Community Transcription – Sixty-Six Months

November 1st, 2016

October marked the sixty-sixth month since we opened the War Department archives to community transcription. We continue to receive regular requests for transcriber accounts. Here is a snapshot of transcription activity for the month:

Twenty-five new transcriber signed up last month, and as of October 31, the total number of transcribers was 2,755. These new transcribers come from a variety of backgrounds and include researchers, writers, university students, and genealogists.

The individuals who signed up to transcribe in October mentioned an interest in people and topics such as the Navy, St. Clair’s Defeat, the Quasi-War, and George Washington.

Transcribed documents include documents regarding William Knox conveying Congressional resolutions, provisions for the Senecas, information on US-British relations from John Jay, high demand for kentledge, prohibition on the exportation of arms and ammunition, blankets for the Marine Corps, politics and Indian relations, and Maryland’s ratification of the Constitution.

Our community of transcribers have added 158 transcribed pages to War Department documents, with the total number of saves being 19,444. Overall, we have had 597,479 page views.

For the month of November, we are encouraging our volunteers to transcribe documents relating to veterans and veteran affairs in Early America. The following documents mention this theme and are in need of transcription: request for money from a veteran of St. Clair expedition, preference towards veteran officers in selections for military appointment, military service of Sergeant Pollard, and the petition of a veteran of the Revolutionary War. Follow us on Twitter (@wardeptpapers) where we’ll be posting more documents in need of transcription throughout the month of November that discuss this theme.

Interested in contributing to the project? Individuals can register for a transcription account and become a transcription associate.

Discovering Foreign Policy in the PWD

October 27th, 2016

Elected and appointed officials in the 1790s faced a number of challenges when the war between Great Britain and France forced the United States into a defensive position. Federalists and Republicans debated loyalties as each faction sought to protect the commercial and political interests of the new nation. The Papers of the War Department offer a number of documents relevant to researchers interested in foreign policy of the early American republic. This post highlights documents that reveal some of this history.

Amidst their own revolutionary transitions, the French government declared war against Great Britain in 1793. President George Washington declared the United States would remain neutral in the conflict, and refused a request from their ambassador to provide military and financial support. Having already established a treaty with France years prior, the United States began negotiating with Great Britain to resolve remaining tensions following the Revolutionary War. The negotiations produced the Jay Treaty in 1795 that maintained peace with Britain. Angered by this new treaty, French ships began to stop, search, and seize American merchant ships for “contraband” supplies heading for British territories. In an effort to end merchant ship seizures, President John Adams sent ambassadors to France in 1797 to re-negotiate the American-French Treaty of Amity and Commerce. However, negotiations failed and resulted in the establishment of the US Navy as well as an undeclared conflict known today as the Quasi War. Assaults on American vessels continued until 1800 with the signing of the Treaty of Mortefontaine between the United States and France.

Below is a selection of documents relating to foreign policy, arranged chronologically:

  1. Notes Concerning the Conduct of the French Minister”: Letter from Alexander Hamilton (Secretary of the Treasury) to unknown recipient lists reasons the actions of the French ambassador, Charles Genêt, were deemed unacceptable by the United States.
    [
    Unavailable on PWD, can be found here]
  2. Extract of a Letter…Concerning U.S.-British Relations”: Letter from John Jay (Chief Justice) to Edmund Randolph (Secretary of State) discussing negotiations of the treaty Jay negotiated with Great Britain and the United States.
    [
    Transcribed]
  3. On the nation’s resistance to a large military establishment”: Letter draft from James McHenry (Secretary of War) to unknown recipient advocates for expanding the military and acknowledges popular resistance to maintaining a large military.
    [
    Needs Transcription]
  4. Detailed Response…Regarding Relations with France”: Letter from James McHenry (Secretary of War) to John Adams (President) discussing relations with France and avoiding war. Advice given to avoid appearing to favor Britain.
    [
    Needs Transcription]
  5. Requests Defence of US Merchant Ships against French”: Letter from William Hindman (Representative from Maryland) to James McHenry (Secretary of War) discussing the Direct House Tax and the need to defend American merchant ships against French attacks.
    [
    Needs Transcription]
  6. Federalist anger over Adam’s peace commission to France”: Letter from Uriah Tracy (Senator from Connecticut) to James McHenry (Secretary of War) illustrates Federalist opinion of France. Alludes to peace talks leading to the Convention of 1800 and a treaty with France.
    [
    Transcribed]


The documents referenced in this post are only a handful of examples that reveal opinions and disagreements over foreign policies from the early republic. To read more on what the PWD has to offer relating to this topic, see
these two blog posts. To uncover them all, explore our collection.


