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The Day Before Independence, Connecticut Governor Jonathan Trumbull Orders Troops to New York to Help George Washington
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On the eve of Independence, Connecticut Colonial Jonathan Trumbull orders Lt. Col. Thomas Seymour to New York to assist Commander in Chief George Washington. Seymour is ordered to march his three regiments of light horse to New York. In a postscript, Trumbull orders him to send the equipped parts of units without waiting for others to be furnished.

JONATHAN TRUMBULL. Manuscript Document Signed as Governor, to Thomas Seymour. Lebanon, Conn., July 3, 1776. 2 pp., folio.

Inventory #24487       Price: $15,000

Transcript

Connecticut’s

Jonathan Trumbull Esqr Captain General and Commander in Chief in and over the Colony of Connecticut, to Thomas Seymour Esqr Lieutenant Colonel of the Regiments of Light Horse in this Colony—Greeting—

            The pressing demands from General Washington for a speedy reinforcement of the Army at New York on which the preservation of the Country (under God) seems at present so much to depend, require our utmost Exertions on this Occasion, and as the Reinforcements raising by this Colony on the requisition of Congress and by order of the General Assembly (it is feared) will not be compleated & forwarded so as to arrive at New York by the Time they may be wanted—It is therefore thought Necessary to order the three Regiments of light Horse west of Connecticut River to march forward to New York to be under the Direction of the Commander in Chief of the Army there.

            I do thereupon, by and with the Advice of the Committee of Safety present order and direct that the three Regiments of light Horse in this Colony west of Connecticut River immediately and without delay to march forward, well equipped & furnished for and to New York under your Command (The Chief Officer or Colonel being ordered on a different Department) & that of the several Majors in their proper Rank, and when arrived at New York to be under the Command and Direction of his Excellency General Washington as the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army there, which Troops are to be considered as part of the Militia requested of this Colony for New York depart & then there to remain & be subjected to Duty and Service untill they be relieved by the Completion of the Forces requested of this Colony for New York, which will be done as speedily as possible, when said Regiments of Horse will be relieved & return Home, unless the necessity of Case and the Situation of the continental Army there shall be such as to require their being longer detained and the General shall desire and request the same.

            You will have Orders to receive out of the Colony Treasury the Sum of £one thousand pounds to be distributed in Order to defray the Expense of their march and the Several officers & privates will receive <2> Receive such pay and Allowance as shall be ordered by the Continental Congress, or shall be set & reasonable by the General Assembly of this Colony.

            It is expected that you forthwith send your Orders to the Majors of the several Regiments aforesaid immediately to forward the Troops under their Command according to the above Orders.

            Given under my Hand in Lebanon the third day of July--A.Dom: 1776

                                    [signed] Joh:thn Trumbull

PS: “If it is impracticable to have the whole of each Troop properly equipped you will forward such part as are furnished, as the Urgency of the Case will admit of no delay.”

Historical Background

General George Washington had fortified Dorchester Heights with cannon confiscated from the British at Fort Ticonderoga and delivered to Boston by Henry Knox. The British, recognizing their untenable position literally under the guns, evacuated Boston on March 17, 1776, without the Americans having to fire a shot. After the evacuation, the Americans anticipated a British landing and assault on New York City. General Washington immediately took his army there. He needed every soldier he could muster, to be supplemented by neighboring states, to fortify the miles of shoreline surrounding New York Harbor.

Connecticut Governor Jonathan Trumbull responded to the call by creating three regiments of Light Horse under Lt. Col. Thomas Seymour. With this letter, on July 3, 1776, Trumbull ordered them to proceed to the main army. The cavalry troops, numbering between 400 and 500, arrived at Washington’s New York headquarters on July 11. In their haste, they disregarded Trumbull’s order in the postscript of this letter and failed to bring proper equipment. Washington, faced with inadequate supplies and forage for the draft and artillery horses he already had, recommended the troops send their horses back to Connecticut and serve as infantry. Instead, the cavalrymen offered to pay their horses’ upkeep, and Washington accepted.

The attitude of the Connecticut regiments was equally troubling. They considered themselves elite and therefore above “fatigue duties”—in this case the building of fortifications and entrenchments. Washington addressed the morale problems created by 400-plus soldiers refusing to work alongside the rest of his army directly with Colonel Seymour on July 16. “if your men think themselves exempt from the common duties of a soldier, will not mount guard do garrison duty or the service separate from their horses,” the General wrote, “they can be no longer of use here where horses can’t be brought to action & I do not care how soon they are dismissed.” With that, he sent them back to Connecticut.  

Some historians assert their reconnaissance might have discovered British flanking maneuvers, and have criticized Washington for dismissing his only cavalry Regiment. However, with the overwhelming numbers of troops and ships the British were able to bring to the Battle of Brooklyn, the Patriots were destined to be defeated, and Washington’s only real option was to preserve as much of his army as possible to fight later.    

Jonathan Trumbull, Sr. (1710-1785) was born in Lebanon, Connecticut, educated at Harvard, and worked as a merchant with his father before entering politics. From 1733 to 1740, he was a delegate to the general assembly, and, in 1739–40, was Speaker of the House. He was appointed lieutenant colonel in Connecticut’s militia in 1739. He served as deputy-governor of the Colony of Connecticut from 1766–1769, and, on the death of Governor William Pitkin, became colonial governor of Connecticut in 1769. He was the only sitting Royal governor to join the patriot cause, and refused General Gage’s call for troops after the Battles of Lexington and Concord. He was a close friend and advisor to George Washington, served as the army’s paymaster, and continued as Connecticut governor after independence.

Thomas Seymour (1735-1829) was born in Hartford, Connecticut. He was married to Mary Ledyard and together had 7 children. Seymour graduated from Yale and served as the King’s Attorney in 1767, and after the Revolution as the State’s Attorney. During the Revolution he was commissioned a Captain of Militia in 1773, promoted to Lt. Col. in 1774 and led 3 regiments of light cavalry to aid the Continental Army in NY during the summer of 1776. Seymour also served as Head of the Committee of Pay Table. Politically, Seymour represented Hartford at the General Assembly at 18 sessions between 1774 and 1793, serving as Speaker 5 times. Between 1793 and 1803, he was annually elected to the Connecticut Senate (then the House of Assistants) and after Hartford’s incorporation as a city in 1784, he became the first mayor and served in that position until his resignation in May of 1812.

Condition

Some chipping at right edge with minor loss to text, few short closed separations at folds, minor staining along left edge, remnants of prior mounting along center vertical fold on terminal page.


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