“a making you a Shirte”

I have just finished reading historian Joseph Ellis’s new book Revolutionary Summer: the Birth of American Independence. A short book, it covers the five months between May and October of 1776, focusing on two strands: one political, in which the colonies came together in Philadelphia and agreed on independence, the other military, an account of the battle for New York City between the invading British forces and the Americans, consisting of the recently formed Continental Army and various local and regional militias. While some critics maintain that Ellis is merely reworking material from his other books, of which there are several very good ones, I believe that this period of time warrants the close look and different perspective that Ellis brings. And the bonus is that he is such a wonderful writer!

All of this by way of a preface to some letters written by women during this period. Two have appeared on this blog: one by loyalist Mrs. A Hampton, the other by Mary Fish Silliman whose husband was in the Connecticut militia and was taken prisoner by the British. Here are three more: one for this post and two to follow.

Sarah Perkins Hodgkins, the wife of Joseph Hodgkins, a shoemaker of Ipswich, Massachusetts, and mother of a stepdaughter and two young children, repeatedly tried to convince her husband to come home after participating in the battle at Bunker Hill. But Joseph resisted and in June of 1776 was in camp on Long Island. Sarah wrote to him

Loving Husband these Lines come with my most afectionate regards to you hoping they will find you in good health as they Leave me at this time through the goodness of God . . . I am rejoiced to hear you are well. I am Sorry to hear that you are amongst a People that are So unkind as you inform me they are. Monday night—my Dear I began to write a Letter Last night but it was So Late before I begun I could not write much. I have been very busy all day to day a making you a Shirte. You Sent to me to Send you a couple & I had but one ready for the Cloth that I intended to make you Some Bodys of. I have not got it Quite done So I was abliged to take one off of the Cloth I had in the house & I have got it done & washd and Sister Perkins is now a ironing of it . . . I must Jest tell you that Sally [their daughter] meet with a mishap Last monday. She Scolt her arm prity bad but it Seems to be in a good way to be well Soon. The rest of us are in a comfortable State of health. I want to See you very much. Sometimes I am almost impatient but concidering it is Providence that has parted us I desire to Submite & be as contented as I can & be Thankfull that we can hear from one another.

Militiamen had to supply their own clothing. One wonders if the shirt ever reached Joseph. Luckily, he was one of the survivors of the British onslaught. Sarah wrote him again in October. Read her letter in the next post.

The above letter can be found on page 59 of In the Words of Women.

posted August 1st, 2013 by Janet, CATEGORIES: American soldiers, Battles, British soldiers, Military Service, New York


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