Interested in transcribing documents to increase the discoverability of the past? We encourage you to request a transcription account. The secrets of the past can be brought to the present with your help!

Any questions, comments, or suggestions for a future post? Please email us, we look forward to hearing from you! info@wardepartmentpapers.org

Community Transcription – Sixty-Five Months

October 4th, 2016

September marked the sixty-fifth month since we opened the War Department archives to community transcription. We continue to receive regular requests for transcriber accounts. Here is a snapshot of transcription activity for the month:

Forty-six new transcribers signed up last month, and as of September 30, the total number of transcribers was 2,730. These new transcribers come from a variety of backgrounds and include university students, genealogists, archivists, historians, and writers.

The individuals who signed up to transcribe in September mentioned an interest in people and topics such as the Wyandot people, military chaplains, Fallen Timbers, Henry Knox, and the Simcoe family.

Transcribed documents include documents regarding the account of requisitions made for Lincoln’s Mill; request for pay despite records lost during St. Clair defeat; clothing, muskets, and powder; training, supplies, and pay; British military activity; paperwork arriving with next post; agreement to repair arms; and updates on troop movement. Special thanks to students of Dr. George Oberle’s History 300 class for transcribing a large number of documents this month.

Our community of transcribers have added 358 transcribed pages to War Department documents, with the total number of saves being 19,286. Overall, we have had 557,516 page views.

For the month of October, we are encouraging our volunteers to transcribe documents relating to politics in Early America. The following documents mention this theme and are in need of transcription: ‘artful Democrats’ and federal reactions, details of the post-presidential journey home, Hamilton’s plan for military supply, and disputes over the importance of the Army and Navy. Follow us on Twitter (@wardeptpapers) where we’ll be posting more documents in need of transcription throughout the month of October that discuss this theme.

Interested in contributing to the project? Individuals can register for a transcription account and become a transcription associate.

Guide to Native American Research

September 26th, 2016

Representing federal correspondence and documents from the early republic, the Papers of the War Department contains over 2,000 documents pertaining to federal relations with more than forty Native American tribes. Finding a specific item on the site can be difficult without knowing the full scope of the collection or how individual documents are described. To assist researchers of Native American history, we compiled a list of tribes, with all known variations of spelling, mentioned in the documents of the PWD (see below).


The below list of tribes are meant to be used as initial search terms. To achieve the best results, perform an
advanced search and browse documents for places associated with the tribe of interest during the late 18th century. To get an idea of what locations would be associated with a tribe on PWD, browse tags in the “place” field of a specific document, such as in the example below.

Speech to the Five Nations of Indians at Philadelphia,” April 17, 1792, from Timothy Pickering to the Headmen of Five Nations.


List of Native American Tribes on PWD
Each grouping includes all known variations of tribal/nation names within the collection for locating documents on each specific tribe. This list includes plural spellings only when the tribe cannot be found under the singular. Assume a plural search will be needed. Some of the below names/spellings may yield similar or same documents.

  • Five Nations
  • Mohawk
  • Oneida
  • Onondaga, Onandaga, Onondago, Onondagoes
  • Cayuga, Cayoga, Cuyahuga
  • Seneca, Senaca, Seneka, Senecas of the Glaize
  • Six Nations
  • Tuscorora, Tuscarora, Tuscarawas
  • Seven Nations, Seven Villages, Anishanabea
  • (Mississauga) Mississaga, Massasauga, Messagues, Messassagues
  • Creeks, Creek Nation
  • Iroquois
  • Piaukonohou
  • Delaware, Delaware Nation
  • Moravian
  • Lenape
  • Munsee, Munsey
  • Mohicans
  • Connoy
  • Nanticoke, Nantakokies, (Wantikokes?)
  • Mingo, Mingoes
  • Chippewa, Chippawa, Chipewa, Chipeewas
  • Potawatomi, Potawatami, Pattawatamie, Poutawatomie, Putawatomie, Pottawatamies, Pouttawatamies, Potowatomies, Potawatomies, Potawatimes, Potawanamees, Pattawatamies
  • Sioux
  • Catawba
  • Muscogee, Muskogee
  • Natchez (search within persons/groups)
  • Chickamauga, Chiccamaga
  • Chickasaw, Chicasaw
  • Cherokee
  • Miami, Miamies
  • Choctaw, Chocktaw
  • Weas, Weeas, Oiatanon, Ouiatenon
  • Kaskaskia
  • Peoria, Peorians
  • Cahokia
  • Kickapoo, Kikapoo
  • Eel River
  • Piankashaw, Piankishaw, Piankeshaw
  • Musquitoes
  • Wyandot, Huron
  • Ojibwa
  • Weachtenos
  • Ottawa
  • Shawnee, Shawanese, Shawanesse, Shawnese, Shawanee, Shawanoe, Shawenesse, Chanuanan, Chaouanon, Chanianons
  • Sauk, Sacs

