From Presidents to Artists to Soldiers to Writers and Politicians, Preserving the Legacy of the First Great Battle of the American Revolution, the Battle of Bunker Hill

An Unprecedented Archive of Hundreds of Letters, Many Unpublished, From Men Well Known and Otherwise, on the Creation of America’s First Great Revolutionary War Monument and the Legacy of the Battle that Inspired it

Thomas Jefferson, the Battle of Bunker Hill, Lafayette, and Toils of Revolution: “The occasion, which has given birth to it, forms an epoch in the history of mankind, well worthy of the splendid ceremonies with which its first stone was lately laid and consecrated. The coincidence of circumstances too was...

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From Presidents to Artists to Soldiers to Writers and Politicians, Preserving the Legacy of the First Great Battle of the American Revolution, the Battle of Bunker Hill

An Unprecedented Archive of Hundreds of Letters, Many Unpublished, From Men Well Known and Otherwise, on the Creation of America’s First Great Revolutionary War Monument and the Legacy of the Battle that Inspired it

Thomas Jefferson, the Battle of Bunker Hill, Lafayette, and Toils of Revolution: “The occasion, which has given birth to it, forms an epoch in the history of mankind, well worthy of the splendid ceremonies with which its first stone was lately laid and consecrated. The coincidence of circumstances too was truly fortunate, which permitted it to be laid by the hand of one so illustrious in his participation of the toils and dangers which followed the event it signalizes.”

Daniel Webster: “The advantages of our Revolution are daily felt by every American; and, at the same time, that illustrious event is exciting more and more the admiration of the rest of the world, and an ardent desire to adopt its principles. Yet, glorious and beneficent as its consequences have proved to this nation, not a single monument worthy of being named has hitherto been elevated to testify public gratitude or do honor to national sentiment in the eyes of our own citizens or of strangers.”

James Madison on the Battle and the War: “It holds so distinguished a place in our Revolutionary History, itself so distinguished in the annals of Liberty.”

The Drummer of Bunker Hill: “I Robert Steele of Dedham in the County of Norfolk… Listed 17 days before Bunker Hill fight in Col Doolittle’s Regiment. After Major Mores was wounded, I was ordered down the hill to get some run to dress his wounds with Benjamin Blood. When we got to the shop the man was down cellar to keep out of the way of the shots which were fired from the gun boats that lay in the river. He asked who was there we told him our errand he then said take whatever you want. We delivered some rum and ran back as soon a possible but before we had time to reach spot they were retreating.”

Caleb Stark on his and his father’s fighting at Bunker Hill: “Those who made this notable stand on this sanguinary hill have almost all passed to those shades where military honors are not more highly appreciated…; secondly, the actors in this bloody scene (the Revolutionary War)… performed their part in a manner perhaps unparalleled in ancient or modern history.”

Nearly 400 separate documents showing the spirit of Americans of the next generation to capture the deeds of their parents

This coincided with Lafayette’s triumphal return to the United States; he laid the cornerstone of the monument and correspondence from him and related to this is part of the archive

This effort was one of the first American pushes for civic engagement in the preservation of history; supporters were encouraged to donate objects, manuscript accounts, and money

After the Battles at Lexington and Concord in April 1775, the victorious Continental militiamen followed the retreating British army towards Boston. As the British sought protective cover inside the city, the colonists began to construct fortifications surrounding Boston to the north, west, and south. The Royal Navy, unmolested by any significant colonial naval force, supported the British army in the city from the east. To support their defenses, the British sought to place a force on the Charlestown peninsula across Boston Harbor to the north, as yet unoccupied by early June. On June 13th, the leaders of the colonial forces learned that the British were planning to send troops into Charlestown. In response, 1,200 colonial troops under the command of Col. William Prescott quickly occupied Bunker Hill on the north end of the peninsula and Breed’s Hill closer to Boston. By the morning of the 16th, they had constructed a strong redoubt on Breed’s Hill and other entrenchments across the peninsula. The next day, the British army under General William Howe, supported by Royal Navy warships, attacked the colonial defenses. The British troops moved up Breeds Hill in perfect battle formations. Prescott, allegedly encouraged his men “not fire until you see the whites of their eyes.” Two assaults on the colonial positions were repulsed with significant British casualties; the third and final attack carried the position after the defenders ran out of ammunition. The colonists retreated to Cambridge over Bunker Hill, leaving the British in control of Charlestown but still besieged in Boston. The battle was a tactical victory for the British, but it proved to be a sobering experience, involving more than twice the casualties than the Americans had incurred, including many officers. The battle had demonstrated that inexperienced Continental militia could stand up to regular British army troops in battle, at a time when the British were considered to have the finest army in the world.

