• Riflemen Come To Washington's Aid During Ammunition Crisis At 1775 Siege Of Boston

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    4 ½ x 8 ¼ Pay Order for Daniel Field for forty-eight shillings for him and his team for transporting baggage for the Companies of riflemen “charge to the account of Colony Command,” August 12th, 1775, signed by two highly important early Americans, OLIVER ELLSWORTH and THOMAS Y. SEYMOUR. Also signed by Field on the verso as having received the pay. The order was audited on May 18th, 1776.

     

    This pay order tells an important story in Revolutionary War history, one that may have saved the American cause.  The riflemen were answered prayer to Gen. George Washington, who was astounded to discover a serious ammunition shortage. Had the British discovered the problem, they likely would have attacked non-stop until they wiped out the American forces.

     

    Washington panicked when he learned from Elbridge Gerry that the supply of gunpowder for the enemy at Boston was 36 barrels. He had believed the supply was 308 barrels. He arrived at nearby Cambridge on July 2, 1775 to take command of his army. On June 14, 1775, Congress authorized raising rifle companies in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland. Immediately, hundreds of young men volunteered. Until then, there were no riflemen on either side of the Siege of Boston.

     

    The rifle could strike at distances two or three times as far as the smoothbore musket. Word clearly spread. The riflemen took on a mystic quality and were treated as privileged units. These young fighters may have very well saved the American cause. [Research included]

     

    Making this pay order even more remarkable are the signatures it bears. The pay order is signed by OLIVER ELLSWORTH (April 29, 1745 – November 26, 1807) and THOMAS SEYMOUR. 

     

    ELLSWORTH was a lawyer, judge, politician and diplomat. He was a framer of the United States Constitution, a U.S. Senator from Connecticut and the third Chief Justice of the United States, appointed by George Washington.  Ellsworth received 11 electoral votes in the 1796 presidential election. Ellsworth was a delegate to the Continental Congress during the Revolutionary War, and later a delegate to the 1787 Philadelphia Convention, which produced the U.S. Constitution. His influence helped insure that Connecticut ratified the Constitution.  He left the convention before actually signing the Constitution, but his influence on the document was enormous. He was chief author of the Judiciary Act of 1789, which shaped the federal judiciary and established the Supreme Court’s power to overturn state supreme court decisions that were contrary to the Constitution.  Ellsworth served as envoy to France from 1799 to 1800, signing the Convention of 1800 to settle the hostilities of the Quasi-War.

     

    SEYMOUR rose to the rank of Major in the Continental Army. After graduating from Yale, he was given the commission in the Second Continental Regiment of Light Dragoons. Under the command of Gen. Horatio Gates and acting as an aide on the staff of field general Benedict Arnold, Seymour participated in the historic battle against the British near Saratoga, NY.

     

    A portion of the regiment, commanded by then-Lieutenant Seymour, constituted the sole Continental cavalry engaged in the fighting. The American victory at Saratoga proved to be a turning point in the Revolutionary War. It prevented the British from cutting off New England from the rest of the colonies. On December 17, 1777 at Freeman’s Farm, Lt. Seymour escorted the captive British Gen. John Burgoyne to Boston. Burgoyne was so impressed with the way he was treated that he presented Seymour with a magnificent saddle.  Seymour resigned from the army in 1778, returned to Hartford and began practicing law. In 1791, he served as an active member of the Connecticut Anti-Slavery Society.

     

    The pay order is in near excellent condition with small archival tape repair to a fold. Very fine early docketing on verso.

     

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