President Andrew Johnson Hopes That the 90th Anniversary Celebration of the Battle of Bunker Hill Goes Well

“I hope that nothing will occur to prevent the success or mar the pleasure of your patriotic celebration.”

Purchase $3,500

This letter was at one time in the papers of George Washington Warren, president of the association and its chief historian and has never before been offered for sale.

On June 17, 1775, the British army under General William Howe, supported by Royal Navy warships, attacked the defenses the colonists had erected...

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President Andrew Johnson Hopes That the 90th Anniversary Celebration of the Battle of Bunker Hill Goes Well

“I hope that nothing will occur to prevent the success or mar the pleasure of your patriotic celebration.”

This letter was at one time in the papers of George Washington Warren, president of the association and its chief historian and has never before been offered for sale.

On June 17, 1775, the British army under General William Howe, supported by Royal Navy warships, attacked the defenses the colonists had erected on Bunker and Breeds Hills. The British troops moved up Breeds Hill in perfect battle formations. Patriot leader William 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 because they held the ground, 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. It encouraged revolutionaries throughout America, and made the success of such a revolution actually seem possible.

In 1823, Edward Everett, Daniel Webster, famed physician John C. Warren, and others co-founded the Bunker Hill Monument Association, which sought to memorialize that battle with a grand monument. They petitioned the Massachusetts House and Senate for recognition and support and a subsequent Act was passed giving both. Then began the work to draw interest, raise money, design the monument, and build it, a years-long effort that created the first major monument to the American Revolution, and the first public obelisk in the United States. In 1824 and 1825 they began notifying the public of their work, elected their officers, and then wrote a circular eliciting donations, and elected prominent men honorary members. They informed these men, and the responses the committee received back were from many great men of the era, including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Marshall, John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, Oliver Wolcott, Joseph Story, and the Marquis de Lafayette. Soon Simon Bolivar was added to the list.

For the 90th anniversary of the battle, June 17, 1867, the Bunker Hill Monument Association planned a celebration. George Washington Warren, President of the Bunker Hill Monument Association, invited President Andrew Johnson to attend the festivities.

Letter signed, on Executive Mansion letterhead, Washington, June 11, 1867, to Warren. “In response to the invitation to attend the celebration of 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.”

Johnson was engaged in furious struggles with Congress and the military on Reconstruction of the South through all of 1867, and when he wrote this letter was battling with Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton over the question of whether the military officers placed in command of the South could override the civil authorities. So he sent his best wishes, but was in no position to leave Washington.

This letter was at one time in the papers of George Washington Warren, president of the association and its chief historian and has never before been offered for sale.

Purchase Now $3,500

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