Israel Putnam was the General in charge. Also, leading patriot Dr. Joseph Warren was part of the battle. He was killed during the fighting, the first prominent martyr to the cause. At age twenty-three, Henry Dearborn organized and led a local militia troop of sixty men to the Boston area, where he fought at Bunker Hill as a captain in Colonel John Stark’s 1st New Hampshire Regiment. During the battle, Dearborn observed that “Not an officer or soldier of the continental troops engaged was in uniform, but were in the plain and ordinary dress of citizens; nor was there an officer on horseback.” Dearborn years later would accuse Israel Putnam of failing his duty during that battle, resulting in what has since been known as the Dearborn-Putnam controversy.

The actual controversy was sparked 43 years after the battle, when Dearborn published his account of the battle in a widely read political magazine accusing the deceased Putnam of failing to supply reinforcements, inaction, and cowardice. The sons of both Dearborn and Putnam defended their respective fathers’ positions, while various Revolutionary War veterans also lent their support respectively. Along with Dearborn, both Republicans and Federalists, now bitter rivals, saw the controversy as an opportunity to advance their party and win the favor of the general public. Dearborn’s efforts, however, were largely not well received and cost him his bid for the governorship of Massachusetts. His accusations resulted in a political and social controversy that was widely covered in the press and in several publications from officers present at the battle. Dearborn’s accusations were also addressed by several notable public figures, including Daniel Webster, who published a widely accepted repudiation.

But what this publication by Dearborn and Webster, which involved the families of Joseph Warren, Israel Putnam and others, did was to bring so many of the parties together in remembrance of this great battle.

In 1794, the King Solomon’s Lodge of Masons had erected an 18-foot wooden pillar topped by a gilt urn to honor patriot Dr. Joseph Warren.

In 1822, William Tudor, a writer and scholar, whose father had been Judge Advocate during the Revolution, noticed that some of the battle land had come up for sale and impressed on friends the importance of securing it for posterity. Mr. Tudor was the founder of the National American Review, which had published Webster’s essay on the Dearborn controversy, and Tudor got him on board early. Edward Everett was next. Webster was a younger man, and much of his political career lay before him. Edward Everett, the future great orator, was just in his 20s. Thomas Perkins, an influential businessman, joined. So did Joseph Warren’s nephew, Doctor John Collins Warren, who bought the land in question for the monument. Warren was also a founding member of the Massachusetts General Hospital and first dean of Harvard Medical School. Theodore Lyman Jr, a businessman and friend of Everett joined.

On May 10, 1823, the process formally began with a letter signed jointly by Daniel Webster, William Tudor, and Theodore Lyman seeking a monument to the battle. From this, the newly growing association sent out a statement on its goals and the importance of its work. This was signed by several prominent locals, including Webster, Jesse Putnam, Dr. Warren and Dearborn’s son. They petitioned the Massachusetts House and Senate for recognition and support and a subsequent Act was passed giving both. Thus began the work to draw interest, raise money, design the monument, and build it, a years-long effort that created the first ever public obelisk in the United States. They notified the public of their work, elected their officers, and then wrote a circular to prominent men electing them honorary members and eliciting donations. Governor William Eustis, who was a surgeon at the Battle of Bunker Hill itself, was instrumental in helping, though he died before the groundbreaking. The responses the committee received back were from many prominent men of the era, including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Ellery Channing, Oliver Wolcott, Joseph Story, William Bainbridge, several Governors, and men who had been there that day in 1775, including Eustis and Caleb Stark.

Much work had to be done. They absorbed the Washington Benevolent Society Funds, which amounted to around 1900 dollars, and showed the cooperation between the new committee and an older society devoted to the legacy of George Washington.

