The Wartime Letters of Joseph and Sarah Hodgkins

Arts & Literature

October 28, 2015
by John L. Smith, Jr. Also by this Author


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“I have nothing to send you but love. I hope I shall have some money soon.”[1]

So wrote Lt. Joseph Hodgkins from his “Camp on Long Island” to his wife, Sarah, back home in Ipswich, Massachusetts. The letter was dated June 10, 1776, so Sarah’s husband had already been away from his wife and family for a year. Life was not easy for colonial families, even when the supporting breadwinner was living at home. But Joseph Hodgkins was like so many patriot militiamen who heeded the call for the cause, having left their families, relatives and friends to fight for liberty. With Joseph gone, life was now doubly hard for Sarah, alone, back home in Ipswich. But it hadn’t always been like that.

In spring 1775, Joseph and Sarah Hodgkins had been married for three years and had a thriving family life in Ipswich, north of Boston. They lived in a (still-standing) house on East Street at Jeffrey’s Neck Road, north of the Ipswich River and just a short distance from town.[2] According to colonial town records, Joseph supported his growing family by being a “cordwainer,”[3] which today we would call a shoemaker.

Joseph’s second wife – twenty-two-year old Sarah Perkins, a neighbor to Joseph – had become Mrs. Sarah Hodgkins in an Ipswich church ceremony on December 2, 1772. Not uncommon was the fact that Joseph’s first wife, Joanna Webber (and indeed four of their five children) had all died. The single surviving child, a nine-year old daughter also named Joanna, lived in the Hodgkins household. Joseph and Sarah’s relationship had already produced a daughter, named Sarah (“Sally”), born in 1773. By mid-1774, with possible war on the horizon, Sarah was pregnant again, this time with a son. Joseph would be off fighting when a letter from Sarah would tell him that little Joseph Jr. had died.

Joseph Hodgkins grave site. Photo: “Stories from Ipswich” site – Gordon Harris, town historian
Joseph Hodgkins grave site. Photo: “Stories from Ipswich” site – Gordon Harris, town historian

On “Jan. ye 24,1775”[4],the thirty-two-year-old Hodgkins had enlisted into the Ipswich militia unit of “minute men,”[5] since tensions had grown by then to the boiling point between British Gen. Thomas Gage and the inhabitants of the countryside outside of Boston. Hodgkins was made a first lieutenant in the sixty-six-man “Ipswich Minute Men” Company, commanded by Capt. Nathaniel Wade[6]. Joseph Hodgkins took part in the Boston siege, and the battles of Bunker Hill, Long Island, Harlem Heights, Saratoga, and was at Valley Forge.[7] In his letters to Sarah he provides vivid details of the latest “scurmish,” as well as the health of Ipswich soldiers and living conditions. Sarah’s letters (in bold type) speak mostly about the health of her and the children; of friends and relatives, but mostly repeats that she wants to see him again.

These excerpts are but a small amount of their letters:[8]


The Siege of Boston:

  • [Cambridge, May ye 7, 1775] Loven Wife:  Your Letter I Received this morning at Warter Town. Receved the things that you sent me. I have Knothing New to Write. Company is well. I whant to know wether you have got a paster [pasture] for the cows, for I cannot tell when I shall com home… your Loving Husband till Death.[9]
  • [Ipswich, May ye 23, 1775] I want to see you Very much…[10]
  • [June ye 8, 1775] We got into Cambridge on tusday about two o’clock, & we whear very Bissy all that afternoon a Pitching our tents upon the Common whare the Company Lives much more Better than they could in Barrick … Capt Wade & I Lodged in the tents last knight and we where much Pleased with our Lodgin …
  • [June ye 13, 1775] I due not expect to come home very soon. We Live very well. But are oblidged to expend concederable cash[11]… they say generall gages Reinforcement is got in to Boston. But what Number we know not nor Don’t care much … & I am obliged to Perade the Company at four o’clok.

