Lot 422: British army officer, politician, and dramatist (1722–1792) best known for his role in the American Revolution, where he surrendered his army of 5,000 men to American troops on October 17, 1777. War-dated LS signed "J. Burgoyne," one page, 7 x 9.5, March 26, 1778. Letter to Major General William Heath. In full: "The commanding officer of your troops not being at Cambridge I am under the necessity of troubling you, with the inclosed complaint from Lieutenant Battersby an Officer of the Convention. He is now in the guard house which I think you will agree with me is an improper place for an officer though he might in the first instance be in the wrong. Should an officer endanger his parole by being out at an improper hour—his being put in arrest, or confined to the Limits of the Barracks till the affair was enquired into I should think the worst that could happen to him in any country. I should be obliged Sir to you, if you would release Mr. Battersby from his present disagreeable situation." Intersecting folds and light scattered foxing and soiling, otherwise fine condition.
This fascinating letter was sent after Burgoyne's surrender but before his return to England, written while detained in a large mansion in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Forwarding one of his lieutenant's complaints to Continental Army General William Heath, he observes that imprisonment in a common guard house is too harsh a punishment for an officer and requests a more comfortable situation. In Heath's response, which can be found in the twelfth volume of the Parliamentary Register, he writes that he strictly enforces delicate treatment of officers and that Battersby should have been confined in an 'officer's room' rather than with 'common prisoners.' He goes on to apologize for their error in judgment, but points out that in British-controlled New York, the Continental Army's 'unfortunate officers are often sent to the provost for the smallest trifles, and sometimes they know not what for, and there remain for weeks.' Burgoyne's exchange with the Continental officer is especially interesting in tone, combining a dignified civility with the tension of nations at war.
RR Auction's Fine Autographs and Artifacts Auction 458
Wednesday, 12th August 2015
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