It was businessman and future congressman Abbott Lawrence who first suggested they enlist the Marquis de Lafayette, then newly arrived on his celebrated return to the United States, and to invite him to lay the cornerstone during that trip. During his trip in 1824-5, he visited all 24 American states, traveling more than 6,000 miles. He toured the northern and eastern states in the fall of 1824, then went south. At the end, he would lay the cornerstone. But first, he made a stop to visit John Adams at Quincy, Mass. At Monticello, Thomas Jefferson excitedly met him on the lawn; they embraced and kissed each other’s cheeks, French style. Soon Lafayette was surrounded by Jefferson’s family and his guests, among whom were James and Dolley Madison. He was received by President James Monroe at the White House. At every town he visited, he was greeted by the veterans of the Revolution. Men grown old and gray, forgotten by the years but now remembered, regularly turned out to see their old commander; chapters of the various states’ Cincinnati Societies arranged events wherever Lafayette would go. His receptions were enthusiastic, even wildly so. There were meetings, concerts, parades, celebrations, dinners, military reviews, reunions, speeches about Lafayette, speeches by Lafayette. Edward Everett welcomed him to Boston, saying “Greetings! Friend of our fathers!” In New York, the reception room was decorated with trophies of arms, and with 60 banners bearing the names of the principal heroes who died for liberty during the Revolutionary War. His involvement with the Bunker Hill monument was as appropriate as it could be.

The event itself was stellar. On Lafayette’s return to Boston, he said, “In all my travels through the country, I have made Bunker Hill my polar star.” The Light Infantry companies of the region were invited to perform escort duty. Soldiers who fought at Bunker Hill were there. The regimental drummer was there and played Yankee Doodle. All the Church bells in Boston and Charlestown rang during the procession. Lafayette spread the cement over the corner stone, adorned in his masonic apron, and the crowd gathered for the speech. Lafayette toasted the men who had fought, and then Webster stepped forward to give his great oration.

The task then turned to the design and creation of the monument. A committee of artists was named, including Webster, famed artist Gilbert Stuart, Washington Allston, George Ticknor, Loammi Baldwin, a pioneering civil engineer in the United States, considered at the time first in prominence. A search for design was publicized. Solomon Willard was chosen as architect. Horatio Greenough submitted a design of a granite monument, along with a letter of G.W. Brimmer recommending an obelisk. Eventually an obelisk would be chosen.

Willard moved to select the materials to be used, finding a quarry in Quincy where a supply of sufficient size could be found, and Gridley Bryan would be the excavator and seller, a job he accomplished by virtue of creating the first ever railroad constructed in the United States, constructed for the purpose of supplying the building of the obelisk.

The Archive (A Full Description Can Be Downloaded as PDF here)

The archive consists of 380 separate documents and nearly 1000 pages that stretch from 1822 through the 1860s. It is bound into a book, the cover of which still exists but which has been come off from the paper itself, and the pages which are still bound together. The condition is, in general, very well preserved, as it has remained in this condition since it was bound it together.

The contents. A brief synopsis follows, organized by category. However, as a full description would require a book (indeed there is more than enough material here for a scholarly treatment beyond that created by Warren), only a small portion of the letters are quoted. Even with those quoted, only excerpts from many of the documents have been used. Each section contains a general description, but it should be treated as representing only an introductory treatment. For instance, there are many documents, at least 10, signed by Daniel Webster, and perhaps 15 signed each by HAS Dearborn and Doctor Warren, the descendants of the great heroes of the day. Mentioned are a few minutes of the organization and bylaw draft changes, but there are more. William Sullivan and Edward Everett’s documents run in the scores together. This archive contains Loammi Baldwin’s report, along with the budget proposed by the committee. Where we have mentioned a handful of signatories to letters, there are countless more. We have attempted to give individual documents particular attention, such as the artistic report on the monument signed by Daniel Webster and Gilbert Stuart; Thomas Jefferson’s quotation on Lafayette and the importance of Bunker Hill; some of the early Founding Documents of the organization; and the major documents, including that signed by Lafayette, relating to his laying of the cornerstone; and the opinion of the then President of the United States, James Monroe.

