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Full text of "September Meeting. The Sword of Warren; Seal of the United States"

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1866.] SEPTEMBER MEETING. 347 



SEPTEMBER MEETING. 

A stated monthly meeting of the Society was held 
this day, September 13, at eleven o'clock, a.m. ; the 
President, the Hon. Robert C. Winthrop, in the chair. 

The Librarian announced donations from the City of 
Boston; the City of Boxbury; the American Numis- 
matic and Archaeological Society ; Brown University ; 
the Essex Institute; the Massachusetts Horticultural 
Society ; the Massachusetts Medical Society ; the Mer- 
cantile Library Association of New York ; the New- 
England Loyal Publication Society ; the Society of 
Antiquaries of London; the Trustees of the Cooper 
Union for the Advancement of Science and Art ; the 
Proprietor of the "Savannah Daily Republican"; Mr. 
George Arnold ; James B. Bateman, Esq. ; James L. 
Butler, Esq. ; Henry B. Dawson, Esq. ; William W. 
Doiigall, Esq. ; Professor Daniel C. Gilman ; Hon. 
Samuel Hooper; Adjutant -General William Irvine; 
Benjamin P. Johnson, Esq. ; Nathaniel Paine, Esq. ; 
Hon. John G. Palfrey ; Hon. Alexander H. Rice ; 
J. Mason Warren, M.D. ; Mr. George Derby Welles ; 
Hon. Henry Wilson ; F. A. Wood, Esq. ; Mrs. Joseph 
E. Worcester; and from Messrs. Green, Latham, C. 
Robbins, and Winthrop, of the Society. 

The Corresponding Secretary read a letter of accept- 
ance from George Peabody, Esq., who was elected an 
Honorary Member at the last meeting of the Society. 



348 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Sept. 

The President read an interesting letter addressed to 
him by the Recording Secretary, dated "London, Au- 
gust 8th, 1866," containing a relation of his visit to vari- 
ous memorable historic places in England and Scotland ; 
and especially to the localities connected with the history 
of America, — particularly to Boston, to the old church 
in the parish of Austerfield, in which Bradford was bap- 
tized; to Scrooby, where Brewster lived, in whose house 
Bradford worshipped and Robinson preached; to St. 
Sepulchre's Church, in London, beneath the pavement 
of which John Smith, of Virginia and New England 
fame, lies buried. 

Mr. Brigham read a letter from Joseph Williamson, 
Esq., dated "Belfast, Maine, September 6, 1866," on 
presenting to the Society a copy of the " Hancock Ga- 
zette and Penobscot Patriot," of October 22, 1823, con- 
taining the following deposition relative to the sword 
said to have been worn by General Joseph Warren at 
the battle of Bunker Hill : — 



THE SWORD OF WARREN. 

In one of our recent numbers we stated having received documents 
in relation to the sword with which the lamented Gen. Warren fell 
at the battle of Bunker Hill. At the request of Captain Cornelius 
Dunham of this town, the proprietor of the sword, we this day pub- 
lish a copy of the declaration establishing its identity. The original 
declaration, and the sword, are now in the possession of the Hon. 
William Davis of Plymouth, Massachusetts. With those who have 
long known Capt. Dunham, no doubt can exist of the correctness of 
his statement, according to his best recollections ; nor of his sincere 
and firm belief that the sword he possesses is unequivocally the identi- 
cal sword used by Warren, at the memorable battle in which he fell. 



1866.] THE SWORD OF WARREN. 349 

(Copt.) 

I, Cornelius Dunham, gentleman, of the age seventy-four years, 
born in that part of the town of Plympton, now called Carver, in the 
county of Plymouth, and Commonwealth of Massachusetts ; now an 
inhabitant of the town of Belfast, in the county of Hancock, State of 
Maine ; being, by the mercy of God, of sound mind and memory, do 
declare, testify and say — that in the year 1775 I was in the capacity 
of seaman on board the schr. Priscilla of Plymouth, John Foster 
Williams, master, returning from the West Indies, via Philadelphia 5 
being off Nantucket shoals about six or eight weeks after the memor- 
able battle of Bunker Hill, we were captured by the British squadron 
which was then proceeding to take the neat s'tock from Gardener's 
Island, near New London. 

