William Howe orderly book  1776-1778
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The William Howe orderly book (554 pages) contains copies of orders for a brigade under British Commander-in-Chief Sir William Howe, from March 9, 1776, to May 1, 1778. Entries record the progress of the British Army under Howe from their embarkation at Portsmouth, England, through New York and New Jersey, to the end of their occupation of Philadelphia. Included are general orders from a moving headquarters, standing orders, brigade orders, regimental orders, morning orders, after orders, and memoranda. The orders contain reports on the following: troop movements and the activities of specific units; the planning and execution of attacks, including troop formations and details on command decisions; courts martial deserters and rebel prisoners; surgeons, hospitals, and accounting for the sick and wounded; instructions for working parties and recruiting troops; and promotions. Also present are detail lists with counts of troops and officers and information on food, water, liquor, arms, bedding, and other provisions. The memoranda are typically records of lost or stolen goods. Though the anonymous clerk recorded entries daily, no orders were kept from April 28 to August 2, 1776.

The volume has three sections of orders. The first section contains embarkation orders from the Earl of Loudoun and other commanders, given before the army left England. The battalion boarded the Royal George transport in April 1776, and arrived at Staten Island almost 4 months later in August 1776.

The second section consists of orders from various headquarters in Boston (January 27-February 12, 1776), Halifax (April 26, 1776), and finally, from on board the HMS Greyhound at Sandy Hook, New Jersey (June 29, 1776).

The third section, which comprises the bulk of the volume, documents the activities of Howe's army in America, including their landing on Staten Island, preparations at New Utrecht for the advance on New York, occupation of Manhattan, battles in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and the taking of Philadelphia. Of note is a copy of a November 3, 1777, letter from Burgoyne to Howe relating his account of the Battle of Saratoga and his surrender to General Gates, with a detail of each article of the terms of surrender (dated October 20, 1777). The volume ends on May 1, 1778, when Howe was still headquartered at Philadelphia. See additional descriptive data for a list of headquarters throughout the volume.

The back of the volume contains returns of a detachment from the brigade of foot guards commanded by Brigadier General Edward Mathew (March 22-August 13, 1776), a list of casualties from the summer of 1776, and 44 memoranda of general orders issued while the British were in Philadelphia (December 31, 1777-April 6, 1778).

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