5 An American Archive: Headquarters Document

The Headquarters Document
12.5 inches high, 7.75 inches wide. Fine linen paper with a watermark consisting of a figure holding a staff within a double circle topped by a royal crown. The writing is in a fine cursive hand written with black ink as follows…

Head Quarters
Aug 24th 1778
Major Gen of the Day Tomorrow Marquis De La Fayette
Brigadeer Gloves. Collo Smith Lef Collo Smith Lane, Maj Trowbridge, Brigade Major Johnston Colo Gridley is immediately to Repair to the North End of the Island and Erect Such Works as will enable the Army in Case of Retreat Misfortune to defend themselves on that ground against Every Attempt. The Works at Tinertown Tivertown and Bristol to be put immediately in Repair. Major Ayres to Send A Proper number of Carpenters for Lay in Platforms VC Collo Crane will Order Such Pieces of heavy Artillery to be placed in those forts as may be spared from the Present operations. All the spare pieces of artillery of Every kind he will order to the North part of the Island. He will find A Trusty Artillery office to See this Order Carried into Executions. The company of Salem. Volunteers will immediately March to Howland’s Ferry & put themselves under the Command of Coll Lee to guard the Post and Man them when occasion may Require. The 2 Master Gen & Commissary Gen are to Remove all the Heavy Stores not immeadiately wanted to the North End of the Island. All the Heavy Baggage should be Sent off that the army may not be incumbred with it in time of action. The men from Gen Fitcombs Brigade which have joined Collo Laurens Corps are immeadiately to Return the their Respective Regiments. The Piquet which Lies in the Rear of the Battery now erecting on the right are to move down the road in the front of the battery, every evening at Dark and Return at Day Break. The Gen Cannot help lamenting the sudden and unexpected departure of the French Fleet as he finds it has a tendency to discouraging some who placed Great dependence upon the assistance of it. Though he by no means supports that the Army or any part of it is in the least endangered by this movement. The Enemy now on the Island are far infearior in Numbers to this Army and Are so sensible of their infeariority that nothing Can tempt them to an action. This superiority we shall maintain so Long as the spirit & Ardor of Americans Continue to be the Same as it was in the beginning of this Enterpris, unless the Enemy should receive a strong reinforcement This is the only Event which can Oblige us to abandon any part of the Island we are now possessed of & this Event Cannnot take place in an instant. A Considerable time will Be Required for a Fleet to Come into the Harbour, Come to Anchor and land A Body of men sufficient to make the numbers of the enemy equal to ours. The Gen assures the Army that he has taken into consideration every Event that Can Possibly take place happen to it and has Guarded in such A Manner as that in Case the Most disay ble event that Can take Place Should happen Viz A Retreat, It can be done with the Greatest of Safety, it is with Great Grief and astonishment the Gen finds that Great Numbers of Volunteers are about to Quit the Island at this time. And to give xxx lasting proof of this Want of Firmness and Bravery. The approaches to the Enemy lines to be carried on with the greatest dispatch. The Gen is fully sensible of the Value of those Brave officers and Soldiers and Citizens he has the Honour to Command are to America and is determined that no rash xxx shall make a sacrifice of them, at the same time he wishes them to place a Proper confidence in him as their Commander in Chief whose Business it is to attend to their safety, yet hopes that America Will prove by these Events able to procure that by their own arms which her Allies refuse their Assistence to obtain Brigade Orders Augt 24v 1778 Major Melville will superintend the removal of such Ordinance and Stores as the Commanding Officer Shall Direct.

General Order of the Day documents of the time were handwritten as drafts, then sent to a local printshop for inclusion in regimental records. This document has several words lined out and must be close to the last edited version.

