Friday, December 30, 2011

Letters from the Front: Mr. Hood's Account of 2nd Trenton

"The Enemy advanced abt. half way over the Bridge when they were repulsed it is supposed with considerable loss as a heavy fire was kept up both in front & flank with The Artillery & Musquetry for abt. 12 Minutes..."

Among the most out-standing documents in the Letters from the Front collection is Mr. Hood's Account of the Second Battle of Trenton, which took place on January 2, 1777. Hood served with the 3rd Battalion, Pennsylvania Associators, under the command of General John Cadawallader, whose crossing on December 27th led to Washington's re-occupation of Trenton on December 30th. His account begins on near midnight of December 31, 1776, when his unit was recalled from its position in Crosswicks, NJ, to join the main Continental Army at Trenton. From there, Hood chronicles the second battle of Trenton, the night march to Princeton, and the engagement outside the town on the morning of January 3rd. Hood concludes with the American advance to Morristown after the victory at Princeton. For the full account, continue below.

We wish all of our readers a Happy New Year and look forward to new posts in 2012!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Swain Report Special: War Office 28, Regimental HQ Papers, Installment 9

In this final installment of his on-going catalog of British War Office 28 (Miscellaneous Regimental Headquarters Papers from Canada), Library Research Assistant David Swain probes the returns of various Loyalist Corps, along with miscellaneous letters and records relating to the Indian Department. As with the other parts of this series, these documents serve a vital role in filling in the gaps in our understanding of British operations launched from Canada. The returns of Loyalist Corps in particular offer a means for understanding how the British Army struggled to incorporate Loyal Americans who fled to Canada and offered their military service. The Loyalist experience here was in marked contrast to the main British Army operating in the 13 more southerly colonies, as has been discussed in a previous entry. The records for the Indian Department provide an equaly important portal into the experience of another marginalized group of British combatants: the native tribes who kept their allegiance to Britain, along with the British Officers and Loyalists who worked closely with them. The remaining documents provide insights into the demographic composition of British and German units in the theatre, as well as general operations.

 Our sincere thanks go to David Swain for making this collection of material more accessible than it has ever been, and we hope our readers will embrace this opportunity to engage with these sources.


28.10 Miscellaneous returns, letters, and papers; Indian Department (Reel 8)

Summary contents:

Returns relating to Loyalists—John Peters’ Queen’s Loyal Rangers, Ebenezer Jessup’s King’s Loyal Americans, Sir John Johnson’s 2nd Battalion, Daniel McAlpin’s Corps of Volunteers, 1777-1778: 58 documents; documents 1 through 58; printed page numbers 1 through 65

Returns relating to Loyalists—Captain Daniel McAlpin’s Corps of Volunteers, 1779: 2 documents; documents 59 through 60; printed page numbers 66 through 68

Returns relating to Loyalist Corps, 1780: 28 documents; documents 61 through 88; printed page numbers 69 through 110

Returns relating to Loyalist Corps, 1781: 20 documents; documents 89 through 108; printed page numbers 111 through 130

Returns relating to Loyalist, Regular Army, and Brunswick Regiments, 1782: 18 documents; documents 109 through 126; printed page numbers 131 through 175

Returns relating to Loyalist, Regular Army, and Brunswick Regiments, 1783: 38 documents; documents 127 through 164; printed page numbers 176 through 281

Miscellaneous letters, 1778-1783: 25 documents; documents 165 through 189; printed page numbers 282 through 321

Original letters delivered to Brigade Major Skone [Shane ?] by Major Alexander Fraser, June 25, 1785: 34 documents; documents 190 through 223; printed page numbers 322 through 373

Indian Department, letters and papers, 1775-1782 and 1785-1797: 40 documents; documents 224 through 263; printed page numbers 374 through 443

For the full catalog, read below.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Patron's Perspective: Tracing the New Jersey Militia

Long-time Library Patron Larry Kidder has spent many years researching the life and times of the men who served in the Hunterdon County, New Jersey, Militia in our microfilm records. Over the course of his work, he has run into many challenges stemming from the nature of the source material, which was not always kept as exactly and regularly by contemporaries as historians could desire. In this installment, he takes on the particularly tricky question of tracing men who served in the militia as well as in the Continental service. Unlike the modern United States Army, the Continental Army was initially recruited for one-year enlistments from 1775 through 1777. One of the major source pools for recruits were the various county militias-- in fact, they were so important that in the second half of the war, American officials would actively draft men from the militia to serve in Continental regiments in order to meet Congressional quotas. These practices created an intricate spiderweb of documents, as well as gaps in the record, that complicate any attempt to trace a given individual's service. Thankfully, Larry provides some key insights that should smooth the path of other researchers.


"The lack of official records relating to the New Jersey militia can cause identity problems.  Since many men served at different times in both the Continental forces and the militia, it is difficult to know what the actual service of any one individual was.  Was the man said to have been in the militia also the same man who served for a time in the Continentals?  Even standard and highly regarded sources can lead one astray.  Here is one case study – Captain John Mott."

For the remainder of Larry's entry, read below the fold.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Letters from the Front: Prologue to the Retreat Across the Jerseys

"We are now, thank God, and the inertness of the Enemy, in a very tolerable secure condition"

General Charles Lee's November 2, 1776, letter came at the breathing point between the Battle of White Plains and the total collapse of American efforts to keep the British Army contained in the vicinity of New York. Following the Battle of Pell's Point, Washington withdrew the Continental Army to the small village of White Plains, near which he fought General William Howe's redcoated forces on October 28th. The British succeeded in driving Washington off the high ground near White Plains, but did not destroy or seriously maul his forces. In the aftermath of that engagement, Washington held a council of war to determine the best strategy for the upcoming winter season. As a result of that meeting, Washington divided his forces into three parts. One, under Lee's command, took post on the eastern shore of the Hudson to prevent at British attempts to invade New England. General William Heath took another detachment further up the river to guard against any attack on Albany. The final portion of the army, under Washington's personal command, took post at Fort Lee, across the North River from Fort Washington. From this relative point of security, the Continentals waited to see what the British forces would do next. As Lee's letter below demonstrates, the general lost no time in writing to Pennsylvanian Dr. Benjamin Rush, waxing eloquent on the past campaign and lodging a series of complaints about various shortcomings. See the full text of the letter below, as painstakingly transcribed by Library volunteer Andrew Dauphinee. The entire staff can attest to the difficulty of reading the good general's handwriting!


Friday, November 11, 2011

Letters from the Front: The Battle of Pell's Point

"Col Reads & Lt Col: Shepards Regiments were posted behind a Stone Wall in the Enemy’s Course undiscovered by them..."

In Jedediah Huntington's previous letter of October 15, 1776, he discussed the British Army's abortive landing at Throg's Neck, to be followed up by an advance at Pell's Point designed to turn the American flank. In this letter, dated five days later, he provides some descriptions of the latter engagement. In the course of this battle, Colonel John Glover, commander of the 14th Continental Regiment (also known as Glover's Marblehead Regiment) opposed the march of 4,000 redcoats with his small brigade of four regiments. Huntington mentions neither Glover, Glover's regiment, nor another one of the units in Glover's Brigade, the 3rd Continental Regiment. Instead, he focuses on the 13th Continental Regiment (commanded by Colonel Read of Massachusetts) and the 26th Continental Regiment (officially commanded by Col. Baldwin of Massachusetts but actually lead by Lt. Col. Shepherd). As Huntington notes, the key to the initial American success was surprise: Glover was able to shelter his men behind stone walls and ambush the British column, which eventually succeeded due to the force of numbers. While Glover was forced to retire, his defense bought Washington precious time to begin the withdrawal to White Plains, leaving a strong garrison at Fort Washington to harass the British. For the full text of the letter, please read below.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Letters from the Front: Mount Independence

"Our men have suffered much for want of barracks but are now getting comfortable log-houses."

