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    Bunker Hill - Autograph Letter Signed by Edward Montagu (d. 1798) Master in Chancery, agent for the Virginia House of Burgesses, 1759-1773. Three pages with two page enclosure, 7.25" x 9.25", Frognal Green, [England], July 25, 1775. An important letter written the day news arrived in London of the bloody battle of Bunker Hill (June 17, 1775) to prominent opposition figure Henry Seymour Conway: "I wish I could give your Lordship much more satisfaction than I am capable of doing on the Arrival of Capt. Shads in the Cerberus. He got to Town [London] this Morning & brings an Acct. for more than a Skirmish [ie. Lexington & Concord] -- On my having heard an Intimation of his being in London. I found him out & have [illeg.] from him the following Particulars. That Charles Town, not very distant form Boston, had been considered as a neutral Place neither Party had posses'd it but the Rebels imagining it to be of Importance, had sent a large Body of their best Men & began Entrenchments. Genl. Gage saw the Inconvenience of such a [illeg.] resolved to prevent it. -- A Detachm't of 2000 Men under the Command of Clinton and How[e], was engaged in this Business, they were put in Boats & on approaching the Shore, they found the Rebels had made such a Progress & were so superior in Nos. that they sent to Boston for more Strength, they were reinforced by two Regiments. The Attack was made with true British Bravery & equally resisted; the Conflict was long & violent but the Design was executed & the Rebels discharg'd in great Confusion with much Slaughter. Our Loss is not inconsiderable at last 300 kill'd & 700 wounded in a manner that renders them unfit for future Action. -- We have lost three of our best Field officers, I only recollect the names of Pictarn & Abercromby. I call'd at Lord Dartmouth's Office Mr Pownall tells me the story in much the same Stile [sic] but it will be in to night's Gazette & I order'd my Clerk to send it to yr Lordship without fail... I shall As soon expecting the Adm[iral]s [John Montagu?] private Correspondence on this important subject...I wish the Article from [illeg.] may be true the Contin[ental] Congress was broken up in the utmost Confusion & Discord. It would be worth a hundred successful skirmishes. They know nothing of it at Whitehall but I do not think it unlikely -- from the knowledge I have of some of the People that compose it..." Montagu includes his copy of the account given to him early that day. The summary of events noted that "[Israel] Putnam who commanded is wounded Doctor [Joseph] Warren is among the slain the No of which is said to be greater than of the Troops. Genl. How[e] is now entrenched on one of the Hills of the late Charles Town, where not a house remains..."

    The Battle of Bunker Hill clearly demonstrated to London that the Rebellion was deadly serious. It effectively silenced any Parliamentary opposition to the military conquest of the revolting colonies. Anticipating a difficult campaign, Lord North's government promised an additional 2,000 reinforcements to sail for America immediately and resolved to field an additional 20,000 there by the spring of 1776. (see Gruber, The Howe Brothers and the American Revolution, p. 26-27).

    A superb letter from an individual with access to high officials in the British government. Montagu's report offers an interesting perspective: that of a former advocate of the colony of Virginia corresponding with an important opposition figure. Henry Seymour Conway, (1721-95), began his career as a British officer serving in the War of Austrian Secession and the Seven Years' War. Conway sat in the House of Commons from 1741 to 1774 and again from 1775 to 1784. A leading Whig, he opposed the King's actions to suppress John Wilkes in 1763. He was appointed Secretary of State for the Southern Department 1763-5, and for the Northern Department through 1768 where he promoted a policy of moderation toward the colonies supporting the repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766. For his efforts, several towns in America were named in his honor. Throughout the war, Conway opposed efforts to suppress the revolution and was partly responsible for the fall of North's government in 1782, paving the way for a peace settlement.

    Losses at top margin affect several words of text, usual folds with partial separations, lightly toned at folds, else very good.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2008
    4th-5th Wednesday-Thursday
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