Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
James Furnis Letter Book, 1755-1759

Finding aid created by
Philip Heslip, June 2010

Summary Information
Title: James Furnis letter book
Creator: Furnis, James
Inclusive dates: 1755-1759
Bulk dates: 1755-1758
Extent: 179 pages (1 volume) and 1 letter
Abstract:
The James Furnis letter book contains copies of letters from a British commissary of stores and paymaster to the Royal Artillery and army comptroller of ordnance in North America, primarily stationed in Albany and New York City. He communicated frequently with British officers, independent merchants, and the Board of Ordnance in London, revealing decision-making processes for supplying and managing the Royal Artillery in America. These letters also supply information on troop movements and estimates of dead and wounded after battles.

Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu


Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1956, 1972. M-1024, M-1596.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

James Furnis letter book, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Biographical/Historical Note

British army officer, James Furnis, was the commissary of stores and paymaster to the Royal Artillery, stationed at Albany in 1755. He became comptroller of ordnance in North America in 1756, with headquarters at New York City, a post he held until at least 1763. During the French and Indian War, the British Board of Ordnance was charged with managing and replacing military stores throughout the colonies. In 1757, Furnis inspected Forts Edward and William Henry, near Lake George, and while there, witnessed the French capture of Fort William Henry.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The James Furnis kept his letter book (179 pages) from July 23, 1755, to December 16, 1758, while serving as British commissary of stores and paymaster to the Royal Artillery and as army comptroller of ordnance in North America. The volume contains 114 letters, all official in nature. He communicated frequently with British officers, independent merchants, and the Board of Ordnance in London, revealing decision-making processes for supplying and managing the Royal Artillery in America. These letters also supply information on troop movements and estimates of dead and wounded.

Furnis wrote the bulk of the entries from Albany and New York City, but also wrote while on short trips to Philadelphia and Boston. Recipients are officers, engineers, and merchants at Albany, New York, Owsego, Fort Edward, Fort William Henry, Boston, and Philadelphia. His letters offer in-depth descriptions of fort upkeep and artillery management and activities. Of particular interest are 24 dispatches from Furnis to the Board of Ordnance in London, which detail the Braddock expedition, describe the poor state of order at Fort Edward, and provide a firsthand account of the siege and capture of Fort William Henry by the French army under Montcalm (August 3-26, 1757).

Furnis wrote the first entry from Fort Cumberland, Maryland, in August 1755, about a month after Braddock's defeat at the Battle of the Monongahela.

Other notable entries include:

  • 4 letters from Furnis to John Ewing, an independent merchant in Boston from whom the British Military purchased military stores.
  • 7 letters to Major General Abercrombie, including a letter that concerned supplies for Abercrombie's failed attack at Fort Carillon, and the positions of Colonel Williamson, who at that time was laying siege to the French Fort at Louisbourg in Halifax (June 22, 1758).
  • A letter to William Saltonstall, commissary of Royal Artillery at Halifax, written during the Siege of Louisbourg (May 79 1758).
  • A letter giving a full account of the siege on Fort William Henry, between July 31 and August 10, 1757, with discussions of General Webb, Lord Loudoun, Lieutenant Colonel John Young, and Montcalm, and with notes on the preparations of Fort Edward and Fort William Henry in June (August 27, 1757).

An additional loose letter from John Bradstreet to James Furnis (September 2, 1759, Albany, New York) is located in the front of the volume. In it, Bradstreet asks if artillery, ammunition, and stores sent west have been stopped for want of carts.

