2080
2080
Alexander Hamilton
AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED ("A. HAMILTON CAPT. | OF NY: ARTILLERY") TO THE CONVENTION [OF THE REPRESENTATIVES] OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REQUESTING THE PROMOTION OF JAMES GILLELAND, JOHN BEAN, AND THOMAS THOMPSON OF HIS ARTILLERY COMPANY
Estimate
10,00015,000
LOT SOLD. 15,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
2080
Alexander Hamilton
AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED ("A. HAMILTON CAPT. | OF NY: ARTILLERY") TO THE CONVENTION [OF THE REPRESENTATIVES] OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REQUESTING THE PROMOTION OF JAMES GILLELAND, JOHN BEAN, AND THOMAS THOMPSON OF HIS ARTILLERY COMPANY
Estimate
10,00015,000
LOT SOLD. 15,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Fine Manuscript and Printed Americana

|
New York

Alexander Hamilton
AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED ("A. HAMILTON CAPT. | OF NY: ARTILLERY") TO THE CONVENTION [OF THE REPRESENTATIVES] OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REQUESTING THE PROMOTION OF JAMES GILLELAND, JOHN BEAN, AND THOMAS THOMPSON OF HIS ARTILLERY COMPANY
2 pages (7 3/4 x 6 5/8 in.; 192 x 170 mm) on a leaf of laid paper, [New York], 12 August 1776, pages numbered 93 & 94 (possibly a letterbook copy); a few neatly mended short fold separations.
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Provenance

Sotheby's New York, 11 December 2007, lot 16 (undesignated consignor)

Literature

Papers of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Syrett, 6:187–188 (text from Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety and Council of Safety of the State of New-York [Albany, 1842], with several differences in incidentals; location of original not recorded)

Catalogue Note

Filling vacancies for officers in Hamilton's artillery company, just a week before the bloody onset of the Battle of Long Island. Hamilton writes the provincial congress: "It is necessary I should inform you that there is at present a vacancy in my company, arising from the promotion of Lieutenant Johnson to a Captaincy in one of the Row-Gallies. … As Artillery officers are scarce in proportion to the call for them, and as myself and my remaining officers sustain an extraordinary weight of duty on account of the present vacancy, I shall esteem it a favour if you will ... make up my deficiency by a new appointment. It would be productive of much inconvenience, should not the inferior officers succeed in course, and from this consideration, I doubt not that you will think it proper to advance Mr. Gilleland and Mr. Bean, and fill up the third lieutenancy with some other person.  I would beg the liberty warmly to recommend to your attention Thomas Thompson, now first sergeant in my company, a man highly deserving of notice & preferment."

Of illegitimate birth and virtually an orphan at the age of eleven, Hamilton, through industry and ambition, seized upon every opportunity for distinction and advancement.  In March 1776, at the age of 21, he succeeded in being awarded his commission as the captain of the first New York artillery company. Himself a recipient of the rewards of meritocracy, Hamilton advocated promotion from within his company as shown in this letter. Advancement from within his own ranks had a two-fold motive. In recommending Sergeant Thompson for a lieutenancy, Hamilton writes: "I verily believe he will make an excellent lieutenant, and his advancement will be an animating example to all men of merit, to whose knowledge it comes."

After Hamilton conferred with Colonel Peter R. Livingston on 15 August,  it was resolved that Thomas Thompson be promoted to the rank of lieutenant. During the summer and fall campaigns, Hamilton's company fought with Washington on Long Island, helped fortify Harlem Heights, and participated in the retreat across New Jersey. "It was fortunate for [Hamilton] that Washington, doubtless impressed by the reputation of his pamphlets, made him a secretary and (Mar. 1, 1777) aide-de-camp with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.  His true weapon was the pen" (DAB 8:171–172).  

Hamilton's letter scarcely conveys the gravity of the situation facing the Continental Army in mid-August, 1776, less than six weeks after the publication of the Declaration of Independence. On 17 August, General Washington urged the remaining citizens of New York to evacuate. Five days later, the British began to land forces on Long Island, leading to the Battle of Brooklyn, a decisive British victory on 27 August. Over the course of the next two months, the Continental Army would be driven from Long Island and Manhattan, culminating in the humiliating capture of Fort Washington and its garrison of over 2,800 Continental troops in November. The British would occupy New York City for the remainder of the war.

Fine Manuscript and Printed Americana

|
New York