On October 18, 1776, Dr. Samuel Adams penned another letter to his wife Sally, covering his trip to Mount Independence from Fort Edward, New York. In theory, this crossing took place before his previous letter, but Adams likely waited to relay it due to the more exciting event of the Battle of Valcour Island. As Adams note at the end of this dispatch, it was the third he had written in the space of a week. As noted in that previous entry, Mount Independence was the site of additional American fortifications on the flank of Fort Ticonderoga, designed to guard against any British attempt to secure the Champlain corridor. The victory at Valcour Island assured the American garrison of both posts a reasonable quiet winter, since the British could not effectively conduct operations at this advanced season. As Adams notes, the garrison of Mount Independence was busying itself preparing for winter quarters, especially creating warm barracks to see the troops through the coldest months of the year. As in his other letters, Adams provides eloquent testimony to the strong ties that linked men on the front lines of the struggle with their loved ones at home. For the full text of this letter, please read below. Our thanks go out to Library volunteer Paul Davis for transcribing this document.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Letters from the Front: Flanking Maneuver at Pell's Point

"...Our Men are in good Spirits, ‘thou very ragged & dirty..."

As American forces were cautiously celebrating a Pyrrhic victory at Valcour Island, General George Washington's main army stood poised at the landward side of New York City, holding post at the main bridge over the Bronx River. Huntington, whose last dispatch was written from the same local in late September, notes little change from the army's disposition of nearly three weeks earlier. His most significant concern is that the British forces will successfully outflank the Americans, cutting them off from the mainland and placing them in an untenable position. His letter details the movement of British troops off of their respective land posts around New York City, which, somewhat ironically, was the lead up to a major action that occurred a few days after of his letter: the Battle of Pell's Point. On October 12th, British Commander Sir William Howe had landed a large force of redcoats on Throgs Neck (referred to as "Frogs Point" in Huntington's letter below) in an attempt to out-flank American forces at Harlem Heights. Finding the Neck to be an island, rather than a peninsula, Howe evacuated his men on the evening of October 18th, landing at Pell's Point early the next morning. Meanwhile, Washington had already put the army in marching order, moving towards safer positions at White Plains where his line of retreat could be secured. The skirmish that ensued at Pell's Point between Glover's 14th Continental Regiment (from Marblehead, MA) and 4,000 redcoats bought Washington the time he needed to make good his escape. In the meantime, however, Washington left 2,000 men in garrison at Fort Washington, with orders to maintain a foothold on Manhattan Island. That post would provide the ground for the next major clash of the New York Campaign. For the full text of Huntington's letter, please continue below the fold.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Letters from the Front: The Battle of Valcour Island

"...we heard a heavy cannonading down the lake which continued for some hours, by which we knew that our Fleet was engaged with that of the Enemy..."

By the Fall of 1776, Dr. Samuel Adams, surgeon to the 2nd Continental Regiment of Artillery, found himself at Mount Independence, the major American installation next to Fort Ticonderoga. From this position, he listened to the Battle of Valcour Island unfold to the north of his position, up Lake Champlain. The engagement pitted a scratch-built American fleet, consisting mostly of flat-bottom gondola gunboats, against a squadron of British ships, including specially-designed Royal Artillery gunboats. 

The prize at stake was control of the Lake Champlain corridor. In order to strike at rebel-held upstate New York, the British needed the freedom to sail unmolested up and down the Lake. For Americans, this body of water provided a vital buffer for frontier defense. Beyond control of Lake Champlain, the Battle of Valcour Island also had significant ramifications on the American occupation of Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence. Built by the French in the 1750s, Fort Ticonderoga was designed to defend against an attack from the south: while it had some batteries facing Lake Champlain, this was the weakest side of the fortifications. Mount Independence boasted an impressive array of earthwork defenses, which were, in fact, too impressive, since they required more men to defend than could easily be spared. 

The American victory at Valcour Island, one of the narrower points in Lake Champlain, delayed the trial of the Ticonderoga and Mount Independence defenses for a year, though it was achieved at a high price: the destruction of most of the American fleet. This battle was also a major feather in the cap of a man who is still well known to Americans today, but for very different reasons. His name was Benedict Arnold, commander of the American fleet on the Lake. For a more detailed contemporary perspective, see the full text of Dr. Adams' letter below. Our thanks go to Library volunteer Paul Davis for transcribing this letter.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Letters from the Front: Retreat from New York

"...they were not able to effect any Thing on Acco of the heavy & incessant Fire from the Enemies Forts & Ships ― no less than Eight Coll: & Lt. Colonels have been taken, died or killed since the Landing on L: Island" 

By the end of September 1776, the George Washington's Continental Army was in the midst of a stubborn retreat from New York City. In late August the British Army under General Sir William Howe maneuvered the Americans off Long Island. On September 15th, Howe landed at Kip's Bay, forcing the Americans to evacuate New York City and retreat to their defensive works atop Harlem Heights. Sometime in the following weeks, Jedediah Huntington's command moved to King's Bridge, guarding the crossing over the Bronx, which was a significant river at this time. His account, which can be viewed below, details the various reversals of fortune that the American army suffered during the period, along with casualties including Captain Nathan Hale. The situation would continue to unravel for Washington, as his army was pushed further north in October and finally forced to retreat across New Jersey in November and December.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Letters from the Front: The Flying Camp of Pennsylvania

"...Capt Valentine Opp has raised a Company for the Flying Camp in Bucks County, and his Men refused to march until they had receivd their bounty Money."

On June 3, 1776, the Continental Congress authorized the formation of a "flying camp" of light reserve troops, numbering some 10,000 men. Washington had requested this corps as early as March 1776, realizing that the American army had a huge swathe of territory to defend, and thus needed a quick reaction force that could respond to British raids and feints across the eastern seaboard. The Flying Camp was intended to consist of militiamen from Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland, who would be fed and paid like regular soldiers and discharged by December 1, 1776. As Howell's letter (transcribed fully below) shows, recruiting for this formation was nearly as problematic as raising men for the Continental regiments, further complicating the manpower issues that plagued the American war effort for the first few years of the rebellion.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Letters from the Front: The Quiet before the Storm

"...the British Fleet now consists of between 150 & 200 Ships, those lately arrived are probably a Division of Hessian Troops from England & some others from Hallifax which are mentioned in the Papers."

By early August 1776, it was becoming apparent to American troops in New York City that the British were preparing for a massive attack on their defenses. As Jedediah Huntington notes in this letter of August 6, 1776, an increasing number of British transports and warships were gathering off the coast of Long Island. As Huntington correctly observed, recent arrivals included the first detachment of Hessian troops, as well as the Brigade of Foot Guards from London. These forces would not land until August 22nd, but once on shore, they made relatively short work of the American defenders. Huntington's letter, a complete transcript of which appears below, thus provides us with a final view of American-occupied New York. Our continuing thanks go out to the many David Library volunteers who are helping with this project.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Letters from the Front: Defending New York City

"...3 oClock PM – there has been heard a heavy Cannonade for two Hours past up the North River between the Phenix & Rose & our Row Gallies___ particulars cannot give you yet, the General went up this Morning to see the Action..."

By July of 1776, most of the troops who had been stationed at Boston for the siege of 1775-1776 were in New York City, preparing to defend against an anticipated British attack. Among them was Jedediah Huntington, with his 17th Connecticut Regiment of the Continental Line. Huntington's letter (a complete transcript of which appears below) sheds light on the somewhat confused state of the city, as well as early signs of inflation in the American economy. Of particular note are rising prices coupled with a scarcity of linen cloth and vegetables, with Huntington noting that most commodities were being moved into the interior. The letter ends with an account of an engagement between two British frigates and a squadron of American row galleries, one of the opening acts of the disastrous New York Campaign.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Letters from the Front: Fortifying Boston

"...the Continental Troops are compleating the works on Dorchester Hills, Fort Hills, & the Hill on the east end of Charlestown, the people in the neighbouring Towns in great numbers work Volunarily (& find their own provision) on the Fort at Noddles Island..."

By the time Richard Devens penned this letter to Elbridge Gerry on May 7th, Boston had been freed from British occupation for nearly two months. As Devens account demonstrates, American forces meant to keep it that way. Continental troops and militia were busily engaged in creating an extensive harbor-defense network, while American privateers preyed upon British shipping mercilessly. Boston had also become a center for the production of what contemporaries called "war-like stores," particularly, in this case, gunpowder. For a more detailed look at life in the Boston area in the late spring of 1776, see the full transcript of the letter below.


Friday, October 7, 2011

Letters from the Front: Small Pox in Boston

"...I am in no small fear of having the small pox as it is all around us..."