 

If you have found any tribes or variation in spelling not mentioned here, please send us an email: info@wardepartmentpapers.org

Community Transcription – Sixty-Four Months

September 6th, 2016

August marked the sixty-fourth month since we opened the War Department archives to community transcription. We continue to receive regular requests for transcriber accounts. Here is a snapshot of transcription activity for the month:

Nineteen new transcribers signed up last month, and as of August 31, the total number of transcribers was 2,684. These new transcribers come from a variety of backgrounds and included genealogists, retired librarians, and university students and professors.

The individuals who signed up to transcribe in August mentioned an interest in people and topics such as Richard Howell, George Washington, Marquis de Lafayette, William Campbell, and Shays’ Rebellion.

Transcribed documents include documents regarding provisions and supplies; discussion of condition of military stores in Rhode Island; coffee, sugar, and planting a garden; and Knox soliciting Lincoln’s opinion regarding his militia plan.

Our community of transcribers have added 189 transcribed pages to War Department documents, with the total number of saves being 18,928. Overall, we have had 530,501 page views.

For the month of September, we are encouraging our volunteers to transcribe documents relating to autumn and the change of weather more generally. The following documents mention this theme and are in need of transcription: clothing contracts in preparation for autumn, Indian attacks and expressions of support for Hodgdon, Captain Calendar Irvine’s request for vests for troops, weather conditions and river transportation, and the favorability of cool weather for escaping fever.

Interested in contributing to the project? Individuals can register for a transcription account and become a transcription associate.

Community Transcription – Sixty-Three Months

August 1st, 2016

July marked the sixty-third month since we opened the War Department archives to community transcription. We continue to receive regular requests for transcriber accounts. Here is a snapshot of transcription activity for the month:

Nineteen new transcribers signed up last month, and as of July 31, the total number of transcribers was 2,665. These new transcribers come from a variety of backgrounds and included genealogists, university students, members of Native American tribes, researchers, and a paleography enthusiast.

The individuals who signed up to transcribe in July mentioned an interest in people, places, and topics such as Nathanael Greene; South West Point; the Kentucky militia; Mason County, KentuckyTreaty of Fort Harmar; Indians in Ohio; Amasa DavisChief Alexander McGillivray of the Creek Nation; and General Alexander Macomb.

Transcribed documents include documents regarding preparations for movement of the legion beyond Fort Jefferson, measures to deal with Creeks, delivery of powder and paper, delivery of cannon powder for fourth of July celebrations, General Knox’s account for wine, clothing needs, the removal of offices from Philadelphia for the summer, renting of houses for public officials, and the necessity of tents in Portland.

Our community of transcribers have added 161 transcribed pages to War Department documents, with the total number of saves being 18,739. Overall, we have had 515,373 page views.

We interviewed transcriber Scribe of Poland as part of our fifth anniversary celebration of community transcription. Check out her interview to get an idea of the kinds of documents transcribers come across while volunteering for the PWD.

As we continue to move forward with the project, individuals may still register for a transcription account.

In Memory of Lt. Col. Ronald J. Martin, USMC, Retired

July 29th, 2016

On July 14, 2016, the Rosenzweig Center lost Ronald J. Martin, a longtime and valuable member of our team, to his struggle with cancer. Ron came to the Center in 2008 to serve join the team of scholars editing the Papers of the War Department, 1784-1800, and was integral to our work with the National Park Service on the history of the War of 1812. He was an enthusiastic partner in our work to share early American history with the public, and we mourn his passing.

