Revolutionary War-dated LS signed “G:o Washington,” one page, 7.75 x 10.25, December 26, 1777. Letter addressed to "Lt. Col. Wm. Lee Davidson, Carolina, Lt. Col. Heath—Virginia, Major Hull—N. England," but apparently intended for William Alexander, Lord Stirling, sent from Washington’s "Head Quarters" at Valley Forge. In full: "The light Horseman you sent up yesterday was by some means overlooked tho' your favor answered by another hand. The Deserters you mention in your last from Colo. Proctor's Corps I have the pleasure to inform were taken by Captain Tallmadge of the Light Dragoons, in the neighborhood of German Town, he has punished them properly. The sending your artillery back I think a very proper step. Should the enemy advance anywhere to our right I shall expect the very earliest intelligence from you, indeed if they move at all. When do you think we can make an attempt with a prospect of success let me have your sentiments on the matter, that if any thing can be done the necessary orders may be given." In very good condition, with toning and light foxing, professional silking to both sides, and all writing light but entirely legible.
Only a week earlier, Washington and his troops encamped at Valley Forge to begin what would become a famously brutal winter. Major General Stirling wrote two letters to Washington on December 26th: this letter appears to be in response to his first. Stirling wrote from General Potter’s headquarters in Radnor, Pennsylvania, about ten miles southeast of Washington’s Valley Forge camp. In Stirling’s first letter, he explained that a light horseman he sent on the 25th had not yet returned, and that ‘two of Colonel Proctor’s men deserted to the Enemy.’ He wrote, ‘Cannon of no Use here, I thought it most prudent last night to send the four peices of my Division back to the Artillery park,’ to which Washington here responds positively. Stirling also relayed intelligence on the position of the British Commander-in-Chief William Howe’s troops, ’the Bulk of his Army is on this Side Schuylkill.’
In Stirling’s second of the 26th, he referred to the receipt of this letter from William Lee Davidson, a lieutenant colonel of the 5th North Carolina Regiment: ‘I have Just received your Excellencys letter of this date by Lt Col. Davidson.’ Responding to Washington’s query about their “prospect of success” in attempting an attack, he wrote: ’I do not see, that any Attempt can be made with a proba[bi]lity of Success unless it be on those troops which are advanced to Knowles’s within a Mile of the White Horse on the Road from Derby to Chester.’ Based on this intelligence, along with information on troop movements from Major John Clark, Jr., Washington determined that the British troops could be too easily reinforced, and aborted any immediate plan to attack.
Perhaps most interestingly, this letter appears to be previously unpublished and unrecorded. As Washington’s letters have undergone comprehensive census and study, it is a rare occasion when an unknown example enters the marketplace. Boasting excellent battlefield strategy content and dating to Washington’s historic winter at Valley Forge, this is an ideal Revolutionary War letter of the utmost significance.
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