In this next courting letter from Dr. Samuel Adams to his future wife Sally Preston, we see a triumphant American Army, now in control of Boston, threatened with one of the great scourges of the age: small pox. As with most pre-modern conflicts, more men died from disease than from fighting on the battlefield. As a regimental surgeon for the American artillery, Adams faced a greater threat than most: his line of work brought him into contact with individuals, many in the most contagious phase of the illness, on a daily basis. In Adams' response to this threat, we see the central role played by religious life: he looks to his God for preservation, just as he looks to Sally for prayers on his behalf. For the full text of the letter, read below.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Letters from the Front: Dr. Samuel Adams to Sally Preston, March 1776

"...when I reflect on the pleasure I enjoyed when my dear Sally was so near me that when ever I wanted to unbend my mind from cares & business, could have recourse to her agreable company..."

This installment of the Letters from the Front series features the second piece of our large collection of letters from Dr. Samuel Adams. This one was addressed to his future wife, Miss Sally Preston, ans written from the lines outside of Boston towards the end of the siege that lasted through the winter of 1775-1776. At this time, Adams was the surgeon to the 18th Continental Regiment of Foot (see Duncan's Medical Men in the American Revolution). Though engaged in a dangerous military operation, as this letter shows, Adams' thoughts seem to have been more focused on the object of his heart's affections. We have 31 letters from the good doctor to his wife, which document his experiences during the War, as well as his longing for his home and family. Dr. Adams' candor challenges the popular conceptions of eighteenth-century New Englanders as stolid, hind-bound individuals. See the full transcript of the letter below.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Letters from the Front: The French Perspective on the Revolution

"...the british Armaments in America and their professed Design are only a Finesse of the Ministry to collect a large Force in the Neighbour hood of their Islands & then to fall upon them at unawares..."

In this next letter from Jedediah Huntington, written shortly after his previous one mentioning the potential of storming Boston, we see hints of foreign involvement in the conflict. First, there is the appearance of the unnamed Prussian officer, one of an increasing flood of French and German military men would were coming to America to seek their fortunes in the burgeoning conflict. Through this Prussian officer, Jedediah was able to access the larger world's perspective on the Revolution: the French, Britain's main rival, seem to have initially seen the rebellion as nothing more than a sham designed for massing troops in preparation for another war of imperial aggression, which would threaten to take the Caribbean sugar islands that the British had failed to grab in the Seven Years War. Note the final line requiring the surgeon to join Huntington's regiment: absent officers were as much a problem for the British as they were for the American Army, constituting another point of continuity between the adversaries. For the full text of the letter, please read below.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Letters from the Front: Storming Boston

"...some are of Opinion it is best to attack the Town by Surprise &  if that  does not succeed to storm, I have not many Doubts but it may be carried either Way..."

In this next installment of our large collection of letters from Jedediah Huntington, we see ample evidence of how the lengthy siege of Boston weighed upon the nerves of the Congressional forces. Now many months into the stalemate, George Washington and his officers were faced with the choice of continuing to man their siege works, with the increasing possibility of desertion in the face of boredom, or to make a bold move against the British Army encamped in the town. In the end, Washington chose not to make a sortie, since another answer was on the way: heavy artillery that had been liberated from Fort Ticonderoga and which were on their way under the care of Henry Knox. The arrival of these cannon and their emplacement on heights commanding the town would signal the end of the British occupation. This event, however, was still several weeks off and Huntington's letter provides little indication that the Army was aware of Washington's end-game. At the same time, however, Huntington's faith in Washington remained unshaken. See the full transcript of the letter below.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Letters from the Front: Jedediah Huntington to Jabez Huntington, 18 Jan 1776

"The General has been waiting with great Anxiety to see the Regiments upon the new Establishment with their full Compliment of Men...[he] is startled when thinks on our extensive Lines all alike exposed to an Attack or Surprise from our Enemies and that we have so few to man them..."

It was now January 1776 and the crisis that Jedediah Huntington predicted in his December letter had now come to pass: the Continental troops raised for 1775 were disbanding and heading home, while the new regiments for the 1776 campaign were not yet full. As Huntington notes, agents in the countryside (possibly Loyalists) were doing their utmost to slow or stop this process. Continental troops were an absolute necessity for continuing the American war effort. The militia were only required to serve for limited terms and, moreover, did not have to leave their state/colony. Continental regulars could be taken anywhere within the rebelling colonies, and their long-service meant that they could be trained to professional performance standards. The lack of sufficient numbers of reliable troops, who were capable of manning the siege lines against British sorties, constituted a fundamental threat to the American cause. One can only imagine how history might have turned out differently if the British had made a concerted push from their quarters during this period.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Letters from the Front: Jedediah Huntington to Jabez Huntington, 25 Dec. 1775. Camp at Roxbury, Massachusetts.

 "I expect an Attempt will be made to set fire to part of the Town of Boston rather than it should be made Fuel for our Enemies who are pulling down Houses to burn."

In this installment of the Letters from the Front series, we pick up with Jedediah Huntington's correspondence, almost a month after our previous entry. While his appointment as Colonel of the 17th Connecticut Regiment was still seven days away, Huntington was nevertheless consumed with the business of completing recruitment and attending to other administrative tasks. As his letter shows, the Siege of Boston was not a quiet period for the Continental Army: deserters from the British forces provided a steady source of gossip and rumor even as the heavy cannon from Fort Ticonderoga that would bring the siege to its end were on the way with Col. Henry Knox. Huntington's reference to setting part of Boston on fire to deny its use to the British provides an example of how far some Americans were willing to go to secure independence. The closing passage, referring to medical supplies coming up from New York, highlights the role of Huntington's father, Jabez, who would become a Major General in the Connecticut militia in December 1776. Thanks go to Andrew Dauphinee, loyal David Library Volunteer, for transcribing this document.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Letters from the Front: Jedediah Huntington to Jabez Huntington, 4 Dec. 1775. Roxbury Camp, Massachusetts.

"I fear as to our numbers, the new Regiments fill up but slowly-great many of the Soldiers regardless the most important consequence, are determined to leave the Service."

In this installment of the Letters from the Front series, we continue with the war as seen by Jedediah Huntington. Almost a month has passed since his previous letter and events have moved quickly for the Continental Army as well as for Huntington's personal life. Thanks to the success of the privateers, the Continental Army received a much-needed supply of arms and ammunition, alleviating shortages that had left many troops unarmed. 

Huntington next notes the beginning of a crisis that would come to a head in January 1776: the recruitment of new regiments. In contrast to professional armies of the day, where soldiers enlisted for life or for a significant stretch of years (generally no less than three), the Continental soldiers enlisted for a mere one year for the first half of the war. As a result, the Americans were forced to raise a new army every year. Huntington will remain Colonel of the 8th Connecticut Regiment until 10 December, but is already engaged in raising his new unit, the 17th Connecticut Regiment: since units were re-raised every year, their designations changed annually. Thus the 1st Connecticut Regiment of 1775 was not the same unit as the 1st Connecticut Regiment of 1776. This enlistment practice threatened the army's viability as a military force by draining it of man-power during vital periods as well as throwing the administrative structures into chaos. It was a largely unrecognized miracle that the Continental Army managed to survive through this annual cycle.

Huntington's letter ends with a reference to personal tragedy: his wife, who was ill in November, has now died, leaving him depressed and conflicted over a possible return to his home on leave. The final lines in this letter, along with other documents that will appear in this series, shows inaccuracy of the stereotypical view of New Englanders as stolid, hind-bound individuals who never expressed their feelings. Our thanks go to Library Administrative Assistant Brian Graziano for his assistance in transcribing this document.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Letters from the Front: Raiding Loyalist New York

"...we have little else to do this Winter but to purge the Land of such Villains, which I think almost as necessary as the keeping up Standing Armies."

While the siege of Boston continued to the northward, events were brewing in the environs of New York City. Although Tryon's retreat to the HMS Halifax had removed the immediate threat of British action, there yet remained a more subtle, home-grown challenge to Congressional authority: the Loyalists. Of all the areas in the Northeast, New York City and Long Island contained what was probably the largest and most active community of Loyalists. Following the British Army's seizure of the city in the late summer/early autumn of 1776, New York and Long Island would become the great center of Loyalist activity in America. As Isaac Sears' letter shows in this latest installment of the Letters from the Front series, there were many antecedents to this later blooming of Loyalist affection.

