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    Manuscript copy of Washington's orders at the Battle of Long Island

    Revolutionary War - Battle of Long Island: A superb set of two manuscripts likely in the hand of Captain Oliver Soper during the weeks preceding the Battle of Long Island. Soper (d. 1821) was a captain in Walker's Massachusetts Regiment, May to December, 1775, captain in the 13th Continental Infantry (Read's) January 1, 1776 to December 31, 1776. Soper's company served in Israel Putnam's Division at Long Island (August 27) manning the defenses on Brooklyn Heights.

    Soper's first manuscript, 2pp., 6" x 8", [Brooklyn, August 13, 1776] is a transcription of Washington's stirring orders to his army as Howe and his army prepared to assault American positions in New York. With his army already under stress due to desertion and smallpox, Washington exhorted: " it Remembered that Liberty, Property, Life and Honour are all at Stake that upon their Courage and Conduct Rests the hopes of their Bleeding and Insulted Country -- That their Wife Children and Parents Expect Saf[e]ty from them only, and that we have every Reason to expect heaven will Crown with Success in so Just a Cause the Enemy will indeavour [sic] to intimidate by Shew and appearance; but remember how they have been repulsed on various occations [sic] by a few brave Americans their Cause is Bad their men are Conscous [sic] of it and if opposed with firmness ad Coolness at their onset without advantages of works and Knowlege of the ground victory is most assured by ours every good Soldier will be Silent and attentive wait for orders and Reserve his fire till he is sure of Doing execution -- The Officers to be particular Carefull [sic] of this. the Cols or Commanding Officers of Regts. are to see [illeg.] Officers so posted as to keep up their men to their Duty and it may not be amiss for the Troops to know that if any infamous Raskel in time of action should attempt to sculk [sic] hide himself or retreat from the enemy without the order of his Commanding Officer he will presently be shot Down as an example of Cowardice on the other hand the Genl Solemnly Promises that he will reward those who shall Distinguish themselves by Brave and Noble Actions and he Desires every Officer to be attentive to this particular that such men may be afterwards Suitably noticed."

    Several days later, the British began ferrying troops across the Narrows from Staten Island to Gravesend assembling over 10,000 British and Hessian regulars on Long Island on August 23.

    Together with a second manuscript signed in text "Capt Soper's", two pages, 6.25" x 7.75", [Brooklyn], August 26, 1776, being part of Soper's transcription of the General Orders for that day. Soper's company, part of the 13th Continental Infantry under Colonel Joseph Read, part of James Clinton's Brigade in Israel Putnam's Division. The orders read, in full: "Col. Smallwood to Command Lord Sterlings Brigade During his Absence on Long Island for the Day Genl. _______ Col. Smallwood. Lt. Col. Bedford Major Sprout - Main Guard Major Mc Donagh, Brigade Major Henley. Head Quarters 26th of August 1776 600 men Properly Officered from Genl. Wollcott's Brigade to Parade tomorrow morning at 6 oClock on the Grand Parade without Arms for Fatigue 400 to take Directions from Genl. McDougal and 200 form Lt. Fish and the same number to be Continued till the Work is Compleated [sic] to Leave work [sic] at Young Flood and go on at the Ebb -- The Genl is very anxious for the State of the Arms and Accoutrements the Frequent Rains giving too much Reason to fear they may suffer he therefore earnestly Enjoins Officers and men to be Particularly attentive to it and have them in the Best order --- Brigadier for the Day Genl. McDougal Col. Bailey Lt. Col. Rackling and Major Shearmon Main guard Major Porter --- Brigade Major Fish." The next day, the routine of constructing fortifications would be completely upset by a near complete British victory on Long Island beginning a long and dreadful series of retreats and lost battles that would nearly destroy Washington's army that year. Only the victories at Trenton and Princeton at the end of 1776 managed to lift morale just enough to sustain the military effort into the coming year. At the bottom of the manuscript, Soper, just evacuated across the East River to New York City, added a company return on August 30, 1776. Titled "A Weekly Return of Capt Soper[']s Company Col. Reads Regt. New York, August 30, 1776", he enumerates the company by rank noting the company strength at a mere 27 "Present fit for Duty" out of a total 71. Document is evenly toned with a complete separation at the center fold; separation is clean with no loss of paper.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2008
    17th-18th Friday-Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 8
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