Goldberg Coins and Collectibles

Sale 86

Lot 293

McHenry, James (1753-1816) Revolutionary soldier and surgeon; aide to George Washington; signer of the U.S. Constitution; Secretary of War (1796-1800). Fort McHenry in Baltimore is named after him.

Autograph letter signed as Secretary of War, 3 pages, 9½ x 7¾ in., on a bifolium, Trenton, October 5, 1798. With holograph corrrections. Addressed to George Washington, Lt. Gen. and headed "Confidential": "I have received my dear General two letters dated the 1st Inst. last night. You will have seen by the news-papers that I have sent out an advertisement inviting proposals for cloathing for the new regiments & cavalry; but I have not, as yet, been able to accomplish a like measure to supply them with subsistence. It is not however too late as contracts of this kind can be soon formed. When I mentioned my wish that it might be proper for you to express a strong sentiment to W Pickering on the subject of the apparent delay in procuring the necessary cloathing, it was to avoid giving room to W Wolcott to think I had been dissatisfied with him and expecting the same benefit from it, by reaction, as if it had been directly addressed to himself. I shall send you in a few days the instructions which regulate the use of our muskets and bayonets. I have taken a good deal of trouble upon this point, and hope you will be pleased with them. The French standard as well for the musket as bayonet is strictly adhered to." He blames the delay in the superintendent's sending the return of military stores to a lack of able clerks and assistants, then continues: "If you can take preliminary measures to ascertain the future character for the Lt Regts - proposed to be raised in the Southern district, without committing yourself I should think it advisable and wish to see the result as soon as possible…."

In 1798, the fledgling United States became involved in an undeclared naval war with France (Quasi War), with the threat of escalation into an all-out conflict. Upon McHenry's advice and under his leadership, Congress authorized the addition of twelve new regiments of regulars to the Army, and the country's scattered military garrisons were transformed into a professional, standing force. McHenry (1753-1816) had served as a staff officer to Washington and Lafayette during the Revolution, and succeeded Timothy Pickering as Secretary of War during Washington's second term as President. He continued in that office under John Adams, but continued to rely on Washington for military advice, even after Washington's retirement.
Estimated Value $3,500 - 5,000.
Sotheby's New York, May 21, 1993, lot 87.

Realized $2,220

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