Description

    "A Circumstantial Account of an Attack that happened on the 19th April 1775 On his Majestys [sic] Troops..."

    Revolutionary War - Lexington and Concord Manuscript. Two pages [incomplete] in an unknown hand, 7.5" x 12.5", [n.p., n.d., April 29, 1775]. A contemporary manuscript copy of General Thomas Gage's version on the action at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, that ignited the American Revolutionary War. The text of this report, titled: "A Circumstantial Account of an Attack that happened on the 19th April 1775 On his Majestys [sic] Troops by a Number of People of the Province of Massachusetts Bay" was forwarded to colonial governors and others and formed the 'official' British version of events. This important account, likely the only such manuscript in private hands, presents quite a different history -- distinct from the American version of events as published at the time in newspapers: an alternative view on who fired "the shot heard round the world."

    Gage's, report, based on the reports by his subordinates reads, in part: "On Thursday [sic Tuesday] the 18th April, about half past Ten at Night Lieutenant Colonel Smyth of the 10th Regmt. embarked from the Common at Boston with the Grenadiers & Light Infantry of the Troops there, and landed on the opposite side; from whence he began his march toward Concord, where he was ordered to destroy A Magazine of Military Stores, deposited there for the use of an Army, to be Assembled in Order to Act against his Majesty and his Government...after Marching a few Miles detached six Companies of Light Infantry under the Command of Major Pictarn, to take Possession of two Bridges on the other side of Concord; soon after they heard many Signal Guns, and the Ringing of alarm Bells repeatedly, which convinced them that the Country was rising to oppose them, and that is as a preconcerted scheme to oppose the King's troops when ever there should be a favourable opportunity for it; about 3 Oclock the next Morning The troops being advanced within two Miles of Lexington, Intelligence was received that about 500 Men in Arms were Assembled, and determined to oppose the Kings troops; And on Major Pictarns galloping up to the head of the advanced Companies, two Officers informed him that a Man (advanced from those that were Assembled) had presented his Musquet And attempted to shoot them, but the piece flashed in the Pan. On this the Major Pictarn gave directions to the Troops to move forward, but on no Account to Fire, nor even to attempt it without Orders: when they arrived at the end of the Village they observed about 200 Armed Men drawn up on a Green; and when the Troops came within two yards of them, they began to file off towards some Stone Walls on their Right Flank; the Light infantry observing this, Ran after them; The Major instantly called to the Soldiers not to Fire, but to surround and disarm them; some of them who had Jumped over a Wall, then fired 4 or 5 Shots at the Troops, wounded a Man of the 10th Regmt. and the Majors horse in two places, and at the same time several shots were fired from a Meeting house on the left; upon this without any order or regularity, to Light Infantry began a Scatter'd Fire, and kill'd several of the Country People, but were silenced as soon as the Authority of their officers could make them. After this colonel Smith marched up with the remainder of the Detachment and the whole Body proceeded to Concord when they Arrive about 9 o'clock, without any thing further happening, but vast Numbers of Arm'd Men were seen Assembling on all the heights - while Colonel Smith with the Grenadiers, and part of the light Infantry remained at Concord to search for Cannon &ca; there, he detached Captain Parsons with Six Light Infantry Companies to secure a bridge at some distance from Concord, and to proceed from thence to certain houses where it was supposed there was Cannon and Ammunition, Captain Parsons in pursuance of these orders posted three Companies at the Bridge, and on some heights near it..."

    The account, in which American colonists fired first, obviously suited British interests and was instantly dismissed as self-serving propaganda intended to counter the rebel version of events. The question of who fired the first shot has long vexed historians. Contemporary efforts to mold the 'truth' (on both sides) following the battle made the task of clarifying the question likely beyond reach. According to Mark S. Boatner, following the battle, "...the Massachusetts Provincial Congress appointed a committee to take depositions from all participants and spectators...The whole purpose of the Lexington depositions was to establish only two things: that Parker's men were dispersing; that the British fired first..." (Encyclopedia of the American Revolution, p. 625.) For the next century, this version of events became part of the cannon, reinforced by historians as distinguished as George Bancroft. It was not until corroborating accounts by other British officers personally present at the battle began surfassing in the late 19th century that historians began viewing Gage's report in a different light and giving it far more credence than it had earlier enjoyed.

    The manuscript comes from a collection of correspondence to prominent British opposition figure Henry Seymour Conway that is also offered in this auction. 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.

    Clean 3" tear at upper right margin which could be easily repaired, a few other minor marginal tears and chips, usual folds, else very good.


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