Sale 22BP02 | Lot 16

[FLORIDA-SPIES-McHENRY, JAMES] DE SAINT HILAIRE, FELIX (French Spy) and OTHERS. Archive of letters to Secretary at War James McHenry.

Catalogue: Rare Books, Autographs & Maps
[FLORIDA-SPIES-McHENRY, JAMES]  DE SAINT HILAIRE, FELIX (French Spy) and OTHERS. Archive of letters to Secretary at War James McHenry.

Lot Details

Lot 16
[FLORIDA-SPIES-McHENRY, JAMES] DE SAINT HILAIRE, FELIX (French Spy) and OTHERS. Archive of letters to Secretary at War James McHenry.
An fascinating archive of quality letters from both foreign and American agents supplying information to the United States via James McHenry on many aspects of political, military, Native American and trading activity in Florida and along the Mississippi in the years before the Louisiana Purchase. Together 11 autograph letters each described below.

Provenance: Dr. Herbert Ernest Klingelhofer (1915-2015), collector and former President of the Manuscript Society

The archive comprising:
DE SAINT HILAIRE, FELIX (French Spy). Autograph letter signed to James McHenry. N.p.: 5 July 1797. A one and half page letter in French on the recto and verso of a bifolium of laid paper, addressed to McHenry as Secretary at War in Philadelphia, this the largest in the lot at 13 x 8 inches 33 x 20 cm), usual folds, very fine. This is a fascinating letter Felix de Saint Hilaire informs McHenry that the information he had passed on about George was in fact true, and he further reports on a store of canons and munitions held on an island across from St. Augustine, Florida. He continues offering information on French officials and comments on the creation of a map of Detroit.

DE SAINT HILAIRE, FELIX. Autograph letter to James McHenry. Philadelphia: 3 August 1797. A one and quarter page letter in English on the recto and verso of a bifolium of watermarked paper, unsigned, addressed to McHenry in Philadelphia, fine. Here De Saint Hilaire comments on information provided by a Mr. F, a French engineer and reports that Mr. F has "not gone to France but has been sent by the Spanish Minister, either to Louisiana or Canada." He reports Mr. F has not been seen since traveling to Detroit and left no papers.

[DE SAINT HILAIRE, FELIX]. Autograph note in his hand describing a cache of maps. A small square fragment, 12 lines, unsigned, toned and short tear affecting a few words. Provided here is an interesting list of maps that will be revealed tomorrow (to McHenry), these likely stolen from the French, including "two maps of the Mississippi . Havana and Cuba maps . a letter from Mr. C to General C. ... a plan of Pittsburg and an old and new project of fortification for the Natchez and Mississippi . a map of the Ohio. tomorrow I must go to take a view of Fort Mifflin."

TILLARY, JAMES (New York Physician). Autograph letter signed [to James McHenry]. N.p.: "Four O'Clock Monday " [but circa August 1797]. A single-page letter signed, folds and some creases. In this letter, Tillary describes papers sent to McHenry and mentions Governor Blount of Tennessee and the treason that would get him expelled from the Senate (over the conspiracy with Great Britain to seize Spanish-controlled Louisiana in the hope of boosting western land prices).

HUNTER, NARSWORTHY (Mississippi delegate). Autograph letter signed [to James McHenry]. N.p.: 3 July 1797. A single-page letter signed, folds and some creases. In this letter, Colonel Hunter describes leaving Natchez and concern over Indian attacks on forces there influenced by Spanish agents.

PANTON, WILLIAM (Trader in British East Florida). Autograph letter signed twice to Dr. James Tillary. Pensacola: 14 June 1797. A long three-page letter signed and with a signed postscript, folds but fine and dark. A long letter reporting to Dr. Tillary that Indian Agent John McKee is with him in Florida and describes McKee's relationship to Governor Blount (in Tennessee, see above). Panton reports McKee has offered a verbal assurance of the payment of a debt by James McHenry, Secretary at War, and offers much on land and trade disputes between the Indians, Spanish, English and Americans. A fascinating and important letter.

McKEE, JOHN (Indian Agent). Five long autograph letters signed. Written from Mobile, Pensacola, and Philadelphia: May 1797-January 1799. Four of the letters to James McHenry, one to William Blount. Two with small losses where opened, the others fine. Together about 20 pages in McKee's hand offering fascinating reports of happenings in Florida and the gulf. In the first letter he notes "a report prevails here that is not authenticated that 4000 French troops were landed at New Orleans a few days past, 1000 for Pensacola & 600 for this post [Mobile], and that 8000 were left at Havanna. The report is not improbable as the French in their Treaty with Spain have shipped 18,000 men to be accompanied in the Gulf. This I shall be better able to write you with certainty from Pensacola." The next letters relate to Indian trading and political affairs in the region: " I have seen a Chief from the Lower Creeks who reports that about the 15th of May the Governor of East Florida had a conference with some of the Indians of his town and requested their assistance to fight the English and Americans provided they should attack the Province." The group closes with an 11 page report to McHenry dated January 1st 1799, a great read offering much on his travels along the Mississippi, with descriptions of the French settlers and New Orleans, he mentions the activities of the Panton trading firm, etc.

In all, a fascinating glimpse into the secretive exchange of information in this critical period when the English, Spanish, French, Americans, and Native Americans clashed in the South.


C Dr. Herbert E. Klingelhofer, former President of the Manuscript Society

Estimate: $3,000 - $5,000
Sold for $69,300 (includes buyer's premium)

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Estimate: $3,000 - $5,000
Sold for $69,300 (includes buyer's premium)

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Rare Books, Autographs & Maps

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