Sears was a Massachusetts man by birth, moving to New York after losing his ship during the French and Indian War. He quickly established himself as a member of the merchant elite and was involved in the Revolutionary cause from an early period, organizing protests against the Stamp Act and being active in the Sons of Liberty. In April 1775, Loyalist authorities attempted to arrest Sears for his inflammatory activities, but he escaped. As the letter below shows, he did not stay away for long, leading an infamous raid that was condemned by Congressional authorities, but nevertheless served to check Loyalist activity in the area. His commentary provides important insights into the extremes to which some Revolutionary leaders were willing to go in securing their gains from early 1775. As with many of the other letters in the collection, Sears' zeal for the service was tempered by concerns for his fortunes in civilian life, seen in his references to potential lost income on tea and his frustration at not being appointed to high rank in the new American Navy. Sears went on to be active in the privateering trade for much of the war and returned to New York City after the British evacuation.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Swain Report Special: War Office 28, Regimental HQ Papers, Installment 8

This latest installment of Library Research Assistant David Swain's catalog of the British Headquarters Papers sheds light on two important topics: the social dynamics of every-day life in the army and the closing years of the British occupation of New York City. As reflected below, the majority of this microfilm covers memorials and petitions written by a range of individuals to the successive commanders-in-chief in Canada. These documents, essentially formalized appeals for assistance, provide an insight into the every-day workings of the army by revealing the numerous problems and concerns that afflicted military personnel and associated civilians, as well as giving us an indication of the mass of paperwork that came to the commander-in-chief. Carleton's orderly book for New York City, comprising the latter portions of this reel, details an almost day-by-day account of the army's operations in that vicinity for the final years of the war. As these documents show, while not engaged in active hostilities, the British Army nevertheless stayed busy with the numerous other duties that afflict a military force in garrison. Our thanks go out to David Swain for faithfully sticking with this project, which has now absorbed several months of his hard work.


28.9 Memorials and petitions; General Sir Guy Carleton’s New York headquarters order book (Reel 7)

Summary contents:

* Military and provincial memorials and petitions to Sir Guy Carleton and General Frederick Haldimand, 1776 and with no date: 40 documents; documents 1 through 40, printed page numbers 1 through 50

* Military and naval memorials to Sir Guy Carleton, 1777: 30 documents; documents 41 through 70; printed page numbers 51 through 92

* Petitions from Royalists: 30 documents; documents 71 through 100; printed page numbers 93 through 135

* Military and provincial memorials and petitions to Sir Guy Carleton, 1778: 26 documents; documents 101 through 126; printed page numbers 136 through 175

* Memorials of Canadian and other inhabitants, 1777-1780 and with no date: 27 documents; documents 127 through 153; printed page numbers 176 through 213

* Military and provincial memorials to General Frederick Haldimand, 1779-1781: 25 documents; documents 154 through 178; printed page numbers 214 through 244

* Military and provincial memorials addressed to General Frederick Haldimand, 1782-1783: 32 documents; documents 179 through 210; printed page numbers 245 through 285

* Sir Guy Carleton’s headquarters order book, New York, Mortier House, and Lefferts House, 1782-1783: 301 documents; documents 211 through 511; printed page numbers 285a through 482

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Letters from the Front: Jedediah Huntington to Jabez Huntington, 11 Nov 1775, Roxbury Camp, MA

"some hundreds from Cambridge Side were very soon on the Ground to oppose them, although they were obliged to wade up to their Middles; a Skirmish with Small Arms ensued and a brisk Firing of cannon & grape shot..."

In this installment of the Letters from the Front series, we are introduced to Jedediah Huntington, a major Continental Army figure from Connecticut. Huntington began the war as Colonel in the Lexington Alarm and went on to become Colonel of the 8th Connecticut Regiment, in which capacity he served until 10 December 1775. He went on to command several other Continental regiments through the beginning of 1777, when he was promoted to Brigadier General.

The first of Huntington's letters in the Library's collections (we have 14 in all) provides an update on the Siege of Boston. This lengthy event was punctuated by several small unit actions that, though keeping the American forces on their toes and inflicting small loses on both sides, have generally been overlooked. In this example, we see a British raid for cattle, which would have provided fresh rations for the troops, foiled by a swift response from American troops at Cambridge. The capture of a British store ship from Cork, Ireland, (noted at the end of Huntington's Letter) punctuates their need for local food sources. The rifleman that Huntington mentions was probably from a unit of Virginians that had joined the American forces in the late summer, which were the object of a diatribe by William Tudor in an installment. This letter also shows how personal concerns ranked equally with those of military duty: Huntington's commentary on his wife's condition provides a stark reminder of how close this conflict was to the homefront and to where the officers' and soldiers' thoughts often strayed.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Letters from the Front: Charles Lee to Alexander McDougall, October 1775

"...the tragedy acted by these hell hounds of an execrable Ministry with a more accursed Tyrant at their head now calls out for decision"

This installment of Letters from the Front introduces the notorious General Charles Lee, several of whose letters appear throughout the collection. Charles Lee was one of several Continental generals with a background in the British service (Horatio Gates and Richard Montgomery are other examples). Combined with his revolutionary zeal, Lee's background made him an obviously choice for high command in the new American Army. His letter to Alexander MacDougall, a prominent New York Whig, focuses on two key events of the early Revolutionary struggle: the burning of Falmouth, Massachusetts, (now Portland, Maine) by the British Navy on 18 October 1775 and New York City's entrance into the rebellion. While attention focused on Boston throughout 1775, the thirteen colonies' other major seaports were significant scenes of revolutionary struggle. New York City was one of the few that had recently hosted redcoats: British soldiers of the 18th (or Royal Irish) Regiment of Foot had arrived in the city late in 1774 and been escorted out to waiting transports in the Spring of 1775 by an angry mob. Governor William Tryon, formerly of North Carolina, remained in an attempt to maintain royal rule. Tryon was forced to retreat to the safety of a Royal Navy sloop-of-war (the Halifax) on 19 October, in a move that was probably un-related to the incident at Falmouth, which nevertheless served to galvanize Revolutionaries into action across the colonies. Lee's lack of awareness of Tryon's removal shows just how slowly news could travel in the eighteenth-century, just as his prose highlights the level of passion present in the revolutionary cause.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Letters from the Front: The Siege of Boston

"They are now convinced that Americans will fight, & seem loth to make any further Trial of their Bravery."

Following the Battle of Bunker Hill, Congressional forces settled into an uneasy siege of Boston, concerned at the potential for a British break-out assault, but unwilling to reduce the pressure on the "ministerial troops." The Siege would continue until March 1776, when the British abandoned their post, retreating by sea to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Most of the documents in the Letters from the Front series chronicle this siege, which has largely been overlooked by recent writers on the American Revolution. As will be seen in this and other letters, the siege loomed large in the minds of contemporaries. 

This installment provides a view of the siege in its relatively early days, through the eyes of William Tudor. A 1769 graduate of Harvard College, Tudor had trained as a lawyer under John Adams in Boston during the pre-war years. In July 1775, General Washington appointed him to serve as the Judge Advocate of the Continental Army at Boston, responsible for guiding courts martial and other elements of the military justice system. Tudor would rise to the position of Judge Advocate General of the entire army the following year, and also ranked as Lieutenant-Colonel of Henley's Additional Continental Regiment. Tudor's dual posts remind us that, unlike in the modern army, regimental officers were often permanently detached from their units to serve in other capacities. Tudor's letter provides vivid details on the siege, weighing in especially hard on the rifleman who had arrived from Virginia and Pennsylvania in the late summer. His concern with events to the southward, particularly as regarded the economy, demonstrates how American soldiers retained their links to their civilian origins while engaged in our founding struggle.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Letters from the Front: The Battle of Bunker Hill

"General How[e] Says that the Battle of Mindon was nothing so hot at this, that the persons who think the Provincials are undisciplined, are much mistaken..."

As anyone who has spent time in the archives knows, there are occasions when documents do not survive intact. In these cases, we have to make some guesses on when, and sometimes to whom, they were written. This installment of the Letters from the Front series provides a case in point. Document #184 is the final page of a letter penned by William Coit. There is no date, nor a location specified on this fragment. As will be seen below, however, the letter clearly references the Battle of Bunker Hill, which was actually fought on Breed's Hill on 17 June 1775. This engagement pitted the British garrison of Boston against Congressional militia drawn mostly from the New England area. Given Coit's references to this event as "news," we can surmise that this letter, audience as yet unknown, was written shortly after the battle. While some of the details included below are not factually correct (British General John Burgoyne did not die in the battle), this document nevertheless provides us with an excellent insight into the way news traveled in the colonies, as well as showing just how uncertain the details of battles were to contemporaries.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Letters from the Front: Dr. Samuel Adams to Samuel Adams, 7 Feb 1775

"...should be desirous to hear the judgment of a Gentleman so well acquainted with our Publick affairs as yourself, and to have his hands strengthened & his heart encouraged in the Glorious Cause of Liberty..."

