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A Letter From Abraham Woodhull to His Son Thomas

Dear Thomas,

As I write this letter you are upstairs in your mother’s arms, sleeping peacefully. There is nothing I love more than watching you in your crib, but tonight I am wide awake, alone with my thoughts, unable to rest as dark intentions keep my mind preoccupied. I saw an old friend today. A young man who I have known since I was only a few years older than you are now. His name is Benjamin Tallmadge, and he has asked me to do something dangerous.

The war is raging now, and General Washington has been driven out of York City and the Royal Army has taken over there. They continued their march across the Sound, spilling over onto Long Island and into Setauket. Now there are redcoats everywhere, swathed in every nook of our hometown. They have taken over everything, using brute force and the heels of their boots to make their presence known. Washington and his rebel army are fighting back and Ben is a part of that resistance, battling the Royal Army alongside thousands of other brave men. But while their passion is thick, their numbers are overshadowed by the fastest and largest navy in the world.

Ben has asked me to assist in balancing the scales. Now that York City is dark to the rebel army, they need a man who can get inside and gather information. This is a dangerous endeavor. If I am caught, I could be hanged as a traitor and a spy. Even if they decide to spare my life and send me to a prison ship, I would still leave you, your mother, my father, and our entire family disgraced. It is a choice that comes at a heavy price.

When I came home after seeing Ben, I sat down and watched you playing on the floor near the fireplace. I was quietly longing for the days when there was no fighting when something unexpected happened. You put your tiny little hand on my leg and tried to take your first shaky steps. Watching you fall and get up over and over again swelled my heart with pride and joy. It was then that I knew I could no longer remain idle in this war. I had to help win this fight. I knew I had to do this for our family. I knew I had to do this for you.

I want you to live in a world where you can make your own choices. Where your own reasoning forges your path rather than blindly following others. Where you can stand on your own two feet. That is why I am doing this, Sprout. Ben says this fight is for freedom. That may be true, but deep down inside it is you, Thomas, who fuels my passion. I fight this fight for you. While I am caught in the middle of a war I hope will be over soon, I can only hope we are on the side of right and good. I hope that one day, the Lord willing, you will grow up to be a man. When you are that man, I want nothing more than a future for you where you are able to live, love and be free.

— Your Loving Father

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