April 28, 1780: Brig. Gen. Peleg Wadsworth, Revolutionary War commander of the American forces fighting the British in Maine, writes a letter describing the deplorable condition of his troops.

Silhouette of Peleg Wadsworth Courtesy of the National Park Service, Wadsworth-Longfellow Family Papers

Maine still is part of Massachusetts then. Wadsworth’s letter is addressed to the Massachusetts Council, the upper chamber of the Provincial Congress. In it, he says he has not yet received the number of soldiers he expected.

“The Consequence of this Delay is very Dangerous, & is the cause of frequent desertions from the Inhabitants to the Enemy,” Wadsworth writes.

Wadsworth says the troops also are underpaid and unmotivated, their officers are incompetent, and local inhabitants are helping the enemy. This last trend frustrates him so much that a few months later he orders the execution of a civilian aiding the British, which sparks outrage among Maine residents.

Joseph Owen is a retired copy desk chief of the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

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