Following the Battle of Bunker Hill:

  • [Cambridge, June ye 18] I would just inform you that we had a very hot ingagement yesterday but god Presarved all of us, for whitch mercy I Desire ever to be thankfull … we have Ben alarmed to Day, but come to no Engagement … therefore I cannot be Pertickler. Dont be Discoredged. I hope that we shall be carred thrue all our Defelties.[12]
  • [June ye 20, 1775] I am well, but very much worred with our last Saturday Curmege & yesterdays moving Down to winter Hill where we now are, and Live in Expectation of further Engagement with the Enemy … I should be glad of sum coffe.
  • [June ye 23, 1775] I Received the things & Letter you sent me and am verry glad to hear that my Dear Children whare well … we whare Exposed to a verry hot fire of Cannon and small Armes about two hours, but we whare Presarved. I had one ball went under my arme and cut a large hole in my coate, & a Buck shot went throue my coate and Jacket, but neither of them Did me any harme.
  • [Cambridge, July 3, 1775] Monday morning about 8 o’clock … my cold is a Lettel Better, but my stumok is verry sore yet. But I have got some Drops to Take whitch I am in hopes will healp me soon. Geaneral Washington and Lees got into Cambridge yesterday, and to Day they are to take Vew of ye Armey, & that will be attended with a grate Deal of grandor. There is at this time one & twenty Drummers, & as meny feffers a Beting and Playing Round the Prayde.
  • [Camp at Prospect Hill, Sept. ye 20, 1775] It seams to be Prety Healthy in our Brighad [Brigade], but wickedness Prevales verry much to the astonishment of any that beholds them.
  • [Camp at Prospect Hill, Octr ye 6, 1775] … I Send you eleven dollars … Our people are almost bewitched about getting home …[13]

Enlistments running out:

  • [In Camp at Prospect Hill, Nov. 25, 1775] Our men inlist Very slow… I hope I and all my townsmen will have virtue enough to stay all winter as Voluntears Before we Will leave the lines without men. For all is at stake, and if we Due not exarte ourselves in this gloris cause, our all is gon …
  • [Ipswich, Dec 10, 1775] I want you to come home and See us. I look for you almost every Day, But I dont allow myself to Depend on anything, for I find there is Nothing to be Depended upon but Troble and Disapontmnts.[14]


Evacuation of Boston:

  • [Camp Prospect Hill, Jan. 7, 1776] I am sorry that I have the occasion to inform you that it is a good deal sickly among us… There was five Burid that day… and a grate many Die verry Sudden…
  • [Ipswich, Feb. ye 1, 1776] … PS give regards to Capt. Wade and tell I have wanted his bed fellow prety much these cold nights that we have had.[15]
  • [In Camp att Prospect Hill, Feby ye 5, 1776] PS I gave your Regards to Capt. Wade But he Did not wish you had his Bed fellow but I wish you had with all my heart.[16]
  • [In camp Prospect Feby ye 12, 1776] … it is sayd that the Generals are Determaned to do something verry soon But What the event will be god only knows…[17]
  • [Ipswich, Feb. ye 20, 1776] I want to See you very much I think you told me that you intended to See me once a mounth & it is now amonth & I think a very long one Since you left home … I am destressed about you my Dear but … may he [God] Strengthen your hands & incorage your heart to carry you through all you may be called in the way of your duty …[18]
  • [March ye 18, 1776] My Dear. There apeared a grate movement among the Enemy, and we soon found that they had Left Bunker Hill & Boston, and all gone on board the shiping & our army took Possestion of Bunker Hill and also of Boston, but none went to Boston but those that have had the small pox … our Enemye seem to be a fleeing before us, which seems to give a spring to our spirits.
  • [March ye 20, 1776] The Regulars have Burnt and Blone up the Cassel. [Castle William in Boston Bay]
  • [Camp at Prospect Hill, mch 23, 1776] I have sent you a quire of Paper By Jabez Farley, for I am so fond of Letters that I shall not only Embrase Evry oppertunity to write my self, but will furnish you where with to do the same.

