7 December 2015
[REVOLUTIONARY WAR.] DENNISON, William. Autograph manuscript, unsigned, n.d. [ca. early 1800s]. 3 pages, folio, closely written, small splits at folds.
JOHN ADAMS: “INDEPENDENCE WE ALREADY HAD”
A colorful account of service in the American Army during the Revolutionary War, capture and escape from a British ship, and a meeting with John Adams and John Quincy Adams in Amsterdam. Dennison (evidently writing from old age in the early 19th century) marched to Boston on the 19 of April and at the alarm of Bunker Hill, serving in Col. Robert Elliott’s regiment of artillery until the winter of 1778. Illness forced him to take a leave of absence and seek a warmer climate. But sailing to the West Indies, he was captured by the Grasshopper, “a King’s Ship of 20 Guns (she was one of the China Tea ships, which brought the tea to Boston which was destroyed by the Bostonians).” He was bound for prison in England “but the night before the ship sailed…I stripped myself in a very dark night and entirely naked crept out of a gunport into the sea and swam with great danger and difficulty to the shore among the St. Kitts…I…endeavoured to secrete myself among the Negros and the Negro Hutts.” He “begged of the Negroes an old jacket, a hat and trousers” and prevailed the captain of a fishing boat to carry him to the Dutch island of St. Eustabia,” where he found men from his old Rhode Island regiment.
“On the 24th of December 1780, I embarked on the Ship Apollo, Alexander McKay master…bound to Saint Domingo…thence to Amsterdam with a cargo of sugars…When we arrived in Amsterdam we found we found there the American Embassador the elder John Adams, his son John Quincy Adams, and Francis Dana.” Dennison and his fellow passengers were “handsomely received” by Adams. “We had the honor to visit him several times, and to dine with him,” including one occasion when there were many “public characters, Ministers” and foreign diplomats present. “All were asked to give their toasts. Mine was ‘General Washington and the American Army.’ This made some of the guests stare!! That of Mr Dennis was ‘Peace and Independence to America!’ On this Mr Adams remarked, that Independence we already had, that he was not anxious.”
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