James Furnis letter book (1755-1759, bulk 1755-1758)

Collection processed and finding aid created by Philip Heslip, June 2010
Manuscripts Division, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

Summary Information

Title: James Furnis letter book
Creator: Furnis, James
Inclusive dates: 1755-1759
Bulk dates: 1755-1758
Extent: 179 pages (1 volume) and 1 letter
Abstract:
The James Furnis letter book contains copies of letters from a British commissary of stores and paymaster to the Royal Artillery and army comptroller of ordnance in North America, primarily stationed in Albany and New York City. He communicated frequently with British officers, independent merchants, and the Board of Ordnance in London, revealing decision-making processes for supplying and managing the Royal Artillery in America. These letters also supply information on troop movements and estimates of dead and wounded after battles.
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: www.clements.umich.edu

Access and Use

Acquisition Information

1956, 1972. M-1024, M-1596.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copyright

Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation

James Furnis Letter Book, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan

Biographical/Historical Note

British army officer, James Furnis, was the commissary of stores and paymaster to the Royal Artillery, stationed at Albany in 1755. He became comptroller of ordnance in North America in 1756, with headquarters at New York City, a post he held until at least 1763. During the French and Indian War, the British Board of Ordnance was charged with managing and replacing military stores throughout the colonies. In 1757, Furnis inspected Forts Edward and William Henry, near Lake George, and while there, witnessed the French capture of Fort William Henry.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The James Furnis kept his letter book (179 pages) from July 23, 1755, to December 16, 1758, while serving as British commissary of stores and paymaster to the Royal Artillery and as army comptroller of ordnance in North America. The volume contains 114 letters, all official in nature. He communicated frequently with British officers, independent merchants, and the Board of Ordnance in London, revealing decision-making processes for supplying and managing the Royal Artillery in America. These letters also supply information on troop movements and estimates of dead and wounded.

Furnis wrote the bulk of the entries from Albany and New York City, but also wrote while on short trips to Philadelphia and Boston. Recipients are officers, engineers, and merchants at Albany, New York, Owsego, Fort Edward, Fort William Henry, Boston, and Philadelphia. His letters offer in-depth descriptions of fort upkeep and artillery management and activities. Of particular interest are 24 dispatches from Furnis to the Board of Ordnance in London, which detail the Braddock expedition, describe the poor state of order at Fort Edward, and provide a firsthand account of the siege and capture of Fort William Henry by the French army under Montcalm (August 3-26, 1757).

Furnis wrote the first entry from Fort Cumberland, Maryland, in August 1755, about a month after Braddock's defeat at the Battle of the Monongahela.

Other notable entries include:
  • 4 letters from Furnis to John Ewing, an independent merchant in Boston from whom the British Military purchased military stores.
  • 7 letters to Major General Abercrombie, including a letter that concerned supplies for Abercrombie's failed attack at Fort Carillon, and the positions of Colonel Williamson, who at that time was laying siege to the French Fort at Louisbourg in Halifax (June 22, 1758).
  • A letter to William Saltonstall, commissary of Royal Artillery at Halifax, written during the Siege of Louisbourg (May 79 1758).
  • A letter giving a full account of the siege on Fort William Henry, between July 31 and August 10, 1757, with discussions of General Webb, Lord Loudoun, Lieutenant Colonel John Young, and Montcalm, and with notes on the preparations of Fort Edward and Fort William Henry in June (August 27, 1757).

An additional loose letter from John Bradstreet to James Furnis (September 2, 1759, Albany, New York) is located in the front of the volume. In it, Bradstreet asks if artillery, ammunition, and stores sent west have been stopped for want of carts.

Subject Terms

Subjects:
  • Abercrombie, James, 1707-1775.
  • Albany (N.Y.)
  • Boston (Mass.)
  • Braddock, Edward, 1695?-1755.
  • Braddock's campaign, 1755.
  • Ewing, John, 1732-1802.
  • Fort Cumberland (Cumberland, Md.)
  • Fort Duquesne (Pa.)
  • Fort Edward (N.Y.)
  • Fort Oswego (Oswego, N.Y.)--Capture, 1756.
  • Ticonderoga, Battle of, N.Y., 1758.
  • Fort William Henry (N.Y.)--Capture, 1757.
  • Great Britain. Army--Ordnance and ordnance stores.
  • Great Britain. Board of Ordnance.
  • Lake George (N.Y.)
  • Louisbourg (N.S.)--History--Siege, 1758.
  • Loxley, Benjamin, 1720-1801.
  • Loudoun, John Campbell, Earl of, 1705-1782.
  • Montcalm de Saint-Véran, Louis-Joseph, marquis de, 1712-1759.
  • Montrésor, John, 1736-1799.
  • New York (N.Y.)
  • Ord, Thomas.
  • Orme, Robert, d. 1781.
  • Oswego (N.Y.)
  • Philadelphia (Pa.)
  • United States--History--French and Indian War, 1755-1763--Sources.
  • Webb, Daniel, ca. 1700-1773.
  • Williamson, Adam, Sir, 1736-1798.
Genre Terms:
  • Dispatches.
  • Letter books.