The first railway. Although this material does not dwell on the fact that the first railroad built in the United States was created to serve this project, it is true that the budgets passed that are included do include reference to the quarrying of stone from Quincy, from where the rail ran, and the builder, G. Bryant, as well as the architect, Solomon Willard, are mentioned. These are thus the first financial allocations for products traveling by rail in the United States.

The Content, a Very Small Sampling

The beginning of the organization. Nearly every founding document relating to the call for this organization is present in original or retained draft form.

The original call: Autograph letter signed, Boston, May 10, 1823, in the hand of Webster and signed by Webster, Tudor, Lyman.  “Dear Sir, — Some conversation having taken place last year on the propriety of forming an Association for the erection of a Monument on Bunker’s Hill, in commemoration of the early events of the Revolution, it has seemed to us desirable to renew the interchange of opinion on this subject, and to pursue the design, as far and as fast as may be practicable. With this view, we have taken the liberty of inviting you to meet us and a few other gentlemen at the Exchange Coffeehouse, on Tuesday, at twelve o’clock. We are, with great regard, your most obedient servants”

The Agreement of Association, petition to the Massachusetts Legislature and an official Copy of the Act

Autograph document signed, The Association Agreement, in the hand of Webster and signed by him and many others.  “…The feeling of patriotic minds has often been excited on this subject, and has of late years been so frequently expressed that the time seems to have arrived when the generous spirit of an intelligent and prosperous community is fully prepared for beginning in earnest the work of establishing a monument worthy of the citizens by whom it will be raised and of the cause to which it will be consecrated… The Field of Bunker Hill has always presented itself as the most suitable site for such a monument. This ground, which is held sacred in public estimation, is yet open; but the rapid increase of population in its vicinity will soon cause it to be parceled out and occupied with buildings, when the ashes of the brave who repose there will be dug up and scattered: and posterity will then loudly exclaim against the apathy of the generation which shall have suffered this field of honor to be thus violated and forever obscured. From these and other considerations, the subscribers have associated together to obtain an act of incorporation, as a convenient mode of operation ; and to devise the means of collecting subscriptions and contributions from the public, and holding the same as trustees, for the purpose of deciding on and erecting such a monument as shall endure to future ages, and be a permanent memorial, consecrated by the gratitude of the present generation, to the memory of those statesmen and soldiers who led the way in the American Revolution.”

The Presidents

Jefferson on the Battle: “An epoch in the history of mankind, well worthy of the splendid ceremonies with which its first stone was lately laid and consecrated.”

Jefferson on Lafayette: “The coincidence of circumstances too was truly fortunate, which permitted it to be laid by the hand of one so illustrious in his participation of the toils and dangers which followed the event it signalizes.”

Autograph letter Signed, Thomas Jefferson, July 21, 1825 to Edward Everett. “I am very thankful to the Bunker Hill Monument Association for the honor they have done me in electing me an honorary member of that institution. The occasion, which has given birth to it, forms an epoch in the history of mankind, well worthy of the splendid ceremonies with which its first stone was lately laid and consecrated. The coincidence of circumstances too was truly fortunate, which permitted it to be laid by the hand of one so illustrious in his participation of the toils and dangers which followed the event it signalizes. While I gratefully accept the honorable association proposed to me, I cannot be unaware that age, infirmities and distance will deprive me of all the means of usefulness to the society. I can only offer then for the object of the institution my best wishes for its success, and to its members the homage of my great respect and esteem.”

Madison on the Battle and the War: “It holds so distinguished a place in our Revolutionary History itself so distinguished in the annals of Liberty”.  Autograph letter signed, James Madison, April 22, 1825, to Everett. “I have received your letter informing me that I have elected an honorary member of the Bunker Hill Monument Association. The event which is to receive the Monumental commemoration, holds so distinguished a place in our Revolutionary History itself so distinguished in the annals of Liberty, that the object of the association can not be too highly commended; nor the honorary relation to it offered me, be otherwise regarded than to as a claim to my particular acknowledgements.”

