Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Alexander Robinson Papers, 1809-1843

Finding aid created by
Shannon Wait, April 2010

Summary Information
Title: Alexander Robinson papers
Creator: Robinson, Alexander, b. ca. 1777
Inclusive dates: 1809-1843
Bulk dates: 1814-1815
Extent: 0.5 linear feet
The Alexander Robinson papers contain military records relating to Fort Greene, which Robinson commanded during the War of 1812, business records relating to international trading, as well as Robinson's personal correspondence.
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:

1973; 1996. M-1623; M-3248.

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:

The collection has been microfilmed.

Preferred Citation:

Alexander Robinson Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The Alexander Robinson papers are arranged into three series:

  • Correspondence
  • Business papers (arranged by ship name)
  • Fort Greene


A native of New York, Alexander Robinson was born around 1777. By 1807, he resided in Brooklyn and worked as a merchant seaman, commanding at least 10 trading vessels between 1807 and 1821. In 1813, he married a woman named Esther ("Hetty"), and they had at least four children: Matilda, Maria Louisa, George, and Catherine. In 1814-1815, he served as captain of a sea fencible corps and commanded Fort Greene in Brooklyn and Fort Gansevoort in Manhattan. Around 1820, the Robinson family moved to Mount Laurel, New Jersey, and Alexander Robinson continued his frequent marine trade until at least 1834.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Alexander Robinson papers contain 257 documents and records related to Fort Greene, 103 business papers and documents, and 38 pieces of correspondence. The items span 1807-1843, with the bulk centered around 1814-1815.

The Correspondence series comprises primarily personal correspondence, including letters from family members and friends, both incoming and outgoing. Alexander Robinson wrote many of the early letters to his wife Hetty, during his sea voyages, expressing his affection, providing news, and speculating on when he would return. Between 1818 and 1841, William Hicks, a native of Cork, Ireland, wrote approximately 15 letters to Robinson, requesting information about a brother in New York, and providing increasingly grim descriptions of the political and financial situation in Ireland. His letter of November 15, 1821, gives an account of murders and floggings occurring in Cork. Two of the Robinsons' children, Maria Louisa and George, wrote several additional letters, dating from the 1830s and concerning family news.

The Business Papers series spans 1807-1821 and concerns ships that Robinson commanded during those years. Documents are organized by ship, with a few miscellaneous business papers at the end. The series contains records for the Alexander (1809-1813), the Clarendon (1815), the Catherine Ray (1812), the Fulley (1807-1808), the Independence (1815), the Isabella (1813), the Moses Brown (1812-1821), the Nichola (1809-1810), the Quebec (1812-1813), and the Urbana (1812). The items document such information as rolls of crews and their salaries, trading partners and items traded, financial transactions, and repairs made to ships.

The Fort Greene series contains items relating to Fort Greene, 1814-1815. The gunners' reports and morning and evening reports consist of information about which men were present, absent, sick, and at liberty in October and November of 1814. Provision returns, a requisition log, and a receipt book track the purchase and transfer of ordnance and goods. Also present are orders for Fort Greene and Fort Gansevoort, an orderly book for October 19, 1814, to January 11, 1815, and a 26-page journal kept at Fort Greene by Peter H. Schuyler, which described weather conditions, visitors to the fort, general happenings, and how its residents were employed. On December 10, 1814, he recounted a controversy surrounding the smoking of cigars and pipes inside the fort, and several days later reported a dispute between Alexander Robinson and William Cranston and Cranston's subsequent arrest.

Subject Terms

    • Alexander (Ship)
    • Catherine Ray (Ship)
    • Clarendon (Ship)
    • Cork (Ireland)
    • Fort Gansevoort (New York, N.Y.)
    • Fort Greene (New York, N.Y.)
    • Independence (Ship : 1814-1913)
    • Isabella (Ship : 1804-1850)
    • Merchant ships.
    • Military bases--New York (State)--New York.
    • Moses Brown (Ship)
    • New York (N.Y.)
    • New York (N.Y.)--History, Military--19th century.
    • New York (State)--History--War of 1812.
    • New York Naval Shipyard.
    • Nichola (Ship)
    • Operational rations (Military supplies)
    • Quebec (Ship)
    • Revolutionaries--Ireland.
    • Ship registers.
    • Shipping.
    • Shipping--Accounting.
    • Shipping--New York (State)--New York.
    • United States--Armed Forces--Appropriations and expenditures.
    • United States--Armed Forces--Pay, allowances, etc.
    • United States--History--War of 1812--Naval operations.
    • Urania (Ship)
    • Schuyler, Peter H.
    Genre Terms:
    • Letters (corerspondence)
    • Military records.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Correspondence [series]
    Box   1  
      November 22, 1809-September 25, 1843 (5 folders)
    Business Papers [series]
    Box   1  
    Alexander (2 folders)
    Catherine Ray
    Moses Brown (3 folders)
    Fort Greene [series]
    Box   1  
    Provision returns,  September 20, 1814-[January 1815] [subseries] (4 folders)
    Miscellaneous provision documents,  September 13, 1814-May 11, 1818, and  undated [subseries] (2 folders)
    Orders for Fort Greene and Fort Gansevoort,  September 13-December 14, 1814, and  undated [subseries] (6 folders)
    Other Items [subseries]
    Box   1  
    Fort Greene orderly book,  1814-1815
    Box   2  
    Receipt book,  1814
    Box   2  
    Requisition and provision log,  1814
    Box   2  
    Visiting permits,  1814
    Box   2  
    Sick lists,  1814
    Box   2  
    Gunners' reports,  undated
    Box   2  
    Morning reports,  1814
    Box   2  
    Evening reports,  1814
    Box   2  
    Courts martial,  1814
    Box   2  
    Peter H. Schuyler journal,  1814-1815
    Box   2  
    Miscellaneous receipts, returns, documents, and muster rolls,  1814-1815 (2 folders)