Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Thomas M. Brisbane Papers, 1813-1815

Finding aid created by
Philip Heslip, September 2009

Summary Information
Title: Thomas M. Brisbane papers
Creator: Brisbane, Thomas Makdougall, Sir, bart., 1773-1860.
Inclusive dates: 1813-1815
Extent: 57 items
This collection is made up of correspondence, reports, and memoranda relating to Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane's role in the War of 1812. The papers contain plans to advance on Plattsburg; orders and reports of troop movements; and a detailed plan, with maps, which Brisbane designed for the destruction of the American fleet at Whitehall, New York, in the winter of 1814.
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:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1961. M-1161.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

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

Alternate Format:

This collection has been microfilmed

Preferred Citation:

Thomas M. Brisbane Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


This collection is organized chronologically with undated and miscellaneous items filed at the end.


Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane was born in Ayrshire, England, on July 32, 1773, to Thomas Brisbane (1720?--1812) and his wife, Eleanor Stenhouse.

Brisbane was an ensign in the 38th Foot in 1789, and was promoted to lieutenant in 1791. Four years later, he was promoted to major and was stationed in Barbados. By the time he came to America in 1813, Brisbane had become a major general, having distinguished himself as an officer serving under Wellington in the Peninsular Campaign. He was a subordinate of General George Prevost in the British offensive from Canada in 1814, and was present at the American victories on Lake Champlain and at Plattsburg, when the British were forced to retreat to Canada.

Brisbane married Anna Maria Makdougall (1786--1862) in 1819. In 1820, he was appointed governor of New South Wales, where he studied astronomy, cultivated agricultural and viticultural development in the region, and promoted exploration beyond the colony's borders.

Brisbane returned to England in 1826 and was appointed colonel of the 34th Foot. He died at Brisbane house in Ayrshire, England, on January 27, 1860.

Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection contains correspondence, reports, and memoranda relating to Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane's role in the War of 1812. The letters are largely to and from Sir George Prevost; General George Izard, the North American Commander; Major Edward Baynes; American General Alexander Macomb; Sir James Kempt; Sir Thomas Picton; and Francis de Rottenburg. The papers deal mainly with British plans to advance on Plattsburg, as well as orders and reports of troop movements, and proposals to attack various American positions. The collection contains a detailed plan, with maps, which Brisbane designed for the destruction of the American fleet at Whitehall, New York, in the winter of 1814.

Of special interest is a batch of letters from General Prevost that includes a confidential letter from Cadwallader Colden, a member of the American militia and Lieutenant Governor of New York from 1760-1762. The forward is a transcription of a letter written in invisible ink that details three ways of destroying the American Fleet at Whitehall.

Miscellaneous materials include a newspaper clipping dated October 25, 1814, that discusses the current state of the war, and a four-page printed General Orders document from Quebec, dated January 13, 1815, and signed Frederick.

Subject Terms

    • Plattsburg, Battle of, Plattsburgh, N.Y., 1814.
    • United States--History--War of 1812--Campaigns.
    • United States--History--War of 1812--Naval operations, British.
    • United States--History--War of 1812--Naval operations--Maps.
    • United States--History--War of 1812--Participation, British.
    • Whitehall (N.Y.)
    Subjects - Visual Materials:
    • Whitehall (N.Y.)--Maps.
    • Colden, Cadwallader, 1688-1776.
    • Izard, George, 1777-1828.
    • Kempt, James, Sir, 1765-1854.
    • Macomb, Alexander, 1782-1841.
    • Picton, Thomas, Sir, 1758-1815.
    • Prevost, George, Sir, 1767-1816.
    • Rottenburg, Francis de, baron de, 1757-1832.
    Genre Terms:
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Maps.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Correspondence [series]
    Box   1 Folder   1
     March 20, 1813-May 1, 1814
    Box   1 Folder   2
     August 10-17, 1814
    Box   1 Folder   3
     August 24-September 1, 1814
    Box   1 Folder   4
     September 1-18, 1814
    Box   1 Folder   5
     September 20-November 4, 1814
    Box   1 Folder   6
     November 12-17, 1814
    Box   1 Folder   7
     December 22-26, 1814
    Box   1 Folder   8
    Proposal a for winter campaign at Whitehall New York,  December 1814    [Note: 3 maps located in the map division.]
    Box   1 Folder   9
     January 7-16, 1815
    Box   1 Folder   10
     January 16-February 24, 1815
    Box   1 Folder   11
     February 25-March 2, 1815
    Box   1 Folder   12
     March 25-May 1, 1815
    Box   1 Folder   13
     May 19-27, 1815
    Box   1 Folder   14
     May 30-September 22, 1815
    Box   1 Folder   15
    Undated letters
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Alternate Locations

    Three maps have been moved to the Map Division:

    Related Materials

    Related manuscripts at the Clements Library:

    • The Great Britain Army papers contains a letter from James Hay to Brisbane; Canterbury. February 12, 1812.
    • The James Douglass papers contain a letter from Edward Marjoribanks to Brisbane (Strand, London, June 22, 1839) and a facsimile of a genealogical chart of Brisbane's ancestors going back to the 13th century. Douglas was related through marriage to Helen Brisbane, Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane's sister.
    • The George Clinton papers contain many documents related to Cadwallader Colden.

    Brisbane papers at other repositories:

    • Thomas Makdougall Brisbane papers, 1702-1870, Mitchell Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts Department, Glasgow.
    • Thomas Makdougall Brisbane papers, 1820-1850, Royal Astronomical Society, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London.
    • Thomas Makdougall Brisbane papers, c.1812-1858, National Library of Australia. Manuscripts section, Canberra, Act 2600.
    • Thomas Makdougall Brisbane letters, 1825-1830, Public Library of New South Wales. Dixon Library, Sydney, NSW 2000.

    Sweetman, John and Anita McConnell, “Brisbane, Sir Thomas Makdougall, baronet (1773--1860)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography , Oxford University Press, 2004. [, accessed 1 Sept 2009]