George Washington’s Letters

Sotheby’s
will sell an exceedingly rare group of letters written by George
Washington in its sale of Property of the Goddard Family on
January 22, 2005 in New York. The letters, written to Charles
Lee, an English-born soldier of fortune, are the first from
this correspondence to appear at auction in more than 30 years.
The offering chronicles some of the battles, conflicts and successes
that paved the way to a new democracy, with references to such
events as the British evacuation of Boston, a successful campaign
in Charleston and the aftermath of the battle of White Plains.
Such extensive and extraordinarily significant military orders
by George Washington as Commander-in-Chief during the Revolutionary
War have never been offered in the market. The eight letters
range in estimate from $2,000/200,000 and are expected to bring
$572/813,000.

Washington was the newly appointed commander-in-chief of the
Continental Army and Lee was the most experienced general officer
in that army — someone whom Washington relied on and trusted.
But even in this brief survey of the correspondence, one can
see how Washington asserts his authority as Lee seems more interested
in pursuing his own agenda and promoting his own reputation,
rather than following Washington’s directions. As the majority
of the correspondence between Washington and Lee is in institutions,
this offering provides an extraordinary and unprecedented opportunity
for collectors. The letters descended in the Goddard family
from William Goddard, who was the first printer in Providence
and Baltimore and the literary executor to Lee.

Washington Letters

Highlighting
the offering is a remarkably detailed four-page letter by Washington
on 9 May 1776 discusses the British evacuation of Boston, his
reinforcement of Canada, the controversial resignations of Continental
Generals Ward and Frye, and the brutal treatment received by
Boston Tories in Halifax. Echoing the sentiments of Jefferson’s
Declaration of Independence, the Commander-in-Chief vows "that
every diabolical attempt to deprive Mankind of their Inherent
Rights and Priviledges…will be attended with disappointment
and disgrace…" It is estimated to sell for $150/200,000.
(Lot 844, Pictured on page 1, above left)

In another letter dated 12 August 1776, Washington congratulates
Lee for his brilliant success in Charleston, stating "a
victory undoubtedly it is, when an enemy are drub’d and driven
from a country they were sent to conquer." He further acknowledges
that Lee’s success will result in the British redoubling their
efforts to take New York City (est. $100/150,000). (Lot 845,
Pictured on page 1, above right)

Also
on offer is a four-page letter that Washington wrote to Lee
following the Battle of White Plains, dated 10 November 1776,
in which he tries to make sense of the British withdrawal from
their camps earlier that week. This exceptionally detailed series
of orders to General Lee, who then was in command of the largest
portion of the Continental Army, recomme nding that he reinforce
his position against a possible attack of the enemy. It is estimated
to sell for $150/200,000. (Lot 846, Pictured right)

For more information visit WWW.SOTHEBYS.COM


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