New York, Park Avenue
20 November 1992
WILLETT, MARINUS, Colonel, Continental Army. Autograph letter signed in full to Christian Miller in Albany; Cedar Grove, 14 September 1827. 2 full pages, 4to, integral address leaf with panel in Willett's hand and original postmarks. Fine condition. Not long before his own death, the 78-year-old soldier, who had fought in the French and Indian War at Ticonderoga and all through the Revolution, muses on the approaching death of his brother, who has been "not only in the midst (as we all are) but on the very point of death. That is a very solemn and sublime sentence in the burial service of our Church. In the midst of life we are in death; It is a b[ea]utiful and instructive saying....My Dear Brother and I have lived to see many days...this is the passage to an perminent [sic] and never ending life of happiness....My poor dear Brothers situations is indeed disturbing and you my dear Friend and my gool old Friend Polly and Catherine, are the instruments prepared by his heavenly Father to lighten his affliction...."
Willett (1740-1830), who has been called "one of the truly outstanding American leaders of the Revolution" (cf. Boatner), was born on Long Island, attended King's College, fought with the colonial army against the French at Fort Ticonderoga, then became a radical Son of Liberty and joined the provincial militia. He served as a captain in the invasion of Canada and distinguished himself at Fort Stanwix, for which he was voted a sword by Congress. He commanded the New York forces in the key battle of Johnstown (25 October 1781) and later commanded all the New York militia forces on the New York borders during the difficult period of 1781-1782, and succeeded in driving the Tory-Indian raiders from the Mohawk Valley. After independence Willett served as Sheriff of New York. Washington sent him as his personal emissary to the Creek Indians in 1790; two years later he declined an appointment as Bragidier General in the Army. In 1807 he succeeded DeWitt Clinton in 1807 as Mayor of New York. Willett's letters are rare.
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