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1786 Engraved Portrait of British Army Captain Asgill

April 1, 1786-Dated, Engraved Portrait of British Army Captain Asgill, Historic Revolutionary War Era Military Figure Published by J. Fielding, London, 1786, Choice Crisp Mint.

This original print measures 7.5" x 4.5" being a Plate or Frontispiece from a period British magazine. Charles Asgill (1762 - 1823), was a British Army Captain in the 1st Foot Guards, now called The Grenadier Guards, under Lord Cornwallis. Following the capitulation of Yorktown, Virginia, in October 1781, he became a prisoner of war.

He was the subject of a diplomatic incident in May 1782 (referred to then and now as "The Asgill Affair"), when he was selected by lot to be executed in retaliation for the murder of Joshua Huddy which had been carried out by the Loyalists, on the orders of William Franklin, the Loyalist son of Benjamin Franklin. His mother, the doughty Sarah Asgill (of French Huguenot origin), wrote to the French Court pleading for her son's life to be spared. She was the instigator of the misleading information that her son was only 19 years of age. The fact is that Asgill had already celebrated his 20th birthday before the drawing of lots on 26 May 1782. The King, Louis XVI, and Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, ordered the Comte de Vergennes, the Foreign Minister, to convey to General George Washington their desire that a young life be spared. Since Asgill was protected by the 14th Article of Capitulation, safeguarding prisoners of war, such an unjustified execution would have reflected badly on the newly emerging independent nation of America. Congress agreed and young Asgill returned to England a free man in December 1782.

A year later, together with his mother (who had been too ill to travel sooner), and sisters, he went to France to give thanks to the King and Queen for saving his life. The visit commenced on 3 November 1783. Asgill writes about this experience in his Service Records, where he states "the unfortunate Lot fell on me and I was in consequence conveyed to the Jerseys where I remained in Prison enduring peculiar Hardships for Six Months until released by an Act of Congress at the intercession of the Court of France. Returned to England on Parole in December 1782... had leave of Absence for a few months for the purpose of going to Paris to return thanks to the Court of the historic British Army Captain Asgill.

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