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    [Louisiana Purchase] Important 1804 Letter Illustrating the Strained Relationship Between the United States and Spain After the Acquisition of the Louisiana Purchase "Governor an inveterate enemy of mankind in general & Especially to an American."

    David Bannister Morgan (1773-1848) was at various times a statesman, soldier and surveyor. It was in this latter capacity that Morgan was granted a commission from the Spanish Surveyor General to survey lands north of Lake Pontchartrain along the Tchefuncte River. In September, 1804 while in commission of his surveying duties he was captured and confined aboard a Spanish naval schooner commanded by Captain Manuel Garcia y Muñis. Morgan chronicles the ordeal of his capture, escape and the tense aftermath in a detailed three-page autograph letter, 7.25" x 9.5", written in New Orleans, December 4, 1804 and sent to Adam Comstock, Greenfield, New York.

    Morgan writes of his capture: " too will be a little astonished when I assure you I have been a prisoner among the Spanish since 26th of Sept. last...passing through that part of West Florida bounded by the River Mississippi between the Island of New Orleans & the Mississippi Territory I was taken up and confined on board of a Kings schooner belonging to his Catholic Majesty mounting 12 guns & about 40 men for what crime I was not as yet able to learn." Prior to his capture Morgan was employed "about one year since to survey lands in this part of the country...we received our commission from the Spanish Surveyor General and a Spanish Officer made the contract with us...These lands I am speaking of are those which were sold by the Intendant Morallas [sic] [Juan Ventura Morales] last autumn...soon after the country was given up to the U.S. Moralas [sic] was Succeeded by Governor Folk [sic] [Vicente Folch] at Pensacola who is an inveterate enemy of mankind in general & Especially to an American. Folch has always been trying to get in Possession of something to incriminate Moralas [sic] but has not been able to succeed as yet at last fixed his claws on me for being concerned in the surveying (I am told this is the charge against me)...". Morgan writes of his daring escape, in part: "We had at this time been anchored in Lake Ponchartrain [sic], where there was a fort belonging to the U.S.... a canoe came alongside the ship and as soon as the people came on board I leapt in and paddled with all my might...the wind in my favor...I swung the vessel in such a manner that she could not bear her guns on me...I made it to the gates of the fort, where a scuffle ensued, me and five Spaniards. I called for protection to the Sentry who immediately sent out relief and saved me from the barbarians...". Upon Morgan's escape and rescue he attempts to retrieve his surveying equipment and private property by legal means and a warrant was issued for Captain Garcia's arrest. Garcia was held in New Orleans where angry mobs loyal to Spain sought his release. In the end, Morgan was able to obtain a bond for his losses. This is an extraordinary first-hand account of an episode chronicled in many contemporary books dealing with U.S./Spanish relations of the period.

    David Morgan served with distinction eleven years later at the Battle of New Orleans, when he and 400 volunteers were sent to the west bank of the Mississippi to block a possible flanking maneuver by the British. Outnumbered and poorly armed, Morgan's men were defeated but were instrumental in slowing the British advance, and thereby helped win the battle. This is an extraordinary letter, rife in content and extremely legible. It has the usual fold creases, with some foxing at the folds, and a small tear at the wax seal. Otherwise, it is in very good condition, complete with an early New Orleans cancel on the cover.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    September, 2011
    13th-14th Tuesday-Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 9
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,150

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