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Item 349 - Friedrich von Steuben Catalog 555 (May 2019)

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(we are no longer accepting bids on this item)
Minimum Bid: $300.00
Sold Price: $5,181.25 (includes buyer's premium)


Prussian soldier (1730-1794) who provided invaluable aid to the American Revolution, joining George Washington at Valley Forge. Revolutionary War-dated ALS signed “Steuben, Maj. Gen,” four pages on two adjoining sheets, 15 x 12.25, June 3, 1781. Written from the Port of James River, a lengthy letter to Archibald Cary, the first speaker of the Senate of Virginia, in full: “In my last I had the honor to give you a general State of the Brig’a, Line. I hope you laid it before the House of Assembly as it proper they should know the number of Troops they have in the field. I now take the liberty to acquaint you of the Situation of those Troops who are assembled at this place, their numbers you will see by the inclosed Return—the greatest part of these men came in destitute of any kind of cloathing. What I could find in the State Stores I have ordered to be distributed and by comparing the Returns inclosed you will see how many are yet unprovided with articles necessary to take the Field. It is with pain I say that the number of Sick daily increases, a natural consequence of their being exposed to the humidity.”

The second and third pages, which are not visible, read as follows: “of the Earth & Air without the necessary covering of their bodies. Desertion is another consequence. The Soldier who would with pleasure risk his life in the Field of battle revolts at the Idea of perishing thru misery in a Camp. I had no idea of its being in the power of the State to fit out their men completely. All I hoped was that they would at least furnish Shirts, Shoes, Coverhalls & Hunting Shirts or Summer Jackets. But on the other hand I had still less an idea that the State of Virginia would in the month of June be unable to supply these trifling articles to 500 men, not a sixth part of the number ordered to be raised, now especially as every one of the above Articles can easily be made in the Country. The Troops are armed with the arms which arrived from Philadelphia. They are tolerable good but exceeding small and not a single cartridge box came with them, we have about miserable Cartridge boxes which at another time would be thrown out as unfit for service. So early as in November last both General Green & myself mentioned in our requisitions the importance of this Article and the necessity of this & Saddles for the Cavalry being the first objects considered, as they required most time to make them - but not a single one has been furnished by the State indeed I am ignorant of any have been to this day ordered. It is really dreadfull at such time as this to see a Battalion perishing in the Wood, unfit to be sent into the Field or even to be exercised for want of cloaths. I beg you my Dear Sir to advise me how to remedy this. You must be sensible of the pain it gives me to have such representations as these to make - but it is necessary and I beg you to lay it before.”

The fourth page, in full: “Honorable House in order that I may be justified before them & good people of the State and that the detention of Troops here may not be imputed to my negligence. With very great esteem I have the honor to be Your very Hum. Servant.” Matted and framed to an overall size of 20.75 x 17.75. In fine condition.

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