William Howe orderly book (1776-1778)

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

Summary Information

Title: William Howe orderly book
Creator: Great Britain. Army
Inclusive dates: 1776-1778
Extent: 1 volume
The William Howe orderly book 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 Howe's army, from their embarkation at Portsmouth, England, through New York and New Jersey, to the end of their occupation Philadelphia.
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


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information

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

Preferred Citation

William Howe Orderly Book, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Sir William Howe (1729-1814) was the British commander-in-chief in North America from October 1775 to 1777. Taking over the office from Thomas Gage, he concentrated the British army around New York City, and in 1776, fought the rebels at Long Island, Kip's Bay, White Plains, and Fort Washington, eventually forcing the American troops out of the area. The British, however, lost battles at Trenton (December 1776) and Princeton (January 1777). In September of 1777, Howe and his forces moved into Pennsylvania, where they were victorious at the Battle at Brandywine (September 11, 1777). Focusing on Pennsylvania, however, came at the expense of supporting Burgoyne's army at Saratoga, where the British forces surrendered to the Continental troops on October 17, 1777. Under severe criticism, Howe submitted his resignation to London at the end of 1777, and in May 1778 transferred his command to Sir Henry Clinton. During this period of inactivity, Howe's headquarters remained in Philadelphia.

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).

Subject Terms

  • Burgoyne, John, 1722-1792.
  • Clinton, Henry, Sir, 1738?-1795.
  • Cornwallis, Charles Cornwallis, Marquis, 1738-1805.
  • Howe, William Howe, Viscount, 1729-1814.
  • Knyphausen, Wilhelm, Baron von.
  • Mathew, Edward, 1729-1805.
  • New York (N.Y.)--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
  • Philadelphia (Pa.)--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
  • Royal George (Ship)
  • Saratoga Campaign, N.Y., 1777.
  • Staten Island (New York, N.Y.)
  • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
Genre Terms:
  • Orderly books.

Contents List (Request Materials)

Request materials for use in the Clements Library
Container / Location Title
Volume   1  
William Howe orderly book,  1776-1778 [series]

Additional Descriptive Data

Related Materials

The William L. Clements Library has vast holdings related to the Revolutionary War, many of which relate to Sir William Howe. Among them are the papers of Henry Clinton, George Germain, Shelburne, and the George Augustus Howe and William Howe papers. The Clements Library also has many books, maps, a graphic materials related to Howe and his role in the Revolution, including seven engraved portraits of the general.


Gruber, Ira D. "Howe, William." American National Biography . Oxford University Press, 2000.

List of Headquarters:

  • Part I:
    • Wandsworth, England: March 15, 1776
    • Fulham, England: March 16, 1776
    • Wimbledon, England: March 18, 1776
    • Kingston, England: March 19, 1776
    • Putney, England: March 20, 1776
    • Portsmouth, England: March 21, 1776
    • Clapham, England: March 22, 1776
    • Royal George Transport ship: March 23, 1776
    • Petersfield, England: April 1, 1776
    • Portsmouth, England: April 25-28, 1776
    • Royal George Transport ship: August 2-11, 1776
    • Staten Island, New York: August 14, 1776
  • Part II:
    • Boston, Massachusetts: January 27-February 12, 1776
    • Halifax, Nova Scotia: April 26, 1776
    • HMS Greyhound at Sandy Hook, New Jersey: June 29, 1776
  • Part III:
    • Staten Island: July 4, 1776
    • New Utrecht, Long Island: August 22, 1776
    • Bedford, Long Island: August 28, 1776
    • Hell Gate, Long Island: August 31, 1776
    • Newtown, Long Island: September 1, 1776
    • Manhattan [New York Island]: September 16, 1776
    • New Rochelle, New York: October 22, 1778
    • White Plains, New York: October 29, 1776
    • Dobbs Ferry, New York: November 6, 1776
    • Delancy's Mill, New York: November 15, 1776
    • English Neighborhood: November 21, 1776
    • New Bridge, New Jersey: November 25, 1776
    • Acquackanonk, New Jersey [Acquancaneugh]: November 27, 1776
    • Newark, New Jersey: November 28, 1776
    • Spanktown, New Jersey [Spangton]: December 1, 1776
    • Woodbridge, New Jersey: December 3, 1776
    • Raritan Landing, New Jersey: December 11, 1776
    • Trenton, New Jersey: December 14, 1776
    • New Brunswick, New Jersey: December 16, 1776
    • Middlebush, New Jersey: June 14, 1777
    • Brunswick, New Jersey: June 19, 1777
    • Perth Amboy, New Jersey: June 24, 1777
    • West Field, New Jersey: June 26, 1777
    • Rahway, New Jersey [Rawey]: June 27, 1777
    • Perth Amboy, New Jersey, June 28, 1777
    • Bankers House, Staten Island: July 3, 1777
    • New York, New York: July 9, 1777
    • Elk Ferry, Maryland: August 25, 1777
    • Akins Tavern, Delaware [Aickens]: September 3, 1777
    • Pencader, Delaware: September 7, 1777
    • Nichols' House, [Pennsylvania]: September 8, 1777
    • Kennett Square, Pennsylvania: September 9, 1777
    • Dilworth, Pennsylvania: September 11, 1777
    • Brandywine, Pennsylvania: September 13, 1777
    • Goshen, Pennsylvania: September 16, 1777
    • Tredyffrin, Pennsylvania: September 18, 1777
    • Charlestown, Pennsylvania: September 22, 1777
    • Norristown, Pennsylvania [Norringtown]: September 23, 1777
    • Germantown, Pennsylvania: September 25, 1777
    • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: October 19, 1777-May 1, 1778