A prize-master and crew were put on board said schooner, and or- 
dered to Boston. Myself, my brother James, and Samuel Rider of 
Plymouth, being sick, were permitted to remain on board the schooner, 
which soon after arrived in Boston. We remained on board some 
weeks, and were then all taken to Halifax, in a schooner belonging to 
Samuel Jackson of Plymouth, which had been commanded by Capt. 
Cornelius White ; but was then under the command of Lemuel God- 
dard. 

After we recovered from our sickness we found some friends at 
Halifax ; and I was there employed in the store of Mr. William Lam- 
bert, who may be now living in the city of Boston. While employed 
in Mr. Lambert's store, the servant of a British officer wished me to 
purchase of him a sword ; and ascertaining by a certificate that he was 
authorized to sell it, I accordingly did purchase it. — After the pur- 
chase, he informed me it was the sword taken from " Doctor Warren 
immediately after he fell at the battle of Bunker Hill." I had no sus- 
picion of this fact till after I had paid him for it. I asked him if his 
master would vouch for the truth of what he had alleged. He an- 
swered me " he would." I then went with him to his master, whom I 
found to be an officer and a gentleman ; who, according to my best 
recollection was a colonel, and about thirty years of age. The officer 
told me that he had taken the same sword from Gen. Warren, when 
lying dead on the battle ground ; and that he gave it to his servant. 
The officer also informed me that " General Warren fell not far from 
the Redoubt " — these being the words he used, as I particularly re- 
member ; and that after the British entered the redoubt he saw Warren 



350 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Sept. 

before he fell. The officer remarked that he endeavored to prevent his 
men from firing, but could not ; and that Warren, remaining too long 
on the ground he had defended, was shot dead in his view. The officer 
likewise informed me that Warren was buried in common with the rest 
of the dead. I had not been in possession of the sword an hour when 
I was offered a great price for it by a Mr. Robinson, of Philadelphia, 
who was very desirous to possess it ; but I was not willing to part with 
it for any price. Mr. Lambert, seeing me so much attached to the sword, 
gave me a gun, and a French gentleman gave me, at the same time, a 
cartouch box. — On my return to Plymouth in 1777 I gave general 
information that I had purchased at Halifax the sword which the 
late Gen. Warren wore at the battle of Bunker Hill ; and hundreds 
had knowledge of it a"s such, and frequently saw it. I never took the 
sword to sea with me, but left it at home as a precious relic. I 
once equipped myself with it and my gun, on the alarm of a descent 
of the British at Fairhaven ; but before I reached that place, they had 
reimbarked. The time of my purchasing the sword was after the 
British evacuated Boston, and before the fleet sailed from Halifax for 
New York. / 

From the information given by the British officer, I then had not, 
nor have I since had, the least doubt of this being the sword of the 
late Gen. Joseph Warren ; and which is the same sword which I 
delivered to the Hon. William Davis and William Jackson, Esq. at 
Plymouth on the 15th August last, at the moment of my departure 
for this place. — During the period of forty-seven years that this sword 
has been in my possession, and proclaimed as being the sword of the 
late Gen. Joseph Warren, it has never been denied as such, and no 
claims have been made to any other sword as appertaining to him. — 
When I purchased the sword it was in good order ; but during my long 
absence at sea, it has lost many of its ornaments. 

Done at Belfast, in the State of Maine this fourteenth of Septem- 
ber, Anno Domini one thousand eight hundred and twenty-two. 

(Signed) Cornelius Dunham. 

