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    Description

    Revolutionary War: Fragment of a British Flag Captured at the 1776 Battle of Trenton. Fragment, approximately 1" x 1", is attached to a 1.75" x 4.5" slip of blue paper pasted onto a page in the scrapbook of the Godfrey Lewis Miller/Shultz Family of Winchester, Virginia. Godfrey Lewis Miller (1837-1920), descended from German immigrants from Saxony, Germany, was born in Winchester, Virginia, and practiced medicine there for many years. Miller's mother, Catherine Elizabeth Shultz Miller (1795-1881), was the daughter of John Shultz (1753-1840), who fought as a private with Captain Daniel Morgan (1736-1802) as part of the Captain's "Dutch Mess," a group of six soldiers of German descent in the American Revolutionary War. The "Dutch Mess" was part of the battalion led by Morgan during Colonel Benedict Arnold's invasion of Canada in 1775. Morgan and members of the "Dutch Mess," including Shultz, were captured by the British when Washington was defeating Hessian troops at Trenton, New Jersey. Shultz, referred to as the smallest and weakest of the "Dutch Mess," was exchanged with other prisoners in January 1777. He and his fellow mess members walked from Quebec back to Winchester, Virginia. Sometime after returning home, Shultz came into possession of the British flag fragment from the Battle of Trenton.

    As the year 1776 reached its final weeks, George Washington's Continental Army needed a victory to reverse a spate of recent defeats at the hands of the British Army in New York. Washington's army had been forced to retreat through New Jersey to Pennsylvania. Troop morale was perilously low. To achieve a victory and end the year on a winning note, Washington devised a plan to cross the Delaware River on the night of December 25-26 and surround the Hessian-held garrison at Trenton, New Jersey.

    The Battle of Trenton may have been a small engagement but it turned out to be one of the most significant of the American Revolutionary War, taking place on the morning of December 26, 1776. Due to severe weather, crossing the icy river was a dangerous operation. Two of Washington's detachments were unable to make the crossing, leaving the general with only 2,400 men under his command during the assault, less than half than he had planned. After Washington's crossing of the Delaware River north of Trenton the previous night, he led the main body of the Continental Army on a nine-mile march against Hessian auxiliaries garrisoned at Trenton. The Hessian troops had lowered their guard, assuming they were safe from attack. Washington's forces caught them off guard and, after a short but fierce resistance, most of the Hessians surrendered and were captured, with just over a third escaping across Assunpink Creek. The battle significantly boosted the Continental Army's waning morale and inspired re-enlistments.

    Both Schultz and Morgan lived and died in Winchester. General George Washington purchased land there and established his headquarters in Winchester while commanding Virginia troops during the French and Indian War. It was during this time that Morgan and Washington met and became close friends. Morgan would serve under Washington during the American Revolution. When the American Revolutionary War began in 1775, the Continental Congress created the Continental Army, calling for the formation of ten rifle companies from the middle colonies to support Boston, then under siege from British troops. Virginia agreed to send two companies and Morgan organized one with men from Winchester, including Schultz and others of the "Dutch Mess." The Morgan Riflemen participated in the assault on Quebec, where they had taken prisoners of war. After they were released as part of a prisoner exchange, Morgan, who eventually became a brigadier general, rejoined Washington's Continental Army, participating in numerous operations, including the Battle of Cowpens, where he led the army to victory. Considering Morgan's close relationship with Washington, it's certainly possible that Washington may have presented the Trenton flag fragment to Morgan who, in turn, passed a portion on to Schultz.

    The scrapbook, began by John Schultz's mother, Catherine Elizabeth Schultz Miller, contains newspaper clippings from the 18th to the 20th centuries dealing with Washington, General Morgan, Miller, the Civil War, and family obituaries. This wonderful family legacy and carefully-kept scrapbook has been passed down through the Schultz family, who continued to reside in Winchester for almost 200 years.

    To our knowledge, this flag fragment is the only extant relic of the British surrender at Trenton to come onto the market in the past 100 years and remain in private hands. This is truly a remarkable piece of history associated with a major turning point in the American Revolution.

    Condition: The scrapbook, 6" x 9 1/8", ca. 19th-20th centuries, is bound in full cloth, with blind-stamped border around edges of cloth covers.

    Please note the image pictured, not part of this lot, is captioned "George Washington inspecting the captured British flags after the Battle of Trenton."


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    September, 2020
    14th-15th Monday-Tuesday
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