Gen. George Washington Signs a Discharge For a Soldier Who Was With Him Crossing the Delaware, at Valley Forge, and at Yorktown

It is extremely uncommon to find a discharge for a man present at all three iconic moments of the war.

Albert Van Orden joined the 1st New York Regiment on October 24, 1776. Just days later, the regiment took part in the Battle of White Plains. Still with Washington’s Continental Army at the end of the year, the 1st New York crossed the Delaware and participated in the successful Christmas Day 1776...

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Gen. George Washington Signs a Discharge For a Soldier Who Was With Him Crossing the Delaware, at Valley Forge, and at Yorktown

It is extremely uncommon to find a discharge for a man present at all three iconic moments of the war.

Albert Van Orden joined the 1st New York Regiment on October 24, 1776. Just days later, the regiment took part in the Battle of White Plains. Still with Washington’s Continental Army at the end of the year, the 1st New York crossed the Delaware and participated in the successful Christmas Day 1776 attack on Trenton, NJ. Sent North, in 1777 they were in Benedict Arnold’s force when it relieved Fort Schuyler. In the spring of 1778, the regiment rejoined the main Continental Army at Valley Forge and was assigned to Gen. Anthony Wayne’s command. It was involved in the Battle of Monmouth, the last major battle of the war in the North. On November 4, 1778, the 1st New York was again ordered to relieve the garrison at Fort Schuyler. While at that frontier outpost, the regiment participated in the campaign against the Onondaga Indians. It remained at that fort until 1780, and then guarded various New York outposts until June 1781, when the unit joined the main Continental Army force. It took part in the siege of Yorktown and saw the surrender of Cornwallis. When the war ended in 1783, Van Orden was still with the regiment. He had served over seven years.

British and American representatives signed a provisional peace treaty on January 20, 1783, proclaiming an end to hostilities. By April the news had arrived in America. The fighting over, most of the Continental Army was disbanded in June 1783. On June 8, Washington gave his famous Letter of Farewell to the Army, in which he said, “The great object for which I had the honor to hold an appointment in the Service of my Country, being accomplished, I am now preparing to resign it into the hands of Congress, and to return to that domestic retirement, which, it is well known, I left with the greatest reluctance…I think it a duty incumbent on me, to make this my last official communication, to congratulate you on the glorious events which Heaven has been pleased to produce in our favor…”

That very day, he gave Van Orden his discharge from the Army. Document Signed, Head-Quarters, June 8, 1783, being his discharge. It states: “These are to Certify that the Bearer hereof Albert Van Orden, Private, in the First New York Regiment, having faithfully served the United States seven years and three months, and being inlisted for the War only, is hereby Discharged from the American Army.” It is also endorsed by Washington’s aide, Jonathan Trumbull, Jr., and by an adjutant indicating that the document was “Registered in the Books of the Regiment”.

The story is that Washington signed these discharges himself because he wanted each soldier of the Continental Army to know that he was personally grateful for his service. Many of the discharged soldiers carried these precious discharges around with them, and those that reach the market are often in poor condition. This is in as fine a condition as you will find and bears a strong signature.

On December 23, 1783, General Washington himself resigned his commission and left for home. The American Revolution was over.

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