Published: November 28, 2000
Important Revolutionary War Diary Fetches $70,400 at John McInnis
A Tale of Love, Whimsy and Life in the Army
AMESBURY, MASS. – On November 24 at John McInnis Auctions, a Revolutionary War diary sold for $70,400. Winning bidder Stuart Goldman commented, “I learned about the diary from an article in [Antiques and The Arts Weekly]. I collect Revolutionary War material, and this unit was close to home. It organized in Dorchester, which included Canton, the town where I live. I expected it to sell for less, but I was prepared to go higher.”
The underbidder on the phone was a California collector, who related that a “friend saw a front page article about the diary in The Patriot Ledger, Boston’s South Shore daily newspaper, and he faxed the article to me. The length of the diary was exceptional, and the unit seems to have served a particularly interesting role.”
McInnis called the diary, which begins December 17, 1776, with a gathering of 47 militia members south of Boston, “the most important Revolutionary War diary to come to auction in recent years.”
“The author recorded official dispatches as well as personal observances…[that] range from private poetry to reports on dining with General Washington,” McInnis told the Associated Press via the Ledger.
While the diary’s author is not known, the content indicates it was recorded by an assistant to Col. Solomon Lovell of Weymouth. During the period described, a 1776-1777 campaign to reinforce the Continental Army in the New York area, Lovell’s assistant was Adjutant Gardner Gould. The unit served under General Benjamin Lincoln of Hingham, and spent most of its time between Morristown, N.J. and Danbury, Conn.
The journal contains a jumble of official army documentation and personal whimsy, such as Jan. 7, 1777’s entry that begins with a weather report, goes on to record a lengthy recipe purporting to cure the ails of love and then goes on to document Washington’s victory at Trenton, N.J.
Lovell apparently served both as a troop commander and a quartermaster, which would have required Gould to distribute supplies to soldiers.
The diary dutifully records the amounts of rum, soap and beef that were distributed to soldiers, as well as the tables that document rank, name and town of origin of Massachusetts militia members.
Bob Jackman will provide a full review of this auction in an upcoming issue of Antiques and The Arts Weekly.
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