James Monroe and the cause near his heart: Autograph letter signed as President, James Monroe, May 23, 1825, to Everett. “I regret very much that my attendance in Albemarle, whither I was called by private cares, prevented my receiving, in due time, your letter of the 29th of March, or it should have been sooner answered. The attention shown to me by the Bunker Hill Monument Association, in electing me an honorary member therefor has been very gratifying to me, and I accept it, with all the sensibility which the very importance occurrence to the commemoration of which a monument is to be erected will always excite in my bosom.”

Autograph letter signed, John Tyler, to the Speaker of House and President of the Senate of the State of Mass., June 5, 1857. “I have felt myself highly flattered by your kind letter of the 25 May written on behalf of the Joint Committee of the two branches of the Legislature and expressing the earnest hope that I would be present in Boston on the 17th Inst at the inauguration of the Statue of General Warren. And may you be assured that few things would afford me more true pleasure than a compliance with your wishes. But a heavy family bereavement which has plunged into deep affliction all who surround me precludes the possibility of my doing so. There is no one who had he permitted to do so would have witnessed the august ceremonies of the 17th in memory of the first great martyr to the cause of freedom and independence with deeper emotion than myself….”

Autograph letter signed, Millard Fillmore, as VP, June 5, 1850, to G.W. Warren. “I have the honor to acknowledge the receipts of yours of the 31st ult. enclosing an invitation to attend the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill. I should be much gratified to be with you on that occasion and to hear the oration of Mr. Everett, whom I highly esteem as a statesman and a scholar. But I regret that my official duties will deprive me of that pleasure…”

Letter signed, Andrew Johnson, as President, June 11, 1867 to G.W. Warren. “In response to the invitation to attend the celebration of the 17th June by the Bunker Hill Monument Association, I regret to have to say that imperative public duties will demand my presence here at that time and prevent my compliance. I thank the association for the honor of the invitation and you for your kind and courteous transmission of it and I hope that nothing will occur to prevent the success or mar the pleasure of your patriotic celebration.”

Politicians, soldiers, and others, a small sampling

They contacted and got responses from many of the more prominent and wealthy men of the area, but also many Governors (VA, CT, GA, NH, KY, SC), cabinet members, and elected politicians, as well as scientists and authors.

There are letters of all the above Governors, including Oliver Wolcott, pledging their support.

Autograph letter signed, William T. Sherman, to G.W. Warren, March 7, 1870. “I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your kind letter of the 4th instant accompanying the handsome diploma of the Bunker Hill Monument Association for which I feel indebted to you. To have my name associated with those who now grace your roll is a great honor indeed. And I shall treasure this diploma as one of the most agreeable honors that I have received since the close of the Great Civil War.”

Autograph letter signed, Henry Clay, May 2, 1825, to Everett. “I have duly received your letter of the 12th April informing me of my election as an honorary member of the Bunker Hill Association, formed to commemorate one of the most important military events in our history. I am really obliged by this kind consideration of me and beg you to convey to the Society the sensibility with which I accept the highly distinguished honor which it has been pleased to confer on me.”

Autograph letter signed, Daniel Webster, June 13, 1850, to G.W. Warren, a 3 page letter, with powerful and patriotic content and ending with the words he wished to give at the celebration taking place that year. “Bunker Hill and Yorktown: The opening struggle and the crowning triumph of the same great contest for American Liberty. May a common glory in the past a common pride in the present and a common interest in the future keep them always united under the flag of a common country.”

Men who fought at Bunker Hill

2 Autograph letters signed, July 28, 1823, William Eustis, who was not only a soldier on the battlefield that day but also the Governor of the State of Mass.

The drummer of Bunker Hill describes the battle

Letter signed, Robert Steele, August 16 1824, to the association, from the drummer at Bunker Hill. “As I read in the Sentinel that you were about erecting a Monument on Bunker Hill in commemoration of the battle fought there, and you are wishing to collect all information that any were able to give, I feel happy that I am able to inform that I am one of the number which was in the battle. I Robert Steele of Dedham in the County of Norfolk formerly of Boston pump and block maker – Inlisted 17 days before Bunker Hill fight in Col Doolittle’s Regiment. After Major Mores was wounded. I was ordered down the hill to get some run to dress his wounds with Benjamin Blood. When we got to the shop the man was down cellar to keep out of the way of the shots which were fired from the gun boats that lay in the river. He asked who was there we told him our errand he then said take whatever you want. We delivered some rum and ran back as soon a possible but before we had time to reach spot the were retreating. I was in 7 battles beside Bunker Hill: One at Long Island; East Chester; White Plains; Taking the Hessians at Trenton; Taking of Burgoyne and had the honor of carrying in every flag of truce; Monmouth Battle and was on Rhode Island. I had the honor of being Drum Major of General Glover’s brigade 5 years. From the time I listed I never was out until the war was over when I was honorably discharged at New Windsor.”

