American Revolution Manuscripts from Joe Rubinfine
Documents from the American Revolution, offered by Joe Rubinfine.
By Michael Stillman
Joe Rubinfine has issued a new catalogue -- The American Revolution. A Catalog of Manuscripts. Rubinfine specializes in American historical autographs, though some of these may not quite be called "American." How about documents produced by British military leaders? Do they qualify as "American" autographs? We will leave that question to the historians. What we can clearly say is that this latest collection offers 89 signed documents pertaining to the American Revolution. Considering how long ago that was, and how few could write in those days, such documents are always difficult to obtain. Among those that we can definitively label "American," they range from lowly foot soldiers bearing the brunt of the fighting to General Washington himself, father of his country. Here are a few.
Item 1 comes from one of those not-Americans who played a critical part in the Revolution, even if his name is not well known. It is a requisition for some ammunition by British Lieutenant-Colonel Francis Smith on August 17, 1771. At the time, Smith was operating out of Quebec. Smith would be in command of British forces in Boston on the fateful day of April 19, 1775. The British were aware that unhappy colonists had weapons stored west of Boston, which they decided to seize before they could be used against them. The result is a plethora of famous expressions from American history: the British are coming and one if by land, two if by sea. Raul Revere began his midnight ride. On reaching Lexington, they were greeted by Minutemen and the shot heard ‘round the world. This was the Battle of Lexington and Concord, and when the dust settled, the British were in retreat back to Boston, the colonists were instilled with defiance and confidence, and the American Revolution had begun. While names of participants such as Revere, Sam Adams, John Hancock, and the Minutemen are remembered well, poor Francis Smith is an obscurity. However, he was the one who led British forces that fateful day, too slowly and with insufficient surprise to achieve their objectives of putting down the rebellion. The rest is history. Smith was wounded on the flight back to Boston, but was praised for his work, promoted, and later took part in the Battle of Long Island and Battle of Rhode Island before returning to England. His earlier document is priced at $1,500.
Item 52 is a sharp warning circa early 1776 from Nathaniel Folsom, Militia General for New Hampshire and a member of the Continental Congress. Rumors were spreading that the mercenary Hessian soldiers were on their way to put down any uprisings in America, and the colonial leaders wanted their troops to be prepared for a possible attack. In this signed circular addressed to Col. Thomas Stickney of the militia, Folsom warns, "By several authenticated accounts lately received, Twelve Thousand or upward of German Troops are on their passage, from England said to be bound for Boston, but as the place they are bound to is not Certainly known it is of great Importance that each Colony be prepared to Oppose them." Folsom goes on to emphasize that the militia must be prepared to gather its troops and arms together on short notice. The Hessians did arrive on American soil in August, but they landed at Long Island. $3,500.
American Revolution Manuscripts from Joe Rubinfine
General Washington seeks assistance on New Year's Day 1777.
Item 60 is a poignant letter from Samuel Scott, a Connecticut soldier serving in New York City in 1776. On September 8, he wrote home to his wife. Scott's spelling and grammar may not be that good, but it must be remembered that the ability to write at all was a notable skill in the day. Pens Scott, "...I hope & trust in the god of Armeys for our deliverance and Sucsess I hope you wont forgit me in your Praer to god So that If we Shold Never See one nothers face Anamor in this world we may meat in the heavan's above..." It seems likely that Scott did get to see his wife again, but he also continued to serve with Connecticut forces and died in 1778. $6,000.
Another soldier, Sargeant James Rix, wrote to his wife Miriam in Haverhill, Massachusetts, from Valley Forge on May 2, 1778. Coming out of the brutal winter, Rix is not well. "I am yet in the land of the living," he writes, "but not in So good health as I could wish..." He notes that he has suffered from smallpox, lameness in the legs made him barely able to walk for several weeks, and he was then hit by a fever and rheumatism. As if physical problems aren't worries enough, Rix had not heard from his wife in a long time, and that evidently added to his depression. "...I have sent you four Letters Since I have been on this Ground. And I have not known one," he writes. Fortunately, writing on the back of this letter indicates that Rix did survive and was back home in Haverhill the following year. Item 78. $9,000.
Item 80 is a call for assistance from George Washington on the evening of New Year's Day 1777. The addressee, "Dear Sir," is likely General John Cadwalader, whose troops would assist Washington in the Battle of Princeton two days later. Washington had accomplished his legendary crossing of the Delaware on December 26 and had defeated British troops in the Battle of Trenton. Now with a larger battle looming, he needed all the help he could get. Writes Washington, "Some particular pieces of intelligence renders it necessary to march your Troops immediately to this place. I expect your Brigade will be here by five O'clock in the Morning without fail, at any rate do not exceed 6..." The following day, Washington, with Cadwalader's assistance, would sneak his troops around the British for a successful attack on Princeton on January 3. These successes would enable the forces to survive the winter and begin generating more support both at home and abroad. The revolution continued. However, for all his great talents, Washington did make one very human mistake which you and I make every year. It being the first of the year, Washington mistakenly used the old year in writing the date. The letter is dated January 1, "1776," though it was actually written on the first day of 1777. This historic signed document is priced at $450,000.
Joe Rubinfine may be reached in Palm Beach, Florida at 561-659-7077, email firstname.lastname@example.org.