Turn the pages of highlights from the library's collections
The manuscripts in the Society's collections offer a unique source of documentation of the day-to-day military operations and observations on the lives and times of participants in the American Revolution. Because of their significance to scholars of military and naval history, the Society has taken extra measures to conserve and make accessible—and in some cases digitize—the manuscripts that illuminate the art of war in the eighteenth century. In addition to bound manuscripts, the Society is also digitizing selected printed works that are notable for their scarcity and particular relevance to the library's collecting focus. The following are bound manuscripts and rare printed works that have been digitized to date.
Orderly book of the Continental artillery regiment kept at Cambridge, Mass., by Gershom Foster, January 1 – February 24, 1776
This orderly book, kept in early 1776 by Sgt. Gershom Foster of the Continental artillery regiment commanded by Col. Henry Knox, primarily contains general orders. Regimental orders appear in late January, corresponding with Colonel Knox's return to Cambridge from Ticonderoga. The volume includes, in its very first entry, the general order to keep orderly books: "It is ordered and directed that not only every Regiment, but every Company, do keep an Orderly Book, to which frequent recourse is to be had, it being expected that all standing orders be rigidly obeyed ..."
Orderly book of the Fourth Pennsylvania Battalion kept by First Lt. Samuel Smith, June 11 – September 22, 1776
Samuel Smith served in Capt. John Lacey's Company of the Fourth Pennsylvania Battalion, under the command of Gen. Anthony Wayne. This orderly book covers the battalion's encampments in New York and movements up the Hudson River and Lake George to join the garrison at Fort Ticonderoga under the command of Gen. Benedict Arnold. Contents include daily password and countersign, general and brigade orders, notices of courts-martial, orders for march, and resolutions of Congress. The volume lacks several leaves from its front and back and includes some fragmentary pages.
Continental Army orderly book kept at New York, N.Y., July 8 and August 1-12, 1776
This Continental Army orderly book, kept by an unidentified officer, includes general, brigade, and regimental orders for the American troops stationed in New York City in the weeks leading up to the battle of Long Island. Topics include jealousies among troops from different provinces; health of the troops and cleanliness of quarters; condition of arms, ammunition, and flints; courts martial; furloughs and desertions; preparations for battle; and appointments of officers by the Continental Congress. Units mentioned include Gen. John Scott's Brigade, Gen. James Wadsworth's Brigade, and Col. Fisher Gay's Regiment.
Orderly book of Lord Stirling's Division kept by Capt. William Popham, aide-de-camp to Gen. James Clinton, August 1-24 and August 26 – October 7, 1780
This volume covers the orders and operations of the Continental Army division commanded by Gen. William Alexander (known as Lord Stirling) in New York and New Jersey during the late summer and early fall of 1780. The volume includes Gen. Nathanael Greene's announcement of Benedict Arnold's treason in an entry dated September 26, 1780: "Treason of the blackest dye was yesterday discovered – Genl. Arnold who commanded at Westpoint, lost to every sentiment of honor, of private & public obligation, was about to deliver up that important post into the Hands of the Enemy. Such an event must give the American cause a deadly wound, if not a fatal stab – happily the Treason has been timely discovered, to prevent the fatal misfortune."
Letterbook of Lt. Col. Nisbet Balfour, British commandant of Charleston, S.C., January 1 – December 1, 1781
British forces, under the command of Sir Henry Clinton, captured Charleston, S.C., in January 1780. Six months into the occupation, Lieutenant Colonel Balfour was appointed commandant of the British-held city. In this position, Balfour played a strategic role in evaluating and transmitting information, money, and supplies north to Clinton and south to Banastre Tarleton during the southern campaign.
Balfour's correspondents include Benedict Arnold; Sir Henry Clinton; Lord Sackville, secretary of state; and Sir James Wright, British governor of Georgia. Subject matter includes reports of movements and actions of American troops, including those under the commands of Generals Henry Lee, Nathanael Greene, Francis Marion, and Daniel Morgan.
46 letters in one volume, folio
The Robert Charles Lawrence Fergusson Collection
MSS L2001F617 [Bound]
Orderly book of the Second Massachusetts Regiment kept at Newburgh and West Point, N.Y., by Capt. Ebenezer Smith, March – November 1783
Covering events in and around the Continental Army encampment at Newburgh during the final months of the war, this orderly book includes a full transcript of the officers' grievances known as the "Newburgh Addresses;" George Washington's address at their meeting of March 15, 1783; an announcement of the General Peace; and a full transcript of the Institution of the Society of the Cincinnati
adopted on May 13, 1783. It also contains "General Washington's Fairwell [sic] orders to the Armies of the United States," November 2, 1783; and a first-hand account of Washington's taking leave of the Second and Third Massachusetts regiments at West Point before departing to take command of New York City.
Rare Printed Works
Calendrier Français, pour l'Année Commune 1781. A Newport, [R.I.]: De l'Imprimerie Royale de l'Escadre, près le Parc de la Marine, .
This is the only complete copy known to survive of the Calendrier Français, an almanac published by the press of the French fleet after its arrival in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1780. In addition to the daily computation of the rising and setting of the sun and moon, this almanac includes a directory of the French naval officers by squadron and the ranking officers of the army under the command of General Rochambeau. It also provides a brief history of Rhode Island, a chronology of the important events of the American Revolution to date, and a chart of distances between towns and cities in the northeastern corridor of the United States.
46 pages (i.e., , 43,  p.), octavo
The Robert Charles Lawrence Fergusson Collection