Item #6426 [Autograph letter, signed, from a soldier at Fort Cumberland to Thomas Hancock of Boston]. George Lewis.
[Autograph letter, signed, from a soldier at Fort Cumberland to Thomas Hancock of Boston].

Sign up to receive email notices of recent acquisitions.

[Autograph letter, signed, from a soldier at Fort Cumberland to Thomas Hancock of Boston].

Fort Cumberland, Chignecto Isthmus, Canada, 18 June 1758. 1 p. (9.5” x 7.5”). Docketed on verso by Hancock. CONDITION: Very good, a few small separations at old folds; no losses to the text.

A French and Indian War-era letter addressed to Thomas Hancock Esq. of Boston concerning men and supplies at Fort Cumberland, written three years after the fort fell to British and colonial forces.

George Lewis is recorded in 1750 as a “boatmaster” in Gorham’s Rangers—one of the most notable ranger units raised in colonial North America and a prototype for subsequent ranger forces like the famed Rogers’ Rangers. Stationed at Fort Cumberland, Lewis here writes to Thomas Hancock (1703–1764) in Boston, notifying him that he has discharged a number of sick men, and also requesting supplies needed at the Fort. The letter reads in full:


The undermentioned men I have discharged from his Majesty’s works in this Fort, being by sickness rendered Incapable of serving me in any profession & as they expressed a desire for it. I believe that will in a great measure contribute to their recovery. I have paid them up to the seventeenth day of this month, & beg that when they arrive at Boston, that you will pay them for the number of days their Passage took them.—Mr. Cox & Boy—D.d. Roberts—Stanlief—& Harvey, are the men I have discharged.

I beg that you will send these stores for the use of his Majesty’s Works in Ft Cumb[erland]: two pr. of Hand vices of a large size, flat bar iron, half of differ[en]t sizes; & square iron from two In: Square to three Quarters.

Please beg the favor to have sent one ream of large writing paper for acct. & charges by Governt.

I am Sir your most Hble Svnt

George Lewis.

Organized in Massachusetts at the start of King George’s War in 1744, Gorham’s Rangers was the primary British military force operating in Nova Scotia between 1744 and 1749 and proved effective at quashing Acadian and Mi’kmaq resistance to British rule there. The unit began as a sixty-man company consisting exclusively of Native Americans led by British colonial officers; however, the original members were slowly replaced by Anglo-Americans and Scots and Irish immigrants and by the mid-1750s were a minority in the company. Known for their amphibious raids which used large whaleboats on coastal or riverine settlements, the company of men were reconnaissance experts and renowned for their mastery at guerrilla warfare. During the Seven Years’ War (1756–63) the company became part of the British army and participated in many important campaigns of the war. The Rangers also took part in the Acadian Removals (1755–60); the 1755 assault of Fort Beaujésour; the second siege of Louisbourg in 1758, and the Siege of Quebec in 1759. In 1761, the unit officially became part of the British army establishment; the next year they took part in an expedition to Havana where the company lost half its men to tropical disease and was disbanded.

Built by the French in 1751 to defend against the British, Fort Cumberland (originally named Fort Beauséjour), was located on the Isthmus of Chignecto, the land-bridge between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. In 1755, the fort fell to British and colonial forces in the Battle of Fort Beauséjour, following which it was renamed Fort Cumberland. After the fort’s capture, British forces ordered Acadians living in the region to sign an oath of allegiance to the British Crown. The Acadians refused, preferring to remain neutral, and the British burned Acadian homes to prevent them from returning. Fort Cumberland became one of several sites where the British imprisoned or temporarily held Acadians during the nine years of their expulsion. In the spring of 1756, a band of Acadian and Mi’kmaq partisans ambushed a small party of New England soldiers who were cutting wood near Fort Cumberland—killing and mutilating nine men. In July 1757, Mi’kmaq captured two of Gorham’s Rangers outside the Fort; and in March 1758, forty Acadian and Mi’kmaq attacked a schooner at Fort Cumberland, killing its master and two sailors.

Born in Massachusetts, Thomas Hancock was a prominent and wealthy Boston merchant and the uncle of John Hancock. During King George’s War and the French and Indian War, Hancock, together with business partner Charles Apthorp (1698–1758), secured contracts to supply British forces with ordnance, lumber, food, medicines and ships. Two letters from Hancock to Lewis while Lewis was at the Fort are in the Hancock Family Papers held at Harvard.

REFERENCES: Cox, Rob S. “John Gorham Papers,” at the William L. Clements Library online; Faragher, John Mack. A Great and Noble Scheme : the tragic story of the expulsion of the French Acadians from their American Homeland (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2005), pp. 271–410; “Gorham’s Rangers” at Kronoskaf online.

Item #6426


See all items in Autographs & Manuscripts
See all items by