J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Henry Burbeck Papers Sold

Heritage Auctions just sold a large collection of the military papers of Henry Burbeck (1754-1848), who was a young Continental artillery officer during the Revolutionary War (getting his start because his father William was the original second-in-command of the American artillery).

Henry returned to the army after the war and became commander at West Point, New York. During the War of 1812 he led the Regiment of Artillerists and retired as a brevet brigadier general. He lived until 1848 in New London, Connecticut, and his letters back to Massachusetts historians are useful sources about the early career of Henry Knox and the activities of Boston’s pre-Revolutionary militia artillery company.

The auction house’s website says:
One of the more interesting items in the archive is Burbeck’s draft of his descriptions of the Revolutionary War battles at Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth. The draft reads in part as written, “The Regt. of Artillery raised in 1775 under the command of Col [Richard] Gredley who declined being too old [well, Gen. George Washington determined that Gridley had lost the confidence of his men and kicked him upstairs to the post of Chief Engineer] of which my father was Lt. Col expired on the 31 Decbr. A New Regt. was be raised which was offred to Him. He declind and recommended Henry Knox to be the Colonel. Genl Knox felt very delicate on the subject but my Father insisted. He knew Knox some years before this – When the Troops marched from Cambridge my Father resinged being 60 years of age [and not wanting to give up his Massachusetts salary, according to his resignation letter]. I knew Genl. Knox when he opened a Book Store and stationary the largest in N. England. It was a great resort for the British Officers and Tory Ladies.” 
The Henry Burbeck collection includes several plans for fortifications, and this item:
A notebook that appears to be a handwritten transcription of a military manual, complete with hand-drawn representations of the several plates from the manual. Written in pencil on the back of the front cover, “Peter Tulip / Lexington.” The first page, not part of the transcription, reads, “1775 April 18 Tuesday Will: Burbeck came from the Castle – Fryday got out from Boston – Saturday came to Cambridge April 22d 1775 - Provincial congress Watertown April 28 1775 Willm: Burbeck allowance for his Pay —.”
The Massachusetts Historical Society has posted William Burbeck’s own description of how he got out of Castle William at the start of the war.

TOMORROW: Who was Peter Tulip?

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