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Lot Number: 145
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1827 Massachusetts “Militia” Complaint Letter Against a Court Martials’ Judge

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March 20, 1827-Dated, American “Militia” Military Autographed Letter from Captain James Briggs to General Wm. H. Sumner & Governor Levi Lincoln, regarding his court martial and the actions of the courts’ president, Colonel Russell Hastings, with Integral Postal Cover, at Boston, Very Fine.

Boldly penned 2+ page well written and easily readable Autograph Letter Signed, measuring about 12.5” x 7.75” Signed, “James Briggs, Captain 5th Regt. 2nd Brig. 4th Div(ision)”, the officer who was under arrest and being court-martialed. The militia military content shows that Briggs maintains the charges against him are outrageous and baseless. Briggs in turn accused Colonel Hastings of Neglect of Duty; Un-military Conduct; Un-officerlike Behavior... -- all such counter-charges based on the way in which Col. Hastings had called for the Court Martial and his responces to Captain Briggs’ pleas.

The Integral Postal Transmittal Cover is addressed to General Sumner. This official Court Martial complaint was meant to go all the way up the chain of command, directly to “His Excellency Levi Lincoln, Commander in Chief of the Militia of Massachusetts,” that being the large bold heading at top of this Letter. How this case was resolved, is worthy of further research. Overall, clean and impressive in appearance, written in rich deep brown on early wove period paper. Some expected slight uniform tone present, and some minor chipping along the top edge. Docketing leaf reads: “Capt. James Briggs’ Complt against Col. R. Hasting - 20 March 1827.” Mailed from Charlemont (MA.) - March 21st” and its red wax seal remains partially intact. Letter Cover is titled “Militia” with Paid 12 1/2 (postage) addressed to: “Genl. Wm. H. Summer - State House - Boston, Ma.”
William Hyslop Sumner (July 4, 1780 - October 24, 1861) was the son of Massachusetts Governor Increase Sumner. He graduated from Harvard College in 1799, and practiced law. He served as a general in the Massachusetts militia. Sumner wrote The History of East Boston and died in 1861.

After graduating from college, Sumner entered the law office of district attorney John Davis, gaining admittance to the bar in 1802. He practiced law from 1802 until 1818 when he left the field in order to concentrate on his military duties. From 1808 to 1819 Sumner served in the Massachusetts State Legislature representing the city of Boston. In 1806 and again in 1813 to 1816 he was selected as aide-de-camp to Governor Caleb Strong. He served in the same role from 1816-1818 to Governor John Brooks.

In 1818, Governor Brooks appointed him adjutant general of the state along with the office of quartermaster general which he held until he resigned the office in 1834.

Sumner was involved in the state's defenses during the War of 1812. In September 1814 Massachusetts Governor Caleb Strong sent Sumner, then a lieutenant colonel in the state militia, to coordinate the defense of Portland in the District of Maine. His task was to maintain 1,900 militia and create a better relationship between the Massachusetts militia and the U.S. Army forces posted there. There were many problems with the early American militia:

Some of the men were deserting and had to be brought back by force and some officers were protesting against serving under regulars. The militia in Oxford county were even more troublesome...its militia showed little interest in making sacrifices for war. According to Sumner, they were "undisciplined, badly armed, miserably provided and worse commanded." ... Sumner could see no way of implementing a command agreement except by using force, which meant using militia against militia.

In 1826 he served on a board with a young Zachary Taylor to consider improvements in the militia. They recommended that "a complete system of tactics and exercise for cavalry and artillery of the militia" be created. This would organize the US militia who were so disjointed during the War of 1812. Congress however did not approve this plan.
Lot Number: 145
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Estimate Range: $400 - $500
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