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    William Eustis Letters (Six) Signed as the secretary of war under President Madison. All are dated between 1810 and 1812 and written to the chief of the artillery corps, Colonel Henry Burbeck, instructing him in the movement and build-up of ordnance in preparation for hostilities with the British Empire in the War of 1812.

    Of special interest in these letters is the increasing sense of urgency communicated by Secretary of War Eustis. In the June 1810 letter, the secretary sends Colonel Burbeck to New York to "take your quarters at Fort Columbus, and assume the command of the works & troops in the Harbour & City." Eustis' further orders include specific objectives for Burbeck ("direct the labour of the troops to the completing the Fortifications, to substitute their labour for that of hired men . . .to have the works completed, the cannon mounted, and every necessary preparation made to fit them for action"). One month after issuing orders in the October 1810 letter for winter preparations, Eustis communicates ordnance requirements to Burbeck for "Charlestown" ("thirty or forty pieces"), with "nearly the same number with carriages & equipments for New Orleans."As tensions between the U.S. and British increased, Eustis' communications become more urgent. In May 1812, he instructed Burbeck to expect from Springfield storekeepers "100 pounds of cannon powder to Newport and 150 barrels to Boston"; he then ordered Burbeck to purchase all the powder "that may be offered on reasonable terms. It is presumed the works are in perfect order for defence - should there be anything deficient, it must be supplied immediately." In the remaining two July 1812 letters - written only weeks after war was declared - Eustis instructs Burbeck to move more ordnance to Savannah, Georgia ("one hundred barrels of cannon powder, three hundred fifty 18 pound balls . . . "); meanwhile, Burbeck should expect "one hundred barrels of cannon powder and seventy barrels of musket powder" at Albany.

    William Eustis (1753-1825) had served as a surgeon during the Revolutionary War. Following the war, he practiced medicine in Boston before becoming involved in politics. As Madison's war secretary, he tried to prepare the young nation for war, as these letters show. After the war began, he was criticized for its progress; the criticism led to his resignation in January 1813. All letters are signed "W. Eustis" and are in fine condition. From the Papers of General Henry Burbeck.

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    Auction Dates
    February, 2010
    11th-12th Thursday-Friday
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