A Quaker of English-Dutch heritage, Israel Shreve (1739-1799) was one of eight children born at Mt. Pleasant, New Jersey, to Benjamin Shreve (b.c. 1706) and Rebecca French Shreve (b.c. 1709). Shreve was married twice, first to Grace Curtis (b.c. 1740), and then to Mary Cokely (1749-1824). He had a total of eleven children from the two marriages. The most well known of his progeny was Henry Miller Shreve (1785-1851), who introduced steamboat travel to the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, and was credited with making improvements in the steamboat and steam engine. The city of Shreveport, Louisiana, is named after him.
Shreve is best known for his involvement in the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783). In 1775, Shreve was appointed lieutenant colonel of the Second New Jersey Regiment by the Provincial Congress, and was then promoted to colonel in 1776. He fought in several important battles with General George Washington, such as the Battle of Brandywine and the Battle of Germantown. He retired from military duty in 1781.
After the end of the Revolution, Spain sought to lure settlers to its Louisiana Territory by offering land grants. In response, George Morgan (1743-1810), a retired Revolutionary War colonel who was also a merchant, land speculator, and Indian agent, engaged in a number of negotiations with the Spanish Minister, Don Diego de Gardoqui (1735-1798). He was given land along the western bank of Mississippi River, located in present-day Missouri, in order to establish a colony. Originally called Anse a la Graisse, which was a Delaware settlement, Morgan renamed the site New Madrid. Shreve accompanied Morgan and others during the first expedition to New Madrid, during which he wrote the journals that comprise this collection.