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?

Help Complete a Transcription: Keeping Up Appearances at Fort Niagara

October 24th, 2014

In this Letter from Captain James Bruff to accountant William Simmons.  Bruff had recently assumed command of Fort Niagara after the British agreed to turn it over to the Americans as part of the Jay Treaty. He laments that his own government does not provide enough of an allowance for entertaining British officers, who are garrisoned just across the Niagara River at Fort George, while British government “makes an allowance for such purposes.”

This particular letter is cited in Eliga Gould’s 2012 work Among the Powers of the Earth: The American Revolution and the Making of a New World Empire.  Gould highlights Bruff’s perception that keeping up certain appearances with other Western nations was a sure sign of stature, sovereignty, and treaty-worthiness  “among the powers of the earth.”

Community Transcription – Forty-One Months

October 1st, 2014

It has been forty-one months since we opened the War Department archives to community transcription. We are still receiving regular requests for transcription accounts.

Here is a snapshot of transcription activity for September:
 As of this morning, we have 1,953 users, with approximately 41 new transcribers registered since the last update. Those volunteer transcribers have made 13,332 saves to War Department documents, which is about 96 additional edits since the last update. The average number of edits before a document is saved continues to be three. We have had 205,244 total page views.

Among those who signed up to transcribe in the last month, there were living history practitioners, students in a course on public history, and members of American Indian nations that are present in treaties and other historical documents in our collections. Transcribers include teachers at every level of education, elementary to university. Those who specified an interest or focus mentioned Post Vincennes, southeastern Ohio, Georgia frontier scouts, and the Whiskey Rebellion.

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

Help Complete a Transcription: Letters from Judith Sargent Murray

July 7th, 2014

Judith Sargent Murray (May 1, 1751 – June 9, 1820) was an early American proponent of women’s rights and equality of the sexes. An essayist, playwright, poet, and letter writer, her belief that women were just as smart and capable as men was considered pretty radical stuff in the 1790s .

We have some of her letters because her brother Winthrop was a soldier (he fought under Arthur St. Clair in the disastrous Battle of the Wabash) and later a territorial governor.

Box of Books and Loss of Garden Seed

Safe Conveyance of Box

Forward the Enclosed Speedily

Conducting Myself Through the Vexatious Labyrinth

Location of My Brother’s Books

I Cannot Apologize for these Extra Commissions

Help complete a Transcription! Treaty of New York with the Creek Nation of Indians

May 9th, 2014

Treaty of New York with the Creek Nation of Indians

At the behest of President Washington and Henry Knox, in the summer of 1787 several Creek leaders, along with their leader Alexander McGilivray, traveled all the way to New York City for treaty talks.  The Treaty of New York was important because it represented Washington’s and Henry Knox’s more enlightened views about dealing with Indians-that is, negotiating rather than simply taking lands away.

Williams writes Knox from London on the French Revolution

Here Williams, a successful businessman and  grand nephew of Benjamin Franklin, waxes enthusiastically about the justness of the French Revolution.  His viewpoint is particularly interesting because it predates the execution of the King Louis XVI and the onset of  the so called “Reign of Terror.”

The next four documents are some of our earliest in the collection,  detailing General Nathanael Greene’s supply problems during the Southern campaigns during the Revolutionary War.  Considered by Washington one of his ablest officers, Greene went into personal debt to feed his soldiers.

General Greene’s Southern Army and problems with supply during Revolutionary War

Clothing for General Greene’s Southern Army

Procurement of Clothing for General Greene’s Southern Army

General Greene’s Report on Clothing for the Southern Army

Help complete a Transcription!

April 9th, 2014

Every now and then, a document gets only partly transcribed. It’s important to keep this in mind when you are looking through the documents nominated for transcription; if the first page has already been transcribed, read through to make sure it is the whole page, and then click through the document. You may be able to help us by completing the transcription!

If you are interested in helping us to wrap up these loose ends, here are a few documents which were started but have not yet been completed:

Treaty of Peace, Amity and Commerce between the State of Georgia and the Creek Nation, November 3, 1786. Two out of four pages need to be transcribed (pages 5-13 are alternate copies of the same text).

Henry Knox to Otho H. Williams, June 11, 1788, regarding the ratification of the Constitution. Two out of three pages need to be transcribed.

Opinion of Hamilton & Knox Respecting the Brigantine “Little Sarah”, July 8, 1793. This is an eight page document, of which only half the first page has been transcribed.

John Pierce to John White, concerning various accounts, October 28, 1786. One page needs to be transcribed.

Discussion of Possible Decisions by Board of Treasury Regarding Army Contracts, November 22, 1786. The address leaf and second page of the document need to be transcribed.

John Pierce regarding pay due Virginia Officers, December 1786. One page needs to be transcribed.

Examination of the claim of John Morrill. Two pages to transcribe.

Thanks to all our transcribers for their great work!

Request for Transcribers: The Jay Treaty

March 12th, 2014

The Jay Treaty with Great Britain was very controversial at the time. In this letter to Baltimore merchant Robert Oliver, Secretary of War James McHenry warns that if the House doesn’t appropriate funding for the Treaty, the British will not withdraw their troops from the Western posts.

Request for Transcribers: Eli Whitney and the manufacture of muskets for the War Department

February 19th, 2014

Patent law was nothing like it is today.  This in part explains why Eli Whitney’s cotton gin did not bring him much money.  In fact, for much of the 1790s, Whitney  was consumed with patent infringement lawsuits.  Financially desperate,  he turned to the manufacture of muskets for the War Department. As it turned out, this was not much of a success either.  Whitney was supposed to complete the manufacture of over 10,000 muskets by 1800, but didn’t finish delivering the arms until 1809. In this 1798  document, the Secretary of Treasury requests that Samuel Hodgdon provide musket stocks for Whitney.

Request for Transcribers: Beginning of the Quasi War with France, May 1798

January 24th, 2014

This important document highlights the initiation of the undeclared war with France,  later known as the Quasi War.  Here, Secretary of War James McHenry conveys instructions from President Adams to the Commanders of a number of United States naval vessels.

Community Transcription – Thirty-One Months

November 27th, 2013

In the thirty-one months since we opened the War Department archives to community transcription, we have been steadily adding transcribers. What started with just a dozen or so volunteers has grown into an active, vigorous community of volunteer transcribers.

Here is the monthly snapshot at our transcription activity:

As of this morning, we have 1,621 users, with approximately 79 new transcribers signed up since the last update. Those volunteer transcribers have made 11,506 saves to War Department documents, which is about 150 additional edits since the last update. Additionally, transcribers have initiated roughly 500 conversations using the “talk” feature. We also know that on average, each document is edited about three times before it is finished. Moreover, we have had 104,958 total page views.

By now we have an incredibly rich variety of folks transcribing, including undergraduate and graduate students, docents, genealogists, and history enthusiasts. Transcribers also include teachers at every level of education, elementary to university. Those who specified an interest or focus included the Haitian Revolution, Fries Rebellion, yellow fever, and historic sites. Some of our transcribers have no particular interest in the War Department Papers, but are evaluating Scripto to use in their own projects.

The documents also vary widely in content. Many of them deal with pay for soldiers or officers. Some are short receipts while others are lengthy transcripts of speeches or treaties. There are request from veterans and their widows for pension payments and applications by refugees from Canada for relief.

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