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Lot 196: Two African-American Patriot Soldiers Signed 1776 Siege of Boston Document!

Historic Autographs, Civil War Encased Postage Stamps, Colonial, Revolutionary War, Federal Era, Coins, Currency, Medals

by Early American

December 10, 2016

Rancho Santa Fe, CA, USA

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  • Two African-American Patriot Soldiers Signed 1776 Siege of Boston Document!
  • Two African-American Patriot Soldiers Signed 1776 Siege of Boston Document!
  • Two African-American Patriot Soldiers Signed 1776 Siege of Boston Document!
  • Two African-American Patriot Soldiers Signed 1776 Siege of Boston Document!
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Description: American Revolution
Two African-American Patriot Soldiers Sign This 1776 Siege of Boston Document Signed by 23 Minutemen!
February 9, 1776, Revolutionary War Date Manuscript Document Signed by 34 soldiers of Capt. Luke Drury's Company, Dorchester, Massachusetts (Siege of Boston Period), 1 page, 7.75" X 12.5", Very Fine.
At least 23 of the individual signers to this Document were Grafton, Massachusetts area Minutemen who had responded to the Lexington-Concord Alarm on April 19 to 21st, 1775. The list including "Fortune Burnee," being of African American and Native American heritage, also joined by his half-brother "Joseph Anthony" who enlisted on April 29 and died in service. This remarkable original Document reads, in full:

"Dorchester - Febr. 9th 1776 -- Rec'd of Capt. Luke Drury the full of all our Wages as Officers & Soldiers in his Company in Colo Wards Regt in the Continantal [sic] Army for the Months of November & December Last - To a 1 Leiut [sic] 4-0-0 - to a 2d Lt [] 3-0-0 - to a Serj [] 2-8-0 - to a Corpl [] 2-4-0 - to a Drum [] 2-4-0 - to a Privet [] 2-0-0 -- We have likewise Re[c]d all the money due to us for milk Peas & Indian meal & Ration Money to Carey us home in full as witness our Hand..."

The following signatures appear in the order they are listed on the document. Additional information from "The History of Grafton" by Frederick Clifton Pierce, Worcester County, Massachusetts, 1879, is added in brackets: "Edmund Dolbear [of Boston] / Thaddeus Kemp [mark] [of Billerica; enlisted April 29, 1775] / Thomas Leland, Jr. / [Cpl.] Joseph Leland / [Cpl.] William Walker / William Evans / Moses Rawson / Joseph Plumley [of Alstead] / Joseph Anthony [enlisted April 29, 1775; African-American] / Eliphalet Smith [born in Suffield, CT; of Sandisfield] / Matthias Rice / [Fifer] Zadock Putnam / [Sgt.] Ebenezer Phillips / [Drummer] Elijah Rice / [Sgt.] Shelomith Stow / Thomas Pratt / Eseck Dexter [Esek Dexter] / Edward Buttridge [Edward Buttrick] / Isaac Brigham / Zebulon Daniels / Forten Burnea [mark] [Fortin / Fortune / Fortunatus Burnee; African-American] / [Sgt.] Nathan Morse / [1st Lt.] Asaph Sherman / Ebenezer Melendy / Simeon Dexter [of Cumberland] / [Sgt.] Jonah Goulding / George Smith / Jonathan Hemenway [Jonathan Hemingway; of Framingham] / Samuel Starns [Samuel Stearns] / Ebenezer Wadsworth [mark] [of Alstead; guardian of above William Evans] / Peter Butler / [2nd] Lt. Jonas Brown / Thomas Leland [Sr.] / John Banks [of Alstead]".

It is interesting to observe that Burnee signs this document with a mark, while Anthony is capable of signing in full full. Fortune Burnee, Jr. marched on April 21, 1775 in response to the Lexington-Concord Alarm. Marriage records then show that Fortune Burnee, [Jr.] married July 31, 1778, "Phylis... negro servant of Rev. Mr. Frost... of Mendon [both are listed as "Negroes"], and then November 8, 1781, Sarah Hector, of Sutton [again, both are listed as "Negroes"]. He died in 1795.

Captain Luke Drury of Grafton had commanded a company of Minutemen since 1773. When word of the Lexington Alarm arrived, Drury and his men began the 36-mile march to Cambridge. They arrived on the morning of April 20th to join a massive army of volunteers from across Massachusetts. Drury's company was soon incorporated into a Continental Army regiment under Col. Jonathan Ward, and stationed on the lines at Dorchester.

