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A Soldier's Love Letter (8 June 1777, by Alexander Scammell)

A SOLDIER'S LOVE LETTER (8 June 1777, by Alexander Scammell)


Alexander Scammell was the scion of a prominent Massachusetts family, a general in the Continental Army, and popularly the first patriot officer to bring down a British "Jack." In this letter, he wrote to his love Abigail Bishop to describe duties that include maintaining the spirits of his men through illness and scarcity, as well as the unpleasant task of trying his fellow soldiers in courts-martial. The letter, composed in the formal address common among the educated of the day, allows a peek into the private life, hopes, and fears of a colonist during the earliest days of the Revolution. Sadly, Scammell's pretty vision of himself at Abigail's side was not to be. Despite his reputation and status, his proposal of marriage was coldly received. In July 1778, during the siege of Yorktown on a routine reconnoiter of abandoned British positions, he was surprised by a patrol of Hessian soldiers and killed.

Laura M.Miller,
Vanderbilt University

See also Revolution, American: Military History .

June 8th 1777.

My Dearest Naby.

After a very severe march one hundred miles of the way on foot, through the woods in an excessive miry Road, wet, rainy weather accompanied with Snow and Hail, I arrived the 20th of May at Ticonderoga. Am now stationed at what is called the French Lines, where the british army last year met with such a fatal defeat, and lost so many men—and if they make an attempt upon us in the same place I nothing doubt we shall be able by the smiles of superintendant Providence to give them as fatal an overthrow—Our men are well supplied, and I am of opinion will behave well—The blood of our murder'd countrymen cry for Vengence on those british Villains and I hope we shall be the just Instruments of revenge. Tho I should much rather be able to retire to enjoy the sweets of Liberty and domestick happiness, but more especially the pleasing Charms of your dear Company. But so long as my Country demands my utmost Exertions, I must devote myself entirly to it's Service—Tho accustomed to the Service, I am now enter'd upon a new scene, I have an agreable and worthy sett of Officers—But my men are undisciplin'd, they are expos'd to severe Duty, many of them sick—and but poorly coverd. They look up to me as a common Father—and you may well Judge of my disagreable Sensations, when I am unable to afford them, or procure wherewithal to make them comfortable—However I shall endeavor to do all that I can for them, and if possible make them pay me ready and implicit Obedience, through Love and Affection, rather than through Fear and Dread—We at present have a very agreable, & healthy Situation—In good Spirits, and have good provisions—And hope early next Fall or Winter to do myself the pleasure of waiting upon you at Mistic unless you should forbid it.

The tender moments which we have spent together still, and ever will, remain fresh in my memory—You are ever present in my enraptur'd heart—& a mutual return of Affection from you, I find more and more necessary to my Happiness—cherish the Love my dearest Nabby, which you have so generously professed for me—Altho I am far distant from you, still remember that I am your constant, and most affectionate admirerer—I should have wrote you sooner, but being orderd upon the disagreable Command of sitting as president of a Genl.-Court martial to try men for their Lives, many of which have justly forfeited them—and to try several Villains who have attempted to spread the small Pox—I assure you that it is a most trying Birth, and has worried my mind more than any command I was ever upon—But hope I shall ever be able to discharge my Duty in such a manner as never to be subject to any disagreable Reflections—I have been upon said Court steady since my arrival and this is the first opportunity I had of writing to you—I hope therefore that you will not impute any neglect to me But ever consider me unalterably thine—My Lovely Girl, write every Opportunity to

Ys

Alexd Scammell

Write to me every Opportunity.

Miss Naby Bishop.

PS—I long for the time when through you I can send my dutiful Regards to your Hond Parents by the tender Name of Father & Mother—June 23d 1777.

I congratulate you upon the Cause of your Fear being remov'd as Burgoyne is going to attack Ticonderoga & not Boston. I hope we shall be able to keep him off.

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