Washington’s journal, Bunker Hill Bible up for auction

By Chris Carola - Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A rare newspaper printing of a journal kept by a young George Washington and a small inscribed Bible carried by an American soldier during the Battle of Bunker Hill are among hundreds of historic documents being sold at a New York City auction.

Monday’s 300-lot auction at Bonhams in Manhattan features items from a massive trove of historical papers collected by Eric Caren of Woodstock, New York.

The Washington document is a March 1754 Maryland Gazette publication of the then-22-year-old Virginia surveyor’s journal detailing his failed effort to convince the French to withdraw from the Ohio River Valley. The auction house said it’s the earliest procurable edition of the journal. It has a presale price of $60,000 to $90,000.

In the winter of 1753-54, the British governor of Virginia sent Washington into the wilderness along what is now the Ohio-Pennsylvania line to negotiate a withdrawal of French forces from disputed borderlands.

Rebuffed in his efforts, Washington returned a few months later with his own force of militiamen and Indians, who killed members of a French patrol, including a nobleman. The incident essentially touched off the French and Indian War, the North American theater of the larger conflict known in Europe as the Seven Years’ War.

Washington’s journal “is of profound historical significance” and offers a glimpse into an adventurous period in his life, said Edward Lengel, director of the Washington Papers at the University of Virginia, home to 135,000 documents pertaining to the nation’s first president.

“Put simply, it’s not only important but a fun read,” Lengel said.

Also for sale is a pocket King James Bible carried by Francis Merrifield, a sergeant from Ipswich, Massachusetts, who survived Boston’s Bunker Hill battle on June 17, 1775. It has a presale price of $50,000-$80,000.

After the battle, on the New Testament’s title page, he wrote: “I desire to bless God for his Kind aperince in delivering me and sparing my life in the late battle fought on Bunker’s Hill.” In an apparent salute to his weapon and comrades, Merrifield also noted the manufacturer’s number on his musket — 183 — and his unit, the 17th Regiment.

Other artifacts for sale include two involving “firsts”:

—the 1845 document authorizing the first formal treaty between China and the United States ($20,000-$30,000).

—the first printing of the iconic baseball poem “Casey at the Bat,” published on June 3, 1888, in The Daily Examiner of San Francisco ($7,000-$9,000).

A Bonhams auction of Caren documents held two years ago this week fetched more than $1.3 million, including the $257,000 sale of one of the earliest Boston newspaper printings of the Declaration of Independence.

By Chris Carola

Associated Press