Contents List (Request Materials)

Request materials for use in the Clements Library
Container / Location Title
Volume   1  
James Furnis letter book,  1755-1758 [series]
Page   1  
 July 23, 1755, from Fort Cumberland, to the Board of Ordnance and Charles Frederick
Page   3  
 October 7, 1756, from Philadelphia to the Board of Ordnance
Page   6  
 November 4, 1755, from New York to Captain Thomas Ord at Albany
Page   8  
 November 4, 1755, from New York to Witham Marsh Clerk of Stores and First Paymaster at Albany
Page   8  
 November 13, 1755, from New York to William Griffith at Philadelphia
Page   9  
 December 2, 1755, from New York to Captain Thomas Ord at Albany
Page   10  
 October 3, 1755, Philadelphia to the Board of Ordnance
Page   11  
 December 23, 1755, New York to the Board of Ordnance
Page   12  
 December 24, 1755, New York to William Griffith at Philadelphia
Page   13  
 January 8, 1756, New York to Witham Marsh at Albany
Page   14  
 January 8, 1756, New York to Captain Thomas Ord at Albany
Page   15  
 January 14, 1756, New York to Captain Thomas Ord at Albany
Page   18  
 January 14, 1756, New York to Witham Marsh, 1st paymaster to the train of artillery at Albany
Page   19  
 January 21, 1756, New York to the Board of Ordnance
Page   20  
 January 22, 1756, New York to the Board of Ordnance
Page   21  
 January 23, 1756, New York to Captain Thomas Ord at Boston
Page   23  
 January 27, 1756, New York to Captain Thomas Ord at Boston
Page   25  
 January 27, 1756, New York to Captain Roger Morris, Aid de Camp to General Shirley at Boston
Page   26  
 February 2, 1756, New York to Witham Marsh at Albany
Page   27  
 February 12, 1756, Philadelphia to Captain Thomas Ord at Boston
Page   28  
 February 22, 1756, Philadelphia to Witham Marsh at Albany
Page   29  
 February 22, 1756, Philadelphia to Captain Robert Hind at Albany
Page   31  
 March 11, 1756, Philadelphia to Captain Thomas Ord at Boston
Page   32  
 March 23, 1756, Philadelphia to Witham Marsh at Albany
Page   33  
 March 24, 1756, Philadelphia to Captain Thomas Ord at Boston
Page   34  
 May 6, 1756, Philadelphia to Witham Marsh at Albany
Page   35  
 May 15, 1756, Philadelphia to the Board of Ordnance
Page   37  
 May 21, 1756, New York to the Board of Ordnance
Page   38  
 June 10, 1756, Albany to Captain Robert Hind at Oswego
Page   39  
 June 10, 1756, Albany to Patrick Mackellen at Oswego
Page   40  
 June 27, 1756, Albany to John Hunter at New York
Page   41  
 June 29, 1756, Albany to Thomas Sowers, Engineer at Oswego
Page   42  
 July 9, 1756, Albany to Adam Williamson, Engineer at Fort Edward
Page   43  
 July 17, 1756, Albany to John Hunter at New York
Page   44  
 July 17, 1756, Albany to Robert Hind at Oswego
Page   45  
 July 21, 1756, Albany to the Board of Ordnance
Page   46  
 August 2, 1756, Albany to Thomas Ord, commander of the artillery
Page   47  
 August 3, 1756, Albany to John Defever
Page   48  
 August 4, 1756, Albany to Captain Robert Hind at Oswego
Page   50  
 August 18, 1756, Albany to John Hunter
Page   51  
 August 19, 1756, Albany to George Turner, comptroller of New York
Page   52  
 August 24, 1756, Albany to Adam Williamson at Fort William Henry
Page   53  
 August 29, 1756, Albany to John Hunter of New York
Page   54  
 August 29, 1756, Albany to the Board of Ordnance
Page   55  
 September 9, 1756, Albany to William Gordon, Engineer of Fort Edward
Page   56  
 September 20, 1756, Albany to the Board of Ordnance
Page   58  
 October 3, 1756, Albany to Francis Stephens at New York
Page   60  
 October 3, 1756, Albany to the Board of Ordnance
Page   63  
 November 23, 1756, Albany to the Board of Ordnance
Page   65  
 January 9, 1757, New York to John Ewing, Independent Merchant from Boston
Page   66  
 January 9, 1757, New York to John Hawkins, commissary to the Royal Artillery at Albany
Page   67  
 January 23, 1757, New York to John Ewing
Page   68  
 January 24, 1757, New York to John Defever
Page   70  
 February 9, 1757, New York to John Hawkins, commissary and paymaster at Albany
Page   72  
 February 14, 1757, New York to Francis Stephens of Boston
Page   74  
 February 27, 1757, New York to Francis Stephens of Boston
Page   75  
 March 3, 1757, New York, the Board of Ordnance
Page   80  
 March 6, 1757, New York to Francis Stephens of Boston
Page   81  
 March 7, 1757, New York to John Hawkins of Albany
Page   82  
 March 13, 1757, New York to Francis Stephens of Boston
Page   84  
 April 25, 1757, New York to John Wheelwright of Boston
Page   85  
 April 25, 1757, New York to John Broadstreet of Boston
Page   86  
 June 1, 1757, New York to the Board of Ordnance
