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Main Title:
Oliver Soper Collection

Type of Material: Two manuscripts most likely in the hand of Captain Oliver Soper during the weeks preceding the Battle of Long Island.
Personal Name: Oliver Soper
Collection ID: Collection 427
Creator: Oliver Soper
Extent: 2 documents
Span Dates: 13 August 1776 and 26 August 1776

ADMINISTRATIVE INFORMATION

Title
Oliver Soper Collection
Collection 427

Description
Autographed documents signed by Oliver Soper (b. 1740, d. August 8, 1821).
Captain in the 13th Continental Infantry in Massachusetts (under Colonel Joseph Read) from January 1, 1776 to December 31, 1776. Soper's company served in Israel Putnam's Division at Long Island (August 27), manning the defenses in Brooklyn Heights.

Document 1: dated August 13, 1776 (Brooklyn); 2pp.; dimensions: 6" x 8".
Document 2: dated August 26, 1776 (Brooklyn); 2pp.; dimensions: 6.25" x 7.75".

Provenance
Acquired from Heritage Auction Galleries in October 2008.

Processing Information
Processed by Kristen J. Nyitray, Head of Special Collections and University Archives and University Archivist, May 2009.

Transcribed by Christine Astras, Intern and MLS Candidate, Graduate School of Library and Information Studies, CUNY Queens College, September 2011.

Introduction

Two manuscripts most likely in the hand of Captain Oliver Soper during the weeks preceding the Battle of Long Island. Soper (d. 1821) was a captain in Colonel Timothy Walker's 3rd Massachusetts Bay Provincal Regiment from May to December 1775 and captain in the 13th Continental Infantry (under Colonel Joseph Read) from January 1, 1776 to December 31, 1776. Soper's company served in Israel Putnam's Division at Long Island (August 27) manning the defenses on Brooklyn Heights.

Soper's first manuscript, 2pp., 6" x 8", (Brooklyn, August 13, 1776) is a transcription of Washington's stirring orders to his army as General William Howe and his army prepared to assault American positions in New York. With his army already under stress due to desertion and smallpox, Washington exhorted: " ...be it Remembered that Liberty, Property, Life and Honour are all at Stake that upon their Courage and Conduct Rests the hopes of their Bleeding and Insulted Country -- That their Wife Children and Parents Expect Saf(e)ty from them only, and that we have every Reason to expect heaven will Crown with Success in so Just a Cause the Enemy will indeavour (sic) to intimidate by Shew and appearance; but remember how they have been repulsed on various occations (sic) by a few brave Americans their Cause is Bad their men are Conscous (sic) of it and if opposed with firmness ad Coolness at their onset without advantages of works and Knowlege of the ground victory is most assured by ours every good Soldier will be Silent and attentive wait for orders and Reserve his fire till he is sure of Doing execution -- The Officers to be particular Carefull (sic) of this. the Cols or Commanding Officers of Regts. are to see (illeg.) Officers so posted as to keep up their men to their Duty and it may not be amiss for the Troops to know that if any infamous Raskel in time of action should attempt to sculk (sic) hide himself or retreat from the enemy without the order of his Commanding Officer he will presently be shot Down as an example of Cowardice on the other hand the Genl Solemnly Promises that he will reward those who shall Distinguish themselves by Brave and Noble Actions and he Desires every Officer to be attentive to this particular that such men may be afterwards Suitably noticed."

Several days later, the British began ferrying troops across the Narrows from Staten Island to Gravesend assembling over 10,000 British and Hessian regulars on Long Island on August 23.

