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    General Washington pursues the British on the day after they evacuated Philadelphia

    George Washington Letter Signed with Free Frank, both appearing as "G: Washington". One page, 8.25" x 13.5", Norrington [Pennsylvania], June 19, 1778. The free frank appears on the verso in the lower portion of the address panel. In an attempt to coordinate his troops' movements, General Washington signs this letter to Brigadier General William Woodford requesting his position and informing him of his own plans to continue his pursuit of the British at 4:00 a.m. the following morning, only two days after the enemy had evacuated Philadelphia. That pursuit would culminate in the Battle of Monmouth nine days later. In full:

    "Dr. Sir
    I request you to inform me by the return of the Bearer how far you have proceeded on your march and the proviso place of your encampment tonight. I am told by some accident, you have not pursued the same Route which General [Charles] Lee has. I have advanced myself with the remainder of the Army to Norrington, about Eight or Nine miles, and shall proceed precisely at four tomorrow morning. My latest intelligence from Jersey was from Gen. [Philemon] Dickinson & [William] Maxwell who advised me that the Enemy moved from Haddonfield yesterday towards Evesham.
    I am Dr. Sir
    Yr. Most Obed Servt.
    G: Washington"

    After spending eight months in control of Philadelphia, the British, under the new command of General Henry Clinton, began evacuating the city at 3:00 a.m. on June 18, 1778. Reports of the British movements arrived for Washington later that morning from Generals Dickinson and Maxwell who were camped in New Jersey. On the day this letter was written, nearly all of the Continental Army - numbering 13,500 - had left Valley Forge; Woodford's was one of the earliest ordered to leave. Meanwhile, Washington had marched a slightly different route, ending up on the 19th eight miles northeast of Valley Forge in Norrington. For the next nine days, the British army of 10,000 moved slowly across New Jersey to New York, hampered by 3,000 Philadelphia loyalists who feared to remain for the imminent American reoccupation of the city. The two armies met in Monmouth County, New Jersey, on June 28 with General Lee attacking first. The battle was a draw, but it demonstrated that the Continental Army could stand against the British and that the British could no longer move at will throughout the countryside.

    Brigadier General Woodford (1734-1780) was appointed colonel of the 2nd Virginia Regiment in early 1776. One year later, he was promoted to brigadier general. Before this letter was written, Woodford had fought at Brandywine (where he was wounded) and Germantown. He had suffered with the rest of the Continental Army at Valley Forge during the winter of 1777 and 1778 and would soon see more action at the Battle of Monmouth. Two years later, Woodford was captured in Charleston and taken to New York where he died in November 1780. When this letter was written, Woodford's brigade was part of the right wing of the Continental Army, under the command of General Charles Lee.

    This important letter isn't included in the Writings of Washington or the George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress. With remnants of the original red seal and an irregular left margin. Fragile at some seams with minor separation thereat. Minor areas of discoloration.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2010
    8th-9th Tuesday-Wednesday
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