Pierre F. Boname letters  1864-1882
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Thomas Gage papers consist of the military and government correspondence of General Thomas Gage, officer in the British Army in America (1754-1763), commander-in-chief of the British forces in North America (1763-1775), and Governor of Massachusetts (1774-1775). The papers include incoming correspondence and retained copies of letters written by Gage, together with a large quantity of headquarters documents related to military administration. The collection is particularly strong in documenting British colonial administration after the French and Indian War, interactions with Native Americans, and the years preceding the American Revolution.

The collection is divided into five series:

  • The English Series (30 volumes) contains Gage's correspondence with military officers and politicians in England, including the Secretaries of State, the Secretaries at War, the Treasury, the Board of Trade, the Board of Ordnance, the paymaster general, the commanders-in-chief, and other officials.
  • The American Series (139 volumes) consists of Gage's correspondence with military officers and civil authorities in North America, including colonial governors, generals, commanders and subordinate officers, Indian superintendents and deputies, admirals of the British Navy in North America, engineers, army contractors, and various prominent civilians.
  • The Letter Books, Account Books, and Additional Material series (17 items) contains copy books of communications with military outposts in North America and accounts for military expenses.
  • The Warrants series (40 boxes) is made up of financial documents authorizing payment for the British military forces in North America. The Thomas Gage warrants series is described in a separate finding aid.
  • The Maps series (87 maps) includes maps and fort plans created for British military leaders in North America in the years before the American Revolution.

The English series and the American series comprise the bulk of the collection. In addition to the many letters, these series contain the following: addresses, speeches, and proclamations; official petitions and memorials for troop promotions and transfers; proceedings and depositions from courts martial and courts of inquiry; intelligence on enemy activities; reports on the condition of the army and the state of the colonies; orders, instructions, memoranda, and meeting minutes; stores and provision inventories, receipts, and accounts of expenses; newspaper clippings and broadsides; and other miscellaneous items. Memorials typically describe the military career and professional history of a soldier or officer; these frequently contain information on both his regiment's activities and his personal life. The courts martial document desertion, embezzlement and fraud, violence, murder, rape, and other crimes committed by service members. Some of these cases, such as the trials of John Wilkins and Robert Rogers, are extensively recorded, involving many levels of the military and government. Returns typically list the numbers of troops, by rank, stationed at a fort, city, or region. These occasionally include names and other personal information. Stores and artillery lists account for the food, supplies, and ammunition maintained at forts, cities, and regions.

The English Series (30 volumes) contains Gage's incoming and outgoing letters from the Secretaries of State, Secretaries of War, Secretaries of the Treasury, Board of Ordnance, Judge Advocate General, Paymaster General of the military, Board of Trade, and the Admiralty. The bulk of these items were created during Gage's tenure as military governor of Montréal, commander-in-chief of North America, and governor of Massachusetts. Gage's years as an officer during the French and Indian War and his time in Britain from 1773-1774, however, are not well represented.

Gage communicated extensively with the British Secretaries of State . In many of these letters, he discussed, at length, the state of the colonies, with particular focus on civil unrest. He also reported on Indian relations and boundary lines, conditions of forts and the British military presence on the western and southern frontiers, hostilities toward the Stamp Act and other parliamentary acts, and civil unrest in Boston, New York, Charleston, and other colonial cities. Secretaries include: George Montagu-Dunk, Lord Halifax (Montagu Dunk); Sir Henry Seymour Conway; Charles Lennox, the Duke of Richmond; William Petty, Lord Shelburne; Wills Hill, Lord Hillsborough; William Legge, Lord Dartmouth; William Henry Nassau, Earl of Rochford; and Lord George Germain.

Items of note include:

  • A report from Lord Hillsborough concerning relations with Indians and advising Gage to cut military spending by abandoning forts on the frontier (English Series [hereafter ES]): April 15, 1768)
  • A report, with treaty extracts, describing the boundary lines for colonial and Indian territories in Georgia, East and West Florida, North and South Carolina, and the northern territories (ES: April 15, 1768)
  • Narratives on the Boston Massacre written on and just after March 5, 1770
  • A narrative and discussion of the Boston Tea Party (ES: April 9, 1774)

In communications with Secretaries of War Lord William Barrington and Welbore Ellis, Gage discussed troop movements and logistics; regiment conditions, supplies and expenses; colonial troop quartering and recruitment; requests for regimental needs, such as surgeons, hospitals, and barrack repairs; and officer transfers and promotions. The secretaries frequently petitioned Gage to allow officers to return to England for personal reasons, such as health and estate issues. These letters also provide general updates on the state of the colonies and contain information on Indian affairs.

