Sep 27, 2018 - Sale 2486

Sale 2486 - Lot 213

Price Realized: $ 13,750
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 7,000 - $ 10,000
(AMERICAN REVOLUTION--1778.) [Washington, George.] Contemporary manuscript copy of marching orders issued at Valley Forge. 3 manuscript pages, 13 x 8 inches, on one folding sheet, plus docking on verso; moderate edge wear slightly affecting the bottom line of text, minimal dampstaining. Np, [June 1778]

Additional Details

The main body of the Continental Army under Washington arrived at Valley Forge in December 1777. Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben arrived as a volunteer in February to help drill and train the troops. By June, the army was a more disciplined fighting force, and was preparing to leave their winter quarters for a summer of combat. On 1 June 1778, General George Washington issued this detailed order for the movement of his army in the field, with particular attention to the establishment of advance, rear, and flank guards, both to ward off surprise attacks and to rein in stragglers from the march. See "The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series," Volume 15, pages 287-9. It was possibly composed with advice from Steuben, who would routinely write out his drill instructions in German and have them translated for Washington's use the following day.
Offered here is a manuscript transcript of the marching portion of Washington's 1 June order. The order would likely have been copied out by a clerk at the regimental level for insertion into the regimental orderly book. The handwriting has not been identified. There are no very substantial differences between this manuscript and Washington's original order, just the sort of minor errors that might be made by an overworked regimental clerk. For example, in the middle of the first page, this manuscript states that "A brig'd composed of several has an advanced and rear guard." Washington's order reads "A brigade composed of several battalions." This copy is docketed "Gen'l orders respecting the order of march, gen'l."
While these complex orders were likely meant to be practiced in drill, they would very soon be used on the march. On 18 June 1778, the British abandoned their occupation of Philadelphia, and their troops began marching across New Jersey to New York. The next day, the Continental Army was in pursuit, and faced the enemy nine days later in the Battle of Monmouth.