Notes on Regulations Respecting Salutes, Circa 1808, By Col. Henry Burbeck


Colonel Henry Burbeck’s notes concerning our Country’s early cannon salutes & the occasions for same.

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One of the earliest references to cannon salutes in the U.S. Army.

This document is written in the hand of Colonel Henry Burbeck of the U.S. Artillery.  Written on laid paper of a legal size, outlining “Regulations respecting Salutes.”   Possibly an earlier draft, as his wide swiping pen, dismisses this writing, with scribbled lines, and proceeds to the reverse side where Burbeck writes a letter to one of his officer’s.

Although quite legible, the will transcribe for your convenience.

                                                “Regulations respecting Salutes

The National Salute shall be agreeable to the number of States recognised by Congress-

A National Salute shall be fired on a visit to the Post from the President, on his landing and leaving and no other    person.

Fifteen Guns shall be fired on a visit from the vice President, The Governor of a State (not a Territory). The          Secretary of War, a Committee of Congress, and 13 Guns may (be) fired for a M. Gen.l when visiting the post of    district, and the Commander in Chief of the Army in their landing.

Salutes from the Forts in the several posts and Harbours of the United States, Shall as a general rule be from 12 to 6 pounders.

No Salutes shall be fired to foreign ships or vessels of War,  but in return, and in every such case, their salute shall be returned Gun for Gun.

Each Military post on the seaboard may fire at sunrise on the Morning of the 4th of July a Salute of 13 Guns, In Honor of 1776 and at 1 O’Clock a National Salute may be fired from all the posts in the United States.

A Gun not exceeding a 6 pounder shall be fired at day light each morning, at the different named Posts Coy’s.

Fort Preble (Portland), Fort Constitution, Fort Independence, Fort Wolcott, Fort Columbus, Fort Mifflin. Fort McHenry, Fort Nelson, Fort Johnson St. Carolina, and New Orleans.”


“The 21-gun salute became the highest honor a nation rendered. Varying customs among the maritime powers led to confusion in saluting and return of salutes. Great Britain, the world’s preeminent seapower in the 18th and 19th centuries, compelled weaker nations to salute first, and for a time monarchies received more guns than did republics. Eventually, by agreement, the international salute was established at 21 guns, although the United States did not agree on this procedure until August 1875.

The gun salute system of the United States has changed considerably over the years. In 1810, the “national salute” was defined by the War Department as equal to the number of states in the Union–at that time 17. This salute was fired by all U.S. military installations at 1:00 p.m. (later at noon) on Independence Day. The President also received a salute equal to the number of states whenever he visited a military installation.”  extracted from article, US Center for Military History.

Based in this information, it has to be assumed that the rule regarding the number of guns used on Independence day, makes this document predate 1810. With a good deal of the documents from the 1803 -1812 era I have taken the average of most of the documents, that being 1808.

The letter on the reverse from Burbeck to Capt. (Satterlee) Clark, concerning possible slanderous comments made concerning him.  Col. Burbeck assures him he has always spoken highly of him as an officer and gentleman.  There is the mention of Annapolis and its inhabitants (where some of this problem may have arisen. Another officer by the name of E. Bomford may or may not be the source of Clark’s inquiry.

Have photographed both side well, that you may appreciate the importance of one, and the delicacies of professional reputations that show to be a timeless concern in the other.

Henry Burbeck began his military career as a 1st Lieutenant in Gridley’s Regiment of Mass. Artillery during the American Revolution. He retained the same rank with Henry Knox’s regular continental regiment in 1775; serving all through the war for independence, and continuing in the regular army artillery regiments, Corps of Artillerists and Engineers in 1794, promoted to full colonel in in 1802.  Promoted again to Brev. Brigadier General through the War of 1812, and discharged in 1815.


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Weight .75 lbs