[REVOLUTIONARY WAR]. MORRILL, JUDAH HACKETT, Continental Soldier. Three letters, written and signed for Morrill by other individuals, two to his mother ("Loving mother") the third to his Uncle and Aunt, written from three different encampments of the Continental Army: "Stil Water," "Valley Forge" [Pennsylvania], "Camp, Verplank's Point" [New York], 1777-1782. Together 3 pieces, each one page, folio, verso of the Valley Forge letter addressed: "To the Widdow hannah Morrill in Salisbury this with care," some wear at folds, the 1782 letter spotted and with a few tears, the other two in good condition.
A CONTINENTAL SOLDIER OF THE LINE, FIGHTING THE RED-COATS AT FORT SCHUYLER, SURVIVING VALLEY FORGE AND WAITING FOR NEWS OF THE TREATY
A remarkable trio of letters, each in a different hand, from Morrill, an ordinary enlisted Continental soldier from Salisbury, a small village north of Newburyport, Massachusetts. From the evidence of his letters, Morrill was illiterate; in order to correspond with his mother, "the widdow hannah Morrill," he dictated all three letters to different compatriots, two of whom must be judged semi-literate themselves. Little is known of Morrill, his unit, rank, or service, other than what may be deduced from these letters, which are all that survive from Morrill's war correspondence. They provide a vivid glipmse of the war through a soldier's eyes at three crucial points in the revolution. In the earliest letter Morrill gives a succint description of the key seige of Fort Schulyer (formerly Stanwix), a diversion mounted by the British General St. Leger as part of Burgoyne's larger offensive (the Battle of Saratoga, in which Morrill probably participated, was fought a few weeks after his letter). In the letter of June 1778, Morrill is at Valley Forge, where he had probably been encamped with Washington's main army during that well-known winter ordeal. It appears he is recovering from the small-pox, which killed more Continentals than any other disease. The third letter, from the Hudson River ferry station of Verplank's Point, tells of parleys between British and American officers, while both sides wait nervously for the signing of the Treaty of Peace.
"Stil Water" [on the Hudson, below Saratoga, New York], 3 September 1777: "Loving Mother thes Lines Comes With my Duty to you now [know] that I am Well and in a Good State of Helth at present and blessed be God for it Hobing [Hoping] that thes Lines Will fint [find] you as Well as they Leve me i Have no news to Right [write] att present I have bin to fort Schuyler for six Weeks We Hat Sege [siege] for twenty days [August 2-23] til We Got A Bonponement [postponement, actually, the British force withdrew as Gen. Arnold's reinforcements approached] and then we trove them for Sixty Miles as far as Swago [Oswego] and tuck [took] all their Paggage [baggage] Consisting of Four mortars one feld pece [fieldpiece] and a puntance [an abundance] of Military stores and a puntance of Clothan and outer stores....We have reson to expat [expect] that thay will Not Com that Way Agin and we have Reson to think that We shall Give tham A Good Trubing [drubbing]....We got here yestay [yesterday] Remember my Love to Prother [brother] and Sister and to Grantmother Mr. osgoods folks and to all frints [friends] I think Vary Hard that you have Not sent me a Letter Sent me a Letter as soun [soon] as you Can and sent me Word A pout [about] that orter [order] that was sent Conserning the Douns [Town's] pounty [bounty] that i paute [paid] of John Wilson....Every Doun Gives thare Men Nams [names] and the Number of them and so thare [is] no tanger [danger] but that you Can git the Monney from the Doun for it will be a Grate Penefit [benefit] to the Doun...."
"Valley Forge," 5 June 1778: "Loving mother thes Lines Comes with my Duty to you hoping that thes[s] Lines will find you as thay Leve me thru the Goodness of God : Remember my Love my Prother [Brother] and Sister and poth [both] my Gran[d]mothers and to mr osgoods folks and to all my friends that ask after me I have got well of the Smaul [Small] pox and we do expect to march home ward Sane and So[u]nd[?] more at present [S]Ti[l] but I remain your Sun Till Death Judah Hackett Morrill of Salisbury in New England The Shirts the I Did Preseve [receive] ware made by Philip Morrill of Salisbury."
"Camp Verplanks Point," 21 September 1782: "Honored Uncle & Aunt at this Time you must not expt. a long letter, for the Bearer has not inform'd but Ten or Twelve minutes Notice and having Duty on hand, will give me hardly Time to inform you of my helth much more a long letter as I was determined to at this Time, but I would acquaint you of Two Gents. of the British and Two of our own meeting this Day at Philips Manor [Philips Manor, Westchester County], to Let, in behalf of the Treaty an Chiefly on the account of settling the account of Prisoners,; and that the Commander in Chief [Washington] has giving [given] out in orders that there is a Treaty now on foot [afoot] in France, and further that it is the Genls Opinion that the Army will be Discharged this Winter. The French Army under the Command of Rochambo [Rochambeau] has been passing the Ferry this three days with a large Quantity of Artillery Baggage...for further Particulars you must wait until a further Opportunity shall offer...."
Letters of ordinary American enlisted soldiers or militiamen during the Revolution are exceedingly uncommon on the market: very few have survived. Letters of such participants which mention the events of the conflict itself are even more rare. (Letters of officers - generally a more literate group used to written correspondence - are available with some frequency). Morrill (or the variant Merrill) is a common family name in the area of Salisbury; most are descendents of Abraham Morrill, who landed in Boston in 1632 and settled in Salisbury. (3)