Nov 25, 2014 - Sale 2368

Sale 2368 - Lot 18

Price Realized: $ 62,500
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 8,000 - $ 12,000
ARTICLES OF AGREEMENT FOR WHIPPLE'S USS COLUMBUS (AMERICAN REVOLUTION.) The Invitation of the Continental Congress, to their Brethren who are Sons of Liberty and Seamen, to Engage in the Defence of the Liberties of America. Letterpress broadside, 18 x 14 inches, completed in manuscript, with attached manuscript signature lists below and to the right, the whole being 36 1/2 x 22 1/2 inches; lacking a 12 x 8 inch section of the signature list and another smaller 2-inch section, both filled with lined paper in period style, minor wear throughout at folds, backed with archival tissue. Philadelphia, 15 November 1775; with completions through 19 January 1776

Additional Details

An important patriotic broadside from the first year of the revolution, used as a recruitment contract for one of the first ships in the Continental Navy. The broadside was intended to double as a form for signing up a ship's officers and crew. The Continental Navy had just been authorized by Congress on 13 October, and its four ships had yet to be formally commissioned. The text cites an act of the Continental Congress dated 15 November 1775, and Whipple's signature is dated 20 November, fixing the early date of printing quite nicely. Most of the broadside text is devoted to setting forth the conditions of employment for the sailors who would sign below, and particularly how the prize shares would be divided from the proceeds of any British vessel they might capture. Most notably, "if an inferior officer, marine or sailor lose a limb or be otherwise disabled so as to be rendered incapable afterwards of getting a subsistance, he or they shall receive a bounty of Two Hundred Dollars." The first man to spot a prize vessel at sea was to get a double share, and the first to board the vessel a triple share.
This broadside was used by Commander Abraham Whipple (1733-1819) to obtain a crew for his ship, the USS Columbus. It was one of the first four vessels commissioned in the Continental Navy, and Whipple was one of the first four commanders. Whipple was a Rhode Islander with long experience commanding merchant vessels, and had commanded a successful privateer during the French and Indian War. He and John Brown (see lot 276) had also spearheaded the Gaspée Affair, burning a British customs ship in 1772. The attached list begins with Whipple's signature, is followed by the signatures of 21 officers, mates, surgeons, and midshipmen, and then 92 seamen, landsmen, craftsmen, and gunners. Scipio Rathbun's occupation is given as "Negro Boy." Next to each man's signature is given their date of enlistment, rank, and rate of pay.
With this crew, the Columbus set out immediately to engage the enemy. Its first engagement was the 3 March 1776 Battle of Nassau in the Bahamas--the first amphibious landing of the Continental Marines. The Columbus went on to capture five prizes before being burned by the British in 1778.
This broadside is a vitally important document from the very earliest days of the Continental Army and Marines.