Page   88  
 June 6, 1757, New York to James Cockburn
Page   89  
 June 9, 1757, New York to Patrick Mackellan
Page   91  
 June 9, 1757, New York to Jeaffreson Miles
Page   92  
 June 7, 1757, New York to Captain Robert Hinde
Page   93  
 June 9, 1757, New York to Thomas [?]
Page   94  
 August 26, 1757, New York to the Board of Ordnance
Page   102  
 September 26, 1757, New York to the Board of Ordnance
Page   105  
 September 27, 1757, New York to the Surveyor General of the Ordnance
Page   107  
 December 7, 1757, New York to Colonel Williamson
Page   109  
 December 10, 1757, New York to Colonel George Williamson of Albany
Page   111  
 January 8, 1758, New York to Colonel Williamson
Page   114  
 January 29, 1757, New York to William Saltonstall, artillery paymaster at Albany
Page   116  
 February 15, 1758, New York to the Board of Ordnance
Page   123  
 February 19, 1758, New York to William Saltonstall
Page   124  
 March 12, 1758, New York to John Ewing of Boston
Page   125  
 April 10, 1758, New York to John Ewing
Page   125  
 April 27, 1758, New York to the Board of Ordnance
Page   128  
 April 30, 1758, New York to John Ewing of Boston
Page   128  
 April 30, 1758, New York to Lieutenant Williams, Engineer at Fort Edward
Page   129  
 May 19, 1758, New York to William Saltonstall, commissary Royal Artillery at Halifax
Page   130  
 May 10, 1758, New York to General Abercrombie, commander in chief in Albany
Page   131  
 May 18, 24, 26, 1758, New York to William Hawkins of Albany
Page   132  
 May 27, 1758, Instructions to Charles Hadley at New York
Page   133  
 May 27, 1758, New York to William Hawkins
Page   134  
 May 27, 1758, New York to General Abercrombie
Page   136  
 May 30, 1758, New York to the Board of Ordnance
Page   137  
 June 1, 1758, New York to the Board of Ordnance
Page   139  
 June 11, 1758, New York to the Board of Ordnance
Page   140  
 June 22, 1758, New York to General Abercrombie
Page   142  
 June 17, 1758, New York to Lieutenant David Hay of Philadelphia
Page   143  
 June 17, 1758, New York to William Ward, Clerk of Stores at Philadelphia
Page   144  
 June 25, 1758, New York to Colonel Williamson
Page   145  
 June 29, 1758, New York to Brigadier General Stamoise at Albany
Page   146  
 July 2, 1758, New York to William Ward, clerk of stores at Philadelphia
Page   146  
 July 4, 1758, New York to the Board of Ordnance
Page   150  
 July 10, 1758, New York to Mr. Stephens, storekeeper at New York
Page   151  
 July 10, 1758, New York to Benjamin Loxley of Philadelphia
Page   152  
 July 20, 1758, New York to Colonel Montrésor chief engineer at Albany
Page   153  
 July 20, 1758, New York to Brigadier General Stamoise at Albany
Page   154  
 July 23, 1758, New York to Captain Thomas Spence of the Grand Duke , and Captain Robert Farthing of the Baltimore , ordnance and stores ships at Philadelphia
Page   155  
 July 23, 1758, New York to General Abercrombie
Page   157  
 August 9, 1758, New York to Captain Thomas Spence of the Grand Duke , and Captain Robert Farthing of the Baltimore , ordnance and stores ships at Philadelphia
Page   158  
 August 23, 1758, New York to Jeaffreson Miles at London
Page   164  
 August 30, 1758, Albany to Colonel Montrésor, chief engineer at Fort Edward
Page   166  
 August 30, 1758, Albany to Brigadier General Provost at Fort Edward
Page   167  
 August 30, 1758, Albany to General Abercrombie at Lake George
Page   170  
 September 2, 1758, Albany to John Hackett commissary at Lake George
Page   171  
 September 14, 1758, Albany to General Abercrombie
Page   173  
 October 22, 1758, Albany to General Abercrombie
Page   174  
 December 16, 1758, New York to the Board of Ordnance
Page   179  
 December 16, 1758, New York to Surveyor General of the Ordnance

Additional Descriptive Data

Related Materials

The Clements Library holds several items concerning James Furnis:

The Amherst papers contain one letter from Sir Jeffery Amherst to Furnis, regarding arms for Virginia (October 4, 1763)

The Thomas Gage papers hold one letter from Furnis to Gage (September 1, 1759) and one letter from Gage to Furnis (December 12, 1763).

Bibliography

The following two articles contain published versions of entries from the Furnis letterbook:

Williams, Edward G. ed. "Treasure Hunt in the Forest: Two Hitherto Unpublished Documents Reporting on the Fate of Braddock's Pay Chest." Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine . 42 (1955): 383-396.

Ewing, William S. ed. "An Eyewitness Account by James Furnis of the Surrender of Fort William Henry, August, 1757."New York History . 42 (July 1961): 307-316.