Items of note include:

  • Barrington's opinions on whether or not the British should designate the western lands for Indian nations (ES: October 10, 1765).
  • A warning from Gage that "the colonists are taking large strides towards Independency, and that it concerns Great Britain by a speedy and spirited conduct to show them that these provinces are British Colonies dependent on her, and that they are not Independent States" (ES: January 17, 1767).

The Secretaries of the Treasury letters offer detailed information on colonial expenses and the financial decisions made in London and by Gage. The treasury secretaries include Charles Jenkinson, Thomas Whatley, William Mellish, William Lowndes, Grey Cooper, Thomas Bradshaw, and John Robinson.

Gage also communicated regularly with the Judge Advocate General Charles Gould, Earl of Granby John Manners, and John Boddington from the Office of Ordnance; Paymaster General of the Military Richard Rigby; and Generals Amherst, Harvey, and George Williamson. Gage received many letters from army officers stationed in England and Ireland. Most of these officers served under Gage and wrote him regarding business or legal issues. Notable officers include Lieutenant Colonel John Wilkins of the 18th Regiment and Major Robert Rogers stationed at Michilimackinac. Also of note in this series are printed versions of speeches made by King George III to parliament and the official responses from the Houses of Lords and Commons.

The American Series (139 volumes) comprises the bulk of the Thomas Gage papers. The Correspondence and Enclosures subseries (volumes 1-136) contains the communications between Gage and various civil and military personnel from North America and the West Indies. Represented are documents from Gage's tenures as an officer in the British Army during the French and Indian War under Braddock and Abercromby, as military governor of Montréal, as commander-in-chief of North America, and as governor of Massachusetts. The items from 1754-1760 all relate to the military, and include communications from various forts, often containing troop returns and stores inventories. As governor of Montréal, much of his administrative duties pertained to coordinating sloops, bateaux, and other ships that moved troops and provisions around Canada. The breadth of his responsibilities and the variety of decisions he had to make expanded considerably during his service as commander-in-chief and governor.

Writers (contributors) in the American Series include: colonial governors and lieutenant governors, private merchants and suppliers, generals and headquarters staff (barrack master general, quarter master general, commissary of stores and provisions), subordinate staff (barrack masters, paymasters, and engineers), superintendents and deputies from Departments of Indian Affairs, surveyor generals, commissioner of customs, and admirals and other naval officers.

These communications reveal information on a vast array of administrative responsibilities, such as:

  • Disseminating information from England
  • Enforcement of parliamentary acts, particularly concerning commerce
  • Managing relations between the colonies and settling inter-colonial boundary disputes
  • Quelling violence and civil unrest in the cities and policing new settlements on the western and southern frontiers
  • Managing Indian relations and enforcing treaties
  • Maintaining outposts and constructing new forts
  • Coordinating colonial defenses and troop movements, provisioning, and quartering
  • Settling disputes between military and civil leaders

Notable gaps in documentation occur between May and August 1760 and during Gage's time in England between June 1773 and May 1774, when General Haldimand served as commander-in-chief of British forces in North America. Though fairly well documented, the year 1769 also seems incomplete.

Colonial Governors . As commander-in-chief, Gage maintained communications with the governors of every colony in North America and several West Indian islands. He received administrative information on civil government and was particularly involved in legal matters concerning civil/military relations and in quelling violence and unrest in the cities and on the frontier. The governors were partially responsible for implementing parliamentary acts regarding trade and raising troops for the British army. The letters also contain vast amounts of information on relations with Native Americans, local political movements, militias, and the provincial governments that emerged during the years preceding the Revolutionary War. (See Additional Descriptive Data for a list of the colonial governors represented in the collection.) Gage communicated with deputy paymasters general of North America including James Barbut, Jacob Blackwell, William Eddington, and Abraham Mortier. He also corresponded with the French and Spanish governors of Louisiana, including Jean-Jacques-Blaise Abbaddie, Charles Phillippe Aubrey, Alejandro O'Reilly, Antonio de Don Ulloa, and Luis de Unzaga.

