American Revolution Sources

Group 1

Author: Major Daniel Whiting (American)

Recipient: Brigadier General Edward Hand (American)

Date: November 13, 1778

Source: The Papers of George Washington Digital Edition. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, Rotunda, 2008.

I embrace the earliest Opportunity the present Situation of our Affairs would admit of to inform you of the State of the Garrison. On the 11th Inst the Enemy notwithstandg all our Endeavors to the contrary surprized us having taken a Scout of a Serjeant and 8 of ours and took one and compelled him to pilot them to the Officers Quarters they pushed vigorously for the Fort and had it not been for the great Activity and Alertness of the Troops they had rushed within the Lines. The Colonel fell in attempting getting to the Fort the Lt Colo. (Stacy) was made Prisoner together with one Lieut. one Ensign the Surgeon’s Mate and a few Privates we had about 6 or 8 of the Regt killed, some missing. The Enemy was very numerous burnt all the Buildings in the Settlement killed a great Number of the Inhabitants, Men Women & Children, carryed off many Prisoners some few that hid in the woods have got into the Fort. They collected all the Cattle Horses and Sheep they cod & drove off they paid us a second visit yesterday but nothing of them has been discovered this Day. Notwithstanding the earliest and repeated Dispatches to the River have had no Reinforcement from there. When we were first attacked we had not a Pound of Bread per Man in Garrison & had it not been for a Barrel of Powder and half a Box of Cartriges belonging to the Town our Ammunition wod have failed us—one Scout a Serjt & 8 men that went by the Battlements has not been heard of yet. . . . P.S. We have a Soldier with his Leg broken thats necessary to be amputated the Surgeon has no Instruments request a Case to be sent if possible.

Group 2

Author: Albigence Waldo, surgeon (American)

Date: December 1777

Location: near Valley Forge, PA

Source: Albigence Waldo, “Valley Forge, 1777-1778. Diary of Surgeon Albigence Waldo, of the Connecticut Line,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 21, no. 3 (1897): 299–323.

December 14.—Prisoners & Deserters are continually coming in. The Army which has been surprisingly healthy hitherto, now begins to grow sickly from the continued fatigues they have suffered this Campaign. Yet they still show a spirit of Alacrity & Contentment not to be expected from so young Troops. I am Sick—discontented—and out of humour. Poor food—hard lodging—Cold Weather—fatigue—Nasty Cloaths—nasty Cookery—Vomit half my time—smoak’d out of my senses—the Devil’s in’t—I can’t En dure it—Why are we sent here to starve and Freeze— What sweet Felicities have I left at home; A charming Wife —pretty Children —Good Beds—good food — good Cookery—all agreeable—all harmonious. Here all Confusion—smoke & Cold—hunger & filthiness—A pox on my bad luck.

Group 3

Author: Abigail Adams

Recipient: John Adams

Date: October 21, 1775

Source: “Abigail Adams to John Adams, 21 October 1775,” Founders Online, National Archives,

The sickness has abated here and in the Neighbouring Towns. In Boston I am told it is very sickly among the inhabitants and the soldiry. By a Man one Haskings who came out the day befor yesterday I learn; that there are but about 25 hundred Soldiers in Town. How many there are at Charlstown he could not tell. … He says no Language can paint the distress of the inhabitants, most of them destitute of wood and of provisions of every kind. The Bakers say unless they have a new supply of wood they cannot bake above one fortnight longer—their Bisquit are not above one half the former size. The Soldiers are obliged to do very hard duty, and are uneasy to a great degree, many of them declareing they will not continue much longer in such a state but at all hazards will escape; the inhabitants are desperate, and contriveing means of escape. A floating Battery of ours went out two nights ago, and row’d near the Town, and then discharged their Guns. Some of the Ball went into the Work house, some through the Tents in the common, and one through the Sign of the Lamb Tavern; he says it drove them all out of the common, Men, women and children screaming, and throe’d them into the utmost distress. But very unhappily for us in the discharge of one of the cannon, the Ball not being properly ramed down one of them split and killd 2 men and wounded 7 more, upon which they were obliged to return. He also says that the Tories are much distressd about the fate of Dr. Church, and very anxious to obtain him, and would exchange Lovel for him. This Man is so exasperated at the ill usage he has received from them that he is determined to inlist immediately. They almost starved him whilst he was in Irons, he says he hopes it will be in his power to send some of them to Heaven for mercy.

