Tuesday, May 25, 2010


The FAREWELL - a work in progress

I was surprised to learn that not much is known about the list of attendees to be at General Washington's Farewell on Dec. 4th, 1783. It was held at Fraunces Tavern in New York City.

On December 4th, 1783 General George Washington was preparing to leave New York City and begin his journey to Annapolis where the Continental Congress was. There he would surrender his commission and go home to Mt. Vernon, the Revolutionary War concluded. On this day however, December 4th, Washington had asked Samuel Fraunces to prepare a Farewell Dinner for his officers at Fraunces Tavern. The tavern is where Washington and his staff had resided since the Continental Army had taken control of the city on November 25th, 1783 from the British and Hessian forces who occupied the city since 1776.
Washington had waited patiently for the British to set sail and leave New York Harbor. His Army or what was left of it was more of a police force for the returning Continental Authorities under Governor George Clinton. Washington was forced to furlough the army over the passing of 1783. Congress could not pay the army and promises were no longer believed, so small mutinies were breaking out. Even the officers were speaking harshly about Congress and Washington could not hold everything together any longer.
He disbanded his 20,000 man army down to about 900 men, infantry and artillery units. His personal thought of a grand farewell was not to be. So as the British and Hessian Armies withdrew down Manhattan Island, Washington and his small force followed, all protocols followed. Washington's party was led by the 2nd Reg. Light Dragoons.
Washington witnessed the British boats leaving the battery, rowing out to their ships. He saw the Stars and Stripes being raised and the cannon salute. Now he waited for the ships to sail. They needed the right winds and currents to get underway. In the meantime, Washington was expected to attend dinners and celebrations of the New Yorkers who were free from British rule. Washington had to also go around to various shops and clear the names of men who were thought to be Tories, but were actually spies for him during the war. One of these spies was Samuel Fraunces, the owner of the tavern where Washington was residing.
New York City of 1783 was certainly not the City it is today. It was more of a large seafaring village with farms on the outskirts. After seven years of British occupation, it was a dirty city in shambles. There were two fires during British control and no rebuilding. Churches and warehouses were used to quarter soldiers and horses. Fences were torn down and burned for firewood. British Officers occupied the homes of patriots who had fled prior to occupation. Supplies from upstate New York were only just starting to get to market.
Still, Washington was treated to dinners and celebrations. Fireworks that he ordered for his headquarters in Newburgh were brought and set off in lower New York. A spectacle by all accounts. Now the time had come for his Farewell Dinner. Washington had Fraunces prepare for 40-50 officers to attend. First, it was held at noon and was a luncheon not a dinner. The newspapers at the time did not list all who attended, so research was needed to determine who was there. Historical accuracy is demanded, but tough to come by. Over time, nice stories were written and paintings made that were more wish lists than reality. You have to cut through that to find who really was in attendance.

Three examples of how this works are as follows. General Israel Putnam would be a logical choice for being there and he is in a painting, however he suffered a stroke the year prior and was at home. Samuel Fraunces was the tavern owner, logical for him to be in the reception room, but he is not mentioned and there is no account by his hand, so we don't know for sure. Colonel Benjamin Talmadge wrote the accepted account in his memoirs of the farewell between Washington and his second in command and good friend General Henry Knox. So now we know that Washington, Knox and Tallmadge were there and that's how it works for accuracy.

General Henry Knox (1)
Baron Von Stueben (2)
Alexander McDougall (2)
James Clinton (2)
Col. Benjamin Talmadge (1)
Henry Jackson (2)
David Humphreys (3)
William Hull (5)
Benjamin Walker (3)
David Cobb (3)
Maj. Robert Burnett (4)

The following officers are listed on the roster of the First Continental Regiment included in the work of William E. Birkhimer. Which were selected to go to Manhattan or ordered to Fort Schuyler or left at West Point, that is the question. Here are the officers and my reason for why they were there.

May have been there:
Maj. Caleb Gibbs- 99% former commander of Washington's Guard.
Lt. Charles Seldon- adjutant and staff of Col. Henry Jackson- 99%.
Lt. Henry Nelson- quartermaster and staff of Col. Henry Jackson- 99%.
Lt. Thomas H. Condy- paymaster and staff of Col. Henry Jackson- 99%.
John Hart- Surgeon- 99%.
Joseph Williams- 99%
Issac Frye- 99%
Job Sumner- 99%
William Mills- 99%
John Hobby- 99%
Joseph Potter- 99%
Elnathan Haskell- 99%
Thomas Hunt- 99%
Simon Jackson- 99%
Patrick Phelon- 99%
Thomas Cushing- 99%
Jonathon Haskell- 99%
Ralph Bowles- 99%
Nathanial Stone- 99%
Joshua Merrow- 99%
Garmaliel Bradford- 99%
John Adams- 99%
William Pickard- 99%
Caleb Swan- 75%
James Sever- 75%
James Sawyer- 75%
Elisha Horton- 75%
Jeremiah Lord- 75%
John Rowe- 75%
John Groton- 75%
Amasa Jackson- 75%
Charles Jackson- 75%

Maj. Sebastian Beauman- 99% aide to Knox and officer in charge of fireworks display.
Capt. John Doughty- 99% commander of artillery and future head of the US Army.
Capt. Lt.sWilliam Johnson- joined with Doughty- 99%.
Ephraim Fenno- also joined with Doughty- 99%.
1st Lt.s
William Price- not there, at West Point
Samuel Jefferds- not there, at Fort Schuyler
2nd Lt.s
Joseph Bliss- 99%
James Bradford- 99%
Alexander Thompson- 99%
John Reed- 99%

I placed 99% and 75% after the names. 99% is after the senior officers for a few reasons, length of service to both Knox and Jackson being one. They were also most familiar to Washington, a fact not lost on Knox. 75% is after the most junior in rank. The Ensigns may have been at the dinner or more likely taking care of the enlisted men in NYC.

It was indeed very difficult to research all this and more is to follow. Below are my sources:

1. Memiors of Benjamin Tallmadge
2. General Washington's Christmas Farewell- Stanley Weintraub
3. Pennsylvannia Packet
4. Eminent Americans- Benson J. Lossing
5. The Artillery, United States Army- William E. Birkhimer
6. Itinery of General Washington- W. S. Baker
7. Papers of Henry Knox- Morristown NHP

Thanks to S. Minegar and the Morristown NHP staff, all were great. Also, thanks to Lt Mark Kryza.