Lot 129

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G. Washington Free Frank to Maj. Tallmadge Re: Culper Courier; The Letter Sent Re: "reward... for capturing... two Armed Boats then in the service of the King of Great Britain"

A George Washington (1732-1799) boldly signed free frank, dated December 26, 1782, sent from Newburgh, NY to Fairfield, CT, addressed to Major Benjamin Tallmadge (1754-1835). Sent by George Washington as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. The gorgeous free frank has incredible eye appeal and is boldly signed by the nation's first President, George Washington. 7" x 8", framed to a size of 15.5" x 17." Not examined out of frame, expected folds and foxing which do not detract from the unusually large example of Washington's signature placed perfectly on the left side of the document.

We were able to find, by consulting digital archival material made available by the Library of Congress, the content of the letter that was originally included within this free frank sent to Major Benjamin Tallmadge from Washington's headquarters at the Jonathan Hasbrouck House in Newburgh, NY during the Revolutionary War.

The original letter reads:

"Head Quarters, December 26, 1782.

Sir: As a reward for the signal gallantry of Captain Caleb Brewster of the 2d. Regt. of Artillery and the Officers and Men under his command, in capturing on the Sound two Armed Boats then in the service of the King of Great Britain, and commanded by Captains Hoyt and —, You are hereby authorized to cause the said Boats, with all the property taken therein, to be disposed of for the benefit of the Captors and duly shared among them."

Benjamin Tallmadge was an American military officer, spymaster, and politician. He is best known for his service as an officer in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. He acted as leader of the Culper Ring during the war, a celebrated network of spies in New York where major British forces were based. Washington's letter commended "the signal gallantry of Captain Caleb Brewster": this was Setauket, Long Island native Caleb Brewster (1747-1827), who joined the Culper Ring in 1778. Brewster served as one of the Ring's principal couriers, often transmitting messages between Abraham Woodhull and Benjamin Tallmadge. When on land, Brewster served as an officer under Tallmadge; on sea, he plied his whaleboat in the waters of Long Island Sound conducting reconnaissance, smuggling, and other military missions. Just three weeks earlier, on December 7, 1782, Brewster had been shot in the shoulder during a skirmish with the British on Long Island; but here he was, courting danger again by capturing two armed vessels.

The Culper Ring was organized by Major Benjamin Tallmadge and General George Washington in 1778 during the British occupation of New York City, which not coincidentally was at the time of the writing of the letter included in this unique free frank.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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December 14, 2022 11:00 AM EST
Wilton, CT, US

University Archives

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