Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
James Moncrieff Papers, 1710-1894

Finding aid created by
Cheney J. Schopieray, July 2005

Summary Information
Title: James Moncrieff papers
Creator: Moncrieff, James, 1744-1793
Inclusive dates: 1710-1894
Bulk dates: 1780-1804
Extent: 403 items (1.5 linear feet)
The James Moncrieff papers are made up of letters, documents, and reports partially documenting the military career of Moncrieff, a British engineer. In particular, the papers regard Moncrieff’s engineering work following the siege of Charlestown, South Carolina (1780 ff.), and in the West Indies in the early 1790s.
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:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

Donated, 1964; 2004. M-1301, M-4398.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown.


The James Moncrieff letterbook, 1780 December 31-1782 October 7, was donated to the William L. Clements Library by Laurin Hunter.

Preferred Citation:

James Moncrieff Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The James Moncrieff papers are organized in the following series and sub-series:

  • Series I: Military correspondence
    • Sub-series I: Correspondence
    • Sub-series II: Letterbooks
  • Series II: Military documents
    • Sub-series I: Payment orders
    • Sub-series II: Military reports
    • Sub-series III: Miscellaneous military documents
    • Sub-series IV: Military account books
  • Series III: Documents and other papers
    • Sub-series I: Land documents
    • Sub-series II: Miscellaneous documents
    • Sub-series III: Miscellaneous bound materials
    • Sub-series IV: Miscellaneous items and empty envelopes


James Moncrieff (sometimes spelled "Moncrief") was born in 1744 to James Moncrieff of Sauchop, Fife and his wife (name unknown). After graduating from the Royal Military Academy in 1762, he acted as an ensign for the British expedition to Havana. For the next 14 years he served in the Royal Engineers in the province of East Florida and in the West Indies. During that time, Moncrieff accumulated a substantial estate consisting of land holdings and slaves (primarily in Florida). He was promoted to sub-engineer and lieutenant on December 4, 1770, and then Captain on January 10, 1776.

Once the American Revolution began, Moncrieff acted as Captain in the Royal Engineers. He fought in the Brandywine battle on September 11, 1777, and was briefly captured by the Americans at Flatbush, New York in 1778. From July, 1778, until December 1782, Moncrieff served in the southern campaign, specifically in Georgia and South Carolina. He was promoted Brevet Major on December 27, 1779, after proving himself a highly efficient engineer during the Siege of Savannah. He organized fortifications and other military works which were integral to its successful defense. Moncrieff joined the expedition commanded by Henry Clinton to capture Charlestown, South Carolina in 1780. He was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel on September 27, 1780. Following the success at Charlestown, James Moncrieff was put in charge of overseeing the defenses of the city (as Chief Engineer) where he remained until 1782.

The British Army evacuated Charlestown in December 1782, and Moncrieff returned to England. As a result of hostility from Americans, in 1784 he ordered his slaves in Florida to be removed to the Mosquito Coast, Nicaragua. When the British formally withdrew from the Coast in 1787, he requested that they be recovered to Jamaica. Only 51 of his slaves were actually able to be brought back to the West Indies due to unrest on the Mosquito Coast. Moncrieff remained in England, performing engineering tasks.

He received a promotion to Colonel in the army on November 18, 1790. In 1791, Moncrieff traveled to the West Indies, inspecting fortifications on various islands. Following the declaration of war between France and Great Britain, he was appointed quartermaster-general to the Duke of York (February 25, 1793), acting as de facto Chief Engineer. He assisted in British attacks along the northern French border and was promoted Regimental Lieutenant Colonel near the beginning of the siege of Valenciennes. James Moncrieff was killed in battle during the siege of Dunkirk in September 1793. He bequeathed the bulk of his estate to his daughter, Margaret Moncrieff.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The James Moncrieff papers consist of 403 items, dated from August 2, 1710, to June 15, 1894 (the bulk dating between August 28, 1780, and April 4, 1804). The collection contains seven bound letter and account books, 38 pieces of correspondence, 244 documents pertaining to Works and Services for the Engineers Dept. of the British military, six military reports, 43 miscellaneous military documents, 10 documents pertaining to land holdings, 41 personal and financial documents, and 14 miscellaneous items.