Serving as PWD’s only full time  staff person, Ron began as an assistant editor, but soon he moved into the role of Associate Editor. From that position, he worked with the assistant editors to complete the basic description (author, recipient, and date) of the full collection, more than 18,000 of the total 42,800 documents. Then, in 2010 he and the staff turned their attention to offering a more full description of a key subset of the collection. During the next three years, Ron shepherded the process of creating enhanced description, including people, places, and items mentioned and a general description of the document, for more than 27,000 items. Ron alone completed the description for more than 5,000 documents annually. In the end, the team exceed their description goals by 3,000 documents. As a result of this work, researchers, students, teachers, and members of the interested public have vastly improved access to the inner-workings of the early national federal government, to day-to-day correspondence on issues related to Native Americans, active military, veterans, and their families.

Beginning in 2010, Ron started to share his unparalleled knowledge of the PWD collections with the public through a series of blog posts. In the end, these short pieces covered the range of historical issues and events contained with in the collections. Ron wrote biographical sketches of key individuals, including Andrew Pickens, William Blount, Tobias Lear, and George Izard. He offered explanations for different kinds of documents, outlined important events in early national military history, and provided insight into the development of the Navy. Once RRCHNM began work on community sourcing the transcription of the Papers in March 2011, Ron carefully selected a set of documents that would be interesting candidates for public work. These documents included letters from Judith Sargent Murray, the Jay Treaty, materials on the beginning of the Quasi War, and orders for supplies related to muskets being manufactured by Eli Whitney—each one fascinating in its own way, and all reflective of different elements of the early national experience.

Upon the completion of the description for PWD, in 2013, Ron turned his attention to the War of 1812. Working with Christopher Hamner and Spencer Roberts, he created a significant amount of the historical content on the National Park Service’s website dedicated to the war’s bicentennial. The team for the 1812 work decided on content strategy that was more suited to the digital engagement habits of contemporary users, that stressed the cultural and social context of the war along with the more traditional materials on major military events, and that highlighted both contingency and diversity. Rather than presenting a series of longer essays that focus on key themes, the team developed 70 modules that users could explore by following their own interests and questions. “Voices” modules began with a quotation from a specific individual to offer users many human experiences and perspectives. “Moments” modules focused on a specific event to give users a sense of the key milestones of the conflict.”Perspectives” modules targeted the experiences of and impacts on the many diverse communities touched by the war. This approach allowed the team to present the history of the War of 1812 in new way while working within the constraints of the National Park Service’s technological infrastructure.

It was while he was finishing up his work on the War of 1812 that Ron fell ill. We at the Center have missed his kindness and generosity over the past year and a half, and we are deeply saddened at his death. Ron was so much more than a good historian—a Marine, a husband, a father, a champion hockey and football player—but, we knew him best through his hard work and his dedication to early American history. Given that commitment, Ron’s family has requested that memorial donations be made to RRCHNM. We will use those contributions to sustain our digital collections, including the Papers of the War Department project.

Transcribing Can Be An Unexpected Research Method

July 29th, 2016

Editors’ Note: This post was written by Associate Editor Ron Martin, a valued colleague and friend, some time ago. It is published posthumously in his honor.

On occasion, volunteers who transcribe documents for large collection projects can find unexpected bonuses as repayment for their time. When these projects overlap with one’s research, the transcription process uncovers minute details that might otherwise escape notice.

While transcribing for the Papers of the War Department: 1784 to 1800, I chose to work on documents related to Fort Niagara in New York State because the topic fits into my other research. The fort sits at the mouth of the Niagara River, across from Fort George and the Canadian town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. During the War of 1812, the artillery pieces at Fort Niagara rained shells and hot shot onto the opposite shore, setting fires amongst the houses and harassing the British troops.

Before the war, however, the fort housed American troops during a time of peace with the British. The officers on both sides faced similar difficulties, such as providing rations for their troops in the middle of winter and ensuring that the payroll arrived on time. One letter from William Simmons to James McHenry reports that $245.05 is overdue to pay the soldiers and officers at Fort Niagara.

That the American and British officers had similar difficulties is not, however, remarkable or new knowledge to any scholar of the Niagara frontier (or any other outposts during the late eighteenth century). The particular scrap of information that I found interesting was in a report from the fort commander, James Bruff, to William Simmons of the Accountants Office.