The march to New York:

  • [Walpole, Apr. ye 2, 1776] I judge we have marched 15 miles to Day … we have got to march six miles to night and to morrow we shall get to Providence … we may go to Newporte. But if the enemy are not there we expect to go to Norrige [Norwich, CT].[19]
  • [Providence, April ye 4, 1776]Loving wife: Providence is a very Pleasant Town … we shall march to morrow morning for Norrige where we Expect Rest a fue Days and then I Sopose we shall go to Newyork by Warter [water].
  • [New London, April ye 10, 1776]… I am a good deal tired of marching, though we get Very good entertainment in general. People are very kind to us in the Contery [Country].[20]

In New York and Long Island:

  • [New York, April ye 24, 1776] I think this sity York, exceeds all plases that ever I saw on many accoumpts. But it is very Expensive Living heer, and so it has ben ever since we have first marched… thare is a Reporte that we shall go to longisland, which I wish may be the case.
  • [May ye 9] I have had two bad boyles on my right arm, one of them is not brock yet, and it is very painfull. I have not wore a coat for this six days, except a grate Coate. But I hope they will leave me in good health, as people say they are holsome but not tooth-some.
  • [May ye 22, 1776] … it is expected that the enemy will land on som of the estward part of the island, if they come: for about fifty miles to the east of us, is sayd that seven eights of the people are torrys, and I fear that one half in York are not much better …[21]
  • [Ipswich, May ye 23, 1776] Loveing Husband: These lines come with my Love to you … it is a grate comfort to me to hear from you. I want to see you very much, but I durst not think much about it at present …
  • [In Camp on Long Island, June ye 10, 1776] I have nothing to send you but love. I hope I shall have some money soon.[22]
  • [June ye 20, 1776] General Washington is calling in the Melisha and I hope we shall be in Readyness to meet our enemy, and show them yanky Play … I think they will meat with a wharm Reception …You informed me that Sally had cutt her arm. Tell her that Daddy is very sorry for it, and whants to see her.
  • [Aug. ye 12, 1776]… there is a fleet now coming in, Some of our officers saw them and Judge there whare about 80 sail: the fleet are this moment fiering three Salute. So I sepose some of them have got up to Lord Hows fleet.[23]

Battle of Long Island, evacuation and retreat:

  • [Aug. Ye 28, 1776] I am very much worrd with a scurmish we had yesterday with the enemy … In the night the Enemy marched out two deferant ways and got most all Round our Division … After having a very hot fire for some time, we whare ordered to march for the fort But we found the enemy whare endeavoring to cut off our retreat and in grate measure did; we whare obliged to go through fire and wharter. It seams the day is come in all probability on which depends the salvations of this country. Poor Arkelus Pulsifer is missing. I can not tell whether he was taken or killed or drowned, for we had to pass over a creek amost up to my arm pits, and several whare drowned there.[24]
  • [New York, Aug. 31, 1776]… the enemy … had much the advantage of the ground; they whare posted on the hights Verry near us, and heaving up works against us to Bumbard us out of our forts… The Retreat was as follows: we were ordered to be under arms with Paks and every thing in order at seven o’clk Thursday night. We all thought it was to go out aganst our enemy. But about nine o’clock the orders whas to Strike our Tents and pak all up and march to the ferry as quick as Poseble and we made all dispatch we could, but I can’t tell you how I felt … I had the sleave buttons shot out of my sleave, and the skin a little grazed.
  • [New York, Sept ye 5, 1776] I received yours of ye 22d of August, last Sunday, by which I was informed of the death of my little son[25]. It is heavy news to me … It is very difflcult to garde both sides of this Island against a numerous enemy and a large fleet of ships as ever whas in America. It is expected they will land from long island over hear at a place called hell gate … in all probability we must meet them in oppen field and Riske our lives and Contry on one single battle.[26]
  • [Ipswich, Oct. ye 14, 1776] If you want shirts or stockins due send me word when Mr. Craft comes again, and I will get him to bring them.[27]
  • [Ipswich, Oct. ye 19, 1776] I want very much to See you I hope if we Live to See this Campaign out we shall have the happiness of liveing together again I don’t know what you think about Staying again but I think it cant be inconsistant with your duty to come home to your family it will troble me very much if you should Engage again …[28]

