Lot 1026: Johann Karl Philip De Krafft

RR Auction

December 15, 2012
Amherst, NH, US

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Description: An archive of eight documents and related notes, dating between 1776 and 1883, together with ephemeral notes relative to the military career of Johann Karl Philip Von Krafft and his descendants in America. Johann Karl Philip von Krafft (1852-1804) was born in Dresden to a career military family and was commissioned an ensign in 1773 in the Prussian army under Frederick the Great. He resigned his commission in 1776 desiring greater adventure in another army. Between 1776 and 1778 he travelled to Russia, Denmark and Quebec unsuccessfully seeking a new officer's commission with a brief service as an American privateer. Von Krafft attempted to secure a position in the Continental Army at Valley Forge in early 1778, but when he could not, he crossed the lines into British-occupied Philadelphia and joined one of the German regiments fighting for the British and saw action at Monmouth and spent the remainder of the war with Henry Clinton's army at New York. At the close of the war, he married Miss Cornelia de la Metre, who as Steuben mentions is a "Girl of no fortune" in New York. After returning with the British Army to England in 1783, he returned to America the following year where is supported his family in New York as a teacher. He then obtained a position as a surveyor and draftsman for the Treasury Department, a position he held until his death. On his return to American, he altered his surname from "von Krafft" to "de Krafft," which was used by his descendants in America. Von Krafft's published journals, covering the years 1776 to 1784, provide a superb alternative primary resource detailing the history of the American Revolution as observed by a European. The present collection features two war-dated letters from significant German commanders in the American Revolution including Friedrich Wilhelm Von Losseberg who commanded German troops at Trenton and Rhode Island. ALS, signed "Lossberg," one page, 7.25 x 8.75, [no date, but early November 1783], [New York], to Von Krafft. With the British army set to evacuate New York City, Lossberg writes [loosely translated], in part, "Concerning the circumstances that you introduced me to, I will report your resignation request to his Excellency and request that yourself stay at your current position. Colonel Von Lengenke will declare the Interims Certificate as good." The collection also includes Maj. Friedrich Heinrrich Sheer, a German officer and prisoner of war captured during the Saratoga campaign. ALS, signed "Scheer," one page, 6.5 x 7.75, May 7, 1783, "Friedrichstown," [Maryland], to von Krafft. Loosely translated in part, "Have found out with much pleasure that His Honorable High Prince had the great pleasure of naming you Ensign in the highly praised Regiment of his Excellency General Lieutenant Von Bose. I congratulate you wholeheartedly and am very obliged that you wanted to report on your own advancement to me in my imprisonment." The collection also includes letters from friends who remain unidentified including an. ALS, signed "DuBois," 7.25 x 9.25, September 17, 1776, writing [likely to von Krafft], in part, "Yesterday's correspondence brought me great distress, even more due to my own miserable circumstances, which allow me no possibility to help your own [circumstance] with money...To this I am adding a recommendation that will hopefully not be without use. Holding you in highest regards." De Krafft was then en route to Amsterdam from St. Petersberg in his quest for military adventure. The group also includes a letter by a friend M. L. Nohs, ALS, one page 7.75 x 12.75, February 8, 1784, Portsmouth Common, [England]. He writes to Baron De Krafft in part, "I am happy to inform you of my safe arrival at home Friday at 2 o'clock, I found all my family well, except my father he has the gout which confines him to his room. I hope your cold is better than when I left you, my cold is a great deal better. The ship General Worme came in is still in the Harbour-I have not been able to find out any other lodging for you yet again you come down, except that you had before at Mr. Tracey's." The material related to his descendants includes an LS by noted American author Caroline Kirkland (1801-1864), four pages with integral leaf, 5 x 8, December 2, 1850, New York, to her cousin Elizabeth S. De Krafft, wife of Captain John Charles Philip De Krafft (1826-1885) commanding the USS Hartford, flagship of the Asiatic Station. She writes in part, "My dear cousin whom I have never seen! Cousin Margaret Wadsworth tells me your thinking of coming to New York-and I write these few words to say that I hope you will do so, and come directly to my house. Where my daughters and myself will be happy to see you and show you what we can of this great Babylon." Captain Charles De Krafft fought in the Civil War in the Western Blockading Squadron, continuing his famous relative's military tradition. Also present is a manuscript manifest, two pages 6 x 10, no date, listing items purchased by Capt. De Krafft in Japan for his family together with also a handwritten ANS by Cornelius De Krafft, 7.5 x 5, referencing the circumstances of his birth and travels from Philadelphia to Georgia in 1800 as well as an ALS by Civil War officer Thomas H. Edsall, four pages with integral leaf 4.5 x 6.5, December 2, 1883. To J. W. de Krafft concerning a missing leaf left out of a journal regarding de Krafft's grandfather which he wants to translate and return with regard to a history he is writing. A terrific collection of material worthy of further research.
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