Group 4

Author: Francis Legge

Recipient: Earl of Dartmouth

Date: March 18, 1776

Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia

Source: James J. Barnes and Patience P. Barnes, The American Revolution through British Eyes: A Documentary Collection (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2013), 174.

The number of families from the Continent hath been much fewer than I expected. It seems the Rebels took every method to prevent their coming by stopping all their vessels and seizing their effects so that the Friends of Government among them have in a manner been totally ruin’d. …

But the last letter from General Howe informs me that two hundred families will embark from Boston to this place, among whom are many necessituous, which will distress us greatly, as Provision is not to be purchas’d on any account, the small supplies we have had for the support of the Town has been from Boston and the West Indies. I hope therefore the provisions I wrote for to be sent here in my Letter No. 52, wherein I have more fully explain’d the circumstances of this Province, has been thought an essential measure, and that it will soon arrive, and relieve us from that scene of distress, which is likely soon to take place here.

Group 5

Author: Unknown

Recipient: Unknown correspondent

Date: September 28, 1775

Source: James J. Barnes and Patience P. Barnes, The American Revolution through British Eyes: A Documentary Collection (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2013), 214.

Philadelphia is in a state of anarchy and confusion, and it is believed a greater confusion is not remote, from the great number of laboring people precluded from earning their bread by the stoppage of trade, who must necessarily fall on people of condition for their maintenance. Three millions of dollars issued by the Congress are in ready circulation, except among the Quakers, who seem disposed to refuse them, though eighty-seven of the younger part of that people are in arms, out of 800 families resident in that city. Many of that people in and near Providence have suffered distrainment of goods, for not sending men as soldiers, and they have had resolution enough to disown, from their body, some who have, and notwithstanding popular abuse, notably pleaded their Cause before the Committee of Usurpation, for not complying with the Congress’s order of a Fast. Suffering, by rapid strokes, seems coming on us all.

Group 6

Author: Colonel Otho H. Williams, American

Recipient: Alexander Hamilton, American

Date: August 30, 1780

Location: Hillsborough, NC

Source: “To Alexander Hamilton from Colonel Otho H. Williams, 30 August 1780,” Founders Online, National Archives,

Dear Hamilton.

About the 23d. Instant I wrote my Friend Harrison from Salisbury giving him a very hasty, particular account of the Defeat of Genl. Gates’s Army at Suttons near Campden the 16th Instant. We were truly unfortunate and compleatly routed. The infamous Cowardice of the Militia of Virginia and North Carolina gave the Enemy every advantage over our few Regular troops whose firm opposition and Gallant behaviour have gain’d them the applause as well of our successful Foes as of our runaway Friends. If I mention’d to Coll. Harrison the loss of two Howitzers I was mistaken. We had Eight Pieces of Light Artillery with Six ammunition Waggons which, with the greatest Part of our Baggage, were lost.

Our retreat was the most mortifying that cod. have happen’d. Those who escaped the Dangers of the Field knew not where to find protection. The Wounded found no relief from the Inhabitants who were immediately in arms against us, and many of our Fugitive Officers and men were disarm’d by those faithless Vallains who had flatter’d us with promises of joining us against the Enemy. The Tories are now assembling in different parts of the Country, and there is actually a sort of partizan War Waged between them and the Whigs of this Country.

The greatest part of our Baggage was plunder’d by those who first left the Field. The Enemy took a part and much of what escaped them has been pillaged by the Inhabitants on the Retreat. The Waggon Horses have been stolen and frequently taken from the drivers and some of those desperate Rascals have been daring enough to fire upon parties of our Regular Troops many miles from the place of Action.

Group 7

Author: Abigail Adams

Recipient: James Lovell

Date: December 15, 1777

Location: Braintree, MA

Source: “Abigail Adams to James Lovell, 15 December 1777,” Founders Online, National Archives, 

I know Sir by this appointment you mean the publick good, or you would not thus call upon me to sacrifice my tranquility and happiness.

