January 20, 1781

Written by James from West Point

James Davenport continued to serve with the Continental Army through the fall and winter of 1780, including witnessing the execution of captured British spy Major James André. He was back in camp at West Point, New York, in January 1781. As this letter indicates, winter encampments could be long, dreary affairs for an army of young men anxious for action or to return home. In this letter, James reflects on thoughts of desertion (writing that “we Shall go out of Camp without Leave & forget to return half of the time”), meager rations, and a lack of pay. Continental soldiers, just like British and Hessian soldiers during the war, were formally entitled to food, clothing, and payment as part of their military service. But in practice, the Continental government struggled to produce the money necessary to pay soldiers. Many went months or even years without receiving any, and by January 1781 James Davenport noted that it had been thirteen months since their last pay was received.

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"father & Mother Brothers & Sisters"

James Davenport had thirteen siblings. When he wrote this letter, Josiah and Hannah were living in Warwick, Massachusetts, and Joseph and Isaac Howe had died fighting in the war. The other nine were living at home with his parents, Isaac and Mary Davenport: Samuel, Lydia, Mary, Sarah, Ephraim, Ebenezer, John, Daniel, and Esther.