HAMILTON, Alexander. Manuscript document signed ("Alex. Hamilton, Aide De Camp"), Head Quarters, New Windsor, 19 February 1781. 1 page 4to.
A RARE DOCUMENT SIGNED AS WASHINGTON'S AIDE-DE-CAMP
Lt. Col. Alexander Hamilton conveys to a Mr. Arden the "Commander in Chief's Permission to proceed to Elizabeth Town and have an interview on the lines with his brother Mr. James Arden now in the city of New York, who is hereby permitted to pass within our lines and return unmolested. The Commanding Officer at Elizabeth Town will give Mr. Arden the necessary assistance." During the four years he served on Washington's staff, Hamilton was no mere amanuensis, but a trusted advisor and something of a surrogate son as well. Only such a close relationship explains the emotionally charged blow-up the two men had just three days prior to this letter, on February 16, 1781. Passing Hamilton on the staircase at headquarters, Washington asked him to come to his office. Hamilton explained that he needed to speak with Tench Tilghman downstairs first. Washington cooled his heels, igniting the flame of his famous temper as he waited. At length Hamilton emerged to hear a furious Washington say: "Colonel Hamilton, you have kept me waiting at the head of the stairs these ten minutes. I must tell you, sir, you treat me with disrespect." Hamilton's answered, "I am not conscious of it, sir; but since you have thought it necessary to tell me so, we part." "Very well, sir," Washington rejoined, "if it be your choice."
Washington tried to heal the breach, but Hamilton submitted his resignation. He continued to serve as aide until a replacement could be found. And Washington was in no hurry to find one. What Hamilton really wanted was a field command, and Tilghman convinced him to withdraw his resignation until a position opened up. In July he took command of a brigade in Lafayette's division, and led an assault on one of the key British redoubts at Yorktown in September.