The second manuscript is signed "Capt Soper's," and is comprised of two pages, 6.25" x 7.75", and dated (Brooklyn), August 26, 1776. They are part of Soper's transcription of the General Orders for that day. Soper's company was part of the 13th Continental Infantry under Colonel Joseph Read, and part of James Clinton's Brigade in Israel Putnam's Division. The orders read: "Col. Smallwood to Command Lord Sterlings Brigade During his Absence on Long Island for the Day Genl. _______ Col. Smallwood. Lt. Col. Bedford Major Sprout - Main Guard Major Mc Donagh, Brigade Major Henley. Head Quarters 26th of August 1776 600 men Properly Officered from Genl. Wollcott's Brigade to Parade tomorrow morning at 6 oClock on the Grand Parade without Arms for Fatigue 400 to take Directions from Genl. McDougal and 200 form Lt. Fish and the same number to be Continued till the Work is Compleated (sic) to Leave work (sic) at Young Flood and go on at the Ebb -- The Genl is very anxious for the State of the Arms and Accoutrements the Frequent Rains giving too much Reason to fear they may suffer he therefore earnestly Enjoins Officers and men to be Particularly attentive to it and have them in the Best order --- Brigadier for the Day Genl. McDougal Col. Bailey Lt. Col. Rackling and Major Shearmon Main guard Major Porter --- Brigade Major Fish."

The next day, the routine of constructing fortifications would be completely upset by a near complete British victory on Long Island, beginning a long and dreadful series of retreats and lost battles that would nearly destroy Washington's army that year. Only the victories at Trenton and Princeton at the end of 1776 managed to lift morale just enough to sustain the military effort into the coming year. At the bottom of the manuscript, Soper, just evacuated across the East River to New York City, added a company return on August 30, 1776. Titled "A Weekly Return of Capt Soper(')s Company Col. Reads Regt. New York, August 30, 1776," he enumerates the company by rank noting the company strength at a mere 27 "Present fit for Duty" out of a total 71.

Transcriptions

Document 1

Let be it Remembered that Liberty Property
Life and Honour are all at Stake that
upon their Courage and Conduct Rests [on]
the hopes of their Bleeding and Insulted
Country—That their Wife Children and
Parents Expect Saf[e]ty from them only,
and that we have every reason to expect
heaven will Crown with Success in so Just a Cause
the Enemy will indeavoure [sic] to intimidate
by Shew  [sic] and appearance;  but remem-
ber how they have been repulced[sic] on va-
rious occatons [sic] by a few brave Americans
their Cause is Bad.  their men are Consc-
ous [sic] of it and if aposed [sic] with firmness and
Coolness at Their onset without advantages of
works and Knowledge of the ground
victory is most assuredly ours every good
Soldier will be Silent and attentive wait for

Officers to be particular Carefull [sic] of this—
The Cols or Commending Officers of
Regts are to see [illeg.] Officers so
posted as to keep up their men to their
Duty ant it may not be amiss for The
Troops to know that if any infamo[us]
Raskel in time of action should attempt
to sculk [sic] hide himself or retreat from
the enemy without The order of his
Commanding Officer he will presently
be shot Down as an example of Cow-
ardice on the other hand the genl—
Solomely [sic] Promises that he will reward
those who shall Distinguish themselves
by Brave and Noble Actions and
he Desires every Officer  to be attentive
to this particular that such men may
be afterwards Suitably noticed—

Document 2

Col. Smallwood to Command Lord Sterlings Bri-
gade During his Absence on Long Island
for the Day Genl. [blank in MS.] Col. Smallwood
Lt Col. Bedford Major Sprout- Main guard
Major Mc Donagh, Brigade Major Henley

                 Head Quarters 26th of August 1776
600 men Properly Officered from Genl Wolcott’s Bri-
gade to Parade tomorrow morning at 6 oClo
ck on the Grand Parade without Arms for Fatigue
400 to take Directions from Genl McDougal
and 200 from Lt Fish and the same number
to be Continued till the Work is Completed [sic]-
to Leave work work [sic] at Yo[u]ng Flood and go on
at the Ebb- The Genl is very anxious for
the Sta[t]e od the Arms and Accoutrements the

Frequent Rains giving too much Reason to fear
they may Suffer he therefore earnestly En-
joins Officers and men to be Particularly at-
tentive to it and have them in the Best
order-- Brigadier for the Day Genl Mc
Dougal Col. Baley Lt Col. Rackling and Major
Shearmon Main Guard Major Porter--
Brigade Major Fish—
A Weekly Return of Capt Sope[‘]rs Company Col.
Reads Regt.              New York August 30th 1776


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