PENN, John (1740-1788), Signer (North Carolina) . Autograph letter signed twice ("J. Penn"), to an unidentified correspondent, also signed by delegate Cornelius Harnett, York Town, Pennsylvania, 18 February 1778. 2 full pages, folio, neat repairs at ...
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PENN, John (1740-1788), Signer (North Carolina) . Autograph letter signed twice ("J. Penn"), to an unidentified correspondent, also signed by delegate Cornelius Harnett, York Town, Pennsylvania, 18 February 1778. 2 full pages, folio, neat repairs at edges and along several folds. "OUR ARMY REMAIN IN WINTER QUARTERS HUTTED AT VALLEY FORGE..." A very fine war-date letter of Penn, whose signature in any form is one of the rarest of any Signers of the Declaration of Independence. Penn and Harnett report from Congress's temporary seat at York, Pennsylvania, mentioning the Valley Forge encampment, severe shortages of shoes and salt pork and problems with prisoner exchanges: "We are sorry it is not in our Power to give...any Interesting Intelligence, our Army still remain in Winter Quarters hutted at Valley-Forge. The Enemy have not as yet thought proper to molest them. A Committee of Congress are now at HeadQuarters [at Valley Forge] with Intention to make such reformation in the Army as may be judged necessary. Congress are exceedingly anxious that the several states should exert themselves in completing their Battalions [enlistments]...." The prices of certain goods, especially leather shoes for the soldiers, "are excessive high, but they...must at any rate be procured...We wish your Excellency would inform us whether there is not a Quantity of Salt Pork in the hands of Private persons; this is an Article which will be very much wanted for the Army the Next Campaign as the suppliers from the Eastward have fallen very short...." Penn and Harnett report that "Congress have a high sense of the intended exertions of our State, & should the militia be called for, we shall be careful to represent the necessity of a Supply of Money, Arms, etc & that they may have a Supply of Provisions on their March...The pay of a Major General as received from our Secretary is 166 Dolars per month & 15 rations; his Aid DeCamp 50 Doll. Per month with rank of Major and no rations; a Secretary 50 Dolls per month. The extracts from the Journals of the General Assembly will meet with our particular attention..." In a lengthy postscript, they report on a famous exchange of letters between Washington and British General Sir William Howe regarding the thorny question of prisoner exchanges (the Americans took some 7,000 prisoners at Saratoga--the "Convention Army"--and their exact status was still unresolved). Howe, writing to Washington, had expressed anger at Congress's handling of the matter. Penn writes: "Since writing the above we have received letters from General Washington in which we are informed that Gen l. Howe has agreed to an exchange of Prisoners; officers for officers, Soldiers for Soldiers & Citizen for Citizen, so that our poor Countrymen will soon be released from their cruel confinement. Congress a few days ago resolved that as Gen l. Howe has refused to suffer any thing to be purchased for the relief of our prisoners in his hands, that he should be obliged to send all the necessaries his prisoners with us might want, & that the same severity should be practiced towards British prisoners as was inflicted on ours; this resolution has produced a change in Mr. Howe's conduct. He paid some high Compliments to Gen l. Washington & at the same time answered Congress, but was answered by our General, that he would always resent any affront offered the representatives of a free People under whose authority he acted, & that he had ever avoided saying anything of the conduct of those Gen l. Howe served...." Penn also wrote the same day to Col. Theodoric Bland to comment on Washington's response to Howe (from the Shochet Collection, Christie's, 20 May 1994, lot 68). For the full text of Washington's letter to Howe, 30 January 1778, see Fitzpatrick 10:408-409.
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