Auctions | September 18, 2013

American Revolution & Civil War Manuscripts Among Highlights at Swann Galleries, October 10


New York—Among the American Revolution material in Swann Galleries’ October 10 auction of Printed & Manuscript Americana is the wartime diary of Connecticut officer John Hutchinson Buell, the first substantial manuscript diary by an identified American Soldier to come to auction in more than two decades. With accounts of dinners with General Washington, the retreat of the British at the Battle of Connecticut Farms, and much more, the diary was passed down through Buell’s family along with a portrait of him in uniform, circa 1790s, and a silver beaker engraved with his initials (estimate: $12,000 to $18,000 for the lot).

Also from the Revolution is a detailed account of the Battle of Bunker Hill written by a key participant, Thomas Grosvenor, a lieutenant in one of the first Connecticut regiments sent to the relief of Boston in 1775. The dramatic recounting of the battle focuses on the role of General Israel Putnam, and was written to his son, Colonel Daniel Putnam in April 1818 ($2,000 to $3,000); as well as Bernard Romans’s Map of the Seat of Civil War in America, Philadelphia, 1775, which is only the second copy of appear at auction in almost forty years ($20,000 to $30,000).

From the Civil War are fascinating first-hand accounts, such as an archive of papers from officer Daniel S. Curtiss of the 1st District of Columbia Calvary, Colonel Lafayette Baker’s regiment mostly involved in ferreting out Confederate sympathizers, which contains letters written between Curtiss and Baker, including instructions on deploying cavalry troops, accounts of recruiting trips and more, 1862-90 ($3,000 to $4,000).

Another fascinating archive, this one containing letters, diaries and a uniform, comes from Jerome Bottomly, an army engineer from Cherry Valley, Massachusetts, who served a three-year term as an artificer in the 1st Battalion, United State Engineers, and includes an account of building a bridge in Fredericksburg while under heavy fire from Confederate sharpshooters ($6,000 to $9,000).

Also from a participant is an archive of the acting master of the USS Western World, Samuel B. Gregory. The ship was on patrol in the North Atlantic blockade, and in June 1862, along with two other vessels, it sailed up two rivers in South Carolina, burning plantations, capturing a British schooner and taking aboard more than 400 liberated slaves, 1861-64 ($7,000 to $10,000).

Manuscripts are not the only highlights of the sale, however, and there are many scarce printed items worth noting. The highest pre-sale estimate in the auction, for example, is for a first edition of Louis Hennepin’s Description de la Louisiane, containing a map that represents the first French effort to map the trans-Mississippi west, and the first to describe the territory as La Louisiane, Paris, 1683 ($30,000 to $40,000).

Among early American imprints is Cotton Mather’s India Christiana: A Discourse Delivered unto the Commissioners for the Propagation of the Gospel among the American Indians, Boston, 1721 ($3,000 to $4,000).


From the 19th century is an early broadside printing of the Star-Spangled Banner, Francis Scott Key’s Defence of Fort M’Henry, issued as an undated letterpress handbill without Key’s name ($10,000 to $15,000); Edward Everett’s An Oration Delivered on the Battlefield of Gettysburg, which contains what is likely the first pamphlet printing of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, New York, 1863 ($20,000 to $30,000); and a very early printing of the Emancipation Proclamation, the fourth separately printed edition of the final proclamation, Washington, 3 January 1863 ($15,000 to $25,000).

There is a rich assortment of maritime and whaling items, such as Samuel Buckner’s The American Sailor: A Treatise on Practical Seamanship, Newport, RI, 1790 ($3,000 to $4,000); and a journal from a successful cruise of the whaling ship Helvetica in the South Pacific, describing what started as a slow first eight months and then running into “greasy luck” in the fall of 1838 ($5,000 to $7,500).

A section devoted to Latin Americana and the Caribbean features Thomas Gage’s travel narrative, The English-American his Travail by Sea and Land; or, A New Survey of the West-Indians, London, 1648 ($3,000 to $4,00); Souvenir du Mexique, written by Maximilien-?douard des Portes de Linières, commander of the 51st Battalion with the French intervention in support of Emperor Maximilian, circa 1870 ($5,000 to $7,500); a Mexican manuscript book of recipes, circa 1825 ($1,500 to $2,500); a manuscript document signed by Hernando Arias de Saavedra, an important decree concerning the rights of Indians in Paraguay, 1598 ($5,000 to $7,500); and four circa 1550s items from Peru.

The auction will take place Thursday, October 10 at 1:30 p.m. The items will be on public exhibition Saturday, October 5, from noon to 5 p.m.; Monday, October 7 through Wednesday, October 9, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Thursday, October 10, from 10 a.m. to noon.

An illustrated catalogue, with information on bidding by mail or fax, is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or online at

For further information, and to make advance arrangements to bid by telephone during the auction, please contact Rick Stattler by telephone at (212) 254-4710, extension 27, or email:

Online bidding is available via

First image: Revolution wartime diary of Connecticut officer John Hutchinson Buell, with a portrait and silver cup. Estimate: $12,000 to $18,000.

Second image: Letterpress handbill of Defence of Fort M’Henry by Francis Scott Key, printed circa 1814. Estimate:  $10,000 to $15,000.