Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice

    Description

    The President... desirous to express his high sense of the vast debt of gratitude... directs that funeral Honors be paid to [George Washington] at all the Military Stations...

    [George Washington's Death] President John Adams and Major General Alexander Hamilton: Period Manuscript Copy of Orders Regarding the Death of George Washington and the Military's Funeral Arrangements for their "Patron and Father." Four pages, 8" x 12.75", blank laid paper with "1802" watermark (likely the approximate date of origin), the date and location listed as December 21, 1799, Philadelphia at top of page one, and December 24, 1799, New York at the end of page four, "signed" by William North (adjutant general of the army) at the close. The docketing on page four reads "General Hambleton [sic]/ Orders for the Funeral/ of G_ Washington" in the holograph of Henry Burbeck, a longtime associate and confidant of Washington's, and among whose papers this document was discovered. A rare and important manuscript true copy in an unknown hand of the early official orders regarding the death of George Washington; it forwards President John Adams' message relating the death to the army and details the Senior Officer of the U.S. Army Alexander Hamilton's orders of funeral honors for its late general and chief. Original folds, light toning, fine condition in a very clear and legible script.

    The document begins: "Major General Hamilton has received through/ the Secretary of War the following/ Order,/ From the President of the United States. 'The President, with deep regret, announces to the/ Army the Death of its beloved Chief __ General/ George Washington; sharing in the grief which every/ heart must feel, for so heavy an afflicting a public loss,/ and desirous to express his high sense of the vast debt/ of gratitude, which is due to the virtues, talents, and/ ever memorable Services of the illustrious deceased, he di-/ rects that funeral Honors be paid to him at all the Mi-/ litary Stations, and that the Officers of the Army and of/ the Several Corps of Volunteers, wear crape on the left Arm,/ by way of mourning for six months. _ Major General Hamilton/ will give the necessary orders for carrying into effect the fore-/ going directions.'___"

    Following this presidential decree, Major General Alexander Hamilton sums up the great sorrow felt by the nation but especially by the army due to their special bond with the fallen leader: "The impressive terms in which this great National Cala-/mity is announced by the President, could/ receive no new/ force from any thing that might be added: the voice of praise/ would in vain endeavor, to exalt a Character, unrivaled on/ the lists of true glory: Words would in vain attempt to/ give exception, to that profound & reverential Grief, which/ will penetrate every American bosom, and engage the/ sympathy of an admiring World. If the sad priviledge [sic]/ of pre-eminence in sorrow, may justly be claimed by the/ Companions in Arms, of our lamented Chief, their affections/ will spontaneously perform the dear, tho' painful duty. _Tis/ only for me to mingle my tears with those of my fellow Soldiers, cher-/ ishing with them, the precious recollection, that while others are/ paying a merited tribute to 'the man of the Age['], we in par-/ ticular allied as we were to him by a closer tie, are called/ to mourn the irreparable loss, of a kind and venerated Patron/ and Father. __" He goes on to deliver detailed directives regarding the solemn funeral ceremonies, closing with particular instructions to three officers: "Brigadier General McPherson is charged to super-/ intend the Ceremonial in the City of Philadelphia. Major/ Tousard will attend to Fort Mifflin, and will co-operate/ with him. __ The day of Performing the Ceremonial/ at each Station, is left to the particular Commander.__/ Major General Pinckney will make such further/ arrangements within his District as he shall deem ex-/ pedient."

    At the death of Washington on December 14, 1799, Hamilton became the official Senior Officer of the United States Army, a post he held until June 15, 1800. He had served as Washington's de facto Chief of Staff during the Revolutionary War and it was at Washington's strong recommendation that Adams reluctantly appointed Hamilton to this high rank.

    Actually, George Washington had already been buried at Mount Vernon before these orders were even issued. December 26, 1799, was the day chosen for the official national funeral, taking place at Philadelphia, the nation's capital. Congress selected Washington's close friend, Virginia Congressman Henry "Light-Horse Harry" Lee to deliver the eulogy on behalf of the nation. His words will forever be associated with the father of our country: "First in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen..."

    Henry Burbeck (1754-1848), born in Boston, served in the United States Army for forty years, achieving the rank of brigadier general. Prior to his military service he worked with Paul Revere at the coppersmith's forge. When the Battle of Lexington broke out, Burbeck joined his father at Cambridge where they made ammunition for and fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill. His commission was signed by General Joseph Warren on May 19, 1775, and Burbeck was assigned as a lieutenant of artillery to the Massachusetts Line commanded by Colonel Richard Gridley. In 1777, he was assigned to George Washington's army, fighting in the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown. In command of a company of the 3rd Continental Artillery Regiment, Burbeck marched with General Washington and his men from Valley Forge to New Jersey in 1778. Afterwards, he fought in the Battle of Monmouth and later commanded the troops that took over New York from British on November 25, 1783. Burbeck knew George Washington personally from their service together and it was from his associations with foreign officers in the American Revolution that he recognized the need to educate and train the army in artillery and engineering. To that end, Burbeck recommended the establishment of a military training academy at West Point and served as post commander there from 1787 to 1790. When the school burned down in 1796, no action was taken to rebuild it. One of the last earthly acts of George Washington in 1799 was to write a letter to Alexander Hamilton endorsing the establishment of a military academy at West Point. President John Adams, a proponent of a strong navy, didn't act upon the recommendation and it wasn't until Thomas Jefferson became president that West Point was formally established in 1802. From the Papers of General Henry Burbeck.