“France in the American Revolution: 1778
D’Estaing, with a French fleet, arrived in the Delaware on the 8th of July, 1778, accompanied by M. Gerard, the first minister of France accredited to the United States government, and Commissioner Deane. Howe’s fleet was anchored off Sandy Hook, to co-operate with the army in New York. D’Estaing proceeded to attack it, but when he arrived there, the British vessels were all in Raritan Bay, safe from the guns of the heavy French ships that drew too much water to allow them to cross the bar above Sandy Hook. General Sullivan, commanding in the east, was preparing to attempt the expulsion of the six thousand British troops then holding Rhode Island; and, at the special request of Washington, D’Estaing sailed for Narragansett Bay, with thirty-five hundred land troops, to assist in the enterprise. He arrived off Newport at the close of July, accompanied by young John Laurens as aide and interpreter, and the admiral and general arranged a plan of operations. Washington had instructed Sullivan to arrange his troops in two divisions, and sent Greene to command one of them, and Lafayette to command the other. A requisition had been made upon New England for troops, and in twenty days Sullivan’s army was swelled to ten thousand effective men. On the appearance of the French fleet off Newport, the British caused several ships-of-war and galleys, carrying more than two hundred guns, to be burned. On the 8th of August, the French vessels ran past the batteries near the entrance to Narragansett Bay. Arrangements had been made for the landing of the French troops, and the invasion of Sullivan’s army on the 10th; but the latter, discovering on the 9th that the British outposts at the northern end of the island had been abandoned, crossed over from Tiverton on that day. At the same time the fleet of Lord Howe, which had been reinforced from England, appeared off Newport; and on the morning of the 10th, D’Estaing sailed out past the English batteries, to fight him. A stiff wind was then rising from the northeast. Both commanders long contended for the weather-gauge (to keep to the windward)-so long that before they were ready to begin the wind had increased to a hurricane and scattered both fleets. It blew so furiously that spray from the ocean was carried over Newport and incrusted the windows with salt. The French fleet was much shattered, and went to Boston for repairs, and Howe sailed back to Sandy Hook. The storm, which ended on the 14th, had burst with terrible fury on the American camp, spoiling much of their ammunition, overturning tents, and damaging provisions. D’Estaing had promised to land his troops after the fight with Howe. He reappeared off Newport, when Greene and Lafayette visited him on board his flag-ship, to urge him to fulfill that promise. He declined to do so. Expecting these reinforcements, Sullivan had pushed his army several miles toward Newport. When they found themselves deserted by the French, the New England volunteers, believing the expedition was a failure, returned home, and so reduced Sullivan’s army to six thousand men. He saw the necessity for retreating and began that movement on the night of the 28th, when the British pursued. The Americans made a stand on Butt’s Hill, twelve miles from Newport, which they had fortified. The British tried to turn their right wing on the morning of the 29th, when General Greene, commanding it, changed front, assailed the pursuers vigorously, and drove them to their strong defence on Quaker Hill. A general engagement ensued, when the British line was broken and driven back in confusion to Turkey Hill. The day was very sultry, and many perished by the heat. The action ended at near three o’clock in the afternoon, but a sluggish cannonade was kept up until sunset. In this engagement the Americans lost about two hundred men, and the British two hundred and sixty. On the night of the 30th, Sullivan’s army withdrew to the main. General Clinton arrived the next day with a reinforcement of four thousand men. He soon returned to New York, after sending General Grey to destroy a large number of ships, with magazines, stores, wharves, warehouses, and other buildings at New Bedford, and mills and houses at Fair Haven. Property to the amount of over three hundred thousand dollars was destroyed. Then the marauders proceeded to Martha’s Vineyard, where they demanded of and received from the defenceless inhabitants militia arms, public money, three hundred oxen, and ten thousand sheep.

”The campaign in Rhode Island was under General Sullivan’s command. Major General William Heath’s memoirs relates the following, “31st. The regiment of State artillery, with 6 brass 4 pounders and 2 brass howitzers, marched for Tiverton; and the next day the marine mortar was sent on, slung under two pair of stout cart-wheels. The British sloop of war Kingfisher, a row galley and a sloop, stationed near Secunnet, upon the approach of the French frigate were run ashore by their own crews, set on fire, and left to burn and blow up.
Our Country, vol.2, by Benson J. Lossing, 1877

Ancient and Honorable
First established in 1637, “mechanics” and tradesmen were trained in military procedures, particularly in firing artillery. By the Revolutionary War it provided many trained officers to fight the British. Apparently Thomas Bumstead had first served as a fourth sergeant of the Artillery Company and had moved up the ranks to Captain and then finally attached to Col. Jabez Hatch’s regiment under Major General William Heath. All were former members of the Company. Adino Paddock had been the commander of the Company but sided with the British as a Tory, forfeiting his command and his property.

The Headquarters document is likely a keepsake of Major Bumstead, as he was attached to Gen. Sullivan’s command at the time, and had marched to Rhode Island three weeks before the date of the document. Maj. Bumstead’s company of Boston artillery, with two brass field-pieces, and Lieut. Dunnel with a detachment of the Continental artillery, with two field-pieces, marched for Rhode Island, and the militia and volunteers were on their march that way; and large quantities of military stores and provisions were going hence.” Thomas Bumstead had joined the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts in October of 1764. William Heath joined six months later in May of 1765.

According to Wikipedia, “The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts is the oldest chartered military organization in North America and the third oldest chartered military organization in the world. While it was originally constituted as a citizen militia serving on active duty in defense of the northern British colonies, it has become, over the centuries primarily an honor guard and a social and ceremonial group in Massachusetts. Today the Company serves as Honor Guard to the Governor of Massachusetts who is also its Commander in Chief.”

Memoirs of Major General William Heath by William Heath, William Abbatt publisher, NY 1901

History of the Military of the Massachusetts now called the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts, by Oliver Ayer Roberts, Alfred Mudge and Son, Boston, 1897

Leave a ReplyCancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.