The deputing my Friend [her husband John Adams] upon so important an Embassy is a gratefull proof to me of the esteem of his Country. Tho I would not wish him to be less deserving I am sometimes almost selfish enough to wish his abilities confind to private life, and the more so for that wish is according with his own inclinations.

I have often experienced the want of his aid and assistance in the last 3 years of his absence and that Demand increases as our little ones grow up 3 of whom are sons and at this time of life stand most in need of the joint force of his example and precepts.

And can I Sir consent to be seperated from him whom my Heart esteems above all earthly things, and for an unlimited time? My life will be one continued scene of anxiety and apprehension, and must I cheerfully comply with the Demand of my Country?

I know you think I ought, or you [would] not have been accessary to the Call.

I have improved this absence to bring my mind to bear the Event with fortitude and resignation, tho I own it has been at the expence both of food and rest.

I beg your Excuse Sir for writing thus freely, it has been a relief to my mind to drop some of my sorrows through my pen, which had your Friend been present would have been poured only into his bosome.

Group 8

Author: George Washington

Recipient: Patrick Henry

Date: April 13, 1777

Location: Morristown, PA

Source: “George Washington to Patrick Henry, 13 April 1777,” Founders Online, National Archives,

It gives me much concern to hear, the recruiting service proceeds so slowly in most of the States… To the short engagements of our Troops, may be fairly and justly ascribed, almost every misfortune that we have experienced—to that cause and that alone, have the liberties of our Country been put in question and the most obvious advantages lost. This I speak from painful experience, and assured of the facts, I can not countenance in the smallest degree, what I know to be pernicious in the Extreme. Short inlistments when founded on the best plan, are repugnant to order and subversive of discipline, and Men held upon such terms, will never be equal to the important ends of War; but when they are of the Volunteer kind, they are still more destructive. Those who engage in Arms under that denomination … are uneasy—impatient of Command—ungovernable and claiming to themselves a sort of superior merit generally assume not only the privilege of thinking, but do as they please. added to these considerations, such Corps are long in forming and half their time is taken up in marching to & from Camp at a most amazing expence; Nor are the injuries to which a Country is exposed by the frequent marching & countermarching men to be disregarded….

The Apologies you offer for your deficiency of Troops are not without some Weight.6 I am induced to beleive, that the apprehensions of the Small pox & its calamitous consequences, have greatly retarded the Inlistments; but may not those Objections be easily done away by introducing Innoculation into the State—…You will pardon my Observations upon the Small pox, because I know it is more destructive to an Army in the Natural way, than the Enemy’s Sword, and because I shudder when ever I reflect upon the difficulties of keeping it out, and that in the vicissitudes of War, the Scene may be transferred to some Southern State should it not be the case their Quota of Men must come to the Feild.

Group 9

Author: Henry Knox

Recipient: George Washington

Date: February 22, 1791

Source: Henry Knox to George Washington, February 22, 1791. Papers of the War Department.

Although an effectual and permanent peace [with the Indians], without the expence and blood of another campaign, would be highly acceptable to the great mass of citizens of the United States, yet, such a desire ought not to slacken, but rather invigorate, every necessary preparation.

In the present state of things, the minds of the indians must be impressed with the power of the United States, as the ground work of that system of justice and mercy, which it will be the glory of the general government to administer to all the indians, within its limits.

Upon these principles, and upon the supposition, that the troops of the regular establishment will be augmented to the number of two thousand, one hundred and twenty eight non-commissioned and privates, and that two thousand levies will be authorized, with such auxiliary mounted militia as shall be heron mentioned, the following general plan is submitted for the operations of the campaign.

The great object of the campaign will be, to convince the indians of the futility of resistance, and of the absolute necessity of submitting to the justice and mercy of the United States.

That for this purpose, besides destroying their towns, and provisions, defeating their force, and capturing as many of them as possible, particularly their women and children, it will be necessary, to establish a post at the Miami village, or, some other place in its vicinity which might be proper.

This operation, will require a force, decidedly superior to all probable combinations of the force of the indians-and, therefore, it ought not to be undertaken with less than three thousand effective troops, composed of regulars and levies, inlisted or a fixed term, not to expire, before the 30th of November, unless the force of the indians
should be greatly wasted by the desultory operations herein mentioned.