Lot 890: Powder Horn, 'Liberty or Death', Thomas Gage
August 11, 2013
Garrison, NY, USALive Auction
Age: C. 1776
Materials: Cow's horn
Description: Engraved powder horn with walnut end plug is fastened with rivets and an iron strap holder is mounted on the bottom. American patriotic engraving of the period with the slogan 'Liberty or Death' above a portrait of a militiaman wearing a Hessian style hat and holding a saber in his right hand while a key protrudes from his left hand. Also, an engraved portrait of a saluting military figure having a feather in his cap and shouldering a blunderbuss. Above this figure are written the words 'Old Thomas Gage Going From Boston'. A buck, fox and chicken complete the artwork.
Size: 8" x 2" diameter
Weight: 4.5 ounces
Condition: Some wear to engraving, no filler plug.
Meta: Revolutionary War
History: 1. "Give me liberty, or give me death!" is a quotation attributed to Patrick Henry from a speech he made to the Virginia Convention. On that day, at St. John's Church in Richmond, Virginia, and is credited with having swung the balance in convincing the Virginia House of Burgesses to pass a resolution delivering the Virginia troops to the Revolutionary War. Among the delegates to the convention were future US Presidents Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. 2. The play Cato, a Tragedy contains the line, "It is not now time to talk of aught/But chains or conquest, liberty or death" (Act II, Scene 4). This play was popular in the colonies and was well known by the Founding Fathers, who used quotes from the play. George Washington had this play performed for the Continental Army at Valley Forge. The phrase "Liberty or Death" also appears on the Culpeper Minutemen flag of 1775.3. Thomas Gage In January 1775, Gage received orders from London to take decisive action against the growing rebellion. Given intelligence that the rebels had been stockpiling weapons at Concord, Massachusetts, he ordered a troop of British regulars to march there on the night of 18 April to confiscate them. A brief skirmish in Lexington scattered colonial militia forces gathered there, but in a later standoff in Concord, a portion of the British force was routed by a stronger colonial militia contingent. When the British left Concord following their search (which was largely unsuccessful, as the colonists, with advance warning of the action, had removed most of the supplies), arriving colonial militia engaged the British column in a running battle all the way back to Charlestown. The Battles of Lexington and Concord resulted in 273 total casualties for the British and 93 for the American rebels. Following Lexington and Concord, thousands of colonial militia surrounded the city, beginning the Siege of Boston. At first, the rebels (led mainly by Massachusetts General Artemas Ward) faced some 4,000 British regulars, who were bottled up in the city. British Admiral Samuel Graves commanded the fleet that continued to control the harbour. On 25 May, 4,500 reinforcements arrived in the city, along with three more generals: Major General William Howe and Brigadiers John Burgoyne and Henry Clinton. On 12 June, Gage issued a proclamation, believed to have been authored by Burgoyne but distributed in Gage's name, granting a general pardon to all who would demonstrate loyalty to the crown-with the notable exceptions of John Hancock and Samuel Adams. Gage also worked with the newly-arrived generals on a plan to break the grip of the besieging forces. They would use an amphibious assault to take control of the unoccupied Dorchester Heights, which would be followed up by an attack on the rebel camp at Roxbury. They would then seize the heights on the Charlestown peninsula, including Breed's Hill and Bunker Hill. This would allow the British to eventually take the colonial headquarters at Cambridge. The colonists were warned of these plans, and seized the initiative. On the night of 16-17 June, they fortified Breed's Hill, threatening the British position in Boston. On 17 June 1775, British forces under General Howe seized the Charlestown peninsula at the Battle of Bunker Hill. The British won the battle, but suffered more than 1,000 casualties without significantly altering the state of the siege. Henry Clinton called it "[a] dear bought victory, another such would have ruined us", while other officers noted that nothing had been gained in the victory.
Meta: Government, Military, Militaria, United States of America