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Item - BSL - Madison & Monroe 1814

1814 - President James Madison & James Monroe Double Signed
Commission of a Graduate of the First Class at West Point

James Madison, as President, and James Monroe, as Secretary of War, Brevet Commission of Joseph G. Totten as Lieutenant Colonel Chief Engineer of the US, Chief Inspector of West Point, Founding Regent of the Smithsonian Institute and a noted Conchologist
for his
 "Gallant Conduct at the Battle of Plattsburg".

James Madison

JAMES MADISON (1751-1836)

James Monroe

Joseph Gilbert Totten (1788 -1864) Joseph Gilbert Totten was fourteen when he entered West Point's first Class in 1802. Sixty-two years later his distinguished military career found him a Major General. He was the longest serving Chief Engineer of the United States Army and Chief Inspector of West Point. He was a founder of the Smithsonian, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Lighthouse Board; his fundamental principles for the defense of the country's seacoast are still studied today. Several times decorated and promoted for meritorious conduct, Totten served 14 Presidents. Here is his very fine Brevet Commission as a Lieutenant Colonel awarded for "gallant conduct at the Battle of Plattsburg" signed by President James Madison and his Secretary of War and future President James Monroe.

Joseph Gilbert Totten (1788 -1864) Biographical Note

Born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1788, Totten, whose uncle was the first mathematics professor at West Point, was only fourteen when he entered the United State Military Academy in 1802 - its opening year. He was commissioned a second lieutenant, Corps of Engineers, on July 1, 1805 being the tenth graduate (Cullum #10) of the Academy. Including his attendance at West Point, his military career spanned sixty-two years, for the last twenty-six of which he was Chief Engineer of the Army and Inspector General of West Point. Totten was engaged in the construction of Castle William and Fort Clinton in New York harbor, 1808-1812, and promoted to first lieutenant in July 1810. But with the outbreak of the War of 1812 he advanced to captain in July 1812, served as Chief Engineer of the Army on the Niagara frontier, winning brevets to major in June 1813 and lieutenant colonel in September 1814 for his distinguished service at Queenstown and the Battle of Plattsburgh. Totten was a captain of engineers before most of the Civil War generals were born. He advanced to full major in 1818 and to full lieutenant colonel in 1828. With his promotion to full colonel in December 1838, Joseph Totten became Chief Engineer of the Army and Chief Inspector at West Point. He held both of these posts until his death in1864, a period far longer than any predecessor or successor. In the Mexican War he operated as Winfield Scott’s chief engineer during the siege of Vera Cruz and was brevetted brigadier general, U.S. Army, for gallant and meritorious conduct on March 29, 1847. Here is his Brevet Promotion to Lieutenant Colonel, signed by President James Madison and counter signed by James Monroe as Secretary of War, Monroe was also Secretary of State at the time.

Handwritten 1 page Document – Signed and Dated: December 29, 1814
Text as Follows:

THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA TO ALL WHO SHALL SEE THESE PRESENTS, Greeting: Know Ye, That I do hereby Confer on Major Joseph G. Totten of the Army of the United States, the rank of Lieutenant Colonel BY BREVET, in said army, to rank as such from the Eleventh day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fourteen. And I so strictly charge and require all officers and soldiers under his command, to obey and respect him accordingly: and he is to observe and follow such orders and directions, from time to time, as he shall receive from me, or the future President of the United States of America, and other officers set over him, according to law, and the rules and discipline of war. This commission to continue in force during the pleasure of the President of the United States for the time being. Given under my hand at the City of Washington, this twenty-ninth day of December in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fourteen and in the thirty ninth year of the Independence of the United States.

 James Madison By the Command of the President,
 James Monroe Secretary of War.

From its establishment in 1851 until 1858, and again in 1860-1864, Totten was a member of the Lighthouse Board; he contributed signally to the solution of several difficult problems of lighthouse construction, notably for those at Seven-Foot Knoll near Baltimore and Minot's Ledge near Cohasset, Massachusetts. During the years before the Civil War, Totten was a prominent contributor to a number of areas of scientific advancement, including the lighting of the navigational hazards of the eastern seaboard, the investigation of the effect of the firing of newly perfected heavy ordnance, and the study of harbors and defenses in New York, Boston, and San Francisco. His reports laid out the fundamental principles on the defense of the country’s entire seaboard. In addition to his regular duties of maintaining harbor channels and defenses and lighthouses, he was responsible for providing engineering officers to the armies in the field and providing special supervision for such projects as the massive defensive ring around the nation’s capital which was never really challenged by the Confederacy because of its strength. On March 3, 1863 the Corps of Topographical Engineers was merged into the Corps of Engineers and Totten was promoted to brigadier general and made overall Chief Engineer of the United States.

Totten was a founding regent of the Smithsonian Institution in 1846, a founding Incorporator of the National Academy of Science in 1863, and a member of many scientific associations, to some of which he made valuable contributions. He was interested in natural science and was an authority on the conchology of the northern coast conch of the United States, publishing occasional papers, in which he described hitherto unknown species. The Gemma Tottenii and the Succinea Tottenii were so named in his honor. He also published papers on mineralogy. The degree of A. M. was conferred on him by Brown University in 1829.

Following his sudden death from pneumonia while still on active duty in Washington on April 22, 1864, Totten was posthumously brevetted Major General, posted to the day before his death. General Totten was buried in the Congressional Cemetery and there are at least three Fort Totten’s named after him in Queens, New York City, Washington , D.C. and North Dakota. In addition to this Very Fine Madison and Monroe Appointment, we also have available his appointments by John Quincy Adams in 1828 and Millard Fillmore in 1852, both Very Fine. Here are three of his major appointments signed by four US Presidents, a fascinating, presidentially documented, record of a Founding Father of the Corps of Engineers and West Point.

Document Specifications: Very Fine Document on Wove Paper, Watermarked "S" over a medallion in center of 5 pointed star, with double paper impressed Seal inscribed "United States of America - War Office", signed by "James Madison" as President and counter-signed by "James Monroe" as Secretary of War and dated "Washington December 29, 1814". Page measures approximately 13 1/2w x 8h inches (345 x 200 mm). Several vertical and horizontal original file folds, one has been archivally reinforced, none affecting the signatures. A very nice double signed document from the War of 1812 with two Presidents' signatures - one serving and one in waiting.

 Offered by Berryhill & Sturgeon, Ltd.

End of Item - BSL - Madison & Monroe

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