Monday, August 16, 2010

William Jackson Papers; Samuel Benjamin Papers; Joseph Bellamy Papers; George Panton Papers Finding Aid

The Swain Report, Number 15

William Jackson Papers; Samuel Benjamin Papers;
Joseph Bellamy Papers; George Panton Papers

by David Swain

Introductory Information and Comparative Observations

This report includes information on four relatively small microfilmed manuscript collections recently acquired by the David Library from the Yale University Library. They are diverse entries into the big book of Revolutionary War era history, although they share a few interesting commonalities. Two served in the military, but the other two did not (although one of these did briefly—on the British side). Two were clergymen who spent much of their adult lives preaching the Gospel (although one was Congregational and passively chose the American side in the revolutionary conflict, while the other was Anglican and actively chose the British side).

-- The first collection (Jackson) tells of a patriot military staff officer and later civilian civil servant who was in the right place at the right time to meet and correspond with important people in high places—and to serve as secretary for the Constitutional Convention.

-- The second (Benjamin) tells of a military line soldier who served in the Continental Army from beginning to end of the Revolutionary War.

-- The third (Bellamy) tells of a Congregational minister active in the Great Awakening movement, who was a friend and colleague of Jonathan Edwards, and who was never actively involved in secular public affairs.

-- The fourth (Panton) tells of an Anglican priest who was organizationally active in the Anglican Church in America, vocally and actively a loyalist who lived out the war in New York, and in a small way involved in the British/loyalist military effort, only to move after the war to Nova Scotia and later “home” to Scotland.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Joseph Palmer Papers Finding Aid

The Swain Report, Number 14

Joseph Palmer Papers

by David Swain

Biographical information and context of the Papers

Joseph Palmer (1716-1788) seems to have held a number of prominent public positions (or at least to have been directly involved in public affairs) during the Revolutionary War period at the town level (Braintree), county level (Suffolk), and “province” level (Massachusetts Bay). Evidently he was an attorney because “Esq.” usually follows his name on addresses. He also served as Colonel and then Brigadier General of the Suffolk County Regiment of the Massachusetts Militia. He seems to have been entrusted, during his public service, with the drafting of a number of public documents. At least this is the impression gained from perusing his papers, as microfilmed by the Massachusetts Historical Society. The papers also include some correspondence (notably from Benjamin Lincoln and Thomas Legate concerning military matters).

This collection of microfilmed manuscript documents may be of most interest to those seeking information on how logistics of the Revolutionary War were planned and carried out, especially from a state and local militia perspective. While the documents have no collective continuity, they offer multiple snapshots during a short and crucial period of American Revolutionary history during which high-level citizen-militia officers were trying to deal with the myriad details of how to recruit, equip, supply, train, and move a citizen army.

These documents of Brigadier Joseph Palmer present a startling contract with the diaries of common soldier Ebenezer Wild, also of Braintree, MA (whose papers are reviewed in another report), who marched and marched as a Massachusetts Bay militia man in the Continental Army from 1775 to 1781. Palmer’s view was distinctly top-down, while Wild’s was decidedly bottom-up, and they played very different roles in the same war.