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Revolutionary War Major General John Sullivan's Hand-Written Retirement Letter Sent To His Loyal Troops

JOHN SULLIVAN (1740-1795). American Major General in the Revolutionary War, Delegate in the Continental Congress; 3rd Governor (or "President") of New Hampshire, and a United States Federal Judge.


(1779) Autograph Letter Signed, "Jn. Sullivan",1 page, 8" x 13", Very Fine. This undated Autograph Letter is an address to the men under his command expressing his gratitude at the time of his retirement due to his ill health. Beautifully hand written completely in Sullivan's own hand, written while ill lightly in fine brown ink upon clean period French made laid paper with a central Crown with Fleur-de-lis watermark. Traces of prior hinging upon the blank reverse side along the right margin edge causing a trivial thin away from text and nothing detracting is anywhere near the highly important docket. The signature at its conclusion, "Jn. Sullivan" measures nearly 2.25" long.

In the summer of 1779, Major General John Sullivan led the "Sullivan Expedition," a massive campaign against the Iroquois in western New York. During this campaign, troops destroyed a very large Cayuga settlement, called Coreorgonel, on what is now the southwest side of Ithaca, New York. To reach the enemy homeland, Sullivan's army took a southerly route to western New York through northeast Pennsylvania, which required creating a new road through lightly inhabited areas of the Pocono Mountains, which still exists today and is known as Sullivan's Trail.

He pushed his troops so hard that their horses became unusable, and killed them on this campaign, creating the namesake for "Horseheads," New York. The lukewarm response of the Continental Congress was more than he could accept. Broken, tired, and again seemingly being opposed by Congress, he retired from the army in 1779 and returned to his native New Hampshire. Around this time, Sullivan was approached by British agents who tried to persuade him to switch sides. This was part of a concerted effort of approaches to other Generals such as Moses Hazen, Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold who it was believed were unhappy with their treatment by Congress, and had in some ways been disenchanted, and perhaps lost their faith in the goal of American Independence. It was a British strategy with mixed results - but which produced the notable defection of General Benedict Arnold!

This historically important Letter reads, in full:

"Gentlemen, ----

At a time when the rapid and alarming decline of my health forces me (reluctantly) from the Field, so flattering a testimony respecting my conduct by two Brigades, which have so eminently distinguished themselves on sundry occasions, particularly in the course of the last Campaign, cannot fail to afford me the highest satisfaction. -- It is with great truth I assert, that while I feel the most lively sentiments of Gratitude for the regret you are pleased to express on my retiring from the Army, I sincerely lament the misfortune which alone could have forced me, to adopt a measure so repugnant to my own wishes, and so contrary to these repeated sollicitations of my Friends.

Permit me to assure you Gentlemen that in whatever sphere of life I may hereafter move, a grateful remembrance of your faithful and virtuous service while under my command - your polite and friendly testimony respecting my conduct and your generous wishes for the restoration of my health, will be impressed on my mind, so long as Bravery Virtue and Friendship are reckond among those Virtues, which dignify the human Heart.

I am with the most lovely sentiments of Esteem and Respect, --- Gentlemen --- Your most Obedt Servt. --- (Signed) Jno. Sullivan".

Docket written upon the blank reverse outer panel reads: "Genl Sullivans Answer to our Adress"

At home in New Hampshire, John Sullivan was a hero. The New Hampshire legislature selected him as a delegate to the Continental Congress for one year to start in November 1780, against his wishes. Although most of the delegates to Congress were new, Sullivan still had opponents there. Nonetheless, he accepted the position in order that New Hampshire be represented in the controversy concerning claims to Vermont under the New Hampshire Grants. A truly remarkable, original Handwritten Signed Letter by Major General John Sullivan of New Hampshire regarding his resignation from the Continental Army to his loyal Soldiers.
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