Autograph letter signed, Lemuel Trescott, to Edward Everett, April 22, 1825. “Sir Your favor of the 22d ult informing me I had been elected a member of the Bunker Hill Monument Association I received yesterday. I thank my fellow citizens for the honor they have conferred on me in adopting me one of the members of that society. I enclose a draft on Nathaniel Goddard of Boston for 10 which I request the Association to accept of to forward the object they have in view. Every thing relative to the transactions of that memorable day the 17th of June 1775 commands my attention. I enclose a letter to my friend Goddard which I wish may accompany the draft. I pray you Mr. Secretary to accept of the assurance of my very respectful and high esteem.”

Autograph letter signed, Caleb Stark, Pembroke, April 10, 1825. “…In the first instance, I never was very partial to societies, never having been a member of but two in my life, one of them of a transient character, which has long since passed off; the other of a permanent character, where I still remain. But, whatever my inclination would have led me to in other cases, I have powerful national objections to the adoption of this project, for the following reasons : First, those who made this notable stand on this sanguinary hill have almost all passed to those shades where military honors are not more highly appreciated than they have been in the United States; secondly, the actors in this bloody scene (the Revolutionary War), after having performed their part in a manner perhaps unparalleled in ancient or modern history, were refused by the government the rewards that were so solemnly promised in the hour of the most critical danger: and, while the government has found ways and means to satisfy all other legal and many illegal demands, they still continue a deaf ear to the crying demands for justice claimed by the disbanded officer and soldier. And now, sir, in room of giving them the bread that was solemnly promised, the debt is to be paid by a stone! It is not to be denied, that, after a lapse of forty years, fourteen thousand of the soldiers who were State paupers have been transferred to the United States; but the utmost care has been taken to preclude all others from the just claims due by the high national compact on the one side, and the discharged soldier on the other. These considerations have induced me to think that it would redound more to the honor of this rising, powerful nation to obliterate every vestige of the Revolution rather than have such a foul stain of ingratitude and injustice coupled with the heroic deeds, privations, and sufferings of the authors of the Revolution.”

Autograph letter signed, March 28, 1825, from an unidentified soldier from that day. “I received your polite letter of the 22nd of this month giving me information for my election as an honorary member of the Bunker Hill Monument Association. It must be gratifying to us all who participated in the action of the 17th of June 1775 in being witnesses after the lapse of 49 years of the Magnanimous and Patriotic feeling of the movers of this laudable and generous act to establish and commemorate the deeds of that day and by gentlemen too then unborn, impresses me with feelings of gratitude which I have no language to describe…”

The laying of the Cornerstone and Lafayette’s Arrival

The original plan for the day itself, multiple pages long, is present, as well as the plan for the laying of the stone, signed by William Sullivan. Draft and final inscription texts for the stone are part of the archive. Also present is the draft for the objects to be laid in the monument for posterity, in the hand of Warren.

Notice to the Legislature of the intent to build the monument and lay the cornerstone, the association’s copy, the original sent version being in the state archives, though evidently unpublished, January 7, 1825.

2-page manuscript list of objects to be laid with the cornerstone, in the hand of Warren, including the lists of combatants, a piece of Plymouth Rock, etc.

2 manuscript dedications of the language to appear on the monument at the time of the Cornerstone laying, including the draft language and final text, one in the hand of Warren.

