April 2023 Catalogue

John Cooper filled 30 non-consecutive pages with carefully dated entries that begin in March and continue through late December 1776, with one isolated late entry dated April 1793. Cooper narrates the movements of his company in New York’s First Regiment, Naval Service, under the command of Colonel Goose Van Schaick. In January 1776 Congress had made a special appeal to New York, requesting a force for Canadian service; Colonel Van Schaick, with General Schuyler, quickly assembled a regimental unit, whose number included John Cooper. This exceptional journal offers a rare account of that crucial period when the American army, recently returned from a brutal Canadian campaign, joined with others at Fort Ticonderoga to obstruct Howe’s attempt to “seize and occupy the mouth of the St. Lawrence… [and enable the British] to sever the eastern Colonies from the others” (Freeman, 267). Throughout 1776, Cooper and his fellow soldiers were engaged in continuing struggles to clear impassable roads, scout rivers, lakes and streams, and survive skirmishes with both Indians and British troops. In March 17, 1776, for example, Cooper writes of meeting “the grand army” and on the 18th, of setting “St. Johns on fire and runaway with the Light and arrived at the Isle [Aux Noix].” The next day, he records, “Did nothing Remarkable found a bayonate [sic] and sold it the same day for four shillings.” In June, his entries further detail a soldier’s everyday life. But soon Cooper writes of a frightening encounter on an island where he is “alarmed there by 4 men being killed or taken Prisoners by Indians & I Escaped. 1 more made escape Same night and got in to the island about 12 O’clock at night.” On July 1, 1776, one day before the British landed on Staten Island and the “Continental Congress, in a momentous decision, voted to ‘dissolve the connection’ with Great Britain” (McCullough, 135), Cooper’s journal tells of a regiment kept continually on the move as they “Sailed from the four Brothers to Split rocks and there Cast anchor and tried all night 2 tuck in 6 oxen and Cows then hoist anchor and set sail… arrived the same night about 12 oclock at Crownpoint harbor.” In his next entry, on July 3, Cooper notes that he “Lay aboard the Enterprize Except some time spent ashore.” That ship, the Enterprise, was a sloop in Benedict Arnold’s small naval fleet and was engaged in a daily struggle to keep Lake Champlain under American control. Within months, in early October, the Enterprise became of the few in the fleet to survive America’s first naval battle—the Battle of Valcour Island. Cooper follows his record of a night aboard the Enterprise with a July entry that notes a “large Funeral at Fort George” for a fallen general and a month later, records a tense night when all “were alarmed by the firing of three shots.” Subsequent entries in September describe sailing from Fort George “loaded with forty barrels flour & five barrels Rum one man fell overboard out of another boat and was Drownded [sic] that night landed at Fort George September 4th 1776.” The blank pages and margins of Gaine’s Universal Register were occasionally used for such diary entries by other Revolutionary soldiers, though these journals are exceedingly rare. One other surviving journal, that of Revolutionary soldier Caleb Cannet, is found housed at Harvard University. See Sabin 26332. Partial folding leaf, with manuscript hand identifying Cooper on the recto, affixed to rear pastedown. Partial folding leaf, with manuscript hand identifying Cooper on the recto, affixed to rear pastedown. Several leaves detached, light dampstaining, some edge-wear to leaves and contemporary boards. An extraordinarily rare document of American revolutionary history.