Battle of Harlem Heights, and retreat to NJ and PA:

  • [In Camp at Fort Constitution, NJ, Sept 30, 1776] On Sataday ye 14 instant we moved to Harlem and encamped on a hill about 9 miles from York … there whas a very heavy cannonading at the sitty and we whar told that the enemy whar about Landing Down to harlem Point … But they landed at a place called Turtal Bay, 3 or 4 miles nearer York. The General sent out two hundred rangers under the command of Col. Knowlton, who soon met the Enemy and fired on them … then a very hot fire begun on both sides, and lasted for upward on an hour. We are now on the Jersey hills, where we have been ever since the 20 of this month, and I hope I shall stay here the rest of this campan, as I have been at the Troble of Building a Log House with a ston Chimney.[29]
  • [Pixskill, Decem’r ye 3, 1776] … the Enemy seem to … have a mind to winter in Philadelphia. But I hope they will be Desipointed. Tell Joanna and Salle to be good gals & that Dady whants to see them.[30]
  • [Buckingham in Pansalvania, Decem’r 20, ‘76] We are verry much fatagued with long marches. Doutless you will whant to hear how general Lee whas taken. General Lee whas invited by a gentleman to put up with him that night, & weather that man or another informed the enemy I can’t say, but somebody did. So about 60 of the Lite hors came ye nex morning and serounded the house. The guard whas som way of [off],so they did but leetle good … the contry is full of them cursed creaturs called Torys.[31]

Battle of Trenton (see note 7):

  • [New Jersey, in Crossix [Crosswicks], Decem ye 31, ‘76] On Christmas night we marched with about 2000 men to ferry about 7 miles from camp … to a tack a party of the enemy, that lay at a place called Mount Holly. But the ise [ice] prevented our crossing that night. But the troops that lay about 20 miles up the river against Trintown got a cross, and marched round and came in upon the bak of Trintown about dorning [dawning], and began a heavy fire with their field peases, which surprised the enemy, so they surrendered.[32]

Battle of Saratoga:

  • [Saratoga, Octo. Ye 17, 1777] My Dear: I must just inform you that this day we have received General Burgoyne and all his army, Prisoners of war, and may we all rejoice and give the glory to whom it is due.[33]
  • [Albany, Octr ye 27, 1777] Soldiers must not complain … but … I have not received any money since I left Springfield. My dear, due get a good stock of syder [cider] if you can get anybody to trust you for it.

Valley Forge:

  • [Jany ye 5, 1778, Valleyforge Camp]I Believe I have as grate a Desire to Come home as you can Posibly have of having me … you say you have Named your Child Martha & you Did not know weather I should like the name But I have no thing to say if it suts you I am content…[34]
  • [Feb. 22, 1778, Head qt. (Valley Forge)] What our soldiers have sufferred this winter is beyond expression, as one half has been barefoot and all most naked all winter; the other half very badly on it for clothes of all sorts; and to Com Pleat our messery very shorte ont for provission. Not long since our brigade drue but an half days Lounce [allowance] of meet in eight days. But these defettis the men bore with a degree of fortitnde [fortitude] becoming soldiers.
  • [Ipswich, Februay ye 23, 1778] My dear … it seems you are tired of writing … I am Sorry you count it troble to write to me Since that is all the way we can have of conversing together. I hope you will not be tired of receiving letters. I was never tired of reading your letters. I Long to See you … am looking for you every Day …[35]
  • [Pennsylvania Head Quarters, April 17, 1778] … when I think how I have spent three years in the war have Ben Exposed to Every hardship Venterd my Life & Limbs Broke my Constitution wore out all my Clothes & has got knowthing for it & now not to be thanked for it seams two much for any man to Bare[36]
  • [Ipswich, Sept 3, 1778] I can hardly Spare time to write … Little Matty [Martha] got two teeth … She can Stand by things alone[37]

By June 1779, Joseph Hodgkins resigned his commission and returned home to his family in Ipswich, Massachusetts. The total of roughly four years that he had served probably seemed like long enough to this battle-seasoned veteran[38].

