Thursday, June 7, 2012

Letters from the Front: The Aftermath of Monmouth

"Last Fryday two Tories were hanged at Monmouth Court House, I went to the place of execution, but they were turned off a few minutes before I arrived.__"

On June 23, 1778, American and British forces faced off near Freehold, New Jersey, in a confrontation that has come to be known as the Battle of Monmouth.  The details of this engagement will be covered in a special summer series by David Library Intern Mark Relation, who will be taking over the blog shortly. In the meantime, this post of the Letters from the Front series examines the aftermath of that battle. On July 19, 1778, Dr. Samuel Adams (whose letters have featured prominently in earlier posts) wrote to his wife in Massachusetts, providing a vivid description of Englishtown, New Jersey, where he was stationed to care for wounded officers from the battle. His letter, presented in full below, provides insight into the often-neglected post battle experience as well as commenting on the general situation in eastern New Jersey during this period. It is an invaluable source for understanding the events taking place behind American lines in the summer of 1778.


Sol Feinstone Collection #28
Dr. Samuel Adams to Sally Adams, Englishtown, NJ, 19 July 1778
Transcribed by W. P. Tatum III, June 2011

“Englishtown July 19th 1778

Dear Sally,
            Soon after I closed my packet to you from Brunswick, the 4th: Inst: I Sett off in obedience to Genl. Knox’s orders for this place to attend Capt. Cooke, who, as I informed you before was wounded in the Lungs. The Ball entering a little below the left Shoulder-blade & came out Just above the left nipple.—I came that night to Spottswood & the next morning to this place which is a Small Village of six or eight Houses, is about 20 miles South of Brunswick & about 6 from Monmouth Court-House, this Villages takes Its name of Englishtown from three Irishmen of the name of English, that first settled here; is no very agreeable Situation, the ground being rather low and the air too much confined by the surrounding woods, which makes the Fever & Ague flourish here, and of which I have tested a little already—in this place ?which is naturally but poor, and rendered much poorer by our Army encamping a few days here, and now affords no other kind of Vegetable but Purslain [sic, Purslane] which boiled with Bacon is our continual Diet/ I still remain attending Capt: Cooke, whom with a blessing I hope to make a cure of; and Capt. Mc.Craken, whose Army has been Amputated in consequence of a Wound from a Cannon-Ball; there is also here, under the care of Doctr. Start Col: Wesson, & Capt: Arnold__ Lieut Jefferds is with me, taking care of Cooke he give you such an extraordinary good Character that I Suspect you have hired him to Speak well of you.
            My Situation being as above described, confined with the care of my Patients, with few Books & less company to amuse me, having been more than Six long weeks absent from my Dear Sally & her Sweet Babe without hearing the least Syllable from them, and no prospect of hearing from them ‘till I again Join the Army, which I do not expect will be Soon, makes me very unhappy, and I cannot help in my dull hours making many disagreeable reflections, and Sometimes am ready to fear that my enemie /of whom I think I have many in Dorchester/ will succeed in their endeavours to alienate [pg 1] your affections from me: I Sometimes Say to myself perhaps my dear Sally for whose welfare I am so Solicitous & from whom I am so anxious to hear by Letter is perfectly indifferent about whatever may befall unhappy me; perhaps it is matter of little concern to her where or in what circumstances I am in, or whether I ever again_____________________my God! Can I bear the Idea! No, my Dear Sally I will not wrong you so much as to entertain for a moment, a thought, so prejudicial to that tender affection you have ever Shewn for me. And /whatever reason you may imagine you have to think otherwise/ be assured that the Sentiments of my heart for you, are such as to deserve it; I am, tho’ in Body at a great distance from you, in mind but Seldom absent from my Sally.—I meet with many old acquaintance and friends in the Army, from whom I receive such tokens of friendship, & esteem, enough to flatter my Vanity, and when I am with the main body find a great deal of very good Company, and I have an oppertunity to greatly gratify my curiosity by taking a large Survey of the Country this way: But___ I can assure you with the greatest Sincerity that none of this is Satisfactory to me nor would the whole world be any thing to me if I must remain absent from my Sally & my Dear little Daughter and I am fully determined if God Spares my life to the end of this Campaign either to come and live with you at home or bring you into the Army with me.
            Last Fryday two Tories were hanged at Monmouth Court House, I went to the place of execution, but they were turned off a few minutes before I arrived.__ You will no doubt e’er the receipt of this hear of the arrival of the French Ambassador at Congress, & the French Fleet that now lays at Anchor near Sandy-Hook, I am not without hopes that the British Fleet & Army will leave America in the course of a few months, & that each continental Regt. will be Sent to their own State.
            That health & every blessing to be expected or desired may be enjoyed by yourself & my dear little Daughter is the Sincere wish of my Dear Sally
                                    Yours Affectionately Saml: Adams [pg 2]

My Dear Sally                                     July 20th: 1778
            Lieut Jefferds Setts off to morrow for Camp by him I Send this to be forwarded to you and hope when he returns, /which he expects to do in a few days/ to hear from you by Letter which will afford me the greatest pleasure__ I expect to tarry here at least a fortnight longer, and I am in some hopes that by that time my Patients will be able to be removed__ I enjoy my health at present through Divine goodness__ the enemy in their march through this State burnt a number of Houses and plundered the inhabitants of every thing they could carry off, without distinction of Whig or Tory—one Thompson in this Country a high Tory was Stripped by them they not leaving him a Second Shirt, turned him out of Doors & lay with his wife__ fine! Encouragement for Tories__ take care of yourself & my dear Nabby—write me often—I am with the tenderest Affection my Dear Sally
                                                                                    All yours Saml. Adams [pg 3]”

Have something you want to share, such as a question, research find, or a personal story about the Library? Email Will Tatum at

No comments:

Post a Comment