On June 17, 1775, they fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill (Breed's Hill) with at least one man, Samuel Heard, being killed. Also serving under Drury that day was Aaron Heath, who later recalled: "I fired thirty-two rounds at the red-coats." Many of Drury's men reenlisted when their term of service expired on January 1, 1776. Less than a month after this document was signed, most likely some of these men also took part in the March 4, 1776 overnight seizure of Dorchester Heights - the celebrated action that forced the British to evacuate Boston.

Joseph Anthony was born in Grafton on December 24, 1753, son of Joseph/William Anthony, "Negro" and Abigail (Printer) Abraham, "Indian." According to a Nipmuc leader and genealogist, Anthony's ancestors include Hassanamisco Nipmuc Chief Anaweakin [second in command in King Philip's War in 1675-6; along with Philip/Metacom, Anaweakin who was killed, and his children sold into slavery]; his father, Noas, Sachem of Hassanamesit, forced into exile at the same time and died at Deer Island in Boston Harbor; and Nanapashemet, Great Sagamore of the Massachuset Federation who was killed in battle in 1619 at Rock Hill, Medford, the year before Massachusetts was colonized by the English.

Of the estimated 100,000 men who served in the Continental Army, at least 5,000 were Black. Most Black soldiers fought in integrated units, as in Massachusetts; some states, like Rhode Island had segregated regiments, while Connecticut seems to have had both segregated and integrated. Both enslaved and free African-Americans served in the army as soldiers, laborers, and servants. In some cases, Slaves were offered freedom for their services as soldiers, though others remained enslaved, fighting in place of their masters.

Many states had been reluctant to arm the black population, but had no other countermove to the British Lord Dunmore's offer of freedom to Southern black enlistees. A significant number of colonial blacks at this time were also partly of Native American ancestry. Massachusetts's eighteenth-century Indian population had two females to one male, while the majority of the imported African slave laborers were male. Those figures, coupled with their removal to neighboring outskirts of colonial society, as well as the enslavement of many Indians in New England after King Philip's War, did much to comingle the two ethnic groups.

Luke Drury (1734-1811) of Grafton, Massachusetts joined the militia in 1757 during the French and Indian Wars. As captain of a company of Minutemen and Militamen, he responded to the Lexington Alarm, and later joined Colonel Jonathan Ward's regiment to fight at Bunker Hill. Drury and his men served in different areas during the war, from West Point to Grafton, where his company guarded military stores. He also supported the Continentals financially, at one point giving 50 fifty pounds to enlist soldiers in Grafton. In 1786-1787, Drury became deeply involved in Shays' Rebellion, a tax revolt led by farmers in western Massachusetts. The uprising was quashed, and Drury imprisoned as "a person dangerous to the state." He was eventually released on good behavior. Drury remained active in state and local politics, serving terms as constable, deputy sheriff, tax collector, assessor, selectman, and state legislator.

Light soiling to laid paper with folds and untrimmed margins. Fine condition with dark signatures. A rare and remarkable Revolutionary War record!
In 1728, seven Indian "Planters" or householders and 33 English re-divided the land at Hassanamesit to incorporate the town of Grafton. In 1739, Abigail Printer married Andrew Abraham, Jr., "Indian Planter." Based on Abigail Printer's surname, and the very small population left at Hassanamesit in the 1700s, it is believed that she is a descendant of Rev. John Eliot's notable contemporary James Printer, a Harvard student in 1645-46, who worked for Samuel Green, printing Eliot's famous "Indian Bible" in 1663. Abigail and Andrew had three sons, before he died in August 1746, after returning from service in the Port Royal Campaign. Abigail remarried, November 14, 1752, Joseph / William Anthony. Little is known of him, other than his listing in town records as a "Negro." It appears he died circa 1756. Their son, the signer of this document, Joseph Anthony, married Lydia Mercy (Johnson). He enlisted in the army April 29, 1775, and was reported missing July 6, 1777, and dead December 26, 1777. At the time, he was a private in Capt. Blanchard's Company of Col. James Wesson's 9th Massachusetts Regiment. This sparse record may indicate that he was a prisoner of war. Fortune Burnee, Jr. [Grafton records spell his name a number of different ways.] Abigail, again a widow, married a third time, January 27, 1757, to Fortune Burnee, [Sr.], described as "Negro," a veteran of one or more expeditions to Canada during the French and Indian War and widower of another Hassanamisco, Sarah (Muckamaug) Whipple. It is thought that Burnee Sr. died about 1771. If so, his son Fortune Burnee, Jr., is the man who served under Capt. Luke Drury. It is as yet unknown if he is the son of Fortune Burnee, Sr.'s second wife Abigail (Printer) Abraham Anthony Burnee, who died in 1776, or his first wife, Sarah (Muckamaug) Whipple Burnee, who died in 1751 [thus, he is either Anthony's younger half-brother, or older step-brother].


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