Sarah Hodgkins grave site. Photo: Janet Potts,
Sarah Hodgkins grave site. Photo: Janet Potts,

But, though currency inflation was running wild and perhaps also being a little disillusioned, Hodgkins probably mostly missed Sarah. She had sent him letters with phrases such as her heart “akes for you,” “I have got a Sweet Babe almost six months old but have got no father for it,” and “So I must be contented to live a widow.”[39]

But it also may have been Sarah suddenly switching in her February 23, 1778 letter from saying “our children” to saying “I would inform you that I and my children are in good health”[40] that subtly helped Joseph to decide not to reenlist. Joseph was home for good by summer 1779. The Hodgkins’ lived together for another twenty-three years before Sarah died of “consumption” in 1803. Joseph lived until the age of eighty-six, long enough to see the fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill – the battle he had taken part of so many years earlier when he was married to Sarah.

I would like to express my thanks to the Ipswich Historical Commission and specifically Gordon Harris, town historian, for assistance with parts of this article.


[1] Augustine Caldwell, ed., Antiquarian Papers, Vol. II, XXV “The Hodgkins Letters” (Ipswich, MA. Nov. 1881). Hannah Hodgkins, Joseph and Sarah’s only surviving daughter, later married Nathaniel Wade’s son in Dec. 1803. The letters between Joseph and Sarah then remained in the Wade family until 1881, when Ipswich Antiquarian Papers editor Augustine Caldwell was loaned the letters by Herbert T. Wade (Joseph and Sarah’s great-great-grandson) for transcriptions to run in newspaper editions from 1881- 1883. The original letters currently are in two boxes: Wade and Hodgkins Papers, Fam. Mss 1056, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.

[2] The Hodgkins’ house still sits at 80 East Street, Ipswich, MA. In Ipswich town records, it is called the Perkins-Hodgkins House. ( accessed October 2, 2015.

[3] Essex Institute Historical Collections, Vol. XX, (1883), 107. If old-English custom was upheld in colonial Ipswich, then a cordwainer made new shoes using new leather. In a few contemporary books by authors such as David McCullough and Ray Raphael, Joseph Hodgkins is described as having been a “cobbler.” The terms were not one and the same. The same old-English guild rules decreed that a cobbler could only repair shoes or make new shoes out of old, reused leather. It’s unknown if Joseph Hodgkins adhered to the rigid London guild rules in the New World.

[4] Essex Institute Historical Collections, Vol. XIV, No. 4, (1877), “Revolutionary Letters and Other Documents”, 238.

[5] Herbert T. Wade and Robert A. Lively, This Glorious Case: The Adventures of Two Company Officers in Washington’s Army (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1958), 5-6; The Wade-Lively book This Glorious Cause is the most commonly-used complete reference source for any study of the Hodgkins’ letters. The meticulously transcribed letters between Joseph and Sarah Hodgkins are contained in full in the Appendix (pages 167-245) of that book, whereas the accounts in the Ipswich Antiquarian Papers contain only transcribed excerpts ; also in Ray Raphael, A People’s History of the American Revolution: How Common People Shaped the Fight for Independence, (New York, NY: The New Press, 2001), 52; also Essex Institute Historical Collections, Vol. XIV, No. 4, (1877), “Revolutionary Letters and Other Documents”, 238.

[6] Essex Institute Historical Collections, Vol. XIV, No. 4, (1877), “Revolutionary Letters and Other Documents”, 238-241. accessed October 2, 2015. The minuteman unit that Wade and Hodgkins belonged to was part of Col. Moses Little’s Essex County militia; later the 12th Continental Infantry Regiment. The Ipswich minutemen were too late to take part in the Lexington & Concord muster, and instead became part of the Boston siege army.

