Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - September - 2004 Issue

American Revolution Manuscripts<br>From Joseph Rubinfine

0905

Dennis Canfield's military discharge contains signatures of Washington, Jonathan Trumbull, Jr.


He remained in poor health from his injuries until he died in 1818. Along the way, Lee would father six children, one of whom would become more famous than he, ironically enough, by trying to dissolve the nation Light Horse Harry had done so much to build. That son would be Robert E. Lee. Item 57 is a 1779 letter the then 23-year-old Lee wrote to Pennsylvania leader Joseph Reed concerning clothing for officers. $1,750.

Here's another father less famous than his son. Item 107 is a muster roll signed by South Carolina Justice of the Peace Patrick Calhoun. Calhoun's son was John C. Calhoun, the famous states rights and nullification senator from South Carolina and one of the great orators of that period between the War of 1812 and the Compromise of 1850, along with Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. $2,000.

George Washington didn't have any descendants, let alone any more famous than he, but the recipient of this letter did. Item 124 is a 1782 letter from Washington to Virginia Governor Benjamin Harrison, apologizing for mistakenly opening a letter meant for the latter. Harrison is no small figure, being not only a Virginia leader but also a signer of the Declaration of Independence. However, his son and great grandson would both go on to be Presidents of the United States. $18,500.

Item 125 also contains a Washington signature. It is a 1783 discharge for Private Dennis Canfield of New York at the end of the Revolution. However, the document also notes that the discharge is only to be considered a furlough until a peace treaty is finally ratified. The discharge also mentions that Canfield was awarded the Badge of Merit for his faithful service. Rubenfine notes that an 1840 census shows that Canfield was still alive at that time, a Revolutionary War pensioner living in Hamburg, New York. This document also bears the signature of Jonathan Trumbull, Jr., Washington's secretary who would go on to be the second Speaker of the House of Representatives, a senator, and Governor of Connecticut from 1797 until his death in office in 1809. $12,500.

War was a bit more gentlemanly in those days. Here is a 1781 letter from Lord Cornwallis to Thomas Nelson, Benjamin Harrison's predecessor as Governor of Virginia and also a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Cornwallis had just arrived at Yorktown and was using Black labor to help build his defenses, British soldiers not being accustomed to heat. However, in this letter to Nelson, Cornwallis assures the Governor that any citizen who has not taken up arms against England may search their camp for "his Negroes" and take them back "if they are willing to go with him." Item 30. $9,500.

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