Apr 17, 2012 - Sale 2276

Sale 2276 - Lot 121

Price Realized: $ 90,000
Show Hammer Price?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 4,000 - $ 6,000
THE BRITISH OPEN NEGOTIATIONS TO SURRENDER AT YORKTOWN TRUMBULL, JR., JONATHAN, 1740-1809. Autograph Letter Signed, "J Trumbull," as Washington's aide-de-camp, to Brigadier General George Weedon, requesting on behalf of George Washington that boats be employed for communication across the river, and announcing that Cornwallis has opened negotiations to surrender. George Washington's franking signature in Trumbull's hand on verso. 1 page, folio, with address panel on verso; right edge worn with partial loss of several letters including part of the last 2 letters of Trumbull's signature, seal hole in the body of the text with partial loss of 2 words, another seal hole in left margin, worn at folds with short closed separation at horizontal fold. 'Head Quarters before York,' Yorktown, VA, 17 October 1781

Additional Details

Late on the night of October 16, the British made their final attempt to break free from the siege of Yorktown, attempting to escape by boat across the river to Glocester. Only one wave of ships made it across before a storm prevented further passage. Apparently, this was done without the knowledge of the siege forces on the Yorktown side. Here Washington's aide Jonathan Trumbull writes to George Weedon, the head of the Virginia militia on the Gloucester side: 'His Excellency [George Washington] directs me to inform you that he has just received intelligence from a derserter who says that Lord Cornwallis with good part of his troops were last night crossed over to Glocester, the soldiers tak'g with them on their backs two or three shirts each & two or three pr overhalls &c. This intelligence is extr[aord]inary, but as it comes from a drunken fellow, I don't know what credit it requires. However I have thot well to inform you & desire you to have a particular caution in your observations. If aney thing of the kind has fallen within your notice, the General wishes to have imediate notice.'
Trumbull saves the best news for last—Cornwallis has opened negotiations for surrender, effectively ending the war: 'The General has this day received a letter by flag from Ld Cornwallis, proposing a cessation of hostilities for 24 hours, & that 2 officers from each side might be appointed to meet at Moors House to conf[er] on proposals for his surrendering of the ports of York & Glocester. An answer is gone in, & we sh[all] soon know whether the whole is a farce, or if hi[s] Lordship is in earnest." It was no joke--the surrender was concluded in two days, making American independence a practical reality. Quoted in Ward, Duty, Honor or Country, page 227.