now stripd of its loveliest inhabitant has nothing to invite me there, at the Sight of that Resort of Peace and Joy, my wound will bleed afresh. I need divine Assistance that I may not altogether forget my Duty to myself and my surviving Friends. I am with Love and Duty with all your Sorrowfull.
Most Affectionate Son,
Jed Huntington

[Pg 2]”

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