 The first document in our Letters from the Front series comes from Dr. Samuel Adams, a relation of the more famous revolutionary, to whom he addresses himself in this letter. The good doctor was born in Killingly, Connecticut, on January 28, 1745. At the time of this letter, Adams was the physician for the town of Truro Massachusetts, where he stood out amongst his Loyalist neighbors. Adams would go on to serve as a surgeon for various Continental Artillery regiments through the end of the war. In this letter, we find him full of fire for the American cause and looking to his elder statesman cousin for guidance. The Gray Maggot referred to in his letter was a treatise written by former Receiver-General of Massachusetts Harrison Gray (who also carried that nickname), formally titled A Few Remarks upon some of the Votes and Resolutions of the Continental Congress,...and the Provincial Congress. By a Friend to Peace and good Order.” Harrison's work challenged the validity of the Continental Congress and cast aspersions upon its members. Our thanks go to David Library Volunteer Andrew Dauphinee for this and many other transcripts in the series. The full text of the letter is posted below.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Introducing the Letters from the Front Series

Courtesy of funds from the Pew Charitable Trust Grant, the Library has been able to digitize a select number of documents from our primary manuscript collection, the Sol Feinstone Collection. Dr. Patrick Spero, past historian at the David Library, selected 350 pieces for digitization that became the Letters from the Front Sub-collection. These include letters from Continental officers and soldiers home, as well as correspondence between generals and other items of note. We will be posting these items in rough chronological order, with a few departures due to the vagaries of transcribing material. These posts are intended to spark some new conversations on the nature of our revolutionary origins, as well as to provide a window into the nature of the American experience over these crucial years.


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

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Intern's Perspective: the British General Courts Martial Project

The David Library has benefited from the services of a host of volunteers and interns this summer, whose work has helped us further the development of our collections enormously. One of our many on-going projects has been to create a database finding aid for our microfilmed British General Courts Martial Records (Film 675), the originals of which are held in the British National Archives as War Office Series 71. Steve Gorman, an undergraduate at Rider University, spent many hours going through these records and entering them into the database, advancing the project much farther and faster than we could have done without his help. In this installment, Steve provides an account of his role in the project and investigates one of the more interesting cases he encountered along the way.



"A few years ago our Sol Feinstone Scholar, Will Tatum, traveled to England to investigate several collections of documents in the British archives containing various military court trials during the latter half of the Eighteen Century. Will took hundreds of photographs of each page of each record in the collection and then compiled the files into JPEG images. My job, in what he referred to as the “Courts Martial Project,” was to go through as much of the pictures as I could and organize the necessary information into a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet to be used as a guide for the Library."

"I find these trials interesting, but from time to time a particular trial stands out and decisively makes a great story. After having some difficulty attempting to select my most intriguing court case, I finally settled with the 1755 Trial of Francis McManus and Solomon Welsh in Oswego, New York."

For more, read below the fold.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The David Library at SHEAR 2011

From July 14-17, 2011, the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic met at the Doubletree Hotel in Philadelphia. The David Library played a major role in this conference, ranging from funding several receptions to sending a delegation of fellows and staff down each day to organizing and presenting a panel on the intersection of race, identity, and politics in the Early Republic. Throughout the conference, David Library Fellow Rachel Herrmann, of the University of Texas at Austin, and I provided twitter updates on the panels we attended, testing out a new approach for taking the conference to a wider audience. Professor W. Caleb McDaniel of Rice University has been kind enough to gather these and other tweets from the conference and post them online. So if you missed SHEAR 2011, you can get an idea of what went on by visiting:

The Official Twitter Record of SHEAR 2011


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

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Collection Guide: Early Engagements of the American Revolution

David Library Summer Intern Billy Griffith, an undergraduate history concentrator at Shepherd University, continues his series of guides to the Library's book collection with this installment on volumes relating to the early battles and engagements of the Revolution. This list should serve as an excellent starting point for those individuals who are beginning to read about the Revolution, as well as for seasoned researchers interested in the Library's holdings beyond our microfilm collection. The numbers above each entry are the call numbers for that title.


Selected Readings of the Early Engagements of the Revolutionary War

by Billy Griffith

* Lexington and Concord: April 19, 1775

* Capture of Fort Ticonderoga: May 10, 1775

* Battle of Bunker Hill: June 17, 1775

* Siege of Boston: April 1775- March 1776

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Swain Report Special: War Office 28, Regimental HQ Papers, Installment 7

In this latest installment of his continuing series, David Swain completes his entries covering Reel 6 of these War Office 28 microfilm records from the British National Archives. This section includes correspondence from several vital posts along the British defensive line in southern Canada, as well as documents from the German regiments who comprised a significant portion of that Colony's garrison, but remain overlooked in the wake of the British defeat at Saratoga. Once again, David is improving our ability to make the Library's collections easier for patrons to use and opening up largely untapped sources for future historical scholarship.


28.8 Three Rivers, Sorel, Germans; Carleton Isle, Cataraqui, Oswego (Reel 6—second part)

Summary contents:

* Trois Rivières, returns, 1776: 26 documents; documents 1 through 26; printed page numbers 1 through 64

* Sorel, letters and papers, 1778-1781: 25 documents; documents 27 through 51; printed page numbers 65 through 123

* Germans, letters from field officers, 1781: 18 documents; documents 52 through 69; printed page numbers 124 through 176

* Trois Rivières, letters from officers commanding, 1779-1782: 7 documents; documents 70 through 76; printed page numbers 177 through 201

* Sorel, letters from the officers commanding, 1779-1783: 35 documents; documents 77 through 111; printed page numbers 202 through 292

* Carleton Island, Cataraqui, Oswego, letters from officers commanding, 1779-1783: 52 documents; documents 112 through 163; printed page numbers 293 through 416

* Germans, letters from field officers, 1783: 18 documents; documents 164 through 181; printed page numbers 417 through 467

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Collection Guide: Readings on the French and Indian War

As part of his summer internship here at the David Library, William "Billy" Griffith of Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, has created an annotated finding guide to the books and pamphlets in the Library's collections relating to the French and Indian War. Despite the specificity of the Institution's title, the Library's collection embrace the full period of 1750-1800, containing a wealth of material on the French and Indian War as well as the conflicts of the Early Republic. Thanks to Billy's efforts with the new finding aid, our holdings for the early half of our period should now be much easier to access.The titles are arranged by subject, with the call number of each volume appearing above its title.


The David Library of the American Revolution
Selected Readings on the French and Indian War

* General Histories

* Battles and Campaigns
         - Jumonville Glen/ Fort Necessity 1754
         - Braddock’s March/ Battle of the Monongahela 1755
         - Crown Point Expedition/ Battle of Lake George 1755
         - Fort Bull 1756
         - Siege of Fort William Henry 1757
         - Siege of Louisbourg 1758
         - Battle of Ticonderoga (Carillon) 1758
         - Forbes Expedition to Fort Duquesne 1758
         - Battle of Quebec 1759
         - Treaty of Paris 1763

* British, Provincial, and French Land and Naval Forces/ Native Americans

* People
       - Amherst, Jeffrey
       - Braddock, Edward
       - Forbes, John
       - Hendrick, Chief
       - Johnson, William
       - Loudoun, Lord
       - Montcalm, Louis- Joseph
       - Rogers, Robert
       - Shirley, William
       - Washington, George
       - Wolfe, James

* Journals, Correspondence, Papers, etc

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Patron's Perspective: Staff Ride of the Ten Crucial Days Campaign

In December 2010, the David Library introduced a new program into its regular schedule: the "staff ride" battlefield tour. Our initial tour covers the surviving sites and marching routes of the Trenton-Princeton or "Ten Crucial Days" Campaign of December 1776-January 1777. Library Patron Dennis Waters attended our May 21st staff ride and was kind enough to send along some detailed comments that provide great insights into the experience of the staff ride. We've chosen to present the highlights of his report at the top: please see "below the fold" for the full text of his report. Our thanks go out to Dennis and all the other members of the David Library Family who have made this program a great success!


