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Occupied New York City and the War Beyond, 1776-1783

The British held New York City for seven years, finally pulling out on November 25, 1783 - two years after the victory at Yorktown effectively ended the war. The devastation to the city was massive: thousands of rebels were driven from their homes, Loyalists poured in from throughout the colonies, prisoners were kept in miserable conditions both on land and on rotting hulks in the harbor. Meanwhile British officers seized the finest available quarters for themselves, and British regulars controlled the streets and amused themselves with races, balls, theatricals, and other entertainments. Both sides were obsessed with New York City - the British were determined to hold it and Washington wanted to drive them out.

During those seven years Washington's army maintained constant pressure on the British, preventing the British troops defending the city from supporting military action elsewhere in North America. This letter - entirely in Washington's own hand - is an order for 4,000 troops to march towards New York. Thus the British were convinced a major attack was imminent while Washington marched the bulk of his army to Yorktown, Virginia and his victory over Cornwallis.

Washington, George, 1732-1799., ADS (Dobbs Ferry, July 13, 1781), 4 pages. [Detail]