1851: Severyn TenHout Bruyn to George Henry Sharpe

This letter was written by Severyn TenHout Bruyn (1785-1856), the son of Jacobus Bruyn (1763-1848) and Blandina Elmendorf (1766-1854). He married Catharine Hasbrouck (1787-1867) in 1809 and they had two children, Mary Catharine Bruyn (b. 1815) and Augustus Hasbrouck Bruyn (b. 1817). Mary Bruyn was married to James Christie Forsyth (1819-1855) and they had four girls and two boys by 1851.

The letter was written to George Henry Sharpe (1828-1900), an American lawyer, soldier, secret service officer, diplomat, politician and a Member of the Board of General Appraisers. He was the son of Henry Sharpe (1782-1830) and Helena Hasbrouck (1797-1886). His biography in Wikipedia reads:

George Henry Sharpe

Sharpe was born in Kingston, Ulster County, New York. He graduated from Rutgers in 1847, then studied law at Yale College, and was admitted to the bar in 1849. Then he traveled to Europe and served 1851-52 as Secretary of Legation at Vienna. After his return in 1854, he practiced law until he joined the Union Army in 1861 as a captain in the First Regiment of New York Volunteers.

Sharpe was appointed colonel of volunteers of the 120th New York Infantry in 1862, and took part in all the battles of the Army of the Potomac. He served on the staffs of Generals Joseph Hooker, George G. Meade, and Ulysses S. Grant, and was appointed brevet brigadier general of volunteers in 1864 and brevet major general of volunteers in 1865. In January 1863, Sharpe assumed the intelligence role for Hooker that Allan Pinkerton had performed for McClellan. His estimates of enemy troop strength proved to be far more accurate than that of his predecessor. In April 1865, as head of the Bureau of Military Information and assistant provost marshal, he paroled 28,000 Confederate Army soldiers, among them General Robert E. Lee, after the surrender of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House.

In 1867, on request of William H. Seward, Sharpe became a special agent of the U.S. State Department and went to Europe to locate and investigate Americans who might have been involved in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Seward was particularly interested in finding John Surratt, whose mother Mary Surratt had been hanged as one of the assassination conspirators. Surratt was brought back to the United States and put on trial in a civilian court. The trial ended with a hung jury, and Surratt was soon set free, never to be tried again.

From 1870 to 1873, he was United States Marshal for the Southern District of New York, and took the census that demonstrated the great election frauds of 1868 in New York City, which led to the enforcement of the federal election laws for the first time in 1871, and helped to smash the Tweed Ring. In 1873 he was appointed Surveyor of the Port of New York. In 1877, President Rutherford Hayes asked the Collector of Customs Chester A. Arthur and his principal subordinates, Surveyor Sharpe and Naval Officer Alonzo B. Cornell to resign, which they refused to do. They were removed from office the next year. Afterward he became head of the commission appointed to promote the commercial relations between the United States and Central/South American countries with the rank of Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary. He resigned after the inauguration of President Grover Cleveland in 1885. He was a Republican member from Ulster County of the New York State Assembly from 1879 to 1883, and was Speaker in 1880 and 1881.

Sharpe was married in 1855 to Caroline Hone Hasbrouck, daughter of Abraham Bruyn Hasbrouck, and their children were Severyn Bruyn Sharpe, a county judge, Henry G. Sharpe, a U.S. Army officer, and Katherine Lawrence Sharpe who married Ira Davenport. He died while visiting the Davenport’s residence at 31 East 39th Street in New York City. He was buried at Wiltwyck Cemetery in Kingston, New York.

Stampless Letter

TRANSCRIPTION
Addressed to George Henry Sharp, Esq., Care of Greene & Co., Bankers, Paris [France]

Newburgh [New York]
4th October 1851

Dear George,

I avail myself of some leisure moments during a short sojourn here to make my acknowledgements for your kind favor of the 4th ult. When it was penning, we were just reaching our home after an absence of six weeks spent at Newport. Mrs. Bruyn, Augustus & myself stayed as usual at the Bel____ where we fall in course with some of the magnates of our land, while the Forsyths were very pleasantly cottaged in the lower part of the city near the water, and in the same family which had entertained them the previous year. The routine of our amusements was much the same as before, but there was more than the customary change in the faces around us, and the changes occurring from day to day were such as we had never before experienced in any such place of public resort.

