Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Nicholas Fish Papers, 1775-1844

Finding aid created by
Philip Heslip, May 2010

Summary Information
Title: Nicholas Fish papers
Creator: William L. Clements Library
Inclusive dates: 1775-1844
Extent: 96 items
Abstract:
The Nicholas Fish papers (96 items) consist of letters and documents that span Fish's career as a Revolutionary War officer and New York City politician. The collection is made up of 87 letters and 9 documents and financial records.
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:

1969-1984. M-1471, M-1517, M-1518, M-1520, M-1524, M-1526, M-1527, M-1538, M-1539, M-1547, M-1570, M-1586, M-1649, M-1752, M-1997, M-2130.

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.

Alternate Format:

A portion of the Nicholas Fish papers have been microfilmed

Preferred Citation:

Nicholas Fish Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Arrangement

This collection is organized into two series:

  • Series I: Correspondence
  • Series II: Documents and Financial Records
  • Each series is ordered chronologically.


Biography

Revolutionary War officer and New York City politician, Nicholas Fish (1758-1833), was born into a wealthy New York City family. He studied law at age 17 before becoming a soldier in the Revolution. As a law clerk, Fish formed a lifelong friendship with Alexander Hamilton, and was later executor of his will. In 1776, Fish enlisted as a second lieutenant in Colonel John Lasher's First Battalion of New York Independents, beginning his military career that would last the war. In August 1776, he became General John Morin Scott's brigade major, and saw action at Long Island. In 1778 Fish was appointed division inspector under Steuben and commanded an infantry unit at the battle of Monmouth. He joined John Sullivan's expedition against the Indians in 1779, fought with Lafayette from 1780 to 1781, and served as Colonel Hamilton's second in command at Yorktown.

After the war, Fish was appointed supervisor of the revenue for New York (1793). He became deeply involved in New York City and state politics, first as an alderman (1806-1817), then as an unsuccessful Federalist candidate for lieutenant governor in 1810. He also served as president of the New York chapter of the Society of the Cincinnati, as chairman of the Board of Trustees of Columbia College, and in many other charitable societies. Fish married Elizabeth Stuyvesant in 1803. He died in New York City in 1833.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The Nicholas Fish papers (96 items) consist of letters and documents that span Fish's career as a Revolutionary War officer and New York City politician. The collection is made up of 87 letters and 9 documents and financial records.

The Correspondence series (87 items) is comprised of 14 letters written by Fish, 70 letters addressed to Fish, 2 letters to his son Hamilton Fish (1833 and 1844), and one item to the Committee of Defense of New York (August 4, 1815).

The series contains 52 items from Fish's military activities in the Revolutionary war (1776-1786). Forty-one of these letters are addressed to Fish as adjutant general of New York, 1785, regarding the raising and provisioning of troops to aid the first United States Army, commanded by Josiah Harmar on the frontier of the Northwest Territory. Discussed are transporting supplies, maintaining troop levels, defending the settlers of the region from Indians, taking prisoners of war, and punishing deserters. Fish received communications from the War Offices at Fort Schuyler; the Bronx; Albany; Philadelphia; and West Point. Many letters, notably, were from prominent American army officers, such as Secretary of War General Henry Knox, John Morin Scott (his former mentor), Major John Doughty, and Commissary of Military Stores Samuel Hodgdon. Of particular interest is a letter from Captain John Francis Hamtramck, who described catching and punishing 7 troops for desertion from Fort McIntosh in Western Pennsylvania (December 4, 1785), and another letter from Hamtramck, in which he discussed the poor treatment of the Six Nations hostages by the Americans in contrast to the civility shown Indian war prisoners held by the British (June 13, 1785).

A group of 36 letters relate to Fish's activities in New York politics between 1791 and 1830. These provide details of Fish's career as well as New York and American politics in general, including military affairs, the War of 1812, and presidential politics. On February 12, 1791, Fish wrote to President George Washington requesting an appointment as inspector for the district of New York. In his letter from March 10, 1794, fish discussed a dispute between Henry Dearborn and Theodore Sedgwick (March 10, 1794). In a letter to Fish, Jacob Radcliff expressed his support for Fish as New York alderman (November 8, 1810). Among letters written during the War of 1812, William Watson examined the role of Pennsylvania Germans in the Presidential campaign of 1812 (September 16, 1812); Fish wrote to James Madison concerning the punishment of Lieutenant William S. Cox for his part in the Chesapeake incident (after June 1, 1813); and Commodore J. Lewis, Chief Engineer Joseph G. Swift, and General George Izard all wrote letters regarding the defense of New York Harbor (May 8 and October 10, 1813, and August 4, 1815). (For a complete list of contributors, see the controlled access terms section.)

The Documents and Financial Records series (9 items) is comprised of military, personal, and official items.

Included are:

  • Two officer lists of the New York militia: one for the 1st Regiment (1775), and the other for the militia under Colonel John Lasher (September 25, 1776).
  • Fish's bank deposit book with the U.S. Bank from April 1792-June 1793 (8 pages).
  • Six receipts for duties from the Supervisor's Office, District of New York, all signed by Fish (April 1795-February 1798).

