Lot 75: Washington, George. Revolutionary War-Date letter signed as Commander-in-Chief (" Go Washington").
July 11, 2014
Calabasas, CA, USALive Auction
75. Washington, George. Revolutionary War-Date letter signed as Commander-in-Chief (“ Go Washington”), 2 pages (13.12 x 8.25 in.; 333 x 210 mm.), Head Quarters, Valley Forge, [1 May] 1778, the body of the letter in the hand of his secretary, Tench Tilghman, to Colonel George Baylor who had served, with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, as Washington’s aide-de-camp (15 August 1775 – 9 January 1777); silked, paper loss at the top center of the letter affect the month and date of the letter.
Reprecussions from the cruel winter at Valley Forge.
Washington writes in full: Dear Sir: I am favd. with yours of the 5th. of last Month. I have not the least doubt but your time and attention have been both fully applied to the Business upon which you were sent, and in which I hope you will have the desired success. I wrote to Colo. [Theodorick] Bland [Colonel of the 1st Continental Dragoons] about ten days ago and directed him to send forward the Horses and Recruits in squads, as they could be got ready, those men who have not had the small pox may be sent on and inoculated with their Regiments. I repeat this to you, lest you should not have been informed of it by Colo. Bland. By a letter from Colo. Moylan a few days ago, I find that his Regiment and Sheldon’s will want Arms, swords and pistols in particular, and as they are not to be obtained to the Northward, I beg you will engage all that you possibly can from [James Hunter] Hunter [at Fredericksburg, Virginia]. I approve of your employing Officers to purchase Horses &ca. in preference to the common dealers in that way, and as you seem to think that Capn. [George] Lewis can be particularly useful to you, I shall send him back to Virginia. Capn. Lewis informs me that you have been appointing Cornets [a color-bearing troop] to your Regiment, upon a presumption I suppose that the plan for augmenting the Cavalry is actually adopted. You must remember that this was only a recommendation of the Committee, but whether Congress have confirmed it I do not yet know. If any young Gentlemen apply for admission into your Regiment, I would have you take an account of them, but make no absolute promise of a Commission, as I am not clear that the powers, formerly vested in me by Congress to appoint Officers have not expired. If there is a vacant Cornetcy in your Regiment, I should wish it reserved for Mr. Peregrine Fitzhugh Son of Colo. Fitzhugh of Patuxent in Maryland, a young Gentleman strongly recommended to me by his father. He is now here, but will go over to Major [Alexander] Clough [of the Third Continental Dragoons, who was to be killed at Tappan (17 September 1778)] and receive proper instructions from him, to fit him for command. Should your Regiment be full, be pleased to speak to Colo. Bland and desire him to receive a Cornetcy in his, for Mr. Fitzhugh, I am dear Sir, yr. most obt. Sert. Go: Washington
On 19 December 1777, George Washington took up winter quarters at Valley Forge, located on the south side of the Schuylkill River (a location between British-held Philadelphia and the Continental Congress at York) just 18 miles northwest of Philadelphia (where Washington could keep an eye on British troops under Sir William Howe). There was no effort made by the British to disperse Washington’s camp, consisting of his rapidly shrinking Continental Army (consisting of about 15,000 officers and men, though 2,500 were considered ineffective due to sickness and lack of clothing). His troops were desperately short of food, clothing and military supplies. They lacked outer coats and half the men had no blankets. Almost a third were without shoes or breeches. No medicine was available for the sick, and many had contracted small pox. The worst problem that confronted Washington and his men at Valley Forge was not the cold or the snow. It was military mismanagement, causing severe shortages of provisions and forage. Commissary General John Trumbull, who was responsible for obtaining food, became sick and returned to Connecticut; the job was left to an ineffective deputy. As well, Quartermaster General Thomas Mifflin, who was in charge of procuring military supplies and blankets, was incompetent in his duties. Clothing was not properly ordered, and grain and flour supplied by civilian contractors wound up being sold to the British and loyalists in New York and New England, rather than to the troops. The crisis continued throughout January, February and March. The spring of 1778 was a tortured one for Washington, who had suffered through both the frightful winter at Valley Forge and the Conway Cabal [an effort by Major General Thomas Conway, dissatisfied with Commander-in-Chief George Washington’s direction of the war, to replace Washington]. Washington’s beleaguered army had endured neglect, despair and incompetent direction through many bitter winter months. At the end of April, Washington’s uncertainty about the future led him to write, almost despairingly, to Henry Laurens, President of the Continental Congress (30 April 1778): I do not to this hour know whether (putting half-pay out of the question) the old or new establishment of the Regiments is to take place; how to dispose of the officers in consequence; whether the instituting of the several other corps, as agreed to by the committee, and referred by them to Congress, is adopted or not; in a word, I have no ground to form a single arrangement upon; nor do I know whether the augmentation of the Cavalry is to take place, or was rejected, in order that I may govern myself thereby...In short, our present situation (now the first of May) is beyond description irksome and dangerous ... It is at the same time that he wrote to Congress that he wrote to Colonel Baylor, putting aside his despair and bitterness as he sought to direct the successful reinforcement of his Continental Army for the campaigns ahead. Despite his Army’s frailty, despite the derelictions of malcontents, despite his doubts about the upcoming campaigns, Washington still found hope for America. On 5 May 1778, he officially informed the Army: “It having pleased the Almighty ruler of the Universe propitiously to defend the Cause of the United American-States and finally by raising us up a powerful Friend [France] among the Princes of the Earth to establish our liberty and Independence up[on] lasting foundations, it becomes us to set apart a day for gratefully acknowledging the divine Goodness and celebrating the important Event which we owe to his benign Interposition.” [Note: on 6 February 1778, at Versailles, a treaty of alliance was signed by which France recognized the independence of the United States.]
Despite the squalor at Valley Forge, improvement in the Continental Army was discernible. The American Army that emerged in the spring of 1778 was stronger and more tightly knit than it had been before. Washington was eager to cross swords with the British. On 19 June 1778, Washington broke camp and started in pursuit of Sir Henry Clinton, who had just evacuated Philadelphia (after relieving Howe on June 18th) and was headed across New Jersey for New York. Washington was anxious to engage in battle with Clinton before he reached the safety of New York. The Battle of Monmouth took place on 28 June; it ended the agony of Valley Forge. Though technically a draw, the battle was tremendously significant for it demonstrated the new professionalism of Washington’s Army who stood face-to-face with British regulars.
$15,000 - $25,000