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Rachele Mandel Gallery




Leather-covered wooden trunk document box, 6 1/2 x 16 x 9 3/8 inches, by family tradition used by General Artemas Ward during the Revolutionary War and subsequently, as a member of Congress. The leather features extensive tooled and gilded decoration throughout, including a framed diamond surrounding the hinged, steel carrying handle on the lid, which is divided into 4 quadrants, each having a British royal crown / GR device stamped into its center. There is a lock on the front of the device, consisting of a hinged clasp and a keyed plate, both of steel (originally japanned). The box is lined with sheets from some folio-sized, 18th century religious tract, laid down over an earlier hand-painted wall paper. The box is extensively documented and is the title object featured in a 1910 article, "Found in an Old Trunk", on the Artemas Ward Family artifact collection currently featured in this sale. As described by the Reverend Francis E. Clark in the Sept. 1, 1910 issue of "The Christian Endeavor World", "The old trunk itself is worth describing...covered with leather, stamped with the royal crowns and the initials "G.R"...but whether for George I, II, or III, the old trunk does not tell us. Probably, however, it was made in the time of George III, and very likely belonged to a British officer in the early days of the Revolutionary War...At any rate, it came afterwards into the possession of General Artemas Ward...who commanded the American troops before General Washington was put in supreme command of the army....In his militant days, held his dispatches and his necessary personal effects. When he rode fro Shrewsbury to attend the Federal Congress in Philadelphia, to which he was elected from Massachusetts, he went on horseback...and strapped on the horse behind him was this little box." CONDITION: some wear/loss to leather at lower edges and front right, random scuffing and chipping overall; the lid is attached at rear by two pieces of cloth webbing. JLK Provenance: General Artemas Ward and by descent in the Ward-Brigham Family until 2012; private collection to present.

On October 27, 1774, Ward was appointed a brigadier-general by the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts, to which he was a delegate. On May 19, 1775, he was made Commander-in-Chief of the Massachusetts forces.

Following the Battle of Lexington on April 19, 1775, the Americans followed the British back to Boston and started the siege of the city. At first, Ward directed his forces from his sickbed, but later moved his headquarters to Cambridge. Soon, the New Hampshire and Connecticut provisional governments both named him head of their forces participating in the siege. Most of his efforts during this time were devoted to organization and supply problems.

Additional British forces arrived in May and in June, Ward learned of their plan to attack Bunker Hill. He gave orders to fortify the point, setting the stage for the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775. Command during the battle devolved upon Maj. Gen. Israel Putnam and Col. William Prescott. While Ward received national recognition for the heroic stand made that day, his principal contribution was a failure to supply enough ammunition to hold the position.
Meanwhile, the Continental Congress was creating a Continental Army. On June 16, they named Ward a major general, and second in command to Gen. George Washington. Over the next 9 months, he helped convert the assembled militia units into the Continental Army.

After the British evacuation on March 17, 1776, Washington led the main army to New York City. Ward took command of the Eastern Department on April 4, 1776. He held that post until March 20, 1777, when his health forced his resignation from the Army.

In 1779, Ward was appointed a delegate to the Continental Congress, but, owing to failing health, did not take his seat but afterwards, was elected to the United States House of Representatives as a Federalist, he served from October 4, 1791-March 3, 1795. Even during his military service, he served as chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas of Worcester County in 1776 and 1777.

Ward was President of the Massachusetts Executive Council from 1777-79, which effectively made him the governor before the 1780 ratification of the Massachusetts Constitution. He was continuously elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for each year from 1779-85 and also served as a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1780 and 1781. Ward was a member of the legislature for 16 years, serving as the Speaker of the Massachusetts House in 1785. He possessed integrity and unyielding principles, and his judicial conduct, especially during Shays's Rebellion in 1786, was highly commended.

President John Adams described him as "...universally esteemed, beloved and confided in by his army and his country." Ward was much more effective as a political leader than as a soldier. He is buried with Sarah in Mountain View Cemetery.

Artemas Ward was born in Massachusetts. He could not have known how many different roles he would play in his lifetime: Harvard graduate, husband, father of eight children, owner of a general store, major of a militia and later in the Army, and throughout a varied political career. In 1751, his first public office was as a township assessor for Worcestor County, MA. He also served time as a justice of the peace and served in the general court.

Artemas Ward was a major in the Worcestor County militia in the FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR in 1755. He alternated service in the militia and the general court over the next few years. When the French and Indian War ended, he returned to serve in the general court and was placed on a taxation committee with SAMUEL ADAMS and JOHN HANCOCK. An outspoken Patriot, he upset the Royal Governor enough to have his military commission revoked and was removed from the assembly.

He refused to be silent, however, and eventually, his entire regiment resigned from the British service, publicly declaring themselves in rebellion and elected Ward their leader. Massachusetts’ politics were in upheaval, but they pulled together a Committee of Safety, which appointed Artemas Ward as general and commander-in-chief of their colony’s militia.

He participated in the SIEGE OF BOSTON, directing troops from his sickbed when he fell ill. Artemas Ward’s successes led New Hampshire and Connecticut to appoint him head of their militia forces during the siege. He did not just fight but made an effort to keep troops organized and well supplied. When Congress created a Continental Army, they named Ward a major general, second-in-command to GENERAL GEORGE WASHINGTON. Ward held a distinguished military career under Washington until his health led to his resignation from the Army in 1777.

Like many other soldiers, Artemas Ward finished his military career only to begin a political career. Ward had carried on his duties as a state court justice even during the war, and he was President of Massachusetts’ Execute Council, so he was elected governor before the state had its constitution ratified. For the next six years he held a seat in the state House of Representatives and was a state delegate to the Continental Congress. Twice, Ward held an esteemed position in the United States House of Representatives before he passed away in 1800. 


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