The letterbooks and 38 individual letters pertain to the military career of James Moncrieff and regard military orders, personal purchases of Moncrieff, military purchases, military fortifications and other matters pertaining to the Engineer Corps. The 244 documents are numbered payment orders for Works Services in the Engineers Department of the British military. They include detailed lists of services and materials purchased for the operation of the Department. Each document is authorized and signed by the Commanding Engineer, James Moncrieff, by the sellers after payment, by the Paymaster, and by witnesses to the financial transactions. The 6 Military Reports (1791), initialed by G.B., G.D., B.P. and J.M., contain material regarding military engineering in the West Indies. Four of the reports contain James Moncrieff’s reports on military fortifications on Barbados, Dominica, St. Christopher’s and St. Vincent’s. The remaining reports are investigations into account fraud by bookkeepers on Barbados and St. Christopher’s.

The 43 miscellaneous military documents regard the Royal Engineer Corps. 10 documents pertain to land in Great Britain, several of which relate to the estate of George Moncrieff. The most extensive of the land documents is 13 pages in length and is titled “Search of Incumbrances on the Lands of Kingsbarns” (November 11 to November 20, 1887). The 41 documents related to personal affairs are almost exclusively accounts and receipts of James Moncrieff.

The 14 miscellaneous items include four bound volumes, including a manuscript book of poetry and notes by Moncrieff on the principles of war and on water drainage. The remaining 10 items are all undated and consist of: one printed fragment, one manuscript fragment, six unlabeled maps, one broadside and a print labeled “THE CASINO Promenade Concert Rooms.”

Subject Terms

    • Fortification--Barbados.
    • Fortification--Dominica.
    • Fortification--Saint Kitts.
    • Fortification--Saint Vincent.
    • Great Britain--History--1789-1820.
    • Great Britain, Army.
    • Military engineering.
    • Military engineering--Georgia--Savannah.
    • Military engineering--South Carolina--Charlestown.
    • Military engineers.
    • Military supplies.
    • Napoleonic Wars, 1800-1815--Proposed invasion of England, 1793-1805.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--British forces.
    • Bramham, James.
    • Clinton, Henry, Sir, 1738?-1795.
    • Cornwallis, Charles Cornwallis, Marquis, 1738-1805.
    • Moncrieff, James, 1744-1793.
    • Richmond and Lennox, Charles Lennox, Duke of, 1735-1806.
    Genre Terms:
    • Account books.
    • Accounts.
    • Deeds.
    • Letter books.
    • Military records.
    • Orders (military records)
    • Reports.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Military correspondence [series]
    Correspondence [subseries]

    Scope note: 38 letters. One manuscript copy of a letter from Charles Cornwallis to James Wemyss contains orders regarding actions to be taken in South Carolina (1780 August 28). Another letter (1782 April 15) from Sir Henry Clinton to Moncrieff pertains to material supplies in the West Indies. One letter, from Colin Clark (at Dieppe Bay, Antigua) to the Board of Commissioners of Customs requests either a pay increase or permission to return to England. Three letters, one dated [17]94 March 25 and the others undated, mention Moncrieff’s memorial for his lost property. The bulk of the remaining letters regard personal purchases of Moncrieff, military purchases, military fortifications and other matters pertaining to the Engineer Corps. Twelve letters between Charles Lennox, 3rd Duke of Richmond and James Moncrieff (primarily written in early 1793) pertain to the activities of the Engineer Corps.