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • Abercrombie, James, 1707-1775.
    • Albany (N.Y.)
    • Boston (Mass.)
    • Braddock, Edward, 1695?-1755.
    • Braddock's campaign, 1755.
    • Ewing, John, 1732-1802.
    • Fort Cumberland (Cumberland, Md.)
    • Fort Duquesne (Pa.)
    • Fort Edward (N.Y.)
    • Fort Oswego (Oswego, N.Y.)--Capture, 1756.
    • Ticonderoga, Battle of, N.Y., 1758.
    • Fort William Henry (N.Y.)--Capture, 1757.
    • Great Britain. Army--Ordnance and ordnance stores.
    • Great Britain. Board of Ordnance.
    • Lake George (N.Y.)
    • Louisbourg (N.S.)--History--Siege, 1758.
    • Loxley, Benjamin, 1720-1801.
    • Loudoun, John Campbell, Earl of, 1705-1782.
    • Montcalm de Saint-Véran, Louis-Joseph, marquis de, 1712-1759.
    • Montrésor, John, 1736-1799.
    • New York (N.Y.)
    • Ord, Thomas.
    • Orme, Robert, d. 1781.
    • Oswego (N.Y.)
    • Philadelphia (Pa.)
    • United States--History--French and Indian War, 1755-1763--Sources.
    • Webb, Daniel, ca. 1700-1773.
    • Williamson, Adam, Sir, 1736-1798.
    Genre Terms:
    • Dispatches.
    • Letter books.
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
    Volume   1  
    James Furnis letter book,  1755-1758 [series]:
    Page   1  
      July 23, 1755 from Fort Cumberland, to the Board of Ordnance and Charles Frederick
    Page   3  
      October 7, 1756 from Philadelphia to the Board of Ordnance
    Page   6  
      November 4, 1755 from New York to Captain Thomas Ord at Albany
    Page   8  
      November 4, 1755 from New York to Witham Marsh Clerk of Stores and First Paymaster at Albany
    Page   8  
      November 13, 1755 from New York to William Griffith at Philadelphia
    Page   9  
      December 2, 1755 from New York to Captain Thomas Ord at Albany
    Page   10  
      October 3, 1755 Philadelphia to the Board of Ordnance
    Page   11  
      December 23, 1755 New York to the Board of Ordnance
    Page   12  
      December 24, 1755 New York to William Griffith at Philadelphia
    Page   13  
      January 8, 1756 New York to Witham Marsh at Albany
    Page   14  
      January 8, 1756 New York to Captain Thomas Ord at Albany
    Page   15  
      January 14, 1756 New York to Captain Thomas Ord at Albany
    Page   18  
      January 14, 1756 New York to Witham Marsh, 1st paymaster to the train of artillery at Albany
    Page   19  
      January 21, 1756 New York to the Board of Ordnance
    Page   20  
      January 22, 1756 New York to the Board of Ordnance
    Page   21  
      January 23, 1756 New York to Captain Thomas Ord at Boston
    Page   23  
      January 27, 1756 New York to Captain Thomas Ord at Boston
    Page   25  
      January 27, 1756 New York to Captain Roger Morris, Aid de Camp to General Shirley at Boston
    Page   26  
      February 2, 1756 New York to Witham Marsh at Albany
    Page   27  
      February 12, 1756 Philadelphia to Captain Thomas Ord at Boston
    Page   28  
      February 22, 1756 Philadelphia to Witham Marsh at Albany
    Page   29  
      February 22, 1756 Philadelphia to Captain Robert Hind at Albany
    Page   31  
      March 11, 1756 Philadelphia to Captain Thomas Ord at Boston
    Page   32  
      March 23, 1756 Philadelphia to Witham Marsh at Albany
    Page   33  
      March 24, 1756 Philadelphia to Captain Thomas Ord at Boston
    Page   34  
      May 6, 1756 Philadelphia to Witham Marsh at Albany
    Page   35  
      May 15, 1756 Philadelphia to the Board of Ordnance
    Page   37  
      May 21, 1756 New York to the Board of Ordnance
    Page   38  
      June 10, 1756 Albany to Captain Robert Hind at Oswego
    Page   39  
      June 10, 1756 Albany to Patrick Mackellen at Oswego
    Page   40  
      June 27, 1756 Albany to John Hunter at New York
    Page   41  
      June 29, 1756 Albany to Thomas Sowers, Engineer at Oswego
    Page   42  
      July 9, 1756 Albany to Adam Williamson, Engineer at Fort Edward
    Page   43  
      July 17, 1756 Albany to John Hunter at New York
    Page   44  
      July 17, 1756 Albany to Robert Hind at Oswego
    Page   45  
      July 21, 1756 Albany to the Board of Ordnance
    Page   46  
      August 2, 1756 Albany to Thomas Ord, commander of the artillery
    Page   47  
      August 3, 1756 Albany to John Defever
    Page   48  
      August 4, 1756 Albany to Captain Robert Hind at Oswego
    Page   50  
      August 18, 1756 Albany to John Hunter
    Page   51  
      August 19, 1756 Albany to George Turner, comptroller of New York
    Page   52  
      August 24, 1756 Albany to Adam Williamson at Fort William Henry
    Page   53  
      August 29, 1756 Albany to John Hunter of New York
    Page   54  
      August 29, 1756 Albany to the Board of Ordnance
    Page   55  
      September 9, 1756 Albany to William Gordon, Engineer of Fort Edward
    Page   56  
      September 20, 1756 Albany to the Board of Ordnance
    Page   58  
      October 3, 1756 Albany to Francis Stephens at New York
    Page   60  
      October 3, 1756 Albany to the Board of Ordnance
    Page   63  
      November 23, 1756 Albany to the Board of Ordnance
    Page   65  
      January 9, 1757 New York to John Ewing, Independent Merchant from Boston
    Page   66  
      January 9, 1757 New York to John Hawkins, commissary to the Royal Artillery at Albany
    Page   67  
      January 23, 1757 New York to John Ewing
    Page   68  
      January 24, 1757 New York to John Defever
    Page   70  
      February 9, 1757 New York to John Hawkins, commissary and paymaster at Albany
    Page   72  
      February 14, 1757 New York to Francis Stephens of Boston
