Description

    American Revolution: The arrival of Rochembeau's army at Newport, Rhode Island. An extraordinary manuscript letter, one page, 8" x 12.5", [New York?], dating to early July, 1780, but mistakenly docketed on the verso "Intelligence May '[17]81". The unidentified correspondent reports the latest developments in British-occupied New York City. This document provided significant intelligence to Washington's army based in New Jersey. The account reports upon the arrival of thousands of French troops that would figure prominently in the 1781 siege of Yorktown. The informant recounts the arrival of Admiral "Arbuthnot with his Fleet with Troops on board has returned & is cruising off ----". After their successful expedition against Charleston in May 1780, the admiral intended to blockade Newport, where 5,500 French regulars had arrived under the command of Rochambeau. The correspondent continues with the arrival of:"A French Fleet with 7 Sail of the Line & 10.000 [sic] Troops arrived at Newport this is so far credited by some of the Loyalists that they appear to be in a great confusion". Initial confusion became panic as the large British force that had confronted the Americans at Springfield, New Jersey in late June retreated back to Staten Island: "the Troops on Staten island have their Baggage packed up & lay on their Arms 5000[?] in Number Comd by Skinner ---". Loyalists feared the worst, and thus began to sell off their property in anticipation of mandatory evacuation. The correspondent observed: "Many Vendues [auctions] in the City" commenting that "some think an evacuation will speedily take place others offer the Reason of their venduing is that there is Fleet going to Sail for England & they want Cash..." This is an impressive report which appears generally accurate excluding one false rumor: "Admiral [George] Rodney is said to be defeated in the West Indies & the Admiral a prisoner --- Pensacola taken ---". In fact, Rodney arrived in New York from the Leeward Islands on July 10, 1780, the same day Rochambeau reached Newport. (Boatner, 22). The correspondent also reported that "The Morrisaina Refugees[?] have joined Ward on Bergen & are building a Fort which is near compleat [sic] the Number of Men on Bergen [Neck, now Bayonne, N.J.] 300". Unfortunately, the armies under Washington and Rochambeau were unable to cooperate during the 1780 campaign, and thus New York City was unobtainable. The powerful British navy created an impregnable boundary around New York City, and the French were unable to gather the support necessary to counter the British force and break through the blockade. However, the following year the two armies successfully collaborated and captured Cornwallis' army at Yorktown. Intelligence reports, of which this is a rich example, were critical for the independence of America. Original spy reports from the American Revolution are seldom encountered in the marketplace. Provenance: Mary Benjamin, 1950. Light foxing, a few minor marginal tears and chips, usual folds, else very good. Ex. Henry E. Luhrs Collection.

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    Auction Dates
    October, 2007
    25th-26th Thursday-Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
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