"Over the years I have read most of the books on the subject and visited...most of the sites. But I knew my knowledge fell short, and so I grabbed the chance to spend a day touring the sites with a group organized by the David Library and led by Feinstone Scholar in Residence Will Tatum."

"The preparation makes...[the staff ride] more than just another battlefield tour and the tour makes...[it] more than just another lecture about a battle. The David Library prepared us by mailing an advance packet of maps and transcripts of eyewitness accounts from their collection."

"The lunch place was Bill’s Olde Tavern...which was standing on the site when Washington and his men passed by. My fellow staff-riders were a good group and it was nice to have a chance to get to know some of them a little better."

"Will literally marched us across the battlefield, showing us the positions of the British and Continental forces and how the rolling terrain affected the course of the battle. This exercise really showcased the benefits of the staff ride concept, and I came away with a much greater appreciation of what had transpired there."

"...the DLAR Staff Ride was a great outing and worth every penny."

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Volunteering at the David Library: One Student's Perspective

 Over this past winter, local high school student Chad Hogan volunteered on Saturdays here at the Library, aiding in a variety of routine operations. He has provided an account of his experience, which we hope will encourage other interested students to approach us about volunteer opportunities. The David Library is happy to support individuals with an interest in history who wish to learn more about our operations.

 Volunteering at the David Library

by Chad Hogan

I came to the library in the early days of December 2010. I started my first day at library anxiously, not knowing much of what I’d be doing but my interest and love of history propelled me past my anxiousness. On the first day, Mrs. Ludwig presented me with an array of jobs to get started. It ranged from shelving books and microfilm to sorting through primary sources. The work was interesting and important to the functioning of the library. Each day that I worked at the David Library, I gained a greater appreciation for the important work that is done at the library and the history that is preserved for that era of the United States. We are very fortunate to live in an area that contains so many important aspects of early American History. The unique contribution that the library makes to the area makes me feel very proud to be part of it. After a week, my jobs turned to sorting through many vertical files and making copies of pensions in microfilm. The jobs were definitely interesting and invoked a stronger passion for history. Although I was the volunteer, the library contributed much more to my life than I could imagine and I am grateful for that.

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

Friday, May 27, 2011

Swain Report Special: War Office 28, Regimental HQ Papers, Installment 6

 This latest installment of Library Research Assistant David Swain's catalog of War Office 28 continues this week with more coverage of the army's lesser-known departments. Among these are the staffs from the pivotal garrison posts of Montreal and St. John's along with the Quartermaster and Ordnance Departments, responsible for issuing equipment and ammunition to the troops. The selection of letters from Montreal and St. John's provide valuable insights into the day-to-day operations at those settlements along with a window into the social dynamics of the garrisons. The Quartermaster and Ordnance papers, meanwhile, shed new light on the operations of these largely-neglected departments.


British War Office 28—American Headquarters Records
Annotated List of Contents—Part 7 (begins on Reel 5)
(ends on Reel 6)

The David Library holds microfilm copies of the British War Office 28 Records, parts 2 through 10 (1775-1785), contained on 8 reels, as follows:

28.2 Letters, returns, etc (reel 1, 176 documents)
28.3 Letters, returns, etc. continued (reel 2, 197 documents)
28.4 Butler’s Rangers; Canadian Fencible Corps; Jessup’s Rangers; Roger’s Rangers; Royal Highland Emigrants (84th Regiment); McAlpin’s Volunteer Corps (reel 3—first part), 223 documents)
28.5 Royal Regiment of New York, Rogers’ King’s Rangers, Barrack Master General’s Department (reel 3—second part, 33 documents; reel 4, 147 documents)
28.6 General Hospital Department; garrison returns; Engineers Department (reel 5—first part, 204 documents)
28.7 Montreal; St. Johns; Ordnance; Quartermaster-General’s Department (reel 5—second part, 183 documents; reel 6—first part, 58 documents)
28.8 Three Rivers, petitions and memorials; Germans; Carleton Isle, Cataraqui, Oswego (reel 6—second part)
28.9 Miscellaneous letters, memorials, order books, etc. (reel 7)
28.10 Miscellaneous returns etc. (reel 8)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Swain Report Special: War Office 28, Regimental HQ Papers, Installment 5

In the latest installment of this special series, Library Research Assistant David Swain adds a new installment to his catalog of War Office 28. This section covers several of the more un-loved and under-studied elements of the army: the various support departments. In particular, this set of WO 28 covers the general hospital, engineers, and general staff, as well as garrison muster rolls that were the product of over-worked muster-masters hired to keep the military paperwork in order. While these departments seldom figure in conventional narratives of the war, the work they did in taking care of wounded and ill soldiers, maintaining and building roads and structures, and insuring the smooth operations of the army across the whole of Canada made a significant impact in both the course and the experience of the conflict. It is hoped that David's good work in opening these documents for more detailed exploration will help to shed light on these under-appreciated elements of the British Army.


British War Office 28—American Headquarters Records
Annotated List of Contents—Part 6 (Reel 5)

The David Library holds microfilm copies of the British War Office 28 Records, parts 2 through 10 (1775-1785), contained on 8 reels, as follows:

28.2 Letters, returns, etc (reel 1, 176 documents)
28.3 Letters, returns, etc. continued (reel 2, 197 documents)
28.4 Butler’s Rangers; Canadian Fencible Corps; Jessup’s Rangers; Roger’s Rangers; Royal Highland Emigrants (84th Regiment); McAlpin’s Volunteer Corps (reel 3 (part), 223 documents)
28.5 Royal Regiment of New York, Rogers’ King’s Rangers, Barrack Master General’s Department (reel 3 (part), 33 documents; reel 4, 147 documents)
28.6 General Hospital Department; garrison returns; Engineers Department (reel 5, 204 documents)
28.7 Montreal; ordnance; Quartermaster-General’s Department; St. Johns; Sorel (reel 5; reel 6)
28.8 Three Rivers, petitions and memorials; Germans; Carleton Isle, Cataraqui, Oswego (reel 6)
28.9 Miscellaneous letters, memorials, order books, etc. (reel 7)
28.10 Miscellaneous returns etc. (reel 8)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Norval D. Reece: How a Lithuanian Jew and a British Quaker steered American patriotism

Our latest installment comes from David Library Trustee Norval D. Reece, a former clerk of Newtown Friends Meeting and a graduate of Yale Divinity School.The entry originally appeared as part of the "From a Faith Perspective" column in the Bucks County Courier Times, May 6, page B4

When you stop to think about it, this Courier Times Friday column, "From a Faith Perspective," featuring writers from different religious backgrounds publishing their views once a week, is remarkable. Not in this country perhaps. But in many countries without freedom of religion, separation of church and state, and a free press, it would be impossible. To even attempt it might get you jail time.

Those of us born in the USA often take for granted the freedoms we have. I know I did. Then I traveled the world as a young man and was re-introduced to my country through the eyes of others in Asia, Africa, the USSR and Europe.

We have been mesmerized in recent weeks by revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Syria and elsewhere. It reminds us again of our own good fortune to live in a country with freedom of religion and a remarkably enduring representative form of government.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The British Army welcomes Spring, 1779

On Sunday, 2 May 1779, Captain John Peebles of the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment of Foot's Grenadier Company recorded that his command "put on our new coats & trousers..." This seemingly innocuous entry signaled the British Army's annual transition from winter to summer campaign attire, a ritual observed throughout the American Revolution.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Swain Report Special: War Office 28, Regimental HQ Papers, Part 4

War Office 28, Regimental Headquarters Papers
Swain Report Special, Installment 4

In this latest addition to his continuing series, Library Research Assistant David Swain expands his finding aid for the War Office 28 records to encompass the records of the King's Royal Regiment of New York, one of the premiere Royal Provincial Corps in Canada. David's hard work continues to bring to light important documents that add to our understanding of the British war effort from Canada, which might otherwise be overlooked. For clarification on the different Loyalist Regiment establishments in Canada at this time, please see Todd W. Braisted's entry from the beginning of April.


