Longtime Boston 1775 readers will recall our keen scholarly interest in Dr. Joseph Warren’s body, head, skull, and teeth after the Battle of Bunker Hill.
In the same vein, we now report that on 5 Mar 1833, the Rev. William Montague of Dedham went to a magistrate and prepared the following affidavit:
I, William Montague, of Dedham, County of Norfolk, State of Massachusetts, clergyman, do certify, to whom it may concern, that in the year 1789 or 1790, I was in London, and became acquainted with Mr. [Arthur] Savage, formerly an officer of the customs for the port of Boston, and who left there when the Royalists and Royal troops evacuated that town in 1776.Montague had been rector at Christ Church in Boston from 1786 to 1791, and then went out to Dedham to reopen the Episcopal church there.
When in London, Mr. Savage gave me a leaden ball, which is now in my possession, with the following account of it, viz.:—
“On the morning of the 18th of June, 1775. after the battle of Bunker or Breed’s Hill—I, with a number of other Royalists and British officers, among whom was Gen. [John] Burgoyne, went over from Boston to Charlestown, to view the battle field. Among the fallen we found the body of Dr. Joseph Warren, with whom I had been personally acquainted. When he fell he fell across a rail. This ball I took from his body, and as I shall never visit Boston again, I will give it to you to take to America, where it will be valuable as a relic of your Revolution. His sword and belt, with some other articles, were taken by some of the officers present; and, I believe, brought to England.[”]
Arthur Savage (1731-1801) served as Comptroller of Customs at Falmouth (now Portland), Maine, until 1771, when a mob attacked him for seizing a ship. He then moved to Boston and worked in that Customs office until the evacuation.
Montague died only a few months after preparing his affidavit, in 22 July. His son William then reported finding a 1792 letter to his father from Harrison Gray, the last royal Treasurer of Massachusetts, which said:
I hope you will take good care to preserve that relic which was given you at my house, for in future time it will be a matter of interest to you rebels.And indeed it did become a matter of interest.
TOMORROW: Where is that musket ball now?