Topics of Note:

  • Responses to the Stamp Act, including riots and non-importation agreements, with disturbances focused in Massachusetts and New York (1765)
  • Ongoing conflicts between Major Farmar of the 34th Regiment and George Johnstone, governor of West Florida at Pensacola, who claimed the authority to give orders to the military (1765)
  • Civil unrest in Boston that forced Governor Bernard to flee to Castle William (1768)
  • A build up of forces in West Florida in response to threats of war between England and Spain (1771)
  • Territorial disputes between New York and New Hampshire over settlements in what is now Vermont (1774-1775)
  • Governor of New Hampshire John Wentworth’s reports on the raid of Fort William and Mary by revolutionaries, including Paul Revere (1775)
  • The battles and aftermath of Lexington and Concord (1775)

British Army in America . An important portion of the collection relates to Gage's administration of the far-reaching British military occupying North America. He communicated with many high-ranking officers and generals including Henry Bouquet, John Bradstreet, John Burgoyne, Ralph Burton, Henry Clinton, Frederick Haldimand, William Howe, Alex Mackay, John Pomeroy, and James Robertson. Subordinate officers, such as engineers, majors, barrack masters, paymasters, and ensigns, also corresponded with Gage. Routine topics include officer promotions and transfers; troop discipline and courts martial, particularly surrounding desertions; provisioning regiments and forts with food, supplies, and ammunition; and orders and instructions regarding troop movements and recruitment numbers.

Gage also interacted with the British Navy in North America, which was integral to provisioning and transporting troops. Ships traveled along the Atlantic seaboard from Newfoundland to the West Indies, to Québec by way of the St. Lawrence River, along the Mississippi river, and on Lakes Champlain, Erie, George, Huron, Michigan, Ontario, Superior, and at Forts Niagara and Detroit. Gage also oversaw naval stores and naval activities, such as shipbuilding and ship maintenance, and frequently received news on shipwrecks. Prominent contacts included Admiral Alexander Colville, Commodore Samuel Hood, Commodore James Gambier, Admiral Samuel Graves, Captain Joshua Loring, and Admiral John Montague.

Topics of Note:

  • Relations between the Native Americans and colonists of Québec, including intelligence about a possible alliance between the Five Nations and the French-Jesuit clergy (1762)
  • Colonel Henry Bouquet's expeditions against the Indians on the Pennsylvania and Ohio frontiers (1764)
  • The court martial of Major Robert Farmar, whom West Florida Governor Johnstone accused of embezzling funds (1765)
  • Problems with the "Black Boys Gang" of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania (1765)
  • Mining efforts in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia for coal, and around Lake Superior for copper and other metals (1764-1775)
  • The court martial of Robert Rogers, infamous superintendent of Michilimackinac (1767-1769)
  • Eyewitness accounts of the Boston Massacre, including reports and depositions from all of the troops who took part in event, and news from the ongoing trial of the troops involved (1770)
  • The court martial of Colonel John Wilkins of the Illinois Country over charges of embezzlement and fraud (1771-1773)
  • Civil unrest in Massachusetts as a result of the "Intolerable Acts" and the formation of new bodies of local government (1774)
  • Twenty testimonies and oaths of Massachusetts residents, including several women, concerning the Association (Continental Association) which prohibited merchants from trading with Great Britain (February 13-17, 1775)
  • Descriptions of the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord (1775)
  • Reports of Americans taking Ticonderoga and Crown Point (1775)
  • Intelligence on troop counts and fortification descriptions for the British and the colonists at the Battle of Bunker Hill, along with many memorials from soldiers who fought in the battle (1775)
  • Reports on the American march on Québec and Montréal lead by General Philip Schuyler and Benedict Arnold (1775)
  • Attacks by the Machias "pirates" on British ships in the Bay of Fundy (1775)
  • Three letters from General George Washington to Gage (June 17, 1768, August 11 and 20, 1775)
  • A spy letter from a Mrs. Cooke who had contact with Generals George Washington and Charles Lee and who reported on the squalid conditions in the barracks in and around Boston before she was caught in Lexington (1775)

