Indulge Myself in the Leisure Hours of This Year

in by Warren

Date: May 10, 1775

Posted from Cambridge [MA] to my “dear friend, Miss Mercy Scollay [at Worcester]

[I] am happy in hearing you with the Family are all in Health. Dr. Dix wanted to be informed respecting the sowing some wheat, let the Dr. know I shall acquiesce in his Judgment. I think it will be advisable for him to hire for me ten or twenty Acres more of Land, as I shall keep several Horses and cannot think of being deprived of indulging myself in the Leisure Hours of this one year in the Pleasures of Agriculture.” [A commentator describing this letter in 1876, added that Warren…] “Desires him [Dix] to direct in the matter of repairs, agreeably to his own taste, as he knows he should like it, and wishes to be remembered in the most affectionate manner to all friends.”

Leffingwell gives a portion quoted above as a “‘young gentlemen’ told him [Warren] that Dr. Dix wanted to be informed respecting the sowing of some wheat.”

Source: I am much obliged to author and historian Derek W. Beck for his identification and reconstruction of this letter from obscure secondary sources. Mr. Beck’s upcoming book 1775 employs this and a number of sources new to historians to provide a richly textured account of the first year of the American Revolution.

Mr. Beck employed two 19th century sources from which he pieced together texts of otherwise lost letters. A couple of these ms letters were subsequently found in archives. They are indeed ms signature original manuscripts whose contents are virtually identical to the reconstructions. These circumstances lead me to accept the reconstructed text of the documents, whose locations remain unknown, and that they are genuine.

Centennial Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1876, to Which Are Added Historical and Chronologic Notes. Worcester: Press of Chas. Hamilton, 1876.

Catalogue of Autographs, Letters and Historical Documents, Collected by the Late Prof. E. H. Leffingwell, of New Haven, Conn., to Be Sold by Auction Tuesday January 6th, 1891 and Following Days. Boston: C. F. Libbie & Co, 1891.

Commentary: As countless details of the Siege of Boston challenged Joseph Warren and the Patriots in the days and weeks following the Battles of Lexington and Concord, he took steps, via his friend Dr. Elijah Dix, to set up Miss Scollay and his children as a refugee family in Worcester on a rented farm. His vision of visiting Miss Scollay and his children turned out to be an unrealized romantic idyll  precluded by the necessities of war and of leadership. It is likely that Joseph never again saw Mercy or his children Elizabeth ‘Betsey,” Joseph IV “Josie,” Richard “Dickie,” or Mary “Polly” after they departed for Worcester in mid-April 1775.

The date of this posting was particularly challenging for leaders at the Siege. Warren had just rescinded a Committee of Safety order by Benjamin Church to General Thomas of the Massachusetts Militia. The order would have abandoned the entire New England army defenses on the southern siege lines. Church claimed that it was all a misunderstanding. Though unsuspected at the time, one wonders in light of subsequent events, that Church might have had something more nefarious in mind. Modern analysis of contemporaneous British documents does not reveal any knowledge of this potentially catastrophic misdirection among their American opponents.

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