Transcribe This: Williams Declines Promotion

December 17th, 2015

Brigadier General Otho H. Williams explains his reasons for declining a promotion to Henry Knox in this letter dated May 6, 1792.

While Williams describes himself as “very highly complimented” by Knox’s favorable opinion and understands that “the President is pleased to entertain of my abilities,” he writes that he “could not… accept a command in the army, even if the President were to think me worthy of commanding in chief.” Williams writes that his health has been “extremely precarious” for two years and requires much care and attention. If he accepted the position, Williams believes that the happiness of his family would “be for a time suspended, if not sacrificed.” Williams also notes that he has in his charge “a number of orphan children” which engages his “integrity and affections,” who would also “lie neglected.” Williams asks to be excused for “declining the honor proposed to be conferred on me” and writes that when it is in his power “to render any efficient service to my Country I shall be most happy in the opportunity.”

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Transcribe This: Coats, Vests, Overalls, Etc. Needed by Soldiers

November 19th, 2015

This letter, authored by Stephen Rochefontaine, was written December 9, 1796 at West Point. Rochefontaine was writing to Samuel Hodgdon, who was in Philadelphia, regarding soldiers at West Point who are in need of items of clothing.

Rochefontaine requests clothing for corps who are still at West Point. He writes that “the season has become so inclement for 10 days past” and the men are suffering from want of clothing. The sergeants are in need of “coats, vests, overalls, and shirts,” while privates require “vests, overalls, shirts, socks, and shoes.” Musicians’ coats are also requested. The items of clothing are to be sent in the care of Lieutenant Drausy, but if he is not returning to West Point immediately, Rochefontaine asks that the clothing be sent before him. Captain Frye should also be notified, since he can inform Manning and Smith, the contractors, as “for in the hurry of business” the clothes “are sometimes remaining in the store forgot.”

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Transcribe This: Confidential Act of Congress

October 22nd, 2015

This letter from Henry Knox to Beverley Randolph, Governor of Virginia, was written on March 10, 1791, and concerns confidential information resulting from Congress’s deliberations on protecting the frontier.

Knox writes to the Governor that an act has been proposed for “raising, and adding another regiment to the military establishment of the United States and for making further provision for the protection of the frontiers.” Knox requests that he does not let this information “out of your possession” since it has yet to be published through the proper channels. The government has not finished making arrangements necessary for the Act to be implemented, but the President has “authorized an expedition against the Wabash indians.” The troops will be raised in Kentucky and are to be made up of no more than seven hundred and fifty mounted volunteers who will be under the command of Brigadier General Charles Scott. John Brown is in charge of making the preparations.

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Transcribe This: Hats for Artillerists

September 15th, 2015

In this letter from November 1800, Samuel Hodgdon, the Commissary of Military Stores, writes to Israel Whelen, the Purveyor of Public Supplies, concerning an order of artillerists’ hats.

Hodgdon writes that after reading the store keeper’s report, he finds that “fifty three hats for Artillerists” are needed to complete the orders the store keeper has issued. Since returns from that corps are received every day that utilize that particular article of clothing, Hodgdon asks Whelen to purchase or procure the requested items, and place in the store as soon as possible “One hundred, answering to the Pattern” which Hodgdon will provide him.

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Transcribe this: Creation of a School for Indian Children

May 12th, 2015

In the first of these two letters, David Fowler wrote to Secretary of War Henry Knox on March 13, 1793, and two days later, Knox corresponded with General Israel Chapin regarding the matters Fowler discussed in his letter. Fowler, a Native American, is writing to Knox about the inhabitants of Brotherton, most of whom are poor as a result of being forced off their plantations and subsequently “lost all during [the] late war.” As a result of their economic condition, Fowler is obliged to ask for the assistance of the United States government in establishing a school for the children of Brotherton. Fowler states that he and his son have been traveling through New England “among the remnants of the tribes of Indian dwellings” that had been given to Brotherton by the Oneidas years ago in an attempt “to remove the White intruders.” The journey has resulted in much expense, and Fowler and his son also need a sum of money in order to return home.

Knox wrote to Chapin, the agent of Indian Affairs for New York, and sent him a copy of Fowler’s letter. Knox requests that Chapin look into Fowler’s request, and states that “if it should be your opinion, that granting his request would conduce to the general object of the United States” then Chapin should give a sum not exceeding fifty dollars per annum in order to establish the school. Knox notes that he provided Fowler with thirty dollars so that he and his son can travel home.

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Transcribe this: “We have alarms every day”

April 8th, 2015

In this letter dated May 6, 1791, Colonel David Sheppard writes to Secretary of War Henry Knox to inform him of the state of affairs in the Ohio country. Sheppard writes that he followed the orders he had received to have the militia leave the area, but tells Knox the number of soldiers they currently have “is not sufficient to the present emergency.” After the militia left, Indians attacked and killed several scouts, privates, and inhabitants of the region, and Sheppard is unsure of the exact number of casualties. Sheppard writes that “we have alarms every day.” Mentioning that Captain Kirkwood will be able to provide a better account of the situation, Sheppard notes that “we are without munitions and but few arms.”

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Transcribe this: Fever in Philadelphia

March 10th, 2015

In a letter written by Secretary of War James McHenry to President John Adams on August 24, 1799, McHenry describes the fever that has gripped Philadelphia. The fever has “similar ravages” to those that occurred in 1793, 1797, and 1798. The sickness is so bad that McHenry tells President Adams the offices of the War Department are moving out of Philadelphia to Trenton, and that he expects to reach the city the following Monday. The move must have been challenging for McHenry, as he notes that the “personal inconveniences attending upon this removal are very great.”

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Transcribe this and “oblige a poor woman”

February 11th, 2015

In a letter dated February 27, 1796, Abiel Foster wrote to Secretary of War James McHenry on behalf of the mother of John Stanal Gilman. Gilman was a deceased soldier who served under Captain Cass and fought in the Western Army. Gilman’s mother resided in Foster’s neighborhood in New Hampshire and was curious as to whether her son was owed any “arrears of pay or clothing” at the time of his death. If Gilman was to have been the recipient of money or clothing, both would be due to his mother. Foster asks McHenry to look into Gilman’s mother’s inquiry, and stated that any information McHenry might discover would “oblige a poor woman.”

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Transcribe this: Maria Butler to President Washington

January 14th, 2015

Maria Butler, the “relick” (widow) of General Richard Butler, wrote to President George Washington late in 1791 to express her concern over the insecurity of the frontier at Pittsburgh and points west. Her husband had only recently been killed in a battle between the Western Confederacy of Indians and the United States which took place near what is today the border between Ohio and Indiana and his body was buried on the field. Although the area around Pittsburgh seemed dangerous to Mrs. Butler, she was determined to remain in the area with her children.

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Complete a Transcription: History of a Canadian Refugee

December 16th, 2014

In an undated document, Benjamin Thompson set forth the history of his life during the era of the American Revolution. Although born in Boston, he was apprenticed at the age of fourteen to a merchant in Montreal. He recounts his efforts on the part of the American cause, prior to his departure from Montreal in 1776, all in an effort to qualify for compensation under the Act of Congress for the Relief of Refugees from the British Provinces of Canada and Nova Scotia.

The first eight pages of this document have been transcribed, but the last four (images 9-12) have not. Can you complete this transcription so its content can become part of the searchable archive of the Papers of the War Department?