Benjamin Gilbert letter book  1780-1783
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Benjamin Gilbert letter book (219 pages) contains copies of 83 personal letters written by Sergeant Benjamin Gilbert during his service in the Revolutionary War (1780-1783). The bulk of Gilbert's letters are to his father and other family member, living in his home town of Brookfield, Massachusetts. The letters provide a picture of a junior officer's outlook on the war.

Gilbert wrote these letters during his service in upper New Jersey in late 1780; during his stay at West Point in early 1781; and while fighting with the Marquis de Lafayette's troops at Trenton, New Jersey; Wilmington and Christiana, Delaware; Elkton and Annapolis, Maryland; and Yorktown, Virginia. He wrote the letters dated 1782-1783 from West Point and Continental Village, New York, where the army awaited the withdrawal of Carleton's forces from New York. Gilbert discussed Arnold's treason; the revolt of the Pennsylvania Line; the burning of Manchester, Virginia; southern hospitality; the exhilaration of the impending triumph at Yorktown; widespread desertion of Hessians during the evacuation of New York; and severe shortages of pay, food, and clothing. Throughout the volume, Gilbert wrote reflective comments on the progress of the war.

Several letters concern personal matters. Four are love letters, two to an anonymous recipient (October 14, 1780, October 19, 1780) and two that relate to a paternity claim made by a Patience Converse, with whom he was romantically involved (September 30, 1782 and March 24, 1783). Family news and personal finances are mentioned frequently throughout the volume.

For an annotated transcription of the letterbook, with a comprehensive index, see: Winding Down: the Revolutionary War Letters of Lieutenant Benjamin Gilbert of Massachusetts, 1780-1783

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