Description

    General Washington sends instructions to the commander of the First Rhode Island Regiment

    [Revolutionary War]. George Washington Letter Twice Signed "Go:Washington" as commander in chief of the Continental Army. One page, 8" x 13.25", "Head Qtr [Preakness Valley, New Jersey]," November 27, 1780, to Colonel Christopher Greene, in the hand of Washington's aide, Colonel Alexander Hamilton.

    Greene, a native of Rhode Island, had served in the Rhode Island legislature until shortly before the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. He joined the Continental Army in 1775. By October, 1776, he had received a colonel's commission and, following the capture of Philadelphia in 1777, was charged with the defense of the newly constructed Fort Mercer. Fort Mercer, and its twin, Fort Mifflin, were built on either side of the Delaware River in an effort to prevent the British from supplying the city. Mercer, defended by some 400 colonials, was attacked by a force of Hessians under the command of Colonel Carl von Donop that outnumbered the colonials three to one, supported by six British men-of-war sailing up the river. Overly confident in his advantage, von Donop ordered the attack on the fort, but his men were cut down and were forced to retreat with von Donop sustaining a mortal wound.

    Following his successful defense of Fort Mercer (the Battle of Red Bank), Greene returned to Rhode Island and was given command of the First Rhode Island Regiment, known to history as "the Black Regiment." In 1778, the Rhode Island General Assembly passed an act to enlist slaves (negro or Indian) of the state, with each receiving wages and freedom from their masters. By late 1778, after many slaves had enlisted, the regiment became the first nearly all-black regiment during the Revolution, with a few whites and Indians serving. The regiment served with distinction during the Battle of Rhode Island.

    On July 10, 1780, a force of 7,000 French troops led by Lieutenant General Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, Count de Rochambeau, landed at Newport, Rhode Island. Rochambeau was ordered by the King of France to link up with General Washington and offer his assistance, but he was reluctant to leave behind the French fleet that was now blockaded by the British. Four and a half months later, Washington sent this letter to Col. Greene, who was at Newport, with orders related to the French nobleman. The letter reads, in full:

    "It is probable you will receive The Count De Rochambeaus orders to march with your regiment to West Point. Should this be the case, you will only come on with such officers as are to remain in service, on the new-arrangement and such men as are engaged for the war, or at least for a term, that will last through the next campaign. The other men you may dismiss, unless The Count De Rochambeau should find any employment, for them where they now are. In this you will perceive it is presumed that you have already agreed on the arrangement."

    Directly below the body of the letter, there is a postscript: "Since writing the above I have received your letter of the 18th." This letter is found on page 410 in "The Writings of Washington, Vol. 20, September 1780-December 1780." On very thick paper, with small spots of scattered foxing. Folds are weakened and separating at the edges in places, but only affecting the text in the postscript. Lower edge is chipped slightly. The rest of the text is very clear and Washington's signature is bold and bright.

    The now detached integral address cover is present; addressed to Colonel Greene, in Hamilton's hand and signed a second time by Washington. Remnant of red wax seal at center. Scattered foxing with uneven toning and light chipping along the top.

    In May, 1781, Greene and his regiment were targeted by Loyalists who surrounded his headquarters on the Croton River in New York. They attacked the camp, killing Greene and several of his black soldiers. His body was later found in the woods, mutilated, presumably in revenge for his leading black soldiers against the Crown.


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    Auction Dates
    October, 2012
    4th-5th Thursday-Friday
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