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Philadelphia, 24 August,
WE had, last evening, a thunder gust very sharp and violent, attended with a plentiful rain. The lightning struck in several places. It struck the Quaker alms-house in Walnut street, between Third and Fourth streets, not far from Captain Duncan's, where I lodge. They had been wise enough to place an iron rod upon the top of the steeple, for a vane to turn on, and had provided no conductor to the ground. It also struck in Fourth street, near Mrs. Checsman's. No person was hurt.
This morning was fair, but now it is overcast and rains very hard, which will spoil our show, and wet the army.
2 o clock.
The rain ceased, and the army marched through the town between seven and ten o clock. The waggons went another road. Four regiments of light horse, Bland's, Baylor's, Sheldon's and Moylan's. Four grand divisions of the army, and the artillery with the matrosses. They marched twelve deep, and yet took up above two hours in passing by. General Washington and the other general officers with their aids on horseback. The Colonels and other field officers on horseback. We have now an army well appointed between us and Mr. Howe, and this army will be immediately joined by ten thousand militia, so that I feel as secure here as if I was at Braintree, but not so happy. My happiness is nowhere to be found but there.
After viewing this fine spectacle and firm defence, I went to Mr. Duffield's meeting to hear him pray, as he did most fervently, and I believe he was most sincerely joined by all present, for its success.
The army, upon an accurate inspection of it, I find to be extremely well armed, pretty well clothed and tolerably disciplined. Gill and Town, by the motto to their newspapers, will bring discipline into vogue in time. There is such a mixture of the sublime and the beautiful together with the useful in military discipline, that I wonder every officer we have is not charmed with it Much remains yet to be done. Our soldiers have not yet quite the air of soldiers. They don t step exactly in time. They Don't hold up their heads quite erect, nor turn out their toes so exactly as they ought. They Don't all of them cock their hats, and such as do, Don't all wear them the same way.
A disciplinarian has affixed to him commonly the ideas of cruelty, severity, tyranny, &c. But if I were an officer, I am convinced I should be the most decisive disciplinarian in the army. I am convinced there is no other cHeclivc way of indulging benevolence, humanity, and the tender social passions in an army. There is no other way of preserving the health and spirits of the men. There is no other way of making them active and skilful in war ; no other way of guarding an army against destruction by surprises, and no other method of giving them confidence in one another, or making them stand by one another in tho hour of battle. Discipline in an army is like the laws in civil society. There can be no liberty in a commonwealth where the laws are not revered, and most sacredly observed, nor can there be happiness or safety in an army for a single hour where the discipline is not observed.
Obedience is the only thing wanting now for our salvation. Obedience to the laws in the States, and obedience to officers in the army.
2 o clock.
No express nor accidental news from Maryland to day, as yet.
- John Adams
- Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife. Edited by His Grandson, Charles Francis Adams, Volume I, 1841