GEORGE FENNELL was born in Bury St. Edmund’s, Suffolk County, England on December 24, 1787. We gain enormous insight into his life from a diary he left behind, which was written about thoroughly by writer James Glass in an article published in the Houston History Magazine in the Summer of 1983. [A copy of the article will be included with the letter we’re offering from Fennell.]
When Fennell arrived in the United States, he was destitute and his dire financial straits continued. He moved from New York to North Carolina in hopes of making a better living. Later, he was lured by the promise of $8 a month and free land and joined a group of men from Georgia who had volunteered to fight for the independence of Texas in 1835. They left New Orleans on December 9, 1835, on the schooner Santiago, which he described in his diary as “a most tedious passage attended with much suffering.” They reached Velasco on December 19, 1835. Fennell resigned from the Georgians after an unpopular officer was put in charge and joined the regular Texas army. This decision saved his life because the Georgia battalion was annihilated.
Fennell was discharged from the army on January 17, 1836 and moved aimlessly through the country, taking such jobs as tending bar and teaching. He reenlisted on March 16, 1836, after hearing about the Alamo, in time to join Sam Houston on his march to San Jacinto. The Battle of San Jacinto, fought on April 21, 1836, was the decisive battle of the Texas Revolution. Led by Houston, the Texian Army engaged and defeated Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s Mexican Army in a fight that lasted just 18 minutes. Th article provides superb detail, including copies of Fennell’s description letters to his brother, in which he refers to Houston as “brave…whose horse was shot out from under him.” Fennell moved back to North Carolina and married a Black woman named Margaret Ann Hostter. He died sometime in 1868 at the age of 81.
In our 3 pp, ALS, 8 x 9 ¾, New York, August 21, 1818, Fennell write a beautifully penned and heartfelt letter to his brother Samuel, complete with an integral address leaf and two octagonal and one circular hand stamp early ship markings. The majority of the red wax seal remains intact.
“My dear Brother!
“Am sorry to inform you that my friend Mr. Tho. Winslow by whose care I intended to forward my letters purposes wintering at Bermuda—being therefore deprived of that opportunity. I now avail myself of the James Monroe – Capt who sails on the 10th of Sept. I wish him a safe & speedy passage unto port…I am in good health & hope this will meet you in the same happy enjoyment. Since writing you last I have experienced inconceivable difficulties to make a living, which you are already apprised of by my previous letters to my Father – I shall therefore pass over the repetition of my misfortunes, which must be as diagnosed to your ears as they are to my thoughts.
“The flourishing & beautiful city [New York], so justly admired by all Europe enjoys, I believe, very superior privileges to any other Cities in the World on the same scale of magnitude. Besides her many local advantages, her Internal Navigation, which extends itself in almost every direction, this, the vast territories of the United States & her approximation to the Ocean are advantages infinitely beyond the calculation of human foresight. In my letter to my Father, I have given him a faint picture of the rejoicings which took place here on the 4th July last, the auspicious anniversary day of the National Independence in addition to which I have to record the funeral procession of General Montgomery, who nobly fell in the midst of glory, while leading on his Troops at the Siege of Quebec in the Year 76. [The Battle of Quebec was actually fought on December 31, 1775. Gen. Montgomery was killed in the battle.] A body of men were sent to Quebec, his remains to the city for interment, which took place on the 9th July last, the procession was as follows—
“A Company of light horses, the Clergy & Gentlemen of the Bar…Foreign Ambassadors & Gentlemen of Distinction, Incorporated Companies, the Society of Masons, the Officers of the Navy & Army, with a Band of Music playing…The Corpse, followed by a Horse bearing his Boots, the pall Bearers were four Blacks in the Turkish Costume, on each side were the Veterans who fought under him & the revolutionary Officers who so nobly contended for liberty, headed by General Courtland as Chief Mourner, closed the scene, which was so remarkable for its solemnity & could not fail to inspire the immense number of Citizens who attended with that referential respect which the Historian pays to his Virtues & Memory.
“The Emigration from Europe to this Country continues unabated. An acquaintance of mine writes me from Three River that 6,000 settlers arrived at Quebec by the 8th Aug. & that as many more might probably be expected – 1380 settlers took their passage on the same day in Steam Boat Car of Commerce for Montreal, many of whom I fear are by this time grievously disappointed by their expectations. The ingress of Europeans into this city is still in a much greater proportion, most of whom, I presume, are scanty in their funds & how they are to support themselves through the inclemency of the approaching winter were the necessities of life so exorbitantly high…I am now in the Country House of Mr. D.H. Schmidt, Produce & Ship Broker – who came over to this country from Hamburg about 12 years ago. His prospects are very fair. I think him a very good hearted man & wish him success. My salary however is so small that it is quite impossible I can long continue in his service, being obliged to pay $4 a week for Board & Lodging, which, with my expense for washing, scarcely leaves me a sufficiency…being likewise miserably deficient in clothing. I am prevented from offering myself in respectable situations where appearances are so much attended to. Should my exertions meet with no encouragement, I have almost decided on proceeding to the Southern States. I shall nevertheless wait your letter in replay & know your sentiments on the subject…Geo Fennell
“Have the pleasure to inform you that Mr. Winslow has finally determined to proceed to England on the James Madison. He will therefore do me the favor to put the letter in the general post office in London, which I hope will reach you safe – Adieu –"
Folds, toning with seal tear. Beautifully penned with nearly entire seal intact and fine early ship markings.
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