[7] Hodgkins’ unit, part of Gen. Cadwalader’s force, mustered to take part in the December 25 crossing of the Delaware. The New England Continentals under Col. Hitchcock (Hodgkins’ unit) were to “create a diversion” for Hessian troops at Mount Holly, NJ, while another unit attempted to attack Trenton from the south in support of Washington’s attack on Trenton. But a heavy ice pack prevented Cadwalader’s troops from getting the artillery across, so the plan failed.

[8] From 1775 to 1778, Joseph wrote eighty-six letters; Sarah wrote twenty that survive (although at least twenty-two are known to have been lost).

[9] Caldwell, ed., Antiquarian Papers, Vol. II, XX “The Hodgkins Letters” (Ipswich, MA. June 1881). This reference is for letters of May 7, June 8, 13, 1775; unless noted elsewise.

[10] Wade and Lively, This Glorious Cause, 203; also David McCullough, 1776 (New York, NY: Simon & Shuster, 2005), 65.

[11] As an officer, Hodgkins was expected to pay his own field expenses, such as food, lodging or uniforms. This is why most of Joseph’s letters to Sarah contain at least one reference apiece to her mending or sending him clothes. In the same letter, he says, “… for the weather is hot. & shirts Durtty very fast.” In colonial days, gender roles were still very strong and soldiers would never dream of mending or washing their own clothes. Wives back home or female “camp followers” did those chores. Although Joseph revealed in his letters that thanks to Sarah sending “shoe thread” to him, as he has made some shoes for himself and soldiers in his brigade.

[12] Caldwell, Antiquarian Papers, Vol. II, XXI (July 1881). Refers to letters June 18, 20, 23; July 3, November 26, 1775; January 7. March 18, 20, 23, 1776; unless noted differently.

[13] Wade and Lively, This Glorious Cause, 178; also McCullough, 1776, 54, 64.

[14] Wade and Lively, This Glorious Cause, 187; also McCullough, 1776, 65; also Robert Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution 1763 – 1789, (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2005), 546.

[15] John Rhodehamel, ed., The American Revolution: Writings from the War of Independence (New York, NY: The Library of America, 2001), 109; also Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause, 546.

[16] Rhodehamel, The American Revolution, 110; also Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause, 546.

[17] Rhodehamel, The American Revolution, 112.

[18] Rhodehamel, The American Revolution, 112.

[19] Caldwell, Antiquarian Papers, Vol. II, XXII (August 1881). Refers to letters April 2, 4, 1776; unless noted differently.

[20] Caldwell, Antiquarian Papers, Vol. II, XXIII (September 1881). Refers to letters April 10, 24, May 9, 1776; unless noted differently.

[21] Caldwell, Antiquarian Papers, Vol. II, XXIV (October 1881). Refers to letters of May 22, 23, 1776; unless noted differently.

[22] Caldwell, Antiquarian Papers, Vol. II, XXV (November 1881). Refers to letters of June 10, 20, 1776; unless noted differently.

[23] Caldwell, Antiquarian Papers, Vol. II, XXVI (December 1881). Refers to letter of August 12, 1776.

[24] Caldwell, Antiquarian Papers, Vol. III, XXVII (January 1882). Refers to letters of August 28, 31, 1776; unless noted differently.

[25] Joseph Jr.’s death was in July 1776; recorded on page 586 of Ipswich Vital Records Deaths

[26] Caldwell, Antiquarian Papers, Vol. III, XXVIII (February 1882). Refers to letter of September 5, 1776.

[27] Caldwell, Antiquarian Papers, Vol. III, XXXIX (March 1882). Refers to letter of October 14, 1776.

[28] Ray Raphael, A People’s History, 142. Hodgkins did reenlist for a three-year commitment.