British War Office 28—American Headquarters Records
Annotated List of Contents—Part 5 (begin Reel 3)
(end Reel 4)

by David Swain

The David Library holds microfilm copies of the British War Office 28 Records, parts 2 through 10 (1775-1785), contained on 8 reels, as follows:

28.2 Letters, returns, etc (reel 1, 176 documents)
28.3 Letters, returns, etc. continued (reel 2, 197 documents)
28.4 Butler’s Rangers; Canadian Fencible Corps; Jessup’s Rangers; Roger’s Rangers; Royal Highland Emigrants (84th Regiment); McAlpin’s Volunteer Corps (reel 3 (part), 223 documents)
28.5 Royal Regiment of New York, Rogers’ King’s Rangers, Barrack Master General’s Department (reel 3 (part), 33 documents; reel 4, 147 documents)
28.6 Engineers; garrison returns; General Hospital Department (reel 5)
28.7 Montreal; ordnance; Quartermaster-General’s Department; St. Johns; Sorel (reel 5; reel 6)
28.8 Three Rivers, petitions and memorials; Germans; Carleton Isle, Cataraqui, Oswego (reel 6)
28.9 Miscellaneous letters, memorials, order books, etc. (reel 7)
28.10 Miscellaneous returns etc. (reel 8)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Patron's Perspective: Larry Kidder on the Reliability of Pension Records

In this installment of Patron's Perspective, regular Library Patron Larry Kidder provides further insights from his research on the New Jersey Militia through the Revolutionary War pension records. Larry points out that the value of these pension files does not lie solely with the details they shed on battles and engagements: in many respects, the pensions show us those aspects of the Revolution and the experience of warfare during the period that do not often appear in conventional histories.


True Confessions: How Reliable are Pension File Depositions?

By Larry Kidder

American Revolution veteran pension files are a vast resource that can aid any research project focusing on individual soldiers or seeking answers to exactly what units at the company level did in specific situations. Since the depositions of veterans were made many years after the war and when the deponents were of an advanced age, one naturally wonders just how accurate any information in them can be. Alfred F. Young in The Shoemaker and the Tea Party discusses human memory and his experience in using pension files. In general, he believes that the human memory is not all that bad. Joseph Plumb Martin wrote an entire book of his memoirs of the Revolution at the same stage in life as the pension applicants and his account has proven very useful to historians to the point where it is almost ubiquitous in works on the revolution. So, the pension depositions are likely to have useful information.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Patron's Perspective: Todd Braisted on Royal Provincial Establishments

Todd Braisted, the reigning authority on Britain's Loyalist Forces in America during the Revolution, contributes a clarification on the differences between Royal Provincial Troops with the British Army in Canada and those with the main British Army in the Thirteen Colonies. This entry is intended to provide some clarifications to accompany our catalogs for the WO28 records covering Loyalist troops in Canada, adding some additional context to their story. For those wanting to know more about the Canadian Royal Provincials, the Library's collection includes copies of the Carleton and Haldimand Papers.


Administering Provincial Forces

By Todd W. Braisted

The raising and administering of His Majesty’s Provincial Forces was not a uniform process throughout North America. While all Provincials fell under the auspices of the Treasury office in England, how they were mustered, organized and paid was a very different process between the Northern Army and the Army in America.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fellow's Perspective: The significance of Revolutionary Committee Meetings

 In this installment of Fellow's Perspective, Dr. Ken Owen, who conducted research at the Library during the Spring of 2010, shares his finding on the meetings of Revolutionary committees. Most readers will be familiar with the stereotypical drudgery of committee work, something that has largely remained unchanged over the centuries. Beneath this veil of discussion, debate, and reams of notes, however, lay a social process that was vital to the formation and application of American revolutionary ideology, as Dr. Owen notes below. Dr. Owen received his DPhil from The Queen's College, University of Oxford, after completing his research at the Library and now teaches at the University of Sussex.


Committee meetings may not seem the most exhilarating events in the historical record. These meetings, though, were crucial in determining how Americans declared Independence and what governments they formed when they did. In the winter of 1773-4, individuals throughout the state of Pennsylvania met at county courthouses to elect committees charged with prosecuting resistance to the British Crown. These committees then began to seize political leadership in the state, eroding the authority of the colonial legislature and ultimately resulting in the adoption of the most radical constitution created by any of the newly-independent states.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Swain Report Special: War Office 28, Regimental HQ Papers Part 3

War Office 28, Regimental Headquarters Papers
Swain Report Special, Installment 3

This report is the third in the series of Volunteer Research Assistant David Swain's catalog of War Office 28, Miscellaneous Headquarters Papers of British and Provincial Regiments in Canada. As noted in previous installments, David's work is one-of-a-kind and is making this often over-looked series of documents easily accessible for the first time in its archival history.  This installment covers papers of the Royal Provincial Corps and Butler's Rangers, units consisted of American Loyalists raised for British Service. Butler's Rangers was separate from the Royal Provincial Corps, which was recognized as part of the British Army, while Butler's Corps was treated in a manner comparable to modern civilian contractors. Aside from the Walter Butler Papers at Library and Archives Canada, War Office 28 represents one of the largest assemblages of documents from this crucial unit. The papers of the Royal Provincial units provide vital material for understanding the very unique experiences of these soldiers and their families, which contrasted significantly with that of the Royal Provincial regiments with the British Army on the American east coast. In addition, this section includes files from the Canadian Fencible Corps, covering the years 1802-1805.



British War Office 28—American Headquarters Records
Annotated List of Contents—Part 4 (Reel 3)

By David Swain

The David Library holds microfilm copies of the British War Office 28 Records, parts 2 through 10 (1775-1785), contained on 8 reels, as follows:

28.2 Letters, returns, etc (reel 1, 176 documents)
28.3 Letters, returns, etc. continued (reel 2, 197 documents)
28.4 Butler’s Rangers; Canadian Fencible Corps; Jessup’s Rangers; Roger’s Rangers; Royal Highland Emigrants (84th Regiment); McAlpin’s Volunteer Corps (reel 3 (part), 223 documents)
28.5 Royal Regiment of New York, Rogers’ King’s Rangers, Barrack Master General’s Department (reel 3 (part); reel 4)
28.6 Engineers; garrison returns; General Hospital Department (reel 5)
28.7 Montreal; ordnance; Quartermaster-General’s Department; St. Johns; Sorel (reel 5, reel 6)
28.8 Three Rivers, petitions and memorials; Germans; Carleton Isle, Cataraqui, Oswego (reel 6)
28.9 Miscellaneous letters, memorials, order books, etc. (reel 7)
28.10 Miscellaneous returns etc. (reel 8)

Note: The compiler of this annotated list has numbered the microfilmed documents consecutively within each reel. These numbers do not appear on the microfilm and are used here only to maintain a sense of order in the contents.

“Letterbooks” among these documents are not actually bound books but are folders of separate-page letters kept at the time by regiments. The microfilm copies of these letters are mostly in chronological order, with a few exceptions. Apparently at a later time, archivists added consecutive printed numbers to the letter pages within each part. These printed numbers are noted in this list for each letterbook or document set.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day in the British Army

March 17, 1777 fell in the midst of a sober period for the British Army in America. Barely two months earlier, George Washington and the Continental Army unraveled British Commander-in-Chief Sir William Howe's occupation of the Jerseys through their victories at the Battles of 2nd Trenton and Princeton, and their re-location to Morristown. From this position, the Congressional forces could threaten all of the smaller British occupation posts with impunity, with none of these posts being sufficiently large to defend itself. As a result, Howe ordered the evacuation of the Jerseys, confining the British Army to a few ports, including New Brunswick and Perth Amboy, where a majority of soldiers were confined aboard transport ships. The redcoats spent most of their time between decks due to the foul weather, unable to either exercise or keep warm, due to the prohibition of fires on board and the slow delivery of the new clothing issue. As a result, the British Army suffered serious losses from disease, both in terms of the men who died and others who were incapacitated and unable to do duty.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Fellow's Perspective: Rachel Herrmann on Food Diplomacy

Rachel Herrmann is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Austin and joined us as part of the 2010-11 Fellowship Program. Rachel is a confirmed foodie and brings her love of all things eatable to her scholarship, revealing the hidden worlds of food in history. The historical study of foodstuffs, their preparation, and the socio-econo-cultural significance thereof has been a growth field since the mid-1980s, so Rachel stands in good company. Her dissertation, examining the symbolic and pragmatic usage and value of food during the American Revolution, promises to provide new insights for further work on how what we eat shapes who we are and what we do.


