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Revolutionary War Map

Revolutionary War Map of Boston
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A Plan of Boston in New England

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The “shot heard ‘round the world” as it was later memorialized by the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, occurred at the battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. Despite the successful British counter attack at Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775 the British forces were forced to retreat to Boston. By 1776 the Revolutionary War had broken out in earnest.

Henry Pelham (1749-1806) was a Loyalist, the son of well-known mezzotint artist Peter Pelham, and the half-brother of the painter John Singleton Copley. With Boston besieged following the American victories at Lexington and Concord, Pelham sought and received the permission of General Gage, the British Commander, to create a map of Boston Harbor and the areas surrounding the city of Boston.

The full title of the resulting map is: 



with the MILITARY WORKS Constructed in those Places in the Years 1775. and 1776.

A Plan of Boston was published in London on June 2, 1777. Due to the size of the map two sheets of paper were joined together to print it. The map was produced using line engraving and aquatint. The waterways are outlined in blue.

Henry Pelham was the mapmaker and Francis Jukes was the engraver. At the upper left corner is a rendering of the passport given to Henry Pelham by the Mayor of Boston. The map depicts the fortifications in and around Boston in 1775 to 1776. Most significantly it includes the “new works” at Dorchester Heights. Erected overnight on March 4-5, 1776, the Dorchester Heights Works gave American artillery command of the sea approaches to Boston. This completed the isolation of the city. The British and their American sympathizers, including Henry Pelham, evacuated on March 17, 1776.

A Plan of Boston is an important and rare Revolutionary War Map. Approximately a dozen copies are known to have survived. Of these, some were signed by Pelham, and some were not. The subject map is an unsigned copy.

The map was purchased from Goodspeed’s Book Shop in Boston. It is accompanied by a letter signed by Charles E. Goodspeed documenting the purchase, dated May 24th 1916. Goodspeed wrote, “I am sending you to-day the extremely rare Map of Boston by Henry Pelham 1776. You will remember it was Pelham who accused Paul Revere of stealing his design for the Boston Massacre.”

There are marginal tears and small losses, some wrinkling, as well as soiling and staining. The map has been folded and there is some wear along the folds. Nevertheless, it is remarkably intact given its age and history. It is a rare survivor of an important historical period, not only to the history of our nation, but to the world.