Jun 21, 2018 - Sale 2483

Sale 2483 - Lot 61

Estimate: $ 1,500 - $ 2,500
"WE WILL DRUB THEM" SMITH, WILLIAM STEPHENS. Autograph Letter Signed, "Wm. S. Smith," as Lieutenant Colonel, to Baron von Steuben, describing the repulse of a British foray into New Jersey. 1 page, 9 1/2x7 1/4 inches; folds, minor wear, mounting remnants along left edge, address panel (and no postal markings) on verso. With typed transcript. Elizabeth, NJ, [12 June 1780?]

Additional Details

William Stephens Smith (1755-1816) spent the war as an aide to a "who's who" of leading generals: Sullivan, Steuben, Lafayette, and Washington. He later became the son-in-law of John Adams, founded a hotel in upper Manhattan which became the Abigail Adams Smith Museum, attempted to overthrow the Spanish government of Venezuela, and served a term in Congress. This boastful letter describes his role in an unnamed New Jersey battle: "The enemy detached a small party to engage those stationed at this post. I have the satisfaction to inform you that they retired with more expedition than they advanced & at present remain quiet but still keeping possession of the main bridge. Capt. Bedkin is return to the post but destitute of his horse. . . . I would wish to know whether Lt. Sullivan had your honour's orders to retire. If not, I think him highly culpable, for he has left the post." Smith was apparently interrupted by urgent news and concluded his letter in haste: "A small party are again advancing. We will drub them & send you the account thereof."
This letter is dated simply "Monday 3 o'clock." However, another copy was apparently listed in the 1906 Calendar of the Correspondence of George Washington, Volume II, page 1361, with the date 12 June 1780 (which fell on a Monday). The subject given is "Skirmish with British for possession of Elizabethtown." The file copy was presumably dated or docketed with the correct date. Elizabeth, NJ was under constant pressure by the British during this stage of the war, between the larger battles of Connecticut Farms and Springfield.