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • Albany (N.Y.)
    • Bedford (Pa.)
    • Boston (Mass.)
    • Chesapeake (Frigate)
    • Cox, William S. (William Sitgreaves), 1790-1874.
    • Dearborn, Henry, 1751-1829.
    • Clinton, DeWitt, 1769-1828.
    • Federal Party (U.S.)--New York (State) .
    • Fish, Hamilton, 1808-1893.
    • Fishkill (N.Y.)
    • Fort Stanwix (Rome, N.Y.)
    • Germans--Pennsylvania.
    • Lancaster (Pa.)
    • Lebanon Springs (N.Y.)
    • Madison, James, 1751-1836.
    • Morristown (N.J.)
    • Newburgh (N.Y.)
    • New Brunswick (N.J.)
    • New York (N.Y.)--Politics and government.
    • New York (State)--Politics and government.
    • Philadelphia (Pa.)
    • Pompton (N.J.)
    • Port-au-Prince (Haiti)
    • Poughkeepsie (N.Y.)
    • Rochester (N.Y.)
    • Sedgwick, Theodore, 1746-1813.
    • United States. Continental Army. New York Regiment, First.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Desertions.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Equipment and supplies.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Prisoners and prisons.
    • United States--History--War of 1812.
    • United States Military Philosophical Society.
    • United States. War Office.
    • Washington, George, 1732-1799.
    • West Point (N.Y.)
    Contributors:
    • Bailey, Theodorus, 1758-1828.
    • Bogardus, Robert, 1771-1841.
    • Cambreleng, Churchill Caldom, 1786-1862.
    • Doughty, John, 1754-1826.
    • Fessenden, Thomas Green, 1771-1837.
    • Hamtramck, John Francis, 1756-1803.
    • Hewitt, Abram S. (Abram Stevens), 1822-1903.
    • Hodgdon, Samuel, 1745-1824.
    • Izard, George, 1777-1828.
    • Jacquemont, Victor, 1801-1832.
    • Knox, George, 1765-1827.
    • Knox, Henry, 1750-1806.
    • Lane, Derick, 1755-1831.
    • Morris, Lewis Richard, 1760-1825.
    • Radcliff, Jacob, 1764-1844.
    • Scott, John Morin, 1730-1784.
    • Swift, J. G. (Joseph Gardner), 1783-1865.
    • Troup, Robert, 1757-1832.
    • Van Cortlandt, Philip, 1749-1831.
    • Varick, Richard, 1753-1831.
    • Walker, Benjamin, 1753-1818.
    • Williams, Jonathan, 1750-1815.
    • Wolcott, Oliver, 1760-1833.
    Genre Terms:
    • Accounts
    • Bankbooks
    • Financial records
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Receipts (financial records)
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
     
    Correspondence [series]
    Box   1 Folders   1-22
     1776-1833 and  undated
     
    Documents and Financial Records [series]
    Box   1 Folders   23-25
     1775-1798
    Additional Descriptive Data

    Contributors:

    • Bailey, Theodorus, 1758-1828.
    • Bleeker, John fl. 1785.
    • Bogardus, Robert, 1771-1841.
    • Bradford, James, fl. 1785.
    • Cambreleng, Churchill Caldom, 1786-1862.
    • Carleton, Joseph, fl. 1785.
    • Connolly, Michael, fl. 1785.
    • Doughty, John, 1754-1826.
    • Elliot, John, fl. 1785.
    • Fairlie, James, fl. 1794.
    • Fessenden, Thomas Green, 1771-1837.
    • Fish, Nicholas, 1758-1833.
    • Hamtramck, John Francis, 1756-1803.
    • Hewitt, Abram S. (Abram Stevens), 1822-1903.
    • Hodgdon, Samuel, 1745-1824.
    • Izard, George, 1777-1828.
    • Jacquemont, Victor, 1801-1832.
    • Knox, George, 1765-1827.
    • Knox, Henry, 1750-1806.
    • Lane, Derick, 1755-1831.
    • Lewis, J. fl. 1813.
    • Morris, Lewis Richard, 1760-1825.
    • Pemberton, Robert, fl. 1785.
    • Phelon, Patrick, fl. 1785.
    • Radcliff, Jacob, 1764-1844.
    • Scott, John Morin, 1730-1784.
    • Skinner, Abraham, fl, 1780.
    • Swift, J. G. (Joseph Gardner), 1783-1865.
    • Troup, Robert, 1757-1832.
    • Van Cortlandt, Philip, 1749-1831.
    • Varick, Richard, 1753-1831.
    • Watson, William, fl. 1812.
    • Walker, Benjamin, 1753-1818.
    • Wilkinson, Robert, fl. 1785.
    • Willcox, Joseph, fl. 1785.
    • Williams, Jonathan, 1750-1815.
    • Wolcott, Oliver, 1760-1833.
    Related Materials

    The Clements Library holds additional Nicholas Fish manuscripts, including:

    • The Thomas Gage papers: Fish to Isaac Hamilton, Boston, 20 August 1775
    • The Josiah Harmar papers: Fish to Harmar, New York, 13 July 1785
    • Northwest Territory collection: Henry Knox to Fish, Philadelphia, 29 August 1792
    • The Clements Library Graphics division: portrait of Nicholas Fish

    Bibliography

    Nelson, Paul David. "Fish, Nicholas."American National Biography Online . New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.