New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1900. First U.S. edition, only printing. Hardcover. This is a signed U.S. first edition, only printing of Winston Churchill's fifth book – his final book chronicling his adventures as an itinerant soldier and war correspondent. The young Churchill almost certainly signed this copy in late 1900 or early 1901 during his first North American Lecture tour before he returned to England to take his first seat in Parliament.
In October 1899, the second Boer War erupted in South Africa between the descendants of Dutch settlers and the British. As an adventure-seeking young cavalry officer and war correspondent, Churchill swiftly found himself in South Africa with the 21st Lancers and an assignment as press correspondent to the Morning Post. Not long thereafter, on 15 November 1899, Churchill was captured during a Boer ambush of an armored train. His daring escape less than a month later made him a celebrity and helped launch his political career.
Churchill returned from South Africa in July 1900 and spent the summer campaigning hard in Oldham. Churchill had lost the Oldham by-election – his first attempt at Parliament – in July 1899. Since then, as Arthur Balfour (who became Prime Minister in 1902) put it in a 30 August 1900 letter, the young Churchill had had “fresh opportunities - admirably taken advantage of – for shewing the public of what stuff you are made.” Indeed; Churchill won his first seat in Parliament on 1 October 1900 in the so-called "khaki election". His first North American lecture tour swiftly followed. Churchill's lecture tour of the United States and Canada was intended to improve his finances at a time when MPs received no salary. Churchill arrived in New York on board the Lucania on December 8, 1900.
Churchill's second and final Boer War book, published in the U.S. on 26 November 1900, would have been both available at the time and perfectly suited to his lecture. We have handled a number of Churchill’s books signed or inscribed by him during his time in Canada and the United States spanning 8 December 1900 to 2 February 1901. These include the first edition, third (1900) impression of The River War, the first (and only) printing of The Story of the Malakand Field Force (1898), and a different copy of the U.S. first edition of Ian Hamilton’s March. Churchill likely brought with him copies of The River War and The Story of the Malakand Field Force; both were published only in Britain. The U.S. first edition of Ian Hamilton’s March had the advantage of being available for sale in the United States concurrent with Churchill’s tour. Nonetheless, this is only the second signed copy of the U.S. first edition of Ian Hamilton’s March we have encountered, the other being signed by Churchill in Chicago on 10 January 1901.
As Churchill’s most recently published Boer War book, Ian Hamilton’s March was not only the most readily available, but also highly appropriate to this tour. One of the challenges Churchill faced in America was "strong pro Boer feeling" among "almost half" of some of his audiences. (21 December 1900 letter from Churchill to his mother) The situation offered perfect practice for the political career he was about to begin and, not surprisingly, Churchill found ways to deal with the challenge. When he displayed an image of "a typical Boer soldier" a gallery spectator hurrahed the Boers and "the cry was taken up by a large part of the audience," followed by hisses from pro-British listeners. Churchill deftly responded: "Don't hiss. There is one of the heroes of history. The man in the gallery is right. No true-hearted Englishman will grudge a brave foe cheers." This "put the audience in good humour" and gave Churchill "the considerate attention of his audience." (The Chicago Tribune, 11 January 1901)
Churchill left the United States for England on 2 February aboard the SS Etruria. In a lecture tour that had proven both challenging and exhausting, Churchill had met President McKinley, dined with recently elected Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt, and been introduced to Mark Twain. He had taken his first full measure of the tenor and spirit of the nation that would prove his - and Britain's - vital partner in the two world wars to come.
While Churchill was abroad, Queen Victoria died, and the end of her 64-year reign also closed Churchill's Victorian career as a cavalry officer and war correspondent adventurer. Churchill took his first seat in Parliament on 14 February 1901. His political career would last nearly two thirds of a century, see him occupy a cabinet office during each of the first six decades of the twentieth century, carry him twice to the premiership and, further still, into the annals of history as one of the 20th century’s preeminent statesman. All of this lay still before him when he inked his name in this book.
Ian Hamilton's March is Churchill's fifth published book and the second of Churchill's two books based on his dispatches sent from the front in South Africa. Churchill's first Boer War book, London to Ladysmith via Pretoria, contained 27 letters and telegrams to the Morning Post written between 26 October 1899 and 10 March 1900 and was published in England in mid-May. Ian Hamilton's March completes Churchill's coverage of the Boer War, comprising 17 letters to the Morning Post, spanning 31 March through 14 June 1900.
While London to Ladysmith via Pretoria had swiftly published Churchill's dispatches in the wake of his capture and escape, for Ian Hamilton's March "the texts of the originally published letters were more extensively revised and four letters were included which had never appeared in periodical form" (Cohen, A8.1.a, Vol. I, p.105). Churchill effected these revisions while en route home to England on board the passenger and cargo steamer Dunottar Castle, which was requisitioned as a troop ship. The narrative in Ian Hamilton's March includes the liberation of the Pretoria prison camp where Churchill had been held and from which he had famously escaped.
The title takes its name from the campaign of General Sir Ian Standish Monteith Hamilton (1853-1947) from Bloemfontein to Johannesburg and Pretoria. Hamilton was a decorated soldier whose active service spanned the Second Anglo-Afghan War in 1879 to command at Gallipoli in 1915. Churchill first befriended then-Colonel Hamilton in India in 1897. Churchill would maintain a life-long friendship with Hamilton, to whom Churchill would sell his first country home and who “almost certainly” introduced Winston to the property that became most important to him – Chartwell. (Andrew Roberts, Finest Hour 189, 2020)
Like the U.S. first edition of Ladysmith, the U.S. first edition of Ian Hamilton's March is bound in pebble grain red buckram which proved durable yet susceptible to blotchy wear and discoloration, particularly on the spine. The U.S. first edition saw only a single printing. The definitive number sold is unclear, but seems to be fewer than 1,500.
Reference: Cohen A8.2, Woods/ICS A5(ca), Langworth p.61.
Condition & Provenance
Condition of this signed copy is good plus – sound, original, and complete despite some typical wear and defects. The red cloth binding remains square and tight with bright gilt and no appreciable color shift between the covers and spine. Overall scuffing is most pronounced to the extremities, and there is a small, dark stain on the front cover. A single, faint, jagged vertical line – one on both the front and rear covers – seem to indicate that the boards were once a bit creased, but the boards nonetheless remain rigid and straight, with no fragility or warping. The contents are respectably clean and complete. The frontispiece, tissue guard, and maps are all intact, including the folding map following the text, though the map was previously mis-folded, as is typical, resulting in some fraying to the edges. The contents show moderate age-toning and the frontispiece was previously creased. Spotting is trivial, primarily confined to the first and final leaves and the fore edges. The gilt top edge is a bit dulled and scuffed, but still distinctly gilt.
The outer corners of the front free endpaper recto and final free endpaper verso show tape stains. This copy came to us from a private collection, where it long resided. The tape stains result from a well-intentioned but ill-conceived effort to protect the book. The book was long ago fitted with a homemade glassine wrapper, the inner flaps of which were secured by tape – which of course was not archival and stained the pages against which it lay. The glassine was on the book long enough to have toned and brittled with age and the tape – as evidenced by the stains – to have toned, stiffened, and lost adhesion.
We find no previous ownership marks – only the author’s signature. Churchill’s signature, “Winston S. Churchill” in black ink on the upper front free endpaper recto, is consonant in location, style, and characteristics with other Churchill signatures in books signed during his first North American Lecture tour. The ink remains distinct, with no significant age-spreading or toning. Item #006662