Lot 1016
  • 1016

Alexander Hamilton

30,000 - 50,000 USD
106,250 USD
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  • Autograph letter signed (“A Hamilton) to Elizabeth Hamilton, announcing that the army is preparing to engage Cornwallis in Virginia
  • Paper, ink
4 pages (7 3/4 x 6 in.; 198 x 153 mm) on a bifolium, Haverstraw [New York], 22 August 1781, autograph address panel (“Mrs. Hamilton, at General Schuylers, Albany”) inlaid to size on a sheet attached to the letter, panel docketed “going to Virginia beautiful letter”; lightly stained, silked. Tipped to a larger sheet.


The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Syrett, 2:667–668

Catalogue Note

Preparing for the march to Yorktown: "A part of the army My Dear girl is going to Virginia."

Written the day before the "celebrated march" began, Hamilton informs his wife that their separation must last some months longer. "In my last letter My Dearest Angel I informed you that there was a greater prospect of activity now than there had been heretofore. I did this to prepare your mind for an event which I am sure will give you pain. I begged your father at the same time to intimate to you by degrees the probability of its taking place. I used this method to prevent a surprise which might be too severe to you. A part of the army My Dear girl is going to Virginia, and I must of necessity be separated at a much greater distance from my beloved wife. I cannot announce the fatal necessity without feeling every thing that a fond husband can feel. I am unhappy my Betsey. I am unhappy beyond expression, I am unhappy because I am to be so remote from you, because I am to hear from you less frequently than I have been accustomed to do. I am miserable because I know my Betsey will be so. I am wretched at the idea of flying so far from you without a single hour’s interview to tell you all my pains and all my love. But I cannot ask permission to visit you. It might be thought improper to leave my corps at such a time and upon such an occasion. I cannot persuade myself to ask a favour at Head Quarters. I must go without seeing you. I must go without embracing you. Alas I must go."

Hamilton seeks to reassure Elizabeth about his personal safety, even suggesting that that long-planned for engagement might not take place. "But let no idea other than of the distance we shall be asunder disquiet you. Though I said the prospects of activity will be greater, I said it to give your expectation a different turn and prepare you for something disagreeable. It is ten to one that our views will be disappointed by Cornwallis retiring to South Carolina by land. At all events our operations must be over by the latter end of October and I will fly to the arms of my Betsey." In the event, Cornwallis did not decamp to South Carolina and by late September he found himself caught between Admiral de Grasse's fleet and the combined Franco-American armies led by Washington and Rochambeau.

The letter takes a more characteristic turn, as Hamilton repeats his assurances of deep love and implores Elizabeth to remain steadfast. "Let me implore you my Dear My amiable wife, let not the length of absence or the distance of situation steal from me one particle of your tenderness. It is the only treasure I possess in this world. I shall loath existence if it should be lost or even impaired. A miser is greedy of his gold, but the comparison would be cold and poor to say I am more greedy of your love. It is the food of my hopes, the object of my wishes, the only enjoyment of my life. Neither time distance nor any other circumstance can abate that pure that holy that ardent flame which burns in my bosom for the best and sweetest of her sex. Oh heaven shield and support her. Bring us speedily together again & let us never more be separated. Adieu Adieu My Betsey."

Having filled four pages, Hamilton seemingly recalls the secret nature of the information he has imparted and adds a longitudinal postscript at left margin of the final page: "I have had too little time to write this. I will write you again at large this day. Dont mention [I am] going to Virgin[ia]."