Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice

    Description

    "If the British put themselves before your forts, giv[e] them nothing but red hot balls & plenty of them."

    John Armstrong Collection of Nine Letters, all are signed (two are secretarially signed) and dated between October 1812 and August 1813. Eight of the letters were written while Armstrong was serving as President James Madison's secretary of war; all concern the eastern American coastal defense against British invasion.

    Prior to the War of 1812, John Armstrong, Jr. (1758-1843) served his country as a soldier in the Revolutionary War, a Pennsylvania delegate to the Continental Congress, a U.S. senator, and a diplomat. At the outset of the War of 1812, he was appointed a brigadier general and assigned the difficult task of leading the defense of New York Harbor. In January 1813, President Madison appointed him his war secretary. Following the August 1814 burning of Washington's public buildings by British forces-one of the most humiliating events in U.S. history-Armstrong resigned amidst blame for failing to defend the capital against the invasion.

    All of Secretary of War Armstrong's letters are one page; six of the letters are written to Brigadier General Henry Burbeck, who was stationed on Governor's Island (and later at New London, Connecticut) and was "commanding in the Harbour of New York [February 1, 1813, letter]." In the October 12, 1812, letter, Armstrong informs Burbeck about ordnance shortages at Newport ("deficiency of 50bls of powder, 400 shot for 24 pounders and 200 for 18 pounders . . .") and notifies him of requests from the Commissary General of Ordnance, Colonel Decius Wadsworth. On February 1, 1813 (secretarially signed), the war secretary instructs "Mr. Cooper" of New York to communicate with Burbeck about harbor defenses; seven days later, Armstrong informs Burbeck to expect "a communication from Mr. Cooper relative to Harbour defence." In the two March letters, Burbeck is directed to authorize "Mr. Christopher Colles to erect his Telegraph at fort Richmond [March 9, 1813]" and ordered to "proceed to Boston & relieve General Boyd in the command of that post [March 12, 1813]."

    Armstrong's June 25th letter contains orders for Captain William Van Deursen, Jr., stationed at Fort Trumbull (New London, Connecticut): "So long as the blockade retains its present character, menacing an attack on the town & fort, you will prevent the departure of all vessels from the port." Six days later, Burbeck received directions to dismiss the Connecticut militia "with the Presidents thanks for the promptitude with which they turned out and expressions of his confidence in their zeal & courage. Should further trials be necessary [July 1, 1813]." In his July 9 letter, the secretary of war then gave Burbeck, stationed at New London, dire instructions: "If the British put themselves before your forts, giving them nothing but red hot balls & plenty of them. If Benjamin's recruits are insufficient to garrison & cover the forts call in some militia." Armstrong's final letter in this collection (secretarially signed) is addressed to Connecticut Governor John Cotton Smith regarding the supplying of Connecticut's militia, dated August 9, 1813. These important letters are in good to fine condition. From the Papers of General Henry Burbeck.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2010
    11th-12th Thursday-Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,062

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

    Sold on Feb 11, 2010 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item
    Coming soon:

    Comics & Comic Art
    Opens about 09/27/2021

    Luxury Real Estate
    Opens about 08/06/2021

    Jewelry & Timepieces
    Opens about 09/24/2021

    Photography
    Opens about 09/22/2021

    Decorative Art
    Opens about 09/23/2021

    Fine Art
    Opens about 09/28/2021

    Fine Art
    Opens about 09/29/2021

    Currency
    Opens about 10/04/2021

    Western & Texas Art
    Opens about 10/01/2021

    Sports Collectibles
    Opens about 10/01/2021

    US Coins
    Opens about 09/24/2021

    Decorative Art
    Opens about 10/07/2021

    World & Ancient Coins
    Opens about 10/04/2021

    Comics & Comic Art
    Opens about 09/30/2021

    Comics & Comic Art
    Opens about 10/11/2021

    Decorative Art
    Opens about 10/08/2021

    US Coins
    Opens about 10/01/2021

    Fine Art
    Opens about 10/13/2021

    Comics & Comic Art
    Opens about 10/07/2021

    US Coins
    Opens about 10/04/2021

    Fine Art
    Opens about 10/15/2021

    Entertainment
    Opens about 10/18/2021

    Jewelry & Timepieces
    Opens about 10/22/2021

    Manuscripts
    Opens about 10/18/2021

    Comics & Comic Art
    Opens about 10/18/2021

    Entertainment
    Opens about 10/18/2021

    Entertainment
    Opens about 10/18/2021

    Musical Instruments
    Opens about 10/12/2021

    Fine Art
    Opens about 10/19/2021

    Photography
    Opens about 10/20/2021

    US Coins
    Opens about 10/22/2021

    Decorative Art
    Opens about 10/21/2021

    Comics & Comic Art
    Opens about 10/14/2021

    US Coins
    Opens about 10/11/2021

    Space
    Opens about 10/25/2021

    World & Ancient Coins
    Opens about 10/17/2021

    Currency
    Opens about 10/18/2021

    Silver
    Opens about 10/26/2021

    Fine Art
    Opens about 10/26/2021

    Jewelry & Timepieces
    Opens about 10/18/2021

    Fine Art
    Opens about 10/27/2021

    Fine Art
    Opens about 10/27/2021

    Comics & Comic Art
    Opens about 10/29/2021

    US Coins
    Opens about 10/18/2021

    US Coins
    Opens about 10/18/2021

    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
    Only 20 days left to consign to the 2021 December 9 - 10 Books Signature® Auction !

    Learn about consigning with us

    This was my first time dealing with an auction house, and I am 100% completely impressed with Heritage. There is not an aspect of this process that I have a critique for.
    Darryl S.,
    Stuart, FL
    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