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Price Realized: $7,800 With Buyer's Premium Show Hammer Price
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Sale 2310 Lot 25
"AT NIGHT WE BEGAIN TO FIRE SHOT AND BUMBARD THE TOWN OF BORSTON" (AMERICAN REVOLUTION.) Gray, Joshua. An archive of dramatic letters by a militia captain at the Siege of Boston. 4 Autograph Letters Signed from Captain Gray to his wife, and 2 Autograph Letters Signed from his wife to him (one on verso of his letter). Various sizes, the 24 February letter worn with minor text loss, and the others with only minor wear. Roxbury Camp and Yarmouth, MA, February and March 1776
Estimate $8,000 - 12,000
Joshua Gray (1743-1791) was a lifelong resident of Yarmouth, MA, on Cape Cod. In 1775 he served as a minuteman in Marshfield. In 1776, he left his wife and five children at home, and led a Yarmouth company to Boston to serve in the final weeks of the Siege of Boston. His company was involved in the fortification of Dorchester Heights, the decisive final action of the siege.
This correspondence begins with a 12 February letter to Joshua from his wife Mary Hedge Gray (1745-1822), who writes "I heard you march from Barnstabel in peace and I hope all things will work for good." On the back of this letter, Joshua responds on 20 February, noting that "Their was sevaril houses burnt on Dugstar [Dorchester] Neck this weeke the 14 of Feby." Four days later, he described the arrival of captured cannon from Fort Ticonderoga: "The duty is somthing hard now, but I expect it hard soon, for one thirteen inch morter is coming down to day from Cambrig to Roxbury Forte and when plased and things in order, we expect to go to Dogster Neck to intrench, then I expect a battele will begin."
Captain Gray's next letter, composed on 5 March and 8 March, is the centerpiece of the collection, as he describes the initial bombardment of Boston and the fortification of Dorchester Heights: "March the 2 day at night we begain to fire shot and bumbard the town of Borston, and Sunday night keep up the same fire. Munday morning I went on main guard in Roxbury Fort, and at 7 at night thair begain a have fire and bumbard on both sids, bumbs and shot flue 6 and 7 at a time. The same night thare went 2100 on Dogster Hill and att three o clock nigt thay was releved with 3000 and but a littel damege dun. Thare 2 men killd, 5 or 6 wound'd in the whole of our camps. This ends the 5 day of March. March the 8 1776 and now we have got fortifyed on Dogster Hill verey strong, have bulte to forts on Dogster Hill and cannan and morters plast thair, all readey to bumbard. . . . Dutey is verey hard. Half of my people are on dutey at a time."
With American artillery commanding the heights over Boston, the British began planning for an evacuation. They attempted a bombardment of Dorchester Heights to minimal effect, as described by Captain Gray on 11 March: "Their was a havey cannading last Satuarday night which was 9 instant, thay firing to Dogstar Hill. They kill four of our men at one shot and that was the most damage we recevid. Our people pickup five or six hundred cannon balls the next day. The shiping in Boston seems to be in a moving postour. One half is gown down below the castal." Six days later, the British abandoned Boston, the same day Mary wrote one final letter from Yarmouth, praying for her husband's safety.
Joshua Gray survived the war. The Daughters of the American Revolution chapter in Cape Cod is named in his honor. All of these letters were published in Julia Edgar Thacher's "Joshua Gray of Yarmouth, Massachusetts, and his Descendants," pages 12-17. Provenance: presumably inherited by Joshua Gray's youngest child Elizabeth Gray Thacher (1786-1846); owned by her daughter Caroline Thacher Perry (1824-1868), who wrote inscriptions on backs of most of these letters in 1852; thence to her brother Henry Charles Thacher (1829-1900), cited as owner in the aforementioned genealogy, page 12. with--a letter from the widowed Mary Gray to her nieces Polly Prince and Hannah Drinkwater, Yarmouth, MA, 2 June 1799.Price Realized (with Buyer's Premium) $7,800