The Prescott-Linzee “Crossed Swords”

And now we come to the famous crossed swords…

______________

On the library wall of one of the most famous writers of America, there hang two crossed swords, which his relatives wore in the great War of Independence. The one sword was gallantly drawn in the service of the king, the other was the weapon of a brave and honoured republican soldier….

Thackeray , The Virginians

 

Prescott Linzee Crossed Swords from MHS medium sized

 

As I said when I introduced the subject of Capt. John Linzee, it is at least somewhat ironic that the American commander at the Battle of Bunker Hill, Col. William Prescott, and the captain of the British war sloop Falcon, John Linzee, RN, charged with providing cover fire for the redcoats attacking the hill, should one day produce grandchildren who would fall in love and marry.

Eventually, the swords referenced by Thackeray made their way out of W.H. Prescott’s library, and were placed on a tablet, currently displayed at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

prescotthouse_wall_950

The following statement accompanies the tablet:

THE SWORD
OF
COLONEL WILLIAM PRESCOTT
WORN BY HIM
WHILE IN COMMAND OF THEPROVINCIAL FORCES
AT THE
BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL
17 JUNE, 1775,
AND
BEQUEATHED TO THE
MASS: HIST: SOCIETY
BY HIS GRANDSON
WILLIAM H. PRESCOTT.
THE SWORD
OF
CAPTAIN JOHN LINZEE, R.N.,
WHO COMMANDED THE
BRITISH SLOOP OF WAR FALCON WHILE
ACTING AGAINST THE AMERICANS
DURING THE BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL.
PRESENTED TO THE
MASS: HIST: SOCIETY
14 APRIL, 1859,
BY HIS GRANDCHILDREN,
THOMAS C. A. LINZEE
AND
MRS. WM. H. PRESCOTT.

from The Linzee Family of Great Britain and the United States of America and the Allied Families of Penfold, Tilden, Wooldridge, Hood, Hunt, Amory, Browne, Evans, Vol. 2 by John William Linzee, 1917…

History now concedes the fact that Colonel William Prescott was the commander of the American Forces at the Battle of Bunker Hill. It is well to bear in mind that this action was not fought with the same military regard for details which prevailed at a later period, when the army had been thoroughly re‑organized, and its management reduced to a definite system. To a certain extent the battle was a democratic fight; and every man there having a common interest in the struggle did his best to bring about the desired result, without much thought of strict military rules. The various orders did not always go through regular channels; but it is a matter of history that Colonel Prescott was ordered by General Ward to fortify Bunker Hill,—or Breed’s Hill, which is the same for my purpose. The field of operations was on Massachusetts soil, and the command naturally would go to a Massachusetts officer. Before the event the chief actors never dreamed that on the result would turn the history of nations and even of the world; but such was the fact. A period of doubt and uncertainty among the patriots followed, and it took time to straighten out the lines of future action and to fill up the gaps in the plan.

The Battle proved to be the corner stone on which was founded our political government, now a world‑wide power.

Before the action on that memorable Seventeenth, the British vessels were moored at various points in front of the Charlestown peninsula, where their services might be needed. The sloop‑of‑war “Falcon “ was anchored off Moulton’s Point, a short distance up the Mystic River, above the site of the Navy Yard. Its special duty was to cooperate with the “ Lively,” and thus to cover the landing of the English troops. The commander of the “Falcon “ was Captain John Linzee, and it is to him equally that my story relates, as well as to Colonel William Prescott. Three years later, on August 8, 1778, his vessel was sunk off Newport, Rhode Island, in order to prevent its capture by the French fleet under Admiral D’Estaing. The sword carried by the commander of the American Forces at the Battle of Bunker Hill, was kept for years in the Prescott family and was treasured as a priceless relic; and the same might be said of the other sword worn in that action by the captain of the “Falcon,” equally valued as a family heritage.[1] Forty‑five years afterward, owing to the vicissitudes of human affairs, the grandson of Colonel Prescott,—who was William Hickling Prescott, the distinguished author and historian,—became engaged to the granddaughter of Captain Linzee, and was duly married; and thus these two emblems of warfare, though not beaten into ploughshares, were brought into the same household and turned into silent symbols of peace. The time had been when the owners of these weapons would have used them with a deadly thrust against each other; but coming down as family heirlooms, through regular channels of descent and matrimonial alliance, they lost all hostile spirit and were as innocent as children’s toys. The peaceful man of letters had the two swords placed in a conspicuous position in his library, where they hung crossed; and he was always ready to tell the story of these ancestral memorials…

…Thus these two trophies of war have become trophies of romance, and of an united love, ever remindful of the laying aside of enmity between two English speaking people. The thoughtfulness and poetic nature of William Hickling Prescott gave birth to this international moral hidden in the romance of his marriage, and the swords borne by bitter enemies now lie peacefully side by side, representing the clasped hands of Great Britain and the United States of America.

Mr. Gardiner, when he presented the swords to the Massachusetts Historical Society, referred to them as, “an emblem, let us hope, of perpetual peace between kindred nations.”

FOOTNOTE:

[1] Actually, Linzee’s battle sword went to another relative. The one on the plaque is his dress sword.

_________

 

DESCRIPTIONS OF THE SWORDS [hat tip The Linzee Family Association]

Linzee Sword
 Small-sword for an officer of the Royal Navy.

Blade: L. 33″ (83.8 cm(, W. (at hilt) 13/16″ (2.1 cm), L. overall 39-1/2″ (100 cm).

Hilt: English, probably 1780-3, gilded brass (Norman’s type 112), engraved with laurel leaf sprays on either side of hafted arm panoply, inscribed, blade side of shell. Sword of Capt. John Linzee R.N. / who Commanded / the British Sloop of War Falcon / while / acting, against the Americans at the / Battle of Bunker Hill. June 17, 1775., other side, engraved overall with a jumble of naval colors, ordnance and short, foul anchors, hand and staff weapons of the period. Blade: German (Solingen), late eighteenth century; for about one-half length from tip, plain and highly polished; from this point, finely fireblued, and etched longitudinally with fire-gilt decoration of intertwined, foliated strapwork, foliated tendrils, martial trophienes and a gowned female figure with sword; etched, on both faces of forté just below the shoulders in gilded cartouche; Mc /fecit / Sohlingen. Gift of Susannah Amory Prescott and Thomas C.A. Linzee, 1859

Prescott Sword
  Silver-hilted small sword.

Blade: L. 29-7/8″ (75.9 cm), W. (at hilt) 1-7/16″ (3.7 cm); L. overall 36″ (91.4 cm)

Hilt: American, by Jacob Hurd of Boston (1702-1759), second quarter of eighteenth century; symmetrical, bivalve shell-guard, waisted at plane of blade (Norman’s type 112, stamped on inner side of the revers shell:IHURD. Blade: plain, unmarked steel, hollow ground, triangular section; inscribed, on obverse shell: The Sword of Col. William Prescott; on reverse shell: and worn by him at the Battle of bunker Hill June 17, 1775. Bequest of William Hickling Prescott, 1859.

_________

 

FURTHER READING [hat tip, The Mass. Historical Society]:

Evans, D. M. H. “Captain John Linzee and the War in America.” Typescript, 1976, rev. 1984.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s