111
111
Lee, Charles, as Continental General
Estimate
3,0005,000
LOT SOLD. 5,625 USD
JUMP TO LOT
111
Lee, Charles, as Continental General
Estimate
3,0005,000
LOT SOLD. 5,625 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

The JAMES S. COPLEY LIBRARY: MAGNIFICENT AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS: FIRST SELECTION

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New York

Lee, Charles, as Continental General
Autograph letter signed ("Charles Lee"), 2 pages plus integral address leaf (12 1/4 x 8 in.; 311 x 204 mm), Charleston (South Carolina), 3 June 1776, to William Palfrey, "Paymaster General of the Continent, Headquarters" (New York City), docketed on recto of second leaf "Recd from General Lee Charlestown June 3d 1776," also endorsed by John Hancock on the address leaf; formerly folded, seal torn away, small tear in left margin from seal affecting one letter, slight ink corrosion affecting two words. Red half-morocco drop-box, gilt-stamped blue leather title labels on spine. 
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Literature

Lee Papers, in Collections of the New-York Historical Society for the year 1872 (1873), p. 122 in a truncated version.

Catalogue Note

General Lee describes the eating habits of the officers and Hancock takes the occasion to write a hasty note reporting the British defeat in Charleston. Hancock writes "I have not time to write you, I have sent the Genl. the whole of the most fortunate defeat of the troops and ships at So.Carolina. God Almighty be prais'd, I feel grateful."

Charles Lee took command of the Continental forces defending Charleston the day after this letter was written, but it appears that he directed his professional skills to undermining the defense work done prior to his arrival. The British bombardment began and ended on the 28th, and his letter must have reached Philadelphia (where Hancock was laid up with gout while serving as president of the Congress which adopted the Declaration of Independence),  with the news of the defeat, before continuing on to New York City where Washington had his headquarters. Palfrey (1741–1780) had served under both Lee and Hancock and maintained, to judge from this letter, a warm personal relation with both.

Lee writes, in his usual sardonic manner: "The old observation that money spoileth the wit is not exemplified in you — on the contrary you are grown more brilliant since You were a a Master of four times five and twenty dollars per month. God inspire the Congress with the resolution of still increasing your store that you may still become a more interesting correspondent."

Lee then expresses how he longs "to laugh with the gallant Palfrey ..." and remarks on his appetite "You must remember that not only the quantity of good things which came out of your mouth but the quantity went into your mouth furnished us with matter of wonder and conversation - but alas were you with us now — Oh gloria vincitur idem [Juvenal, Satires X] — you would be totally eclips'd in one of these branches — we have a little secretary (don't be shocked) that could eat up you and your whole family." The officers have laid a wager on who can eat more, the secretary or Lee's dog Spada: "We have a considerable wages now depending — Spada is to fast thirty-six hours and the secretary twelve — they are then to start together on a course of roast beef— I have laid on Spada — but the majority of those who are acquainted with the abilities of these two Gentlemen are clear that I shall lose."

He then refers to a "snub we have given to Lt.[?] P. Parker, I have sent the General a relation of it — I assure you it was hot business." He praises his two aides-de-camp Byrd and Morris, and asks Palfrey to help untangle the accounts of the men of different regiments who make up his body guards. He closes:  "adieu Mon Cher Ami — My love to Morton and Baylor who I hope informs himself of the state of my mare. When She is able to travel let her be brought to Philadelphia — Where is my dog cart — and little Sulky & don't let 'em be lost."

The JAMES S. COPLEY LIBRARY: MAGNIFICENT AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS: FIRST SELECTION

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New York