    More Information:

    Philadelphia 21st December 1799

     

    Major General Hamilton has received through

    the Secretary of War the following

    Order,

    From the President of the United States.

     

    "The President, with deep regret, announces to the

    Army the Death of its beloved Chief  ________ General

    George Washington; sharing in the grief which every

    heart must feel, for so heavy an afflicting a public loss,

    and desirous to express his high sense of the vast debt

    of gratitude, which is due to the virtues, talents, and

    ever memorable Services of the illustrious deceased, he di-

    rects that funeral Honors be paid to him at all the Mi-

    litary Stations, and that the Officers of the Army and of

    the Several Corps of Volunteers, wear crape on the left Arm,

    by way of mourning for six months. _ Major General Hamilton

    will give the necessary orders for carrying into effect the fore-

    going directions."___

    The impressive terms in which this great National Cala-

    mity is announced by the President, could receive no new

    force from any thing that might be added: the voice of praise

    would in vain endeavor, to exalt a Character, unrivaled on

    the lists of true glory: Words would in vain attempt to

    give exception, to that profound & reverential Grief, which

    will penetrate every American bosom, and engage the (sympathy)

     

    2

    sympathy of an admiring World. If the sad priviledge

    of pre-eminence in sorrow, may justly be claimed by the

    Companions in Arms, of our lamented Chief, their affections

    will spontaneously perform the dear, tho' painful duty. _Tis

    only for me to mingle my tears with those of my fellow Soldiers, cher-

    ishing with them, the precious recollection, that while others are

    paying a merited tribute to "the man of the Age, we in par-

    ticular allied as we were to him by a closer tie, are called

    to mourn the irreparable loss, of a kind and venerated Patron

    and Father.____

    In obedience to the directions of the President, the following

    funeral honors will be paid at the several Stations of the Army.__

    At day break sixteen Guns will be fired in quick succession, and

    one Gun at the distance of each half hour 'till Sun set.__

    During the procession of the troops, to the place representing that of the

    interment, and until the conclusion of the Ceremonial, minute

    Guns will be fired. __ The bier will be received by the troops

    formed in lines, presenting their Arms and the Officers, Drums

    and Colors Saluting. _After this the procession will begin.__

    The Troops marching by platoons in inverted order. & with

    arms reversed, to the place of interment, the Drums muffled &

    the music playing a dead March. __ The Bier, carried by four

    Sergeants, and attended by six Pall-bearers, where there is Ca-

    Valry, will be preceded by the Cavalry, & will be followed by the

    Troops on foot: Where there is no Cavalry, a Detachment of Infry

    will precede the Bier, which itself, will in every case be pre- (ceded)

     

    3

    ceded by such of the Clergy as may be present. ___ The

    Officers of the General Staff will immediately succeed the Bier.

    Where a numerous body of Citizens shall be united with the

    Military in the Procession, the whole of the troops will precede the

    Bier, which will then be followed by the Citizens. ___ When

    arrived near the place of interment, the Procession will halt, the

    Troops in front of the Bier will form in line, & opening their

    Ranks, will face inwards to admit the passage of the Bier

    which will then pass thro' the Ranks, the Troops leaning on

    their arms reversed while the Bier pass's._ When the Bier

    shall have passed, the troops will resume their position in

    line, and, reversing their arms, will remain leaning upon them

    until the Ceremony is closed. __ The music will now per-

    form a Solemn Air, after which the introductory part of the

    order shall be read.__ At the end of this, a detachment of

    Infry will advance, and fire three volleys over the Bier. __ The

    Troops will then return, the music playing the Presidents

    March, the Drums previously unmuffled. ____

    The Uniform Companies of Militia are invited to join

    in Arms the Volunteer Corps. __

    The Commanders at particular Stations conforming gene-

    rally to this plan, will make such exceptions as will ac-

    commodate it to situations. __ At places where processions

    of unarmed Citizens, shall take place, it is the wish of the

    Major General, that the Military Ceremonial should be uni-

    ted, and the particular Commanders at those places, are (authorized)

     

    4

    authorized to vary the plan, so as to adapt it to Cir-

    cumstances. ____

    Brigadier General McPherson is charged to super-

    intend the Ceremonial in the City of Philadelphia. Major

    Tousard will attend to Fort Mifflin, and will co-operate

    with him. ___ The day of Performing the Ceremonial

    at each Station, is left to the particular Commander.__

    Major General Pinckney will make such further

    arrangements within his District as he shall deem ex-

    pedient.

     

    Signed

    Wm North

    Adjutant General

     

    Adjutant Generals Office

    New York 24 Decemb 1799



    Shipping, Taxes, Terms and Bidding
    Calculate Standard Domestic Shipping

    Sales Tax information  |  Terms and Conditions

    Bidding Guidelines and Bid Increments

    Glossary of Terms

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2010
    11th-12th Thursday-Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,593

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    VIEW BENEFITS
    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
      winnings 
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2020 October 27 Domain Names Signature Auction - Dallas.

    Learn about consigning with us

    Heritage has gone above and beyond my expectations in handling all of my transactions in a thoroughly professional manner. I would not hesitate to recommend them to anyone worldwide for the exemplary auction and valuation services they provide.
    Richard H.,
    Corsicana, TX
    View More Testimonials

    HA.com receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source: Similarweb.com)

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    2018 June 10 Arms & Armor, Civil War & Militaria Signature Auction - Dallas
    2018 June 10 Arms & Armor, Civil War & Militaria Signature Auction - Dallas
    REALIZED SO FAR $619,240