Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Seth Drew Papers, 1808-1812

Finding aid created by
Philip Heslip, October 2009

Summary Information
Title: Seth Drew papers
Creator: Drew, Seth, 1747-1824
Inclusive dates: 1808-1812
Extent: 23 items
This collection holds the official correspondence of Seth Drew, a Massachusetts native was the superintendent of fortifications for the Army Corps of Engineers between 1808 and 1812. He managed the construction and fortification of the harbor in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in anticipation of war with Great Britain.
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:

1965. M-1334.

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.

Preferred Citation:

Seth Drew Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


This collection is organized chronologically.


Seth Drew (1747-1824) was born in Kingston, Massachusetts, to Cornelius and Sarah Drew. He married Hannah Brewster, daughter of Wrestling Brewster, on December 3, 1772, and worked in Kingston as a ship-builder. In 1775, after getting news of the Battle at Lexington, Drew joined the Kingston Minute Company as a lieutenant under Captain Peleg Wadsworth, and marched to Boston. He remained in the Army for 10 years serving with the 23rd Continental Infantry and the 2nd and 3rd Massachusetts Lines and participated in battles at Ticonderoga, Trenton, Brandywine, and Monmouth. In 1777, he was promoted to captain and then to major in 1783.

Upon returning to Kingston at the end of the war, he resumed shipbuilding and in 1797 was appointed justice of the peace. Drew also served as Kingston's first postmaster, and represented the town multiple times in the Massachusetts General Court. He was appointed an agent and superintendent of fortifications in 1808, when the Army Corps of Engineers began rebuilding coastal defenses in anticipation of war with Great Britain. He was in charge of construction and management of the Plymouth, Massachusetts, harbor. Drew died in Kingston in 1824.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Seth Drew papers (23 items) hold the official correspondence of Seth Drew, the superintendent of fortifications for the Army Corps of Engineers between 1808 and 1812. These letters contain detailed instructions from Joseph Gardner Swift, major of engineers, on the construction and workings of the fort at Plymouth. They also include a rough architectural sketch of a barrack. Jacob Eustis, agent at Boston, wrote about supplying Plymouth with cannon and military stores. Other letters are from Army administrators, particularly from the Accountants Office of the Department of War; these letter-writers include William Eustis, Peter Hagner, William Simmons, and Henry Whiting. In one letter, Henry Whiting described the course of events during the first year of the War of 1812, and commented on the "destitute and miserable conditions" of soldiers returning from prisons in Canada.

Subject Terms

    • Plymouth (Mass.)
    • United States--Defenses.
    • United States--History--War of 1812.
    • United States. War Dept. General Staff.
    • Eustis, William, 1753-1825.
    • Hagner, Peter, 1772-1850.
    • Simmons, W. (William), 1762-1830.
    • Swift, J. G. (Joseph Gardner), 1783-1865.
    • Whiting, Henry, 1788-1851.
    Genre Terms:
    • Letters (correspondence)
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Correspondence [series]
    Box   1 Folder   1
     June 21-September 15, 1808
    Box   1 Folder   2
     September 20-October 4, 1808
    Box   1 Folder   3
     November 1-14, 1808
    Box   1 Folder   4
     November 16-December 2, 1808
    Box   1 Folder   5
     December 6-19, 1808
    Box   1 Folder   6
     March 15-31, 1809
    Box   1 Folder   7
     May 11-23, 1809
    Box   1 Folder   8
     May 24-September 26, 1809
    Box   1 Folder   9
     October 6, 1809-December 16, 1812
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Alternate Locations

    The following item is housed in the Book Division:

    Swift, J. Gardner., Ellery, H. The memoirs of Gen. Joseph Gardner Swift, LL.D., U.S.A., first graduate of the United States military academy, West Point, chief engineer U.S.A. from 1812 to 1818. 1800-1865: To which is added a genealogy of the family of Thomas Swift of Dorchester, Mass., 1634. [Worcester, Mass.: Press of F.S. Blanchard & co.], 1890.