Friday, April 27, 2012

Letters from the Front: Lady Ackland's Journey

"I cannot see the uncommon perseverance in every female grace, and exaltation of character of this Lady, and her very hard future without testifying that your attention to her will lay me under obligations"

While the story of Jane McCrea is one of the better known and sadder stories of women's perils to come out of the 1777 Saratoga Campaign, an equally important episode involved Lady Harriet Ackland, who was the subject of this week's installment from our Letters from the Front collection. Lady Ackland was married to Major John Dyke Ackland, who commanded one of the grenadier battalions attached to General John Burgoyne's Army. Lady Ackland accompanied her husband during the entire campaign and, when he was wounded in the fighting and captured by American forces. Unwilling to be separated from her husband, Lady Ackland obtained permission from General Burgoyne to cross the lines and seek out her husband, which she did, nursing him back to health. The two returned to England the next after, after the Major was exchanged, where he died. The document below provides a glimpse into the drama surrounding this story, showing us how General Burgoyne opened negotiations with his opposite number, Continental Army Genera Horatio Gates, to secure safe passage for Ackland. Burgoyne's words speak to the truly exceptional nature of the case, as well as the culture of honor that linked the officers of both armies. Our thanks to David Library research assistant David Swain for this transcript.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Letters from the Front: The Battle of Bennington and Brown's Raid

"The Enemy attacked a part of our Men at Sill-water about thirty mile from here, wherein we lost between three and four hundred Men & from best accounts from Deserters & Prisoners since taken the Enemy lost about a thousand"

Returning to the Letters from the Front series, our next installment features an account of the Battle of Bennington, Vermont, and Colonel John Brown's raid on the British forces at Fort Ticonderoga, both of which occurred in the late summer of 1777. As British General John Burgoyne moved his troops south from Fort Ticonderoga to strike at Albany, he encountered a multiplicity of problems. One of the more pressing of these was logistical: for every day's march, his supply lines grew longer and more vulnerable, slowing down the transport of vital supplies to the head of his army. In an attempt to ameliorate this issue, recruit loyalists into his army, and strike a blow at the rebellion, Burgoyne detached a large force of Hessians and Loyalists to attack the Continental supply depot at Bennington, Vermont. This force collided with American defenders near Stillwater, NY, on August 16, resulting in a significant American victory. A few weeks later, Colonel John Brown launched a raid on the British defenders of Fort Ticonderoga, which anchored the British supply line to Montreal, disrupting the garrison and capturing a significant number of redcoats. The letter below provides striking coverage of these events. Little is presently known of the writer, Dr. John Mawney, though he may be the same physician who took part in the capture and burning of the British sloop Gaspee in 1772. For the full letter, please read below. Our thanks go to David Swain for the transcript.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Swain Report: Colonial Office West Florida Catalog, Part 1

In this new series of the Swain Report, David Library Research Assistant David Swain tackles the West Florida Papers of the British Colonial Office series. West Florida was created in the wake of the French and Indian War, when the Peace of Paris of 1763 awarded large tracts of French and Spanish possessions to the British Empire. Florida, formerly under Spanish control, was divided into eastern and western section, with East Florida being governed from St. Augustine and West Florida from Pensacola. 

At this time, West Florida was among the wildest regions in the British Imperial borderlands. It boasted only two settlements of any size-- Pensacola and Mobile-- both of which were tiny and rough-shod compared with the more established settlements to the east. For most of the 1760s, Pensacola was a military outpost consisting of a collection of rough wooden huts surrounded by a dilapidated palisade. 

The political situation in the colony reflected its physical rusticness. The colony provided the scene for heated face-offs between civilian and military authorities, struggled under a string of lackluster governors, and suffered from a degree of internal disputes not generally witnessed elsewhere in North America. The Colonial Office records preserve detailed accounts of these intrigues and provide a new window into life on the early American frontier.

Like the WO28 catalog, this series of the Swain Report will provide an item-by-item listing of the full contents of the West Florida Papers, the first of its kind. For the first installment, please read below.


Reel 1 summary contents:

·         Volume 574:  Official correspondence and documents (Bundle A) 1763-1766:  204 documents; DLAR document numbers 1 through 204; archivist penciled page numbers 1 through 980; no archivist stamped page numbers; BCO Bundle document numbers A1 through A117

·         Volume 575:  Official correspondence and documents (Bundle B) 1765-1769:  71 documents; DLAR document numbers 205 through 275; archivist penciled page numbers 1 through 360; archivist stamped page numbers 1 through 177; BCO Bundle document numbers B1 through B46

·         Volume 576:  Land grant documents 1764-1767:  22 documents; DLAR document numbers 276 through 297; archivist penciled page numbers 1 through 79; archivist stamped page numbers 1 through 46; no BCO Bundle document numbers

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Review: Hohrath's "Uniforms of the Prussian Army"

"While invaluable as an unmatched resource on the military material culture of Germany’s foremost eighteenth-century army, The Uniforms of the Prussian Army under Frederick the Great from 1740-1786 has a value that far exceeds the focus of its title." 

Among the Library's new acquisitions for 2012 is the seminal two-volume work The Uniforms of the Prussian Army under Frederick the Great from 1740-1786, the product of several intense years of research by German museum curator Daniel Hohrath. The following review is intended to provide patrons with an idea of how rich a resource this work is. Since The Uniforms of the Prussian Army aims at a niche market, it is unlikely to go into a second printing and most of the first printing is already sold out. We encourage anyone interested in the Prussian Army, the Hessian forces, museum philosophy, and the history of museums and collecting to visit us and check out this new work. See below for the full review.