History In Ink®  Historical Autographs


Oliver Ellsworth

Jesse Root

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Ellsworth authorizes payment to Captain Jesse Root

for wages of Connecticutʼs volunteers in the Revolutionary War

two days after Washingtonʼs surprise victory at Trenton

Oliver Ellsworth, 1745–1807.  Drafter of the United States Constitution; 3rd Chief Justice of the United States, 1796–1800.  Autograph Document Signed, O Ellsworth, one page (recto and verso), 8½" x 4½", Hartford, [Connecticut], December 28, 1776.  Also signed by Jesse Root (1736–1822).

This pay warrant has an excellent association.  Ellsworth, as a member of the Connecticut Committee of the Pay Table, which handled Connecticut's military finances during the Revolutionary War, authorizes payment to Captain Jesse Root of “One Hundred Pounds to be in account for advanced Wages to the Volunteer Company now raisd in Hartford." 

Ellsworth signed this warrant two days after the Continental Army under the command of General George Washington took the momentum in the war by surprising German Hessian mercenary soldiers at Trenton, New Jersey.  Washington crossed the Delaware River on Christmas and attacked early the morning of December 26.  Two days later, the day that Ellsworth signed this document, Washington wrote to Brigadier General Alexander McDougall, who was camped at Newtown, Pennsylvania, to outline the battle and express his hope that

the late Success at Trenton on the 26th and the Consequences of it, will change the face of Matters not only there [at Newtown] but every where else.  I crossed over to Jersey the Evening of the 25th about 9 Miles above Trenton with upwards of 2000 Men and attacked three Regiments of Hessians consisting of fifteen hundred Men, about 8 OClock next Morning.  Our Men pushed on with such Rapidity that they soon carried four pieces of Cannon out of six, surrounded the Enemy and obliged 30 Officers and 886 privates to lay down their Arms without firing a Shot.  Our Loss was only two Officers and two or three privates wounded.  The Enemy had between 20 and 30 killed.  We should have made the whole of them prisoners, could Genl Ewing have passed the Delaware at Trenton and got in their Rear, but the Ice prevented him.

Root, for whom Ellsworth authorized this payment, served on the Connecticut Council of Safety and later, as this document evidences, in the Connecticut militia, ultimately rising to the rank of Adjutant General.  He was a delegate to the Continental Congress for four years, 1778–1782, and was Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court 1796–1807.

Ellsworth has penned all of the front side of this document beginning with the amount of the payment.  The introductory clause, “Sir, / Please to pay Capt Jesse Root,” is in another hand.  Ellsworth has signed as the lone Committee member.  Root has signed the back, Jesse Root, to acknowledge receipt of the funds.

This is irregularly trimmed, and the top and left edges are a bit frayed.  There are scattered stains, none affecting the signatures of either Ellsworth or Root, and one horizontal fold that touches a few letters of the text.  Overall the piece is in fine condition.



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