    Box   1 Folder   1
    Cornwallis, [Charles] ALS Copy to [James] Wemyss,  1780 August 28.
    Clinton, H[enry] ALS to [James] Moncrieff,  1782 April 15.
    Erskine, Will[iam] ALS to Ja[me]s Moncrieff,  1783 July 26.
    M[oncrief], J[ames] ALS to [ ],  1783 August 7.
    Townshend, [ ] ALS Copy to James Bramham,  1783 August 29.
    Box   1 Folder   2
    Elliott, Grey ALS to James Moncrieff,  1783 September 17.
    Glenie, Ja[me]s ALS to [James] Moncrieff,  1783 October 17.
    Moncrieff, James ALS Copy to [Charles Lennox, 3rd Duke of Richmond],  1785 February 6.
    Inglis, Elli[ ] ALS to James Moncrieff,  1789 July 28.    [Note: (Damaged, some text missing)]
    [Lennox, Charles, 3rd Duke of] Richmond ALS to [James] Moncrieff,  1792 February 11.
    Box   1 Folder   3
    [ ], Geo. ALS to [James] Moncrieff,  1792 June 4.
    Deane, Ph[ilip] ALS to James Moncrieff,  1792 October 19.
    Moncrieff, James ALS to Philip Deane,  1792 October 22.
    Clark, Colin ALS to the Board of Commissioners of Customs,  1792 December 10.
    [Lennox, Charles, 3rd Duke of] Richmond ALS to [James] Moncrieff,  1793 January 16.
    Box   1 Folder   4
    [Lennox, Charles, 3rd Duke of] Richmond ALS to [James] Moncrieff,  1793 January 28.
    Moncrieff, James ALS Copy to [ ] Hockings,  1793 January 31.
    [Moncrieff, James] ALS to [Charles Lennox, 3rd Duke of Richmond],  1793 February 4.
    [Moncrieff, James] ALS to [Charles Lennox, 3rd Duke of Richmond],  1793 February 6.
    [Lennox, Charles, 3rd Duke of] Richmond ALS to [James] Moncrieff,  1793 February 8.
    Box   1 Folder   5
    Moncrieff, James ALS to [Charles Lennox, 3rd] Duke of Richmond,  1793 February 10.
    [Moncrieff, James] ALS to [Charles Lennox, 3rd Duke of Richmond],  1793 February 12.
    [Lennox, Charles, 3rd Duke of] Richmond ALS to [James] Moncrieff,  1793 February 13.
    [Lennox, Charles, 3rd Duke of] Richmond ALS to [James Moncrieff],  1793 February 14.
    Hart[ ], Tho[ma]s ALS to [James] Moncrieff,  1793 May 17.
    Box   1 Folder   6
    Melville, [Henry Dundas] ALS to [James] Moncrieff,  1793 May 24. With cover letter in French, dated  1793 June 11.
    [ ] ALS to the Board of Ordnance,  1793 June 29.
    Sterling, Abraham ALS to the Duke of [ ],  [17]94 March 25.
    Brown, George ALS to Robert Graham,  1803 September 11.
    Box   1 Folder   7
    Brown, George ALS to Rob[ert] Graham,  1804 April 4.
    [Moncrieff, James] ALS to [Charles Lennox, 3rd Duke of Richmond],  undated.
    Phipps, Geo[rge] ALS,  undated.
    Unsigned,  undated letters. (6 items)
    Box   4  
    Letterbooks [subseries]

    Scope note: 5 letterbooks containing correspondence from James Moncrieff to Charles Cornwallis, Henry Clinton, Viscount Townshend, Maj. Gen. Gould, Lt. Gen. Leslie and Lt. John as well as letters from James Bramham, John Parish, George Phipps, Charles Lennox and John Boddington. One undated letterbook is a memorial to the Commissioners of the Treasury regarding James Moncrieff’s services in America and the West Indies and his loss of assets suffered as a result.

    Letterbook,  1780 December 31-1782 October 7. Charlestown, South Carolina. ( 55pp.)
    Military copybook,  1783 April 4-1785 April 6. Mostly written from London and the Office of Ordnance. ( 61pp.)
    Letterbook,  1783 May 14-1783 December 1. London and Gosport. ( 11pp.)
    Military copybook,  1785 May 11-1787 April 25. Mostly written from the Office of Ordnance, at least one written from Portsmouth. ( 38pp.)
    Letterbook,  undated. Memorial to the Commissioners of the Treasury. ( 20pp.)
    Military documents [series]
    Payment orders [subseries]

    Scope note: 244 Payment orders for Works Services in the Engineers Department of the British military. The documents regarding services consist of payments to workers such as carpenters, coxswains and boat crews, storekeepers, chain drivers, foremen, payments to overseers of slave labor, engineers (including payments to Moncrieff himself), miners and sappers (non-commissioned officers and privates), draughtsmen, a surgeon (Robert Wilson), tailors/shoemakers, and other workers. The documents regarding supplies include payments for blacksmiths’ supplies (nails, carts, hooks, various supplies for the repair of barracks), lumber, masonry (bricks, etc.), general supplies (paper, ink, quills, pencils, wax, orderly books, etc.), the hiring of schooners, and other tools and sundries. Alexander McDonald signed as Paymaster, 1778 July 3-1780 December 31, and William van Assendelft signed as acting Paymaster, 1781 May 31-1782 December 3. The locales at which these documents were written are broken down as follows: St. Augustine, 1778 July 3-1778 December 31. Savannah, Georgia, 1778 December 31-1779 December 31. Charlestown, South Carolina, 1780 March 31-1782 December 3.

    Box   1 Folders   8-36
    Documents, Engineering Dept. Works and Service Payments,  1778 October 4-1781 December 31.
    Box   2 Folders   1-20
    Documents, Engineering Dept. Works and Service Payments,  1781 December 31-1782 December 3
    Military reports [subseries]

    Scope note: 6 Military reports by James Moncrieff regarding engineering and investigations of fraudulent bookkeeping on islands in the West Indies.