Figuring out Food Diplomacy

by Rachel Herrmann

I arrived to take up my research fellowship at the David Library last October (2010). When I got there I thought I was interested in Revolutionary foodways of free blacks, enslaved Africans, and Native Americans. After a month at the library, I’d figured out that I was more interested in starvation and what food meant to people in the Revolutionary period, and that the types of foods people were eating were less important to me. The historical sources are much more likely to say interesting things about food when there isn’t enough of it. My time at the library allowed me to come to terms with the idea of food diplomacy, and to think about how I was going to use that concept in my research on Creek and Cherokee Indians in the American South.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Fellow's Perspective: Dangerous Liaisons in the Pennsylvania Backcountry

In this installment of Fellow's Perspective, Prof. Ken Miller of Washington College discusses a brawl between captive British officers and local whig notables in the Pennsylvania backcountry. Prof. Miller's research, which will figure in his forthcoming book, focuses on the experience of British prisoners of war during the Revolution, particularly those confined at Lancaster. His entry highlights the value of the Library's microfilm collection for uncovering episodes of micro-history that can help to link together larger pieces of historical puzzles.


During my fall 2010 academic leave from Washington College, I undertook my second David Library of the American Revolution residential fellowship to complete the research for my book manuscript, Dangerous Guests: Enemy Captives and Revolutionary Communities during the War for Independence. Among other matters, my study investigates the manifold tensions springing from the hosting of British and German prisoners in the diverse wartime communities of the Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia interiors. Before commencing my recent fellowship at the David Library, I had attempted to unravel a violent confrontation between the captive British officers and the militant Whigs of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the leading detention site for enemy prisoners of war. Earlier research had yielded clues of an early 1782 brawl between the officers and their patriot hosts, but I had yet to discover what had sparked the conflict.

Friday, February 18, 2011

African-American Loyalist Sources

Over the course of the War for Independence, many African-Americans served the Loyalist cause. As with those African-Americans who served with Congressional forces, the Library contains records documenting the services of African Americans in the Royal Provincial Corps. Many of these documents can be found in our microfilms of records from the National Archives of Canada and the Archives of the New Brunswick Museum.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

African-American Narratives in Pension Files

In honor of Black History Month, the remaining entries for February will focus on the Library's records touching on African-American experiences during the Revolutionary Era of 1750-1800. Amongst our most important microfilm holdings are the Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty land warrant application files, part of Record Group 15 at the US National Archives and Records Service. Our microfilm copies are filed as Film 27, and contain some applications from African-American patriots. Two in particular stand out.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Fellow's Perspective: Small Pox and Slaves in Revolutionary Charleston, SC

In this installment of Fellow's Perspective, Ph.D. candidate Melissa Amy Maestri of the University of Delaware showcases the value of the David Library's printed sources. While many researchers come to consult portions of our 10,000-reel microfilm collection, the Library also sports over 7,000 books, pamphlets, and other printed works, including original manuscripts, reprints of primary sources, and scholarly accounts. The Library boasts a complete set of the Arno Press reprints of primary printed accounts, released during the bicentennial and seldom found concentrated together in one archive. Moultrie's Memoirs are available here as part of this collection.


After visiting Fort Moultrie this past September, I was eager to read William Moultrie's first hand accounts surrounding South Carolina during the American Revolution while at the David Library of the American Revolution in November. William Moultrie was born in 1730 and died in 1805. He served as governor of South Carolina from 1785-1787 and 1792-1794. He was a general from South Carolina during the American Revolution. In 1776, Moultrie and his troops defended a fort on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina. Moultrie prevented Sir Henry Clinton from attacking and taking over the important city of Charleston at that time. As a result of his tactful military defense, the fort on Sullivan’s Island was later named Fort Moultrie.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Fellow's Perspective: Peter Gilmore on William Irvine

 Today's entry begins a new series showcasing the work of David Library Fellows. Every year the Library awards residential research fellowships that include a stipend and one month's lodging on the Library's campus in the Feinstone Residence for Scholars. Dr. Peter Gilmore, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, joined us over the summer to conduct research on western Pennsylvania politics and Presbyterians. 


William Irvine: Distinguished Revolutionary Veteran and Political Moderate Outraged by the Excesses of Conservative Politicians

by Dr. Peter Gilmore

William Irvine (1741-1804), a physician from County Fermanagh in the north of Ireland, emerged a major figure in Pennsylvania during the Revolutionary and Early Republic eras. As a brigadier general, Irvine had responsibility for operations based at Fort Pitt in the latter years of the war, and returned west to the Ohio Country in 1794 in command of the Pennsylvania militia assembled to quell the Whiskey Rebellion. He was a Congressman and trustee of Dickinson College. Irvine is often regarded as a Federalist because of his firm support for ratification of the United States Constitution. However, upon examining the correspondence of General Irvine contained in the Draper Manuscripts, it gradually became clear to me that he might better be described as a moderate, without respect to partisan political designations. While certainly not a radical like some other prominent Irish immigrants (William Findley and John Smilie come to mind), Irvine responded critically, even testily, to the conservative direction of politics in post-war America.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Swain Report Special: War Office 28, Regimental HQ Papers Part 2

War Office 28, Regimental Headquarters Papers
Swain Report Special, Installment 2

This post continues the special installment of the Swain Report series: while most of David Swain's reports have provided a general finding aid to the collections they cover, this series constitutes a full catalog of all items in the War Office 28 microfilm rolls held by DLAR. The miscellaneous nature of the documents, which seem to be leftover returns and correspondence from British and Royal Provincial regiments in Canada, make composing a standard finding aid difficult. A full catalog is necessary for fully realizing the importance of these sources, which help to fill in the gaps left by other collections and provide important insights into the daily minutiae of military life, and to make them more user-friendly for researchers. We are very thankful that David has undertaken this intensive task, which has already revealed a number of interesting documents that might otherwise have been lost in the shuffle. For Installment 1, please click here.


British War Office 28—American Headquarters Records
Annotated List of Contents—Part 3 (Reel 2)

by David Swain

The David Library holds microfilm copies of the British War Office 28 Records, parts 2 through 10 (1775-1785), contained on 8 reels.

Note: The compiler of this annotated list has numbered the microfilmed documents consecutively within each reel. These numbers do not appear on the microfilm and are used here only to maintain a sense of order in the contents.

“Letterbooks” among these documents are not actually bound books but are folders of separate-page letters kept at the time by regiments. The microfilm copies of these letters are mostly in chronological order, with a few exceptions. Apparently at a later time, archivists added consecutive printed numbers to the letter pages within each part xxor reel??xx These printed numbers are noted in this list for each letterbook.

28.3. Letterbooks (Reel 2)

Summary contents:

-- 53rd Regiment of Foot field officer letters 1778: 16 letters; documents 1 through 16; printed page numbers 1 through 40

-- 53rd Regiment of Foot field officer letters 1781-1783: 22 letters; documents 17 through 38; printed page numbers 41 through 92

-- 84th Regiment field officer letters 1777-1778: 28 letters; documents 39 through 66; printed page numbers 93 through 157

-- 84th Regiment field officer letters 1778-1779: 22 letters; documents 67 through 88; printed page numbers 158 through 211

-- 84th Regiment field officer letters 1780: 27 letters; documents 89 through 115; printed page numbers 212 through 285

-- 84th Regiment Field Officers letters 1781: 28 letters; documents 116 through 143; printed page numbers 286 through 356

-- 84th Regiment Field Officers letters 1782: 34 letters; documents 144 through 177; printed page numbers 357 through 443

-- 84th Regiment Field Officers letters 1783: 20 letters; documents 178 through 197; printed page numbers 444 through 493

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Was George Washington a swinger?

From the David Library Archives

On April 2, 1973, the Bucks County Courier Times carried an article by Staff Writer Maryann Bird, entitled "Was George Washington a swinger?" The article (linked in pdf format) followed Sol Feinstone's claim that he owned "the only love letter written by George Washington after he married Martha," and asked if then-General Washington had cheated on his wife in 1783. The letter was addressed to Mrs. Annis Boudinot Stockton, of Morven House, now in Princeton, New Jersey, who was the widow of Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. A full transcript of the letter, document number 1600 in the Sol Feinstone Collection, appears below. It is not known if Stockton's original letter to Washington survives.

What do you think? Does this letter constitute a suggestion of a love affair, as Sol Feinstone argued? Or is there something else at work in Washington's text? Please record your thoughts in the comments section.