April 14, 1783

Written by James from New Windsor

The last letter in Davenport’s collection is dated April 14, 1783, shortly before the Continental Army began to discharge soldiers. It gives us a glimpse at how quickly letters could travel in this period, often because they were carried by individual travelers. His brother wrote a letter on March 28 that James Davenport received on April 7, and it apparently included a reprimand from his father, almost certainly for the language in James’s candid letter of March 25 (suggesting that that letter had made it to Dorchester in just three days). The reprimand didn’t prevent James from making more references to the Molls at home in this next letter, of course.

James Davenport ends this letter fittingly: “Liberty Peace and Independence forever.” He returned home in 1783 and married Esther Mellish in 1784. They had eleven children and James Davenport died forty years later, remembered as a devout Christian and Master Mason, at age 64. His descendants carefully preserved mementoes of his service, including the letters transcribed here as well as his noncommissioned officer’s sword from his service under the Marquis de Lafayette and the various objects highlighted elsewhere here. According to a family story, Esther Mellish used the red wool from a British coat that James Davenport brought home to make a small pair of baby booties for their new child. Carefully preserved by later generations, these booties allow us to imagine how the first generation of American revolutionaries beat swords into ploughshares and began their lives in the new United States. 

Transcription PDF
Giving Kind Love

James offered well wishes to family and friends. “Your wife” referred to Samuel Davenport’s wife, Elizabeth Wiswell, whose brother Jonathan was a friend of James Davenport. Ebenezer Wales was James’ cousin. Nathaniel Topliff was another friend. George Manning had only recently arrived in Dorchester from England. James must have met him when he was on furlough from the War. All of these friends lived in Dorchester.