TIME-WORN DOCUMENTS THAT TELL A STORY OF SACRIFICE AND PATRIOTISM—TRANSCRIBED FROM ORIGINALS IN POSSESSION OF
CHARLES H. McKEE OF HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT
Roxbury July 18 1775 To my Dear wife & Children
I Received yours which I Prize next to your Person the welfare of our family I understand is good you tell me John is fat & Rugged which I Rejoice to hear & Prize above gold the Rest of our Children I Dont mention be Cause I Left them well I shall give you but a Short Detail of affairs for I Expect this will not arrive the State of the army is such that I Cant tell when I Shall Come home but I have In Couragem’t of Comeing in about a month but not Certain I want you to Send me two Pair of Linen Stockings for I have had two Pair Stole The Rest are all wore out I Did not Receive in Your Last Letter to me what I Expected but hope to in the next Dear maddam I Rejoice that I am able to acquaint you that I Enjoy a good State of Health & god be Praised our Company is harty—the Dangers we are to Encounter I no not but it Shall never be Said to my Children your father was a Coward Let the event be what it will be not troubled make you Self Easy in Due time I hope to Return home in Peace & Enjoy the pleasures of worthy wife & Loving Children & Subscribe my Self your Loving Husband & father
Among my old papers I find, yellow with age, and torn by years of neglect, but still decipherable, the letters of a soldier of the American Revolution, written from the battlefield to his beloved ones at borne. That they are still legible, speaks well for the skill of the paper-maker of those days, when hands worked for durability rather than the false economy of cheapness, and for the ink-maker whose dyes defy the bleaching lights of a century and a quarter.
With this little bundle of old letters, in which speaks the courageous heart of a patriot who offered his life for the principles of liberty and justice, I find three time-stained docu-ments that tell a story of family pride and self-sacrifice, and that evidence much proud and affectionate handling. They are the commissions from the Governor, austere and stately in tone, in which the loyal soldier is promoted in the ranks in defense of his country.
In red wax they bear the royal seal of the Colony of Connecticut, and are issued to “Samuel Cooper, Gent,” and signed with a flourish by “Jonathan Trumbull, Esquire, Captain-General and Commander in Chief of His Majesty’s Colony of Connecticut in New England,” also bearing the signature of George Wyllys, Secretary.
JONATHAN TRUMBULL, ESQUIRE;
Captain-General and Commander in Chief of His Majesty’s Colony of Connecticut in New England.
To Samuel Cooper . . .Gent. Greeting:
You being by the General Assembly of this Colony, accepted to be Ensign of the Seventh Company or Train band in the Sixth Regiment in this Colony-
Reposing special Trust and Confidence in your Loyalty, Courage and good Conduct, I do, by Virtue of the Letters Patent from the Crown of England to this Corporation, Me thereunto enabling, appoint and impower You to take the said Company into Your Care and Charge, as their Ensign—carefully and diligently to discharge that Trust; exercising your inferior Officers and Soldiers in the Use of their Arms, according to the Discipline of War: Keeping them in good Order and Government, and commanding them to obey you as their En-sign for his Majesty’s Service. And you are to observe all such Orders and Directions as from Time to Time you shall receive either from me or from other your superior officer, pursuant to the Trust hereby reposed in you. Given under my I-land and the Seal of this Colony, in Hartford the 18th Day of May in the 14th Year of the Reign of Our Sovereign Lord George the Third. King of Great Britain, &c. Annoque Domini, 1774.
By His Honor’s Command, Jonth. Trumbull
George Wyllys, Secr’y.
The first document commissions Samuel Cooper to be “Ensign of the Seventh Company or Train Band in the Sixth Regiment in his Colony,” and is dated, May 18, 1774. I re-produce its quaint terms here as a matter of historical interest, especially to those who are interested in the literary style of military documents :
The second commission is dated March 15, 1775, and while less stained by the years, it has become torn into four parts, but its severe, black type is just as strong and plain as it was the day it was signed by the distinguished colonial administrators. It promotes Ensign Samuel Cooper to the authority of “Lieutenant” in his company, and its terms are the same as those quoted in the first commission.
The third document that lies be-fore me was issued May 1, 1775 and shows a broadening conception of the New World. It is evident that in the few intervening months the British Crown has been made to realize that other factors were in theconquest for the western continent, for in reposing in “Samuel Cowper” the authority of the “second lieutenant” in the “second company in the second regiment” by virtue of the power “in and by the Royal Charter” Jonathan Trumbull is now inscribed as “Captain-General and Governor in Chief, in and over His Majesty’s English Colony of Connecticut, in New England, in America.”
These were times that tried men’s souls. It does not take great imagination to see Samuel Cooper, father and husband, shouldering his musket, kissing his wife and children fare-well, and hurrying to the defense of his beloved homeland. The three letters before me, tell a story of devotion to principle, of indomitable courage, and seriousness of duty. Worn and stained as they are, who knows whether it be time or tears that have browned them ! Pressed to the brave heart of a mother who awaited them with patient fear, who knows of the joys they brought, or the sobs that kissed the hurriedly penned words ! These brief letters are indeed holy, for about them clings the hopes and despairs of an early American home.
Unlearned and unlettered as these letters are, in them you will find the devotion of a loving and anxious father who is invoking God’s blessing on the faithful, struggling ones at home, while he faces imminent danger on the battlefield.
I reproduce the letters here just as I find them, barren of punctuation or capitalization, but throbbing with the greater qualities of fidelity and affection. There is a quaintness in the gallantry with which the soldier addresses his wife on occasions as “dear maddam.” There is also humor smiling through the pathos in the pranks played by promiscuous, grammatical construction.
The three letters bear the inscription “Samuel Cooper, Chatham” While I attach some interest to their quaintness, their real historical value is important, inasmuch as they
give us a clear light on the several qualities of the patriot hearts that fought for the new land, and laid the foundation for the new American Republic. As such, I hold them in much reverence.
Roxbury July 23 1775
my Respects to you & Children hoping they are all well and will Continue So till I Return I wrote to you that I Should Come home this Summer but the General has given orders that no officer Shall Leave the Camps & I would have you be Content for I mean to Comply with orders Let the Event be as it will Send to Shipman & get Some Cloth & Send me a Shirt or two and the Jacoat I wrote for I have sent by Dill to Stop my house Comeing for fear he will forget it I mention it hear I shall but a word Dear wife I am able to acquaint you that I Enjoy my health Exceeding well and hope in Due time to See you again tell our Little Children that Dadde has not forget them & that they must Learn their books well I have Sent them Some Paper to make them Bonets from your Ever Loving Husband
I Part with a Kiss
Roxbury august 2 1775
Loving wife & Child
I have one moment this morning to write to Let you that we have not had no Battle this night & matters Seem to be a Little more Easy & no firing Some Regulars kild at Cambridg vesterd Dear wife be not Concerned for me but take Special Care of our Children I Cant write no more for want of this is only to Let you no that things move Easy this morning from your friend & Husband
I have Sent in toms Letter two Ribbands
Do with one as you Please this is olives.