Soldier's faith: Rare Bible carried at the battle of Bunker Hill has moving inscriptions

A rare Bible from the battle of Bunker Hill will be exhibited at the Museum of the American Revolution when it opens in Philadelphia next year. The recently-acquired King James Bible is inscribed by American soldier Francis Merrifield, who thanks God for sparing his life in the bloody 1775 battle.

The museum confirmed Thursday that it purchased the Bible at a Bonham’s auction in New York on April 11. The Bible sold for $161,000, including the buyer’s premium.

“This Bible is one of only two known to exist from the Battle of Bunker Hill, and is an authentic witness to one of the most iconic moments of the Revolutionary War,” R. Scott Stephenson, the Museum’s vice president of collections, exhibitions, and programming, told, via email. “It provides an incredible opportunity to showcase the role that religious faith played in sustaining those who were involved in the American Revolution. While historians still passionately discuss and debate this important subject, it doesn’t always get a great deal of attention in museums.”

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The Bible was owned by Francis Merrifield, who was born in Ipswich, Mass. in 1735. A veteran of the French and Indian War, which ran from 1754 to 1763, Merrifield joined the Ipswich militia after the Revolutionary War began in 1775. Merrifield served as a sergeant in the company of Captain Nathaniel Wade in Colonel Little’s regiment at Bunker Hill.

(Courtesy of Bonhams New York)

(Courtesy of Bonhams New York)

More than 100 American troops were killed and 300 wounded in the battle on June 17, 1775. Merrifield survived heavy fighting during the battle and was one of the last to leave the field, according to the Museum of the American Revolution's Historian and Curator Philip Mead.

Merrifield wrote extensively on the front and back covers of the Bible, thanking God for his survival. On the reverse of the New Testament page, he wrote: “Cambridge, Jun 17 1775. I desire to bless God for his Kind aperince [sic] in delivering me and sparing my life in the late battle fought on Bunker’s Hill. I desire to devote this spared life to his Glory and honour. In witness my hand, Francis Merrifield.” Below the inscription, Merrifield wrote a poem on his hope for divine grace.

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The soldier survived the Revolutionary War. He died in 1814.

Several donors funded the purchase of the rare Bible, the museum told

(Courtesy of Bonhams New York)

(Courtesy of Bonhams New York)

When the new museum opens in spring 2017, the Bible will be displayed in a gallery documenting the 1775-1776 siege of Boston. Other exhibits will include a rare signed and dated New England-made military drum and a large-scale reproduction of John Trumbull’s painting “The Death of General Warren at Bunker Hill.”

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A spokeswoman told that the museum will announce its specific opening date later this month.

Earlier this year, a historian in the U.K. discovered secret notes hidden in the text of England’s first printed bible.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers