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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A FAMILY REUNION OF SORTS16: CAPTAIN CORNELIUS DUNHAM AND THE SWORD OF GENERAL WARREN

I've mentioned Captain Cornelius Dunham several times in the course of
this series. He was the father of Cornelius T Dunham and Brigadier
General Henry Dunham but he didn't end his days in Abington.  I've kept
off posting about him until now because he wasn't buried in Mt. Vernon
Cemetery with his children and I wanted to concentrate on those members
of the family who were first. Winter weather has halted my exploration
of Mt. Vernon until the snows melt, so I'll end the series (for now) with
Captain Cornelius' story.

I found this on page 163 of  The Dunham Genealogy:
"Captain Cornelius Dunham was born in that part of Plymouth (now Carver),
September 17, 1748 ; was a sea captain many years ; held a commission in a
privateer in the War of the Revolution ; was captured and taken to Halifax,
N. S., where, soon after the evacution of Boston by the British, he purchased
of a British soldier the identical sword with which General Warren fell,
previously, on Bunker Hill. The sword is now in possession of the Bunker Hill
Association, of which Capt. Dunham was honorary member. Capt. Dunham
removed to Abington about the year 1794, and lived subsequently in Carver,
Hartford, Belfast, Me., and Bristol, in the same State. He died in Bristol, July
15, 1835, aged 87 years. Mrs. Lydia, his wife, died in Abington, June 5, 1841,
aged 88 years. Capt. Cornelius and Lydia had six children— five sons and one
daughter, viz., Cornelius, Henry, Ezra, Isaac and Thomas (twins), and Lydia
Atwood, all of whom were born in Plymouth."                                       


Now some of my direct ancestors were at Bunker Hill so that mention of Gen.
Warren's sword caught my attention. I wondered what else I could find out about
how the sword came into Captain Cornelius' possession, so I did a Google
seaerch and found the following from Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical
Society:


"                    THE SWORD OF WARREN.

In one of our recent numbers we stated having received documents in
relation to the sword with which the lamented Gen. "Warren fell at the
battle of Bunker Hill. At the request of Captain Cornelius Dunham of this
town, the proprietor of the sword, we this day publish a copy of the
declaration establishing its identity. The original declaration, and the sword,
are now in the possession of the Hon. William Davis of Plymouth,
Massachusetts. With those who have long known Capt. Dunham, no doubt
can exist of the correctness of his statement, according to his best recollections;
nor of his sincere and firm belief that the sword he possesses is unequivocally
the identical sword used by Warren, at the memorable battle in which he fell.
                                                                 (Copy)

I, Cornelius Dunham, gentleman, of the age seventy-four years, born in that
part of the town of Plympton, now called Carver, in the county of Plymouth,
and Commonwealth of Massachusetts; now an inhabitant of the town of Belfast,
in the county of Hancock, State of Maine; being, by the mercy of God, of sound
mind and memory, do declare, testify and say — that in the year 1775 I was in
the capacity of seaman on board the schr. Priscilla of Plymouth, John Foster
Williams, master, returning from the West Indies, via Philadelphia, being off
Nantucket shoals about six or eight weeks after the memorable battle of Bunker
Hill, we were captured by the British squadron which was then proceeding to
take the neat stock from Gardener's Island, near New London.

A prize-master and crew were put on board said schooner, and ordered to
Boston. Myself, my brother James, and Samuel Rider of Plymouth, being sick,
were permitted to remain on board the schooner, which soon after arrived
in Boston. We remained on board some weeks, and were then all taken to
Halifax, in a schooner belonging to Samuel Jackson of Plymouth, which had
been commanded by Capt. Cornelius White; but was then under the command
of Lemuel Goddard.

After we recovered from our sickness we found some friends at Halifax; and
I was there employed in the store of Mr. William Lambert, who may be now
living in the city of Boston. While employed in Mr. Lambert's store, the
servant of a British officer wished me to purchase of him a sword; and
ascertaining by a certificate that he was authorized to sell it, I accordingly
did purchase it. — After the purchase, he informed me it was the sword
taken from " Doctor Warren immediately after he fell at the battle of Bunker
Hill." I had no suspicion of this fact till after I had paid him for it. I asked him
if his master would vouch for the truth of what he had alleged. He answered
me " he would." I then went with him to his master, whom I found to be an
officer and a gentleman; who, according to my best recollection was a colonel,
and about thirty years of age. The officer told me that he had taken the same
sword from Gen. Warren, when lying dead on the battle ground; and that he
gave it to his servant. The officer also informed me that " General Warren fell
not far from the Redoubt" — these being the words he used, as I particularly
remember ; and that after the British entered the redoubt he saw Warren
before he fell. The officer remarked that he endeavored to prevent his men
from firing, but could not; and that Warren, remaining too long on the ground
he had defended, was shot dead in his view. The officer likewise informed me
that "Warren was buried in common with the rest of the dead. I had not been
in possession of the sword an hour when I was offered a great price for it by a
Mr. Robinson, of Philadelphia, who was very desirous to possess it; but I was
not willing to part with it for any price. Mr. Lambert, seeing me so much
attached to the sword, gave me a gun, and a French gentleman gave me, at
the same time, a cartouch box. — On my return to Plymouth in 1777 I gave
general information that I had purchased at Halifax the sword which the late
Gen. Warren wore at the battle of Bunker Hill; and hundreds had knowledge
of it as such, and frequently saw it. I never took the sword to sea with me,
but left it at home as a precious relic. I once equipped myself with it and my
gun, on the alarm of a descent of the British at Fairhaven ; but before I
reached that place, they had reimbarked. The time of my purchasing the
sword was after the British evacuated Boston, and before the fleet sailed
from Halifax for New York.

From the information given by the British officer, I then had not, nor have I
since had, the least doubt of this being the sword of the late Gen. Joseph
Warren; and which is the same sword which I delivered to the Hon. William
Davis and William Jackson, Esq. at Plymouth on the 15th August last, at the
moment of my departure for this place. — During the period of forty-seven
years that this sword has been in my possession, and proclaimed as being
the sword of the late Gen. Joseph Warren, it has never been denied as such,
and no claims have been made to any other sword as appertaining to him. —
When I purchased the sword it was in good order; but during my long absence
at sea, it has lost many of its ornaments.

Done at Belfast, in the State of Maine this fourteenth of September, Anno
Domini one thousand eight hundred and twenty-two.

(Signed) Cornelius Dunham.

State of Maine, Hancock, ss. Belfast, Sept. 14, 1822. Then the above named
Cornelius Dunham made solemn oath that the facts related by him in the
foregoing declaration, by him subscribed, are true according to his best
knowledge and belief.

Before me, (Signed) William White, Justice of Peace.
"

-Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Volume 9 (pp348-350)
 

As I said earlier this concludes the series on my distant Dunham family
cousins who are buried in Mt. Vernon Cemetery in Abington, Ma., the same
cemetery where my parents are buried. I plan to hunt for more relatives
when the snows have melted and the gravestones are more readily accessible
for me. Who knows? I may find other relatives there.

But for now, I'm laying my hunt to rest.

3 comments:

Heather Rojo said...

I have several ancestors who were involved with the Bunker Hill Association and the raising of the monument. What sources have you found? I've seen their names on lists, but that's about it. I'm enjoying your series on the Dunhams

Bill West said...

Glad you liked the series, Heather.

I hadn't really looked much into the
Bunker Hill Association as yet. I
just googled it and got a bunch ofg hits so I'll check them out after I clear a few other matters off myh to do list. :)

Bill West said...
This comment has been removed by the author.