Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Loftus Cliffe Papers, 1769-1784

Finding aid created by
Manuscript Division staff

Summary Information
Title: Loftus Cliffe papers
Creator: Cliffe, Loftus, d.1785?
Inclusive dates: 1769-1784
Extent: 33 items
The Loftus Cliffe papers include seventeen items dating from Cliffe's service in the British Army during the American Revolution, 1776-1778. The letters detail his participation in campaigns in the mid-Atlantic theater, and include excellent descriptions of the Battles of Long Island, Trenton, Brandywine, and Germantown.
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:

1985, 1991. M-2179.1, M-2650.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


No copyright restrictions.

Alternate Format:

The collection has been microfilmed.

13 letters from September 1776 to December 1778 have been transcribed.

Preferred Citation:

Loftus Cliffe Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The Irish-born Loftus Cliffe entered the British Army in 1762, and in 1771, was serving as a lieutenant in William Howe's 46th Regiment of Foot, of which John Vaughan (1738-1795) was lieutenant colonel. In response to the Revolutionary crisis in 1776, the 46th Regiment was ordered to leave Ireland for America, arriving at New York just in time to take part in the Battle of Long Island at which Howe's masterfully executed tactics nearly annihilated the American army. The regiment continued on the offensive throughout the fall and winter, of 1776-77, driving into New Jersey, meeting with mixed success. Late in December, the 46th Regiment was given the task of guarding Charles Lee after his capture at Basking Ridge, and thereafter settled into winter quarters.

In the early summer of 1777, the regiment embarked on a long campaign designed to lure Washington into battle and to capture Philadelphia. Cliffe's regiment was engaged at Brandywine, at the "massacre" at Paoli, at Germantown, and were involved in the capture of Philadelphia and the reduction of the forts guarding the Delaware River. By this point, Cliffe considered himself to be a hard bitten, hard drinking veteran. A career soldier, Cliffe reveled in all of the most dramatic aspects of the military life, and looked forward to the possibility of personal advancement. During the occupation of Philadelphia in February, 1778, however, Cliffe had a serious falling out with Lt. Col. Vaughan and Maj. Joseph Ferguson of his regiment. Cliffe and other subalterns, unaware that Ferguson had ordered that tent poles not be transported on wagons, followed the usual procedure in ordering their men to break camp. When confronted by Ferguson, sure of himself and indignant at the challenge, Cliffe refused to back down, and as a result, he and six of his fellow officers were arrested for disobedience. Although he was fully acquitted, and the offense was considered minor, later in the year, Cliffe purchased a captaincy in the 52nd Regiment of Foot, then stationed in New York. He left America with the regiment at the end of 1779 and spent the remainder of the Revolutionary War at stations in Britain and Minorca, sailing for India in 1783. Cliffe's name last appears in the Army List in 1785, suggesting that he may have died in India.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Loftus Cliffe papers consist of letters and receipts dating from Cliffe's service during the American Revolution, 1776-1778. The letters detail his participation in campaigns in the mid-Atlantic theater, and include excellent descriptions of the Battles of Long Island, Trenton, Brandywine, and Germantown. As a junior officer assigned to a regiment under the direct command of William Howe Cliffe's letters form an important resource for study of the British military during the Revolution, but the importance of the collection goes beyond just this. Cliffe's strident masculinity, his love of the military, and his fondness for local color and for discussing the lifestyle of both Americans and British make these letters unusually entertaining, and his antagonism toward Major Joseph Ferguson of the 46th Regiment adds another interesting dimension. The post-Revolutionary portion of the Cliffe Papers consists of letters written from Britain, with the exception of a single letter written from India in January, 1784.

Subject Terms

    • Great Britain. Army in America.
    • Great Britain. Army--Regiment of Foot, 46th.
    • Great Britain. Army--Regiment of Foot, 52nd.
    • New York (N.Y.)--History--1775-1865.
    • Philadelphia (Pa.)--Description and travel.
    • Philadelphia Campaign, 1777-1778.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--British forces.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Volume   1  
    Loftus Cliffe papers,  1769 September 20-1784 January 22 [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Partial Subject Index
    American Loyalists
    • 13
    Brandywine, Battle of, 1777
    • 12
    Burgoyne, John, 1722-1792
    • 13
    Clinton, Henry, 1730-1795
    • 13
    Desertion, Military
    • 3, 6
    • 3, 4, 6
    Ferguson, Joseph
    • 16
    Fires--New York (City)--1776
    • 3
    Germantown (Pa.)--Description
    • 12, 13
    Germantown, Battle of, 1777
    • 12
    Great Britain. Army in America
    • passim
    Great Britain. Army--Regiment of Foot, 46th
    • 1-19
    Great Britain. Army--Regiment of Foot, 52nd
    • 20-30
    Howe, William, 1729-1814
    • 7
    • 27, 28
    Lee, Charles, 1731-1782
    • 5
    Leslie, Alexander, 1740-1794
    • 4
    Long Island, Battle of, 1776
    • 3, 4
    Mud Island
    • 13
    New Jersey Campaign, 1776-1777
    • 5
    New York (City)--History--Revolution
    • 3
    Paoli Massacre, 1777
    • 12
    Paulus Hook (N.J.)
    • 3
    Philadelphia (Pa.)--Description
    • 12, 13, 18
    Philadelphia (Pa.)--History--Revolution, 1775-1783
    • 18
    Philadelphia Campaign, 1777-1778
    • 12-18
    • 13
    Spain. Armada
    • 30
    Trenton, Battle of, 1776
    • 5
    United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783
    • passim
    United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--British forces
    • passim
    United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Participation, French
    • 13
    United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Public opinion, British
    • 21, 24
    Vaughan, John, 1738-1795
    • 13, 16