BROADSIDE POSTED IN NEW YORK DETAILING THE PROCESSION TO RE-OCCUPY THE CITY. Exceedingly rare, no example has been traced ever being on the open market.
New York was lost to British forces in 1776, early in the American Revolution. The city became the British headquarters for the remainder of the campaign. Despite the surrender occurring at Yorktown on 19 October 1781. Whilst we look at Yorktown as the end of the war it was in fact not so clear. British forces remained in America, winter was fast approaching and neither side had the stomach for more conflict. This continued into 1782 without any clarity about any peace process. Eventually the American appointed commissioners John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay and Henry Laurens met in Paris in April 1782. The presence of the French and Spanish in the negotiations made it much more complicated. Ultimately John Jay approached the British Prime Minister Lord Shelburne directly. They both agreed that a mutually beneficial treaty would be better achieved by leaving the French and Spanish out of the negotiations. The final Treaty was signed in Paris on 3 September 1783.
Sir Guy Carleton oversaw the British forces in North America and in August 1783, he received orders from London to evacuate New York. The British withdrawal was complicated by the flood of loyalists pouring into the city. Over 29,000 of them were evacuated along with over 3,000 black loyalist former slaves. The latter was in violation of the Treaty which called for their return to former owners. Ultimately the final date was set for noon on 25 November 1783.
As the date approached Carleton was still evacuating. A fleet of twenty vessels had been delayed in its return from Halifax due to inclement weather. Provisioning continued through the weekend in poor weather. On the 24 November with the weather improving a dispatch rider was sent north to McGowan’s Pass (now the north east corner of Central Park) where General Washington was encamped.
25 November 1783
The ‘Committee appointed to conduct the Order of receiving their Excellencies Governor Clinton and General Washington’ laid out the events of the day. These had been ‘distributed widely on handbills. Poles, shop windows, hoardings, and even brick walls displayed the notices. There was no British interference’ (Weintraub). This is an example of that very handbill or broadside.
On the morning of the 25th Washington began marching down Broadway. The procession gathered at the ‘Bull’s Head, in the Bowery’, then on the outskirts of town. It is now approximately the junction of Canal and Bowery. The entry was delayed as Washington had stipulated that he would not enter the city until the British flag had been replaced at Fort George. The British had deliberately greased the pole to make it harder to remove. After several attempts a set of wooden cleats were cut and nailed to the pole with the help of a ladder. It was replaced by the Stars and Stripes. Citizens were invited to join the procession at the Bowling Green at the southern end of Broadway.
The Memoirs of Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge (1754-1835) recount the day well; ‘Gen. Knox, at the head of a select corps of American troops, entered the city as the rear of the British troops embarked; soon after which the Commander-in-Chief, accompanied by Gov. Clinton and their respective suites, made their public entry into the city on horseback … So perfect was the order of the march, that entire tranquillity prevailed, and nothing occurred to mar the general joy. Every countenance seemed to express the triumph of republican principles over the military despotism which had so long pervaded this now happy city … The joy of meeting friends, who had long been separated by the cruel rigours of war, cannot be described.
‘The time now drew near when the Commander-in-Chief intended to leave this part of the country for his believed retreat at Mount Vernon. On Tuesday, the 4th of December, it was made known to the officers then in New York, that Gen. Washington intended to commence his journey on that day. At 12 o’clock the officers repaired to Francis’ Tavern, in Pearl Street, where Gen. Washington had appointed to meet them, and to take his final leave of them. We had been assembled but a few moments, when His Excellency entered the room. His emotion, too strong to be concealed, seemed to be reciprocated by every officer present. After partaking of a slight refreshment, in almost breathless silence, the General filled his glass with wine, and turning to the officers, he said:
‘With a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable. I cannot come to each of you, but shall feel obliged if each of you will come and take me by the hand’
‘Gen. Knox being nearest to him, turned to the Commander-in-Chief, who, suffused in tears, was incapable of utterance, but grasped his hand; when they embraced each other in silence. In the same affectionate manner, every officer in the room marched up to, kissed, and parted with his General-in-Chief. Such a scene of sorrow and weeping I had never before witnessed, and I hope I may never be called upon to witness again’ (Tallmadge).
He returned to Baltimore where he formally resigned his commission and travelled on to Mount Vernon. His country would soon be calling again. To this day an Evacuation Day dinner is held there at which the same 13 toasts are recited.
The English Short Title Catalogue cites only four examples in institutions; John Carter Brown Library, the New York State Library and two examples at the Clements Library. One example in the Stokes’ Collection is illustrated in ‘Iconography of Manhattan’, volume V p. 1102. One might presume that now resides at the New York Public Library. It is printed by Samuel Loudon (1727?-1813). Loudon had printed the New York State constitution in Fishkill, New York, 1777. He was the town’s Postmaster from 1777-83. This example lacks the last few lines but curiously matches that of the Facsimile of the ‘Original in possession of Geo: Granville White, Brooklyn, N.Y. (grandson of Thos. Tucker)’. Tucker is named in the broadside.
Provenance: William Thornton, architect of the Capitol Building; Comte de Volney (1757-1820); acquired 15 May 1984; Burden Collection. Bristol B5767; Dawson (January 1867) ‘The Historical Magazine, and Notes and Queries’ pp. 44-5; ESTC W24689; Nebenzahl (1974) pp. Shipton and Mooney (1969) no. 44426; Stokes (1915-28) vol. V pp. 1103, 1171-75; Tallmadge (1904) ‘Memoir of Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge’ pp. 95-8; Weintraub (2003) ‘General Washington’s Christmas Farewell: A Mount Vernon Homecoming, 1783’.