Indian Superintendants and Deputies . The Gage papers contain a large body of letters and documents relating to Indian Superintendents Sir William Johnson of the Northern District and John Stuart of the Southern District. Gage, who supervised the Indian Departments, received extensive communications documenting all aspects of Indian affairs, including negotiations and treaties, accounts for gifts, trade regulations, captives, and information on violent civil and military conflicts with the Native Americans. Letters include particularly extensive documentation on the New York and Canadian Indians, and on interactions at Detroit, Fort Stanwix, Nova Scotia, and the frontier areas of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Georgia, and East and West Florida. In addition to having direct lines of communication with Johnson and Stuart, Gage received material from subordinate officials, including Colonel Guy Johnson (who took over his father Sir William Johnson's responsibilities after his death), and Indian agents Captain Daniel Claus, Edward Cole at Illinois, Colonel George Croghan, Major Joseph Gorman, Montaut de Montereau, Benjamin Roberts at Michilimackinac, and Lieutenant John Thomas in Mississippi. Agents dealt closely with the colonial governments and often described the actions and motives of the legislature and the governor, and the Indians' responses. Throughout the collection, particularly in the late 1760s and early 1770s, Gage dealt with a constant stream of reports of murders of British frontier settlers and Native Americans. Prominent tribes included the Arkansas, Carib, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Delaware, Iroquois (Five/Six Nations: Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, and Tuscarora), Kaskaskia, Kickapoo, Miami, Mingo, Ojibwa (Chippewa), Ottawa, Potawatomi, Shawnee, and Wyandots. For a comprehensive list of Native American materials search the Subject Index.

Topics of Note:

  • Congress at Niagara resulting in a treaty with Western Indians (1764)
  • Conflicts and treaties with Chief Pontiac, including Pontiac's Rebellion (1763-1769)
  • Negotiations at Fort Pitt and the Congress of Fort Chartres with the Shawnees, Delaware, Huron, and Six Nations of the Iroquois (1766)
  • Unsuccessful efforts by the British government to remove colonial settlers from the Redstone Creek and Cheat River region near Fort Pitt (1767)
  • Congress of Fort Stanwix (1768)
  • The First Carib war on St. Vincent's Island (1772)

Merchants, Contractors, and Civilians . Also important are communications with merchants and contractors. Gage relied heavily on private contractors to provision the army and to build and maintain the military's forts and ships. Additionally, Gage received letters from colonial citizens, usually concerning business matters or legal proceedings. Prominent citizens, merchants and shipping companies included George Allsopp; Baynton, Wharton, & Morgan; David Chamier; Delancy and Watts; Volkert Van Dow; Franks, Inglis, & Barclay; John Hancock, Thomas Hancock, Plumstead and Franks; Philip Schuyler, Edward Shippen, George Townshend, and Nathaniel Wheelwright. Of note is an extended legal battle over the assault of merchant Thomas Walker by citizens of Montréal (1766-1767).

The Indian Congresses and Treaties subseries (15 items) contains reports, proceedings, treaties, negotiations, and memorials related to Indian Affairs in the Southern District and on the Illinois frontier. The bulk of the treaties and Indian-related documents are ordered throughout the American Series. See the Subject Index for an itemized list of this subseries.

The Journals and Reports subseries (24 items) is a collection of volumes and documents concerning the administration of the British Army in America. Several items describe the condition of forts and waterways on the southern and western frontiers, while others are expense and provision reports. Of note are John Wilkins' "Journal of Transactions and Presents Given to Indians from 23 December 1768 to 1772," and a "Journal of Events at Fort Edward Augustus," which describes abandoning the fort during Pontiac's rebellion. See the Subject Index for an itemized list of this subseries.

The Proclamations and Documents subseries (39 items) has official proclamations, memorials, articles from treaties, extracts from parliamentary acts, official court depositions, and various financial and legal certifications. Many of the items in this series are undated. See the Subject Index for an itemized list of this subseries.

