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“David Bushnell” Signed Historical Content Document for the American Continental Army "Corps of Sappers and Miners" asking for his Soldier’s 1781 Backpay - Bushnell was the Creator of the First Combat Submarine “TURTLE” Attacking Ships by Attaching a Timed Bomb!

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DAVID BUSHNELL (1740-1824). American Inventor creating the First Submarine Ever Used In Revolutionary War Combat in 1776 he named the “TURTLE” and in 1778, General Washington proposed a new military unit to be known as the "Corps of Sappers and Miners" (i.e. American Army First Combat Engineers), organized with Bushnell given Command; and an Original Member of the Connecticut Society of the Cincinnati.

April 1, 1785-Dated, Highly Important American Army Formation Historic Content, Manuscript Document Signed, “David Bushnell” measuring 7.75” x 12.75”, 1 page, Hartford Connecticut, Choice Fresh Crisp Extremely Fine. The most significant value inherent to this David Bushnell Signed Document being its direct connection to the historic founding events of the American Continental Army. It is beautifully written and signed in rich brown ink on very clean period laid paper having an excellent signature. This document being in receipt of the funds by David Bushnell, who was the Commander of the "Corps of Sappers and Miners" being the first Special Forces unit’s (of the very first American Army Combat Engineers) Commander.

In 1778, General Washington proposed the formation of a new Revolutionary War period military unit to be known as the "Corps of Sappers and Miners" (i.e. Combat Engineers). In the summer of 1779 it was first organized. David Bushnell was given command of the Corps with the rank of captain-lieutenant on August 2, 1779. On 6 May 1779, Bushnell was taken prisoner by the British at Middlesex Parish (now Darien, Connecticut), and was later in a prisoner exchange. On June 8th, 1781, Bushnell was commissioned as a Captain in the Continental Army, and was active at the Siege of Yorktown in September and October of that year. Yorktown was the only action the newly formed “Sappers and Miners” had had the opportunity to serve in combat. Bushnell continued to serve in the Army until he was officially discharged by Washington on June 3, 1783.

David Bushnell became an Original Member of the Connecticut Society of the Cincinnati, an organization formed by George Washington and Henry Knox for officers who were veterans of the Continental Army and Navy serving during the American Revolutionary War. After the Revolution, Bushnell was further honored by being presented a Medal by George Washington.

This remarkable Manuscript Document Signed, “David Bushnell” is Backpay from the State of Connecticut to pay the balance due to eight Revolutionary War Army soldiers of the “Corps of Sappers and Miners” for their wages for the months of January, February and March 1781, prior to their important service later in the Fall of that year at the Battle of Yorktown. Eight names listed with the amounts owed, totaling 32 pounds 10 shillings. Below Bushnell has signed a receipt on April 1, 1785 which reads, in full:

“State of Connecticut -- To David Bushnall (sic) - To a balance due to the Corps of Sappers & Mines for their Wages for the Months of January Feby. & March 1781 - being for the Sum of one months Pay which was recd. at the Head of --- in March 1781 - & charged by the State & Pay Master General in Settlement --- Capt. James Buke 15 - James Dailey 2:10 - Peregrine Gardner 2:10 - Robt. Mathews 2:10 - Amos Parker 2:10 - Josiah Robbins 2:10 - Seth Luby 2:10 - William Graves 2:10 - (total) 32:10: --

Hartford Aprl. 10th 1785 --- Rec.d from the Com.te of Pay Table this Order on Treas.(ury) for the above Sums amounting to Thirty two Pounds & Ten Shillings & No P. payable out of the Monies appropriated for the payment of the Conn.t Line in full at the above Amt. -- (Signed in reciept) David Bushnell Agt. for Corps of Sappers & Mines”.

Further Noted at bottom: “N: B: the Vouchers for the Payment of the above are lodged with the Abstracts for the bala.(nce) of 3 mo.(nths) pay in 1781”. Docket on the blank reverse side reads, in full: “Captn. David Bushnells Acct Balance 3 mo Pay in 1781 Sappers & Mines 32 : 10 -- April 1st 1785”.

Also, accompanied by its separate Transmittal Cover Sheet which reads, in full: “Capt. David Bushnell for the Corps of Sappers & Mines additional Balance 3 mo. pay 1781 - April 1st 1785 -”. Plus, a small reproduction portrait image of Ezra Lee and a modern diagram illustration of “BUSHNELL’S TURTLE” being driven by Lee. (4 items).

Connecticut’s most unusual vessel was a tiny submarine often called “Bushnell’s (American) Turtle.” Her designer, David Bushnell (1740-1824) of Saybrook, created a man-propelled submarine which looked like the upper shell of two turtles fastened together. She performed well in trials but failed against British warships. On September 6, 1776, the Screw Propellor Driven Submarine “Turtle,” Commanded only by Sergeant Ezra Lee of the Connecticut Line of the Continental Army, was used to attack the British Flagship, the 64 Gunship of the Line HMS Eagle, which was moored in New York Harbor. His efforts failed because the Turtle’s boring device which was meant to attached a timed gunpowder barrel bomb to the British Flagship, was unable to penetrate the the Eagle’s hull in order to properly attach the timed explosive mine.