    Box   2 Folder   21
    “Military Report Dominica”  1791. (14pp.)
    Box   2 Folder   22
    “Report on the Conduct of the Stationary Engineer Barbados.”  1791. (11pp.)
    Box   2 Folder   23
    “Report on the Accounts St. Christophers”  1791. (13pp.)
    Box   2 Folder   24
    “Military Report of St Christophers” [ 1791?], (12pp.)
    Box   2 Folder   25
    “Report on the Accounts Antigua” [ 1791?]. (11pp.)
    Box   2 Folder   26
    “Military Report St. Vincents” [ 1791?]. (13pp.)
    Miscellaneous military documents [subseries]

    Scope note: 43 miscellaneous military documents including eight documents (1781 April 1-1781 July 11) which pertain to account expenditures at Portsmouth, Virginia by Lieutenant James Straton, Engineer. Two documents (1783 October 30 and 1783 October) regard expenditures at Gosport for the construction of works and are signed by James Moncrieff. Five printed orders regard the distribution of engineers (1784 November 29), the change of the name of ‘Corps of Engineers’ to ‘Corps of Royal Engineers’ (1787 April 25 and 1787 October 10), financial aid for British foot soldiers for the purchase of bread (1792 January 4) and the revision of the sentence in the court-martial of John Cambel (1792 May 22). One document titled “Articles of Agreement” between an unknown party and John and Coutts Trotter pertains to the supply of wagons and horses for the Field Train of Artillery (1792 June ). A report titled “Examination of the coast of Kent” is in the hand of Moncrieff and regards the placements of guns and batteries (1793 January ). The remaining documents are a mixture of lists of Quarters of troops in Great Britain, and miscellaneous accounting papers directly related to military sundries and other payments.

    Box   2 Folders   27-35
    Documents,  1781 April 1-1793 September 3. (43 items)    [Note: 9 documents,1784-1793, located in Oversize Manuscripts.]
    Box   4  
    Military account books [subseries]

    Scope note: 2 Military account books, one of which includes issues of rations to men, women and children, Chief Engineers Department, and the other which includes the accounts of Christopher Teesdale with James Moncrieff.

    Account book,  1780 June-1782 November. Charlestown, South Carolina. (29pp.)
    Account book,  1789 July 6-1790 July 1. Gosport. (9pp.)
    Documents and other papers [series]
    Box   3 Folders   1-4
    Land documents [subseries]
    Documents pertaining to landholdings in Great Britain,  1710 August 2-1887 November 20. (10 items)    [Note: Indenture for land in Kingsbarns [Scotland], 1760 November 22, located in Oversize Manuscripts.]
    Miscellaneous documents [subseries]

    Scope note: 41 miscellaneous documents of James Moncrieff, including general accounts and bills paid, several for the purchase of goods. These documents also include James Moncrieff’s will (dated 1793 September) and two documents pertaining to the sale of slaves by William Cole to Stephan Brown in Charleston, South Carolina (1781 May 18 and 1782 October 11). One document, relating to the construction of a railway by Anstruther and Saint Andrews Railway Company, is a disposition by Alexander Graham Sheppard that includes a map of the area in question (Kingsbarns, 1894 June 15).

    Box   3 Folders   5-11
    Documents,  1781 March 6-[1793 March];  1894 June 15. (41 items)
    Box   4  
    Miscellaneous bound materials [subseries]

    Scope note: 4 miscellaneous bound items.

    George Scott, manuscript book of poetry,  1784 June 24. (18pp.)
    Moncrieff, James, notes on draining water,  undated. (30pp.)
    Moncrieff, James, notes on the principles of war,  undated. (3pp.)
    Unsigned notebook,  undated. (1p.)
    Miscellaneous items and empty envelopes [subseries]

    Scope note: 9 miscellaneous items and empty envelopes.

    Box   3 Folder   12
    Miscellaneous items,  undated.    [Note: 1 broadside and 4 maps located in Oversize Manuscripts]
    Box   3 Folder   13
    Empty Envelopes,  undated.
    Box   3 Folder   14
    Envelopes in which the Moncrieff Papers were previously housed,  undated.
    Additional Descriptive Data

    Names of overseers of slave labor (from military payment orders, Works Services in the Engineers Department of the British military)

    • Baillie, George
    • Butler, Gilham
    • Cuthbert, Ann
    • Gibson, William
    • Graham, Jame
    • Graham, John
    • Knox, John
    • McGillerrey, Lachlan
    • Millen, John
    • Mossman, James
    • Mulloyne, John
    • Robertson, James
    • Young, James
    Related Materials

    Royal Engineers copybook, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. (1782-1795, M-3481)


    Thomas, R.N.W. Moncrieff, James (1744-1793), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2004