The Broadsides subseries (14 items) contains many of the collection's printed broadsides. Half of the items are related to revolutionary activities in Boston, including a broadside that recounts the Battle of Bunker Hill (June 26, 1775). See the Subject Index for an itemized list of this subseries.

The Newspapers and Clippings subseries (12 items) is comprised of fragments of newspapers from Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina from 1773 and 1774. See the Subject Index for an itemized list of this subseries.

The Pay Lists of British Army Officers subseries (31 items) consists of officer pay lists spanning 1759-1775. The lists contain officer's names, regiments, ranks, days served, and amounts owed for the pay period.

The Letter Books and Account Books Series (17 items) contains four of Gage's official letter books from 1759 to 1763, 12 account books from 1763-1773, and a list of bills spanning 1769-1773.

The letter books contain copies of official communications from Gage to other military outposts in North America and to officials in London. These volumes hold only outgoing letters. The first volume covers "Winter Quarters" in Albany, from January 20 to April 27, 1759 (69 pages), and from December 14, 1759 to May 5, 1761 (119 pages). The second volume concerns Gage's time at Fort Oswego from August 19 to November 20, 1759 (78 pages). The third and fourth letter books contain letters from his time as military governor of Montréal, and consist largely of letters written to other northern military forts and to Commander-in-Chief Jeffrey Amherst. The third volume spans August 21-December 23, 1761 (92 pages), and the fourth January 15-October 24, 1763 (61 pages).

The Account Books group consists of 12 account books documenting expenses for Transport Services, Incidental Expenses, Secretary's Office, Engineers Department, Naval Department on the Lakes, Indian Department Southern District, Indian Department Northern District, Quartermaster General's Department Albany and New York, Commissary General's Department, Deputy Paymaster General, Crown Account, Warrants, Cash and Contra, Commission of the Treasury, Secretary of War, and Contingent and Extraordinary Expenses from forts throughout North America.

Account Books:

  • Account Book 1 (14 pages) 1763-1766
  • Account Book 2 (31 pages) 1763-1766
  • Account Book 3 (21 pages) 1763-1769
  • Account Book 4 (33 pages) 1765-1766
  • Account Book 5 (24 pages) 1765-1768
  • Account Book 6 (12 pages) 1766-1767
  • Account Book 7 (36 pages) 1766-1769
  • Account Book 8 (42 pages) 1767-1770
  • Account Book 9 (28 pages) 1770-1773
  • Account Book 10 (43 pages) 1770-1773
  • Account Book 11 (39 pages) 1767-1773
  • Account Book 12 (39 pages) 1767-1773

This series also contains a loose list of bills "Drawn by General Gates" on behalf of the officers under him in North America (1769-1773). The categories are "By Whom Drawn," Number of Bills, In Whose Favor, Sums Drawn for (New York Currency), Dates of Acceptance, and Sums Paid.

The Thomas Gage Warrants Series (10 linear feet), a collection of additional administrative and financial records spanning 1763 to 1775, are described in a separate finding aid entitled Thomas Gage warrants. The warrants document payment of the army's departmental salaries and expenses, and represent a large source of information relating to hospitals, victualling, frontier expeditions, the building and repair of fortifications and barracks, transportation of troops and stores, wages for civilian workers, and disbursements to the Indians.

The Maps Series (87 manuscript maps) includes maps on the exploration, settlement, and fortification of the interior of British North America before the Revolution. They cover the years from 1755 to 1775 and were created for the British authorities. The maps portray rivers, lakes, and waterways throughout the continent, the coastlines and ports along the Atlantic, fortifications, and roads and routes between forts and cities. Of note are 12 maps of the Southern District and of the Mississippi River, created by Captain Philip Pittman. These maps are located in the Clements Library's Map Division - search the University of Michigan catalog for "Gage Maps."

In addition to this finding aid, the Clements Library has created three other research aids:

  • The Correspondence Inventory lists the bulk of the collection's contributors and inventories each item sent or received from them to Gage.
  • The Subject Index provides access to events, people, places, and topics discussed in the collection. The index also contains a list of contributors, a list of the collection's maps, and an itemized list of volumes 137-139 of the American series.
  • The Volume Descriptions provide brief overviews of the content of each volume in the collection.
Show all series level scope and content notes