[29] Caldwell, Antiquarian Papers, Vol. III, XXX (April 1882). Refers to letter of September 30, 1776.

[30] Caldwell, Antiquarian Papers, Vol. III, XXXIII (July 1882). Refers to letter of December 3, 1776.

[31] Caldwell, Antiquarian Papers, Vol. III, XXXIV (August 1882). Refers to letter of December 20, 1776.

[32] Caldwell, Antiquarian Papers, Vol. III, XXXV (April 1883). Refers to letters of December 31, 1776; October 17,27, 1777; February 22, 1778; unless otherwise noted. (No issues of the Antiquarian Papers were published from Sept. 1882 – March 1883).

[33] Essex Institute Historical Collections, Vol. XIV, (1878), 236.

[34] William M. Dwyer, The Day Is Ours! (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1998), 379.

[35] Lisa Grunwald and Stephen J. Adler, ed’s., Women’s Letters: America from the Revolutionary War to the Present (New York, NY: Dial Press, 2005), 44.

[36] Ray Raphael, A People’s History, 102; Wade and Lively, Glorious Cause, 236. In an angle not always shown in the Hodgkins family lore, Ray Raphael in his book A People’s History of the American Revolution: How Common People Shaped the Fight for Independence goes on to propose that by 1778, Joseph had become disillusioned with the war, through seeing the opulence, waste and lack of “virtue” in cities like Philadelphia in comparison to how the Continental Army was supplied. He wrote they “had lost all there Publick Spirit …” No doubt, he sorely missed his wife and family also.

[37] Richard S. Tracey, “’So I must be contented to live a widow …’ The Revolutionary War Service of Sarah Hodgkins of  Ipswitch” Historical Journal of Massachusetts Volume 30, No. 2 (Summer 2002); 18-19 accessed October 9, 2015.

[38] Hodgkins’ militia military record is on page 46, section 1 “Massachusetts soldiers and sailors of the Revolutionary War” ; His entire record: Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army During the War of the Revolution: ;page 293. Hodgkins two militia enlistments were in 1775 from January – May; June – December; he was furloughed July-August 1775 and a week in November 1775. He reenlisted for one more year (until December 1776) in the Massachusetts Continental Line; his final enlistment was from December 1776 thru 1779. He resigned a few months short of December 1779: “Omitted: July 1779”. He had been promoted to Captain, 15th Massachusetts Regiment on January 1, 1777. Following his promotion, he was furloughed to Ipswich to enlist more men. He returned to Saratoga in summer 1777 with thirty-eight men (and Sarah was pregnant with Martha).

[39] Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause, 546.

[40] Richard S. Tracey, ‘So I must be contented to live a widow…,’ 12-13; also Grunwald and Adler, Women’s Letters, 44.


    1. Thank you Brenda from Flatbush! Joseph had written much more about the battle near your house, but like all of their letters, I found myself having to be an extreme editor in what I would (or could, considering word count) extract from the letters of Joseph and Sarah.

      If you’re wondering, all of their surviving letters are contained in the out of print book ,”This Glorious Case: The Adventures of Two Company Officers in Washington’s Army” (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1958), by Herbert T. Wade and Robert A. Lively.

      Wade, the co-author, was Joseph and Sarah’s great-great-grandson and keeper of the letters; the book is available on Amazon books. I’m glad you enjoyed a glimpse into the difficult wartime relationship of the Hodgkins and thank you for taking the time to write to tell me. I really appreciate it.

    1. Kim – thank you for your enthusiastic response and you are so right about “no better way of bringing history alive.”

      You captured the spirit I was hoping that readers could capture and feel by reading bits of the letters of Joseph and Sarah. I don’t know if you saw the end notes, but note 8 mentions “From 1775 to 1778, Joseph wrote eighty-six letters; Sarah wrote twenty that survive (although at least twenty-two are known to have been lost).”

      By the way, the original letters currently are in two boxes: “Wade and Hodgkins Papers”, Fam. Mss 1056, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.

      Thank you again for taking the time to say your kind words.

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