Filed under: Auctions
Imagine for a moment what it was like to be in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776. Each year we gather for barbecues and fireworks on July 4 but often don't imagine the day itself. Documents from that day make the history come alive. Cohasco, a firm that specializes in rare documents, is auctioning off a striking manuscript document dated Philadelphia, July 4, 1776 on August 10 during an auction that features documents from a variety of time periods.
The document is a manuscript petition to the Committee of Safety that is actually dated twice, with thick flourish beneath one dateline. It is signed by three noted patriots and involves a fourth. The letter is signed by George Shaffner, a sergeant in Pennsylvania militia and is a petition to the Committee of Safety, requesting a commission, asking to be appointed as "Lieutenant in one of the Companies of the Regiment of Germans now to be raised he being born of German Parents...." The petition is signed by Col. Samuel J. Atlee who was captured by the British just seven weeks after this petition and Lt. Col. Caleb Parry who was killed in action in the same battle.
The listing on Cohasco says that it is possible to surmise that this request may have been spurred on by the excitement of the day itself. They have determined that George Shaffner did indeed receive his commission in the German Regiment and became one of its original officers. He is recorded in "The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources...," the Papers of Robert Morris, archives of Society of the Cincinnati, and other sources. The Minutes of the Provincial Council of Pennsylvania record that Shaffner was subsequently commissioned in Atlee's Battalion of Musketry in Aug. 1776, therefore tying all four men in this document to the fateful Battle of Long Island that month. The other person mentioned in the document Capt. Abraham De Huff, of the "Pennsylvania Musket Battalion," fought at the Battle of Long Island in Aug. 1776, and was captured at Fort Washington, following Washington's retreat to Manhattan.
This July 4 document was also published during the Centennial, its text appearing in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Jan. 13, 1876. The document is housed in an older custom slipcase and will be sold with an extensive research file that tells its unique story. It is estimated at $30,000-45,000.