Author: Dr. Samuel Adams, Jr.
Date: September 7, 1777
“To John Warren Esq Genl Surgeon of the Military Hosp E.D. Boston”
“General Hospital Fish Kill [New York] 7th Sep.r 1777
My dear Friend Jack
I received your very agreeable Favour by Doctor Blanchard; I assure you, my Friend, I am always happy in hearing from you, and hold your Letters in the highest Estimation. You say “unless I pass a few Moments in answering yours’ it shall be the last” was I, Jack, conscious of Neglect in this Respect, I should applaud your Resolution, but when I consider that you are even now endebted to me a Letter I cant account for it unless I had the great Vanity to suppose my Letter were agreeable; but eno’ of this—
I am again fixed here (my old station) & in all Probability shall remain during the Present Camp again which I believe will not call very loud for the attendance of Surgeons in the whole Dept there are about 500 Sick including all on this Side of the [Hudson] River, but I can tell you Monseur M[organ?] seldom makes his Appearance.
We frequently have petty Skirmishes with the Enemy near King’s Bridge, & I doubt not it will afford Satisfaction to you to be informed that our Dr. Tunison[?] has captur’d a Corporal of the British Light Horse[.] he borrow’d a Pistol from a Gentleman who stood by and not even being certain whether it was charg’d[,] rush’d upon him within 200 yards of the main Troop and after receiving the Fires from his carbine & two Pistols[,] seized him, & is now in posession of a very fine Horse …so much for the H[ ? ] of the Hospital Jack
Our good Friend Cutler has been exceeding ill with a very severe intermitting Fever but I have the Pleasure of informing you he is recovering fast & decries his Complements to your Honor, I assure you, Doctor, he is one of the best f Men –
But, Jack, how go on Hymenian Affairs, are you enlisted under his Godship? Of this you must inform me next Post[.] my best Compliments to your _______ I wish I could say wife, but I will venture to say Miss C-l-s [Collins].
How is your good Friend Mr Carnes, and his family? God knows I wish them the greatest happiness and prosperity. My regards to him, Miss Joe, Aunt Polly, Mrs. Carnes, etc., etc. Tell Mr. Carnes I shall omit writing to him till next week, when I am in hopes I shall be able to write to him some good news.
Now, friend Jack, I flatter myself I shall hear from you next post, informing me of all proper private news, as well as public. Till then, believe me to be, dear sir, your sincere friend and humble servant,
Samuel Adams, Jr.
P.S. Do call on Mr. John Carnes soon, and tell him I called at Mr. Buck’s, at Salem, but his papa had set off for Boston two days before, and as I supposed his letter was of no great importance, destroyed it. My best compliments to him and family. Has Dolly sold all her desperate fine ribbons? S.A.”
Source: Transcribed from ms in John Collins Warren Papers Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, box 2 of 23. Published in Edward Warren’s The Life of John Warren, MD. Boston: Noyes, Holmes, and Company, 1874.pp. 158-159.
Commentary: Samuel Adams, Jr. was one of the resurrectionist Spunkers and an apprentice to Dr. Joseph Warren. The Revolutionary War did not diminish the strong bonds among Warren’s former apprentices.
The heroics of Dr. Tunison (Townsend?) single handedly capturing a British cavalryman, is a striking exploit for a physician. I am uncertain of the identity of the heroic mutual friend of Adams’ and Warren’s, nor whether the incident occurred exactly as reported. I am unaware of any corroborative accounts of it. I suspect the younger Samuel Adams as a sole source. Young Dr. Adams got into trouble twice at Harvard: once for stealing from a classmate’s woodpile and another time for stealing a farmer’s ducks and feasting on them in the college dorm. So far as is known, Spunker friends and fellow apprentices of Joseph Warren resisted the temptation to describe the younger Adams as a quack in honor of the latter exploit.
J.L. Bell tweeted me, “John Carnes in Adams letter was commissary for Cambridge hospital. His papa was probably Washington’s first spy inside Boston.” See Mr. Bell’s informative discussion of the curious exploits of the elder Carnes during the Siege of Boston and how it figures into George Washington’s early, and not artfully concealed, efforts to obtain intelligence information from within British occupied Boston.
‘Hymenian Affairs’ is a high sounding way, alluding to classical gods, of asking whether John Warren had married Elizabeth Collins. Samuel must have been privy to John’s intentions when both were serving as Continental Army physicians. John Warren had returned to Boston a few months prior to the writing of this letter. The tone of this letter does not presage the unhappy fate of Dr. Samuel Adams, Jr.
The Life of John Warren, MD, otherwise a good source on Warren and his associates, erroneously states that the younger Adams died of a scrofulous disease on January 7, 1778. In fact, Samuel Adams, Jr. passed away on January 17, 1788, one week into the United Sates Constitutional Convention. Samuel Adams, Sr. was relatively quiet during those proceedings. While he had political reasons to do so, the death of his only son at age 37 after a long illness may have contributed to his subdued appearance at the foundational convention. Ironically, his son left father and mother certificates based on Revolutionary War service as a Continental physician. By the 1790s these had appreciated in value to $12,000, a large sum in that era. The amount conferred an unaccustomed financial security to the elder Samuel Adams late in life.