In his report, Bruff laments the costs that he incurs by hosting foreign (meaning British) officers for dinners and parties. During the peace between the two nations, officers from both sides regularly crossed the river to visit their counterparts. In fact, according to the report printed on July 15th, 1812, in Baltimore’s Federal Republican, when the British officers at Fort George received notice of the declaration of the War of 1812, they were hosting Americans for dinner. Graciously, the British troops escorted the Americans back to their side of the river so that hostilities might commence promptly in the morning.

Following an explanation of the costs he has incurred, Bruff makes an interesting comparison:

The British officers who have commanded here at Oswego inform me that their pay wou’d not support a table, and that their government make an allowance for that purpose (in some instances) exceeding their pay: shall our government (founded on justice) be the only one that requires officers to be polite, conciliating and to keep up an intercourse with foreigners & foreign officers at their private expense?

Even if Bruff was exaggerating the tales he heard from British officers, his complaint highlights the complex nature of international relations across the border between the British Lower and Upper Canadas and the newly formed United States of America. American officers could simply look across the river to see British defensive strategy or ask a British officer about their supply chain and resource management. The comparison was not only easy to make, but also highlighted how much further the American military would need to improve to be classed amongst the powerful imperial states.

The borders along the Niagara and St. Lawrence Rivers were unusual; although the political bodies of each nation clashed from time to time, the military forces on those frontiers traded goods, information, customs, and meals. Despite the distinction that political allegiance created, the Niagara River was a permeable border across which people moved freely even on the day before war.

In my research for my dissertation, I hope to uncover such connections that crossed the political boundaries to better understand the lives of people who lived on the borders; in particular, I hope to explore how the war disrupted those connections and how families negotiated that contested space.

My time spent transcribing was not meant to link so well with my research, but as it turns out, volunteering to work with historical material can uncover unexpected, valuable information for historians and history enthusiasts alike.

Community Transcription – Sixty-Two Months

July 5th, 2016

June marked the sixty-second month since we opened the War Department archives to community transcription. We continue to receive regular requests for transcriber accounts. Here is a snapshot of transcription activity for the month:

Twenty-six new transcribers signed up last month, and as of June 30, the total number of transcribers was 2,646. These new transcribers come from a variety of backgrounds and included university students, genealogists, independent researchers, and public historians.

The individuals who signed up to transcribe in June mentioned an interest in people and topics such as the Indian wars, Kentucky, slavery in Virginia, Jonathan Grant, Henry Foxall, Mohawk Valley, and Joseph Brant and Molly Brant.

Transcribed documents include documents regarding Anthony Wayne’s campaign strategy, the termination of scouts for protection, financial matters, the settlement of army officers’ accounts, troops ready to march, a request for authorization to dispatch militia and spies, Indian relations and troop status, and deserters, training troops, and supplies.

Our community of transcribers have added 458 transcribed pages to War Department documents, with the total number of saves being 18,578. Overall, we have had 502,115 page views.

We interviewed transcriber Scribe of Poland as part of our fifth anniversary celebration of community transcription. Check out her interview to get an idea of the kinds of documents transcribers come across while volunteering for the PWD.

As we continue to move forward with the project, individuals may still register for a transcription account.

Community Transcription – Sixty-One Months

June 1st, 2016

May marked the sixty-first month since we opened the War Department archives to community transcription. We continue to receive regular requests for transcriber accounts. Here is a snapshot of transcription activity for the month:

Seventeen new transcribers signed up last month, and as of May 31, the total number of transcribers was 2,620. These new transcribers come from a variety of backgrounds and included genealogists, independent scholars, and museum professionals.

The individuals who signed up to transcribe in May mentioned an interest in people and topics such as the Whiskey Rebellion, frontier communities, Samuel Jackson, Lt. John Campbell, the Greenville Treaty Council, and the Northwest Territory.

Transcribed documents include documents regarding indebtedness to the United States, anchors for the frigate Constitution, furnishment of military stores, the incompleteness of the muster of spies, counterfeited certificates, the placement of spies, and Washington’s support of Mr. Ames’s good character.

Our community of transcribers have added 489 transcribed pages to War Department documents, with the total number of saves being 18,120. Overall, we have had 465,665 page views.

We interviewed transcriber Scribe of Poland as part of our fifth anniversary celebration of community transcription. Check out her interview to get an idea of the kinds of documents transcribers come across while volunteering for the PWD.

As we continue to move forward with the project, individuals may still register for a transcription account.