An autographed letter by George Washington, which he wrote shortly after the Yorktown capitulation that ended the revolutionary war, is to sell at RR Auction on March 9.
The lot is valued in excess of $150,000. It last sold for $95,600 at Heritage in 2010.
The letter shows Washington wrestling with his conscience as he contemplates executing an English officer, Captain Charles Asgill. It's addressed to Washington's friend, General Benjamin Lincoln.
The situation came about following the killing of a loyalist officer named Philip White while in rebel custody.
In retaliation, a band of New Jersey loyalists under the leadership of a Captain Lippincot hanged a rebel prisoner (Captain Jack Huddy).
A sign left around his neck read: "We, the Refugees…..taking vengeance for the numerous cruelties….have made use of Captain Huddy as the first object to present to your view, and further determine to hang man for man while there is a refugee in existence.
"Up Goes Huddy for Philip White".
In return Washington selected a British prisoner (Asgill) to be executed unless Lippincot was brought to trial.
He was, however, unable to send a message to the defeated British as the articles of Yorktown made Asgill a protected prisoner. Any violence against him ran the risk of breaking the fragile peace.
He writes: "Colo. Hazen's sending an officer under the capitulation of Yorktown for the purpose of retaliation has distressed me exceedingly .
"Will you be so good as to give me your opinion of the propriety of doing this upon Captain Asgill should we be driven to it for want of an unconditional prisoner…
"I write to you in exceedingly great haste, but beg your sentiments may be transmitted as soon as possible (by express) as I may be forced to a decision in the course of a few days."
In the end, it was a letter from the king of France on behalf of Asgill's mother that settled the matter and he was allowed to go free.
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