State of Maine, Hancock, ss. Belfast, Sept. 14, 1822. Then the 
above named Cornelius Dunham made solemn oath that the facts re- 
lated by him in the foregoing declaration, by him subscribed, are true 
according to his best knowledge and belief. 

Before me, (Signed) William White, Justice of Peace. 



1866.] SEAL OP THE UNITED STATES. 351 

Mr. E. Feothingham presented to the Society the fol- 
lowing copies of original papers now in the possession 
of J. Rhea Barton, M.D., of Philadelphia, relating to 
the origin of the Seal of the United States : — 

Remarks on the Device of the Seal of the United States. 

The escutcheon is composed of the chief and pale, the two most 
honorable ordinaries. The thirteen pieces paly represent the several 
States in the Union, all joined in one solid compact, entire, supporting 
a chief which unites the whole and represents Congress. The motto 
alludes to this union. 

The pales in the arms are kept closely united by the chief, and de- 
pend on that union and the strength resulting from it for support, to 
denote the confederacy of the United States and the preservation of 
their union through Congress. 

The colors of the pales are those used in the flag of the United 
States of America. White signifies purity and innocence ; Eed hardi- 
ness and valour, and Blue, the colour of the chief, signifies vigilance, 
perseverance and justice. The olive branch and arrows denote the 
power of peace and war which is exclusively vested in Congress. 

The crest or constellation denotes a new State taking its place 
and rank among other sovereign powers. 

The escutcheon is borne on the breast of an American eagle, with- 
out any other supporter, to denote that the United States of America 
ought to rely on their own virtue. 

The pyramid on the reverse signifies strength and duration. The 
eye over it, and the motto " Annuit cceptis " — It prospers our endeav- 
ours — alludes to the many signal interpositions of Providence in favour 
of the American cause. 

The date underneath is that of the Declaration of Independence, 
and the words under it signify the beginning of the new American Era, 
which commences from the date. 

The Device for an Armorial Achievement and Reverse of a Great 
Seal for the United States in Congress assembled, is as follows : — 

Arms. — Paleway of thirteen pieces Argent and Gules. A chief 
Azure ; The Escutcheon on the breast of the American bald Eagle dis- 
played proper, holding in his dexter Talon an olive branch and in his 
sinister a bundle of thirteen arrows, all proper, and in 'his beak a scroll 
inscribed with this motto " E pluribus unum." 



352 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Sept. 

For the crest. — Over the head of the Eagle, which appears above the 
Escutcheon, a glory, or, breaking through a cloud, proper, and surround- 
ing thirteen stars forming a constellation, argent, on an azure field. 

Reverse. — A Pyramid unfinished. 

In the Zenith an eye in a triangle surrounded with a Glory, 
proper. Over the eye these words "Annuit coeptis." On the base 
of the Pyramid the numerical letters M.D.C.C.L.X.X.VL and under- 
neath the following motto — " Novus ordo saeclorum." 

Sir, — I am much obliged for the perusal of the elements of 
Heraldry which I now return. I have just dipt into it so far as to be 
satisfied that it may afford a fund of entertainment and may be applied 
by a State to useful purposes. I am much obliged for your very valuable 
present of Fortescue " De Laudibus Legum Anglise," and shall be happy 
to have it in my power to make a suitable return. 

I enclose a copy of the Device by which you have displayed your 
skill in heraldic science, and which meets with general approbation. 
I am, sir, your obedient humble servant, 

(Signed) Chas. Thomson. 

Jone 24, 1782. 

In June 1782, when Congress were about to form an armorial 
device for a great seal for the United States, Charles Thomson, Esq. 
then Secretary, with the Hon. Dr. Arthur Lee and Elias Boudinot, 
members of Congress, called on me and consulted me on the occasion. 
The Great Seal, for which I furnished those gentlemen with devices, 
(as certified by Okas. Thomson, Esq.) was adopted by Congress on the 
20th of June 1782. Mr. Thomson informed me, four days after, that 
they met with general approbation. 

(Signed) W. Barton.