The submarine Turtle was lost while being transported aboard a sloop, as the sloop was unfortunately discovered and sunk by British frigates while leaving near the village of Bloomingdale. Realizing that the Turtle was impractical as a Naval Weapon, Bushnell turned his attention to “Torpedoes” (as explosive devices were then called). Today, a full sized reproduction model of David Bushnell's historic submarine “Turtle” is on display at the U.S. Navy Submarine Force Library and Museum located in Groton, Connecticut.

In 1777 David Bushnell attempted to use a floating mine to blow up the HMS Cerberus in Niantic Bay; Bushell’s mine struck a small Tender boat near the Cerberus and detonated killing four British sailors and destroying the vessel, but not the intended target. HMS Cerberus’ action in the American Revolutionary War included its first duties to dispatch Generals William Howe, Henry Clinton, and John Burgoyne to Boston after the Battles of Lexington and Concord. The American press likened the three generals to the three-headed dog that was the ship's namesake. It also provided naval reinforcement at the Battle of Bunker Hill.

The early “Torpedo” attack by David Bushnell's newly developed powder keg Timed Torpedoes in 1777 was American Naval history. In 1778 he launched what became lauded as the “Battle of the Kegs,” in which a series of mines was floated down the Delaware River to attack British ships anchored there, unfortunately killing two curious young boys in the attempt and thus alerting the British. That attack proved ineffectual. The story of “The Battle of the Kegs” was later memorialized in writing by Declaration of Independence Signer, Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey and Navy Board member.

Ezra Lee (1749-1821) was an American Continental Army soldier, is best known for Commanding the “Turtle” submarine. Ezra Lee was born in Lyme, Connecticut. In August 1776 he was selected by brother-in-law Brigadier General Samuel Holden Parsons, also of Lyme, as one of several volunteers to learn to operate the Turtle, an early submarine invented by Saybrook, Connecticut, native David Bushnell. When General George Washington authorized an attack on British Admiral Richard Howe's Flagship HMS Eagle, then lying in New York harbor, Lee was chosen to operate the "infernal machine".
DAVID BUSHNELL (August 30, 1740 - 1824), of Westbrook, Connecticut, was an American Inventor and a Veteran of the Revolutionary War. Bushnell is credited with creating the First Submarine Ever Used In Combat, he named the “TURTLE.” His design was developed while studying at Yale College in New Haven, Connecticut in 1775. He called it the “Turtle” because of its look in the water.

His idea of using water as ballast for submerging and raising his Submarine is still in use, as is the screw propeller, which was used in the Turtle. While at Yale, Bushnell proved that gunpowder could be exploded under water. He also made the First Time Bomb. He combined these ideas by building the Turtle which was designed to attack ships by attaching a time bomb to their hulls, while using a hand powered drill and ship auger bit to penetrate the hulls.

On September 6, 1776, the Turtle, manned by Sergeant Ezra Lee of the Continental Army, was used to attack the British 64 gun ship of the line HMS Eagle which was moored in New York Harbor. His efforts failed every time because the Turtle’s forward boring device was unable to penetrate the HMS Eagle’s hull, in order to attach its timed mine. The Turtle was lost while being transported aboard a sloop, when the sloop was discovered and sunk by British frigates leaving Bloomingdale.

Sergeant Lee piloted the Turtle up to the HMS Eagle, which was moored off what is today called Governors Island, due south of Manhattan. A common misconception was that Lee failed because he could not manage to bore through the copper-sheeted hull. In practice, it has been shown that the thin copper would not have presented any problem to the drill, and that he likely struck a metal rudder support.

A more likely scenario is that Lee's unfamiliarity with the vessel made him unable to keep the Turtle stable enough to work the drill against the Eagle's hull. When he attempted another spot in the hull, he was unable to stay beneath the ship, and eventually abandoned the attempt. Governors Island is off the southern vertex of Manhattan, this is the place where the Hudson River and the East River merge.

The currents at this point would be strong and complex. The Turtle would only be able to attack ship moored here during the short period of time when the incoming tide balanced the river currents. It is possible that during the attack the tide turned and Lee was unable to compensate. He released the keg of gunpowder when British in row boats attempted to pursue him. The British, suspecting some trick, gave up their pursuit.

Ezra Lee landed safely after remaining several hours in the water, and received the congratulations of General George Washington, who afterwards employed him on secret service. Lee made a similar attempt a short time afterward with David Bushnell's machine in an attempt to destroy a British frigate that lay opposite the village of Bloomingdale, but it was discovered and compelled to abandon the enterprise.

The famous submarine Turtle was soon after sunk by the British as it sat on its tender vessel, in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Years later in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, Bushnell reported he had salvaged the Turtle; although today its final fate is unknown. A full sized model of David Bushnell's Turtle is on display at the U.S. Navy Submarine Force Library and Museum in Groton, Connecticut.

After these events, Lee was congratulated by Washington and General Israel Putnam and moved into the secret service/special forces. Lee's tombstone is the only one that mentions "in service to General George Washington" of all those who fought in the American Revolution.
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Estimate Range: $12,000 - $16,000
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