Monday, April 19, 2010

Edward Hand Papers Finding Aid

The Swain Report, Number Six

In this edition of the Swain Report, David relays some fascinating finds in a small but potentially rich collection of Edward Hand Papers that the David Library recently acquired from the Pennsylvania State Archives.

Patrick Spero

Edward Hand papers

by David Swain

Edward Hand (1744-1802) was a physician in Lancaster, PA. During the Revolutionary War, he was a brigadier general and, by 1781, adjutant general to George Washington. After the war, he served in the US Congress (1784-1785) and PA Assembly (1785-86).

The microfilmed papers owned by the David Library, made from manuscripts owned by the Pennsylvania State Archives, consist mostly of general correspondence but also include a few military papers.

The general correspondence dates from 1777 to 1788. However most date from 1777-78. Fewer letters are dated between 1779 and 1784. After a gap between 1785 to 1787 (during which time Hand was serving in Congress and then the PA Assembly), only a couple of items date from 1788. Most of this correspondence is very difficult if not impossible to read in its negative microfilm form. What can be deciphered appears to relate to military matters, even after 1783, although personal matters also appear. For instance:

-- A readable letter from Samuel Moorhead to Hand, written from “Fort Hand” on April 30, 1778 begins as follows: “Dear Generl. At my arrival here finds almost Neither Provisions nor Amonition in The Place. Therefore wou’d be fond of Being Better Supplied….” The day to day life of the general must have been full of such frustrating problems, but at least he got a fort named for him in the process.

-- Another letter to Hand, dated June 5, 1778, includes a personal request after the military letter: “NB The negro Bob wants shirt & trousers if you send Limen [?] my wife will make them.”

-- The last dated letter, of September 10, 1788, was sent to Hand from Washington (the place).

The military papers, all from 1778, consist of only four documents. Three appear to be daily reports of those imprisoned in Fort Pitt on May 11, 12, and 13. The fourth is a document from officers at Fort Pitt to Hand recommending one Francis McElwaine for promotion.

Have something you want to share, such as a question, research find, or a personal story about the Library? Email Will Tatum at

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