And now Mrs. Bruyn & myself with our children & grandchildren have again quitted our home with the intention of spending some days here & perhaps some hours at West Point. The Judge, however, (not caring perhaps to be ranked among them) having been honored by his Whig friends with the nomination of Secretary of State, has gone out to demonstrate to the Buffalonians his fitness for the office in a set speech identifying himself and his party with the Canal Extension policy. In the present confused state of party politics and on the issue which has been ingeniously made to displace all other questions and differences, there is little room to doubt of his success. And then too they say, “he is six feet high & well proportioned” as was once said of Frank [Francis] Granger. Frank failed in his election, but we may well suppose for a widely different reason.

This topic brings me back to the main subject of your letter and it gives me pleasure to find that our views and anticipations in regard to the political affairs of Europe harmonize so well. Let not your great interest in coming events interfere with your projected excursion to Egypt.

I perceive that during my interval of needed repose (via next page), Mrs. Bruyn has been taking some extraordinary liberties in the disposal of funds given of hearts and hands — and now am called upon not only to ratify the appropriation made but to extend the limit, if need be, from $60 or $70 to $100. The demand is made upon me with the more confidence as I am always ready with a carte blanche on such appeals. How far it may suit your convenience and your arrangements to respond to such applications is another matter perhaps not sufficiently considered.

Old Dutch Reformed Church in Kingston, NY

I presume you have from time to time intimations of what is going on at Kingston, and yet I think you would be astonished at the progress we are making. Our plank roads from Delaware and to Rondout & Twaalfskill are well nigh completed. The 2d & 1st Reformed Dutch Church buildings are going on bravely and will be finished in all the winter, and when done will be among the chief ornaments of our village. The “Savings Bank” is in brisk operation and since the middle of June has become the receptacle of some $13,000.

Your grandmother retains her rooms with Sheriff Signer, the successor of Mr. Pardee and has among her most esteemed neighbors in the house Mrs. Jacob Hardenbergh and Mrs. (Dentist) Thompson, late Mrs. J. Post. Mr. & Mrs. J. C. Forsyth are receiving the daily congratulations of “all the world” on the beauty and conveniences of their new dwelling, which may be followed very soon by the lamentations of their friends that it is to be vacated for the winter season and exchanged for an  uncomfortable residence in our Northern Capital.

Your letter was submitted to the perusal of the two families you named and it & all your letters are so well received and so highly valued as to render the possession of them a boon to be greatly desired and to induce me to ask at some leisure moment for a similar favor. In the meantime, I am as ever yours, dear George, very truly, — S. Bruyn

P. S. Mr. & Mrs. Boyd now residing here, unite with my folks in desiring to be affectionately remembered to you.

Dear George,

As Mr. Bruyn complains of his fingers and requires rest, I take the opportunity to thank you for your kind offer of sending something from Paris. Will you get for me (if not too much trouble) a cashmere shawl, white centre with a colored border. Say 2 yards square or little less, but not larger. I will allow you to go as high as $60 or 70. Also, 3 small sized fans for my little granddaughters. Those you will exercise your own taste in purchasing. Only do not get them expensive.

I will add my best wishes dear George for your safety and continued health. I hope sincerely you will not remain away too long or your young friends will no longer remember their old playmate George Sharp. Remember if you become a domestic quiet man, I may entrust one of my precious little girls to your care. I have not seen your mother since last Spring. I have heard, however, that she was looking very well now and very fleshy.

May a kind Providence attend you and guard and guide you thro’ all your journey and ever believe in the prayers and kind wishes of your friend, — Catharine Bruyn

a lady’s privilege. P.S. Allow me to add to my requests a Parisian vest for Augustus; silk or worsted. I believe you know his taste is modest or staid color.

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