*The original draft letter sent to Lafayette is present.*

Autograph letter signed, Daniel Webster, perhaps to Warren, March 6, 1825. “…As to General Lafayette my opinion is that we ought to treat with all the frankness in the world one of the frankest men in the world I should say therefore that a letter ought at once to be written to him confidentially stating the present posture of the business. His sense of propriety look beyond that of most others would see this affair instantly in its right light. Mr. Tickner can write him such a letter. It would meet him at N. Orleans if written soon. For my own part my opinion as to the course proper to be pursued is pretty strong. It may perhaps oblige me in some possible events to decline any part in this ceremony in order to avoid unworthy suspicions of personal motives but it is not likely to be given up. I will communicate farther on my arrival and would not now have said any thing but from the belief that it might be necessary to write to the good General soon.”

Lafayette plans his arrival to lay the cornerstone, seeing himself as “representative of the Revolutionary Army”

Autograph letter signed, Lafayette to Everett, May 24, 1825. “Your kind letter in the name of the Committee for the Bunker Hill monument has lately reached me on my rapid way to the celebration of the great half century anniversary day of the 17th June. I must say that whenever the kindness of my friends, my own wishes, and even a sense of propriety, in other respects, should have detained me in my progress through the Southern and Western states, it has sufficed on all parts, to expedite my journey, to have it remember that I had the honor to be invited to Boston, as a representative of the Revolutionary Army, on that memorable occasion equally interesting to the whole confederate union. I am proceeding after a visit to Mr. Gallatin to Pittsburgh, Erie, and along the Canal to Albany, in the hope to be with you on the 15th June. But at least early on the 16th. I will write again as soon as I can ascertain the calculation of my progressing days but feel myself assured I shall not miss one of the highest gratifications I can ever enjoy.”

The Building of the Monument

The Report of the Artists Committee, signed by Webster and Gilbert Stuart, among others, charged with passing their work off to an architect and builder, after having considered the shape and style of the monument.

Autograph letter signed, George Ticknor, April 26, 1825, signed by Ticknor, Gilbert Stuart, Daniel Webster, W. Allston. “The Committee to whom were referred the plans and designs, &c., of different artists for a Monument on Bunker Hill, beg leave further to report: That the number of designs, plans, and models is very considerable, and that several of them show much talent and great architectural skill. The. Committee, however, feeling more and more persuaded that a column is not properly a monumental structure such as the purposes of the Bunker Hill Association require, have been obliged, from this consideration, to reject a large proportion of the plans and designs submitted to them. Setting these aside, therefore, they recommend that the premium of one hundred dollars be awarded to Mr. Horatio Greenough for the model and section of an obelisk ; and this model and all the remaining plans and designs are herewith presented to the Directors for their further consideration. The Committee, however, do not wish to be understood as advising that the Monument on Bunker Hill be erected precisely according to the model and plan of Mr. Greenough.”

The construction of the monument and reports by the committee.

Extensive documentation relates to the budget and various proposals for the design of the monument, in the hands of the major participants. This includes letters from interested parties on its appearance.

There are unpublished letters of architect Solomon Willard accepting the commission to build the monument and much by Laommi Baldwin.

The official report of the building committee, along with the published budget.

Autograph document signed, July 1, 1825, To the Directors of the Bunker Hill Monument Association, in the hand of Laommi Baldwin, signed by him and others. “…That they have carefully examined and considered the subject submitted to them by the above vote of the Board, and that they are unanimously of opinion that the most suitable monument to be erected, pursuant to the design of the Association, is an obelisk, or frustum of a quadrangular pyramid, the base of which shall be a square of thirty feet on each side, to rise two hundred and twenty feet from the platform or ground on which it is to be erected; to be surmounted with an apex having its upper angle ninety degrees, and to be fifteen feet square at the top, agreeably to the plans and section herewith presented…”

The description of the building continues in detail.

“…All which is respectfully submitted by

L. Baldwin.
Geo. Ticknor.
Jacob Bigelow.
Saml. Swett.
W. Allston.”

Provenance: This archive appears to be many of the documents collected for George Washington Warren’s work on the history of the committee to commemorate the Battle, some of which he published but much of which he did not. It then passed to Richard Frothingham, historian, who succeeded Warren as Mayor of Charlestown, MA, and from there through his family. It was then bought by the family of the previous owner to this firm, who sold it to us.

The monument was completed in 1842. It was dedicated on June 17, 1843 in a major national ceremony. A statue to Dr. Joseph Warren was commissioned in the 1850s to pay particular respects to his sacrifice at the battle.

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