BOUDINOT ELIAS, President of the Continental Congress, Director, U.S. Mint. Autograph letter signed ("E. Boudinot" with paraph) as Commissary-General of Prisoners, to his wife at Basking Ridge, New Jersey; "Camp, VALLEY FORGE [Pennsylvania], 1 January 1778. 3 pages, folio, integral address leaf with panel in Boudinot's hand, remains of wax seal, closely written, edges untrimmed, the paper browned in a 1 1/2 in. vertical strip at central fold, otherwise in good condition.
NEW YEAR'S NIGHT, VALLEY FORGE, 1778
An exceptionally vivid letter from a close friend of Washington who shared with his Commander and some 10,000 Continental soldiers the shortages and miseries of the Continental Army's winter cantonment at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. "My dearly beloved wife, All my mess, being gone out on a Frolic, I am also made happy by this accident, in being left, so as to enjoy the New Year's Night alone, in a Converse with my better half..." He had hoped, he confesses, to spend the Holiday with his family, "this perhaps I might have done, had I only consulted my own desires, but being convinced, that perhaps the Lives of many of our unfortunate Brethren in Captivity [Americans prisoners of the British], depended on my stay, I knew the way of duty was the way of Peace & Safety -- I know, however you may long for my Presence...that your real Pleasure ultimately lies in being convinced, that I am acting the part assigned to me by an overuling Providence -- God grant that it may be done with a single Eye to his Glory....Blessed be God, I have nothing to ask for, hope for, or expect but Peace & Protection -- I prefer the Sweets of domestic Life, with my dear little Family, to all the Enjoyments of an Eastern Nabob; and I would rather be the respected Ruler of my own House, then Commander in Chief of the Army of the United States of America --
"....Our Army is so bare of Cloathing, that in this Season, above one half are without Cloaths - few have Shoes sufficient to enable them to be out so as to build their Hutts -- This Morning an Express arrived with the Intelligence that a large [British] Vessel had been driven a Shore in the Lower Counties [the brig Symmetry, driven ashore at Wilmington] -- She was armed with Cannon & 60 Men, so that they could have defended her ag[ains]t the Power of the Country -- but General [William] Smallwood [commanding Sullivan's division at Wilmington, Del.] with his Brigade a week ago, must be sent down to quarter in that Neighborhood....on the News being carried to him, he went down with two pieces of Artillery & [by] the second Shot the Vessel surrendered -- She turns out to be loaded with ready made Cloathing for four Regiments -- 1500 stand of Arms Dry Goods &c &c a very rich & valuable Prize -- We got the Officers, 60 Men and 30 Officers Ladies &c &c &c so that now I suppose I can pick & Choose, as I am Commissary General of Prisoners....I suspect I shall at least get some very new fashions from them -- How shall I hereafter relish my poor old Country wife, after a sight of so much finery &c [?] -- Joking aside, I am exceedingly pleased with this happy Omen for Good, at the beginning of the Year....It is also said that a second Vessel is gone ashore on the Jersey side...." In closing, he advises his wife on the management of their farm, requests some flour be sent, sends "kind love to Sister," and to "your good Neighbors," who, he hopes, "remember you in your widowhood. I wish them & you many peaceful & happy New Years...."
Boudinot (1740-1821), of Huguenot ancestry, earned an LL.D. at Yale, resided in New Jersey and became an active early supporter of the independence cause. On 6 June 1777 Congress appointed him Commissary General of Prisoners. In this difficult post he spent some $30,000 of his own money to gain the release of captured Americans. He became, during this period, a close friend of Washington, whom he idolized. He was elected to Congress in November 1777, but did not serve until July 1778, at Washington's insistence. From 4 November 1782 to 16 June 1783 Boudinot was President of the Continental Congress and signed the alliance with France, the treaty of Paris, and the act ordering the cessation of hostilities in 1783. The British brig, Symetry and a sloop carrying flour, pork, poultry and other supplies surrendered to the Americans, as Boudinot reports, after a few shots from a small fieldpiece were fired. The desperately needed supplies including winter clothing for four regiments, arms and ammunition and officers' baggage, became the object of prolonged wrangling between Smallwood's troops, the Congress and Washington. Boudinot was given charge of the prisoners captured in the affair. LETTERS FROM VALLEY FORGE ARE RARE (see also lot , for a letter of a soldier of the line).