    Page   74  
      February 27, 1757 New York to Francis Stephens of Boston
    Page   75  
      March 3, 1757 New York, the Board of Ordnance
    Page   80  
      March 6, 1757 New York to Francis Stephens of Boston
    Page   81  
      March 7, 1757 New York to John Hawkins of Albany
    Page   82  
      March 13, 1757 New York to Francis Stephens of Boston
    Page   84  
      April 25, 1757 New York to John Wheelwright of Boston
    Page   85  
      April 25, 1757 New York to John Broadstreet of Boston
    Page   86  
      June 1, 1757 New York to the Board of Ordnance
    Page   88  
      June 6, 1757 New York to James Cockburn
    Page   89  
      June 9, 1757 New York to Patrick Mackellan
    Page   91  
      June 9, 1757 New York to Jeaffreson Miles
    Page   92  
      June 7, 1757 New York to Captain Robert Hinde
    Page   93  
      June 9, 1757 New York to Thomas [?]
    Page   94  
      August 26, 1757 New York to the Board of Ordnance
    Page   102  
      September 26, 1757 New York to the Board of Ordnance
    Page   105  
      September 27, 1757 New York to the Surveyor General of the Ordnance
    Page   107  
      December 7, 1757 New York to Colonel Williamson
    Page   109  
      December 10, 1757 New York to Colonel George Williamson of Albany
    Page   111  
      January 8, 1758 New York to Colonel Williamson
    Page   114  
      January 29, 1757 New York to William Saltonstall, artillery paymaster at Albany
    Page   116  
      February 15, 1758 New York to the Board of Ordnance
    Page   123  
      February 19, 1758 New York to William Saltonstall
    Page   124  
      March 12, 1758 New York to John Ewing of Boston
    Page   125  
      April 10, 1758 New York to John Ewing
    Page   125  
      April 27, 1758 New York to the Board of Ordnance
    Page   128  
      April 30, 1758 New York to John Ewing of Boston
    Page   128  
      April 30, 1758 New York to Lieutenant Williams, Engineer at Fort Edward
    Page   129  
      May 19, 1758 New York to William Saltonstall, commissary Royal Artillery at Halifax
    Page   130  
      May 10, 1758 New York to General Abercrombie, commander in chief in Albany
    Page   131  
      May 18, 24, 26, 1758 New York to William Hawkins of Albany
    Page   132  
      May 27, 1758 Instructions to Charles Hadley at New York
    Page   133  
      May 27, 1758 New York to William Hawkins
    Page   134  
      May 27, 1758 New York to General Abercrombie
    Page   136  
      May 30, 1758 New York to the Board of Ordnance
    Page   137  
      June 1, 1758 New York to the Board of Ordnance
    Page   139  
      June 11, 1758 New York to the Board of Ordnance
    Page   140  
      June 22, 1758 New York to General Abercrombie
    Page   142  
      June 17, 1758 New York to Lieutenant David Hay of Philadelphia
    Page   143  
      June 17, 1758 New York to William Ward, Clerk of Stores at Philadelphia
    Page   144  
      June 25, 1758 New York to Colonel Williamson
    Page   145  
      June 29, 1758 New York to Brigadier General Stamoise at Albany
    Page   146  
      July 2, 1758 New York to William Ward, clerk of stores at Philadelphia
    Page   146  
      July 4, 1758 New York to the Board of Ordnance
    Page   150  
      July 10, 1758 New York to Mr. Stephens, storekeeper at New York
    Page   151  
      July 10, 1758 New York to Benjamin Loxley of Philadelphia
    Page   152  
      July 20, 1758 New York to Colonel Montrésor chief engineer at Albany
    Page   153  
      July 20, 1758 New York to Brigadier General Stamoise at Albany
    Page   154  
      July 23, 1758 New York to Captain Thomas Spence of the Grand Duke , and Captain Robert Farthing of the Baltimore , ordnance and stores ships at Philadelphia
    Page   155  
      July 23, 1758 New York to General Abercrombie
    Page   157  
      August 9, 1758 New York to Captain Thomas Spence of the Grand Duke , and Captain Robert Farthing of the Baltimore , ordnance and stores ships at Philadelphia
    Page   158  
      August 23, 1758 New York to Jeaffreson Miles at London
    Page   164  
      August 30, 1758 Albany to Colonel Montrésor, chief engineer at Fort Edward
    Page   166  
      August 30, 1758 Albany to Brigadier General Provost at Fort Edward
    Page   167  
      August 30, 1758 Albany to General Abercrombie at Lake George
    Page   170  
      September 2, 1758 Albany to John Hackett commissary at Lake George
    Page   171  
      September 14, 1758 Albany to General Abercrombie
    Page   173  
      October 22, 1758 Albany to General Abercrombie
    Page   174  
      December 16, 1758 New York to the Board of Ordnance
    Page   179  
      December 16, 1758 New York to Surveyor General of the Ordnance
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Clements Library holds several items concerning James Furnis:

    The Amherst papers contain one letter from Sir Jeffery Amherst to Furnis, regarding arms for Virginia (October 4, 1763)

    The Thomas Gage papers hold one letter from Furnis to Gage (September 1, 1759) and one letter from Gage to Furnis (December 12, 1763).

    Bibliography

    The following two articles contain published versions of entries from the Furnis letterbook:

    Williams, Edward G. ed. "Treasure Hunt in the Forest: Two Hitherto Unpublished Documents Reporting on the Fate of Braddock's Pay Chest." Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine . 42 (1955): 383-396.

    Ewing, William S. ed. "An Eyewitness Account by James Furnis of the Surrender of Fort William Henry, August, 1757."New York History . 42 (July 1961): 307-316.