Description

    Wilhelm Baron von Knyphausen (1716-1800) commander of German troops in America, British General Henry Clinton's second in command. In the waning days of the Revolutionary War, after the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, Sir Henry Clinton and his generals consider reinforcing the island of Jamaica against a threatened invasion by France. The minutes read in part:

    "Read a Letter from the Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica to Sir Henry Clinton, received last Night by His Majesty's Ship Albacore, dated the 8th Ultimo --- and likewise one of the 7th of the same month from Sir Peter Parker to Admiral Digby, acquainting them of an intended Attack upon the Island of Jamaica, and Soliciting a Reinforcement..." A lengthy discussion ensued about how to provide the requested reinforcements (2000 men) without compromising British positions in North America and from where they should be drawn. Major General O'Hara noted "...that as the Troops at present stationed at New York & the immediate Neighboring ports are by no means equal to their defence [sic], if seriously Attacked, any diminution of those Numbers might be attended with most fatal Consequences, not only as the Season of the Year for the next Six Months is the most favorable for Military Operations in this Quarter of America, but the Rebels might in very little time collect a sufficient Body of Men for a very respectable Attack from the neighbouring Colonies, namely Pensylvania [sic], The Jerseys, & the four New England Provinces. The French Troops now actually on this Continent, would be very materially assisting in any Operations against New York, our Ports to the Southward, namely Charleston, Savannah & St. Augustine, are by no means so critically circumstanced, not only from the inclemencies of the Climate, which... renders all Military Operations impracticable, but the great difficulty likewise the Rebels would have in Collecting & supporting a large Body of Men so as to endanger the already mentioned ports, it is not probably either that the French would at this unhealthy Season of the Year risk their Troops in that part of America..." The council agreed with O'Hara's analysis and decided to draw the requested reinforcements from Charleston, South Carolina. Knyphausen adds his concurrence with O'Hara's recommendations in French on the final page.

    Fortunately for the British, the threat subsided only two days later when French Admiral De Grasse, who had been instrumental in the successful operations at Yorktown in 1781, was captured with his flagship off Hispaniola by British Admiral Rodney. De Grasse was assembling an invasion force for a combined French & Spanish operation against Jamaica. A revealing letter illustrating the precarious position and feelings of vulnerability by the British command, even in their New York stronghold. Before the Yorktown operation, Washington had reconnoitered New York's defenses with Rochembeau but feared a general attack could prove a disaster. Provenance Parke-Bernet, Carnegie Sale, Lot 6. Archival tape along left margin, very light toning, and the usual folds, else Fine. Another revelatory document. From the Henry E. Luhrs Collection. Accompanied by LOA from PSA/DNA.


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    Auction Dates
    February, 2006
    20th-21st Monday-Tuesday
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