Item #7653 Samuel Sprague His Pocket Book Boston March 23 1779 This Pocket Book Was Bot. Sept. 20th 1775. [Manuscript account and note book of a participant in the Boston Tea Party]. Samuel Sprague.
Samuel Sprague His Pocket Book Boston March 23 1779 This Pocket Book Was Bot. Sept. 20th 1775. [Manuscript account and note book of a participant in the Boston Tea Party].
Samuel Sprague His Pocket Book Boston March 23 1779 This Pocket Book Was Bot. Sept. 20th 1775. [Manuscript account and note book of a participant in the Boston Tea Party].
Samuel Sprague His Pocket Book Boston March 23 1779 This Pocket Book Was Bot. Sept. 20th 1775. [Manuscript account and note book of a participant in the Boston Tea Party].

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Samuel Sprague His Pocket Book Boston March 23 1779 This Pocket Book Was Bot. Sept. 20th 1775. [Manuscript account and note book of a participant in the Boston Tea Party].

Boston and elsewhere, 1775–1779. 24mo (6” x 3.75”), disbound. 57 pp., 3 additional blank pp. Blue cloth slipcase. CONDITION: Good, edges worn with occasional soiling and toning.

An intriguing artifact of the life of a participant in the Boston Tea Party who also served in the Revolutionary War, with miscellaneous entries relating to the war, other notes, and numerous account entries.

Samuel Sprague (1753–1844) was a twenty year old mason’s apprentice when he happened upon friends on their way to the Boston Tea Party and joined in. His account, shared later with one of his sons, was recorded by Francis Drake:

That evening, while on my way to visit the young woman I afterwards married, I met some lads hurrying along towards Griffin’s wharf, who told me there was something going on there. I joined them, and on reaching the wharf found the Indians busy with the tea chests. Wishing to have my share in the fun, I looked about for the means of disguising myself. Spying a low building, with a stove-pipe by way of chimney, I climbed the roof and obtained a quantity of soot, with which I blackened my face. Joining the party, I recognized among them Mr. Etheredge [William Etheridge], my master. We worked together, but neither of us ever afterwards alluded to each other’s share in the proceedings.

Two years later, Sprague enlisted in Major Thomas Pierce’s Company in the Revolutionary War. He later served stints in Colonel Henry Knox’s Company, with multiple periods of service throughout the war in the regiment of Colonel Richard Gridley, who designed the earthworks at Battle of Bunker Hill. Sprague participated in the Siege of Boston and the Battles of Trenton and Princeton.

Although somewhat haphazard, i.e. non-linear, in its arrangement, Sprague’s “pocket book” includes several entries relating to his experiences during the first years of the Revolutionary War:

“Boston April 19th 1775 [the date of the Battle of Lexington and Concord]—This day I left Boston and went aboard a sloop and saild to the East and as far as Canneback [Kennebec] intending to go to work But as the unhappy war Began that verrey day I Left Boston I came back with out doing one days work…”

This is followed by: “Roxbury May 27th 1775 This day I listed into Capt. Pierce’s Company of Artillery” then “Bunker Hill fite June 17th.” These three notes appear to be retrospective, but within the period of the War.

Sprague also records the execution of “The unhappy Thomas Hickey” in New York in 1776 (“executed…for meeting and holding a treacherous conrospounds with the Enemy”). Hickey was the first person to be executed by the Continental Army. George Washington—who personally court-martialled Hickey for conspiring to assassinate him—assembled some 20,000 soldiers to witness his death, and issued a statement in the hopes of deterring others from Hickey’s “unhappy fate” (Morris, p. 15). Sprague also notes the deaths of three others, the first “Shot…By an Accident,” the other two “killed with a Gun at the Grand Batteary at new-york.”

The pocket book’s accounts suggest that Sprague kept a store and did some odd jobs. In addition to lists of goods sold (“Tobaco,” “Packs Cards,” “Combs”), it also includes numerous vocabulary words (“Sufficiently,” “Inclination,” “Inferiour”); and records of house repairs, lottery ticket numbers, and so on.

Samuel Sprague was born in Hingham, Massachusetts, “a direct descendent of William Sprague…who came to the American colonies in 1629 with his older brothers, who are credited with being founders of Charlestown” (“Six Sons”). Three years into the war, Sprague married Joanna Thayer, a “woman of great decision of character.” According to his notes in this volume, the wedding took place on September 10th, 1778, the couple “Went to Housekeeping” on October 28th, and Sprague “Went into partnership with Mr. Obadiah Thayer,” Joanna’s father, on December 10th. The Spragues’ youngest son Charles became a well-known 19th Century poet, often referred to as the “Banker Poet of Boston.”

A rare and stirring remnant of the life of a participant in the Boston Tea Party.

REFERENCES: Drake, Francis S. Tea Leaves: Being a Collection of Letters and Documents relating to the shipment of Tea to the American Colonies in the Year 1773, by the East India Company (Boston: A. O. Crane, 1884), p. clxiv; Morris, Lawrence J. Military Justice: A Guide to the Issues (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2010); “Six Sons of Hingham and the Boston Tea Party—Party Two,” Out of the Archives: Exploring the Archives at the Hingham Heritage Museum online.

Item #7653

Price: $12,500.00

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