Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Robert Howe Orderly Book, 1776-1778

Finding aid created by
Philip Heslip, April 2011

Summary Information
Title: Robert Howe orderly book
Creator: United States. Continental Army
Inclusive dates: 1776-1778
Extent: 1 volume
The Robert Howe orderly book (181 pages) was kept by an American officer at the headquarters of Major General Robert Howe (1732-1786), of the Continental Army's Southern Department, from June 16, 1776, to July 14, 1778. Included are orders relating to the anticipated British attack on Charleston, South Carolina, in 1776, and to Howe's expedition against the British at St. Augustine, Florida, in June and July 1778.
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:

1965. M-1332.

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:

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


Robert Howe (1732-1786) was a major general in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. He was born in New Hanover County, North Carolina, to Job Howe. In 1756 he became justice of the peace in Bladen, North Carolina, and between 1760 and 1775, he represented Bladen and Brunswick Counties in the North Carolina Assembly. During this time, Howe also served in various military raids on the North Carolina frontier and was the commander at Fort Johnson. Howe frequently clashed with Royal Governor Josiah Martin and became a proponent for American independence. At the outbreak of war against the British in 1775, Howe was appointed colonel of the 2nd Regiment of North Carolina Continentals. The Continental Congress appointed him brigadier general of the Continental Army in March 1776, and he served under Major General Charles Lee in South Carolina and Georgia. Howe was promoted to the rank of major general in early 1777, and was soon appointed commander of the Southern Department. In 1778, Howe partnered with the governor of Georgia John Houstoun to attack the British in East Florida, but disagreements of command resulted in a splintering of forces and the Continental Army's eventual defeat in the South. In 1779 he served under General George Washington in New York and Connecticut. Next he commanded Fort West Point in 1780, and after the war led frontier raids against various Native American tribes. Howe died in 1786.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Robert Howe orderly book (181 pages) was kept by an American officer at the headquarters of Major General Robert Howe (1732-1786), of the Continental Army's Southern Department, from June 16, 1776, to July 14, 1778. Included are orders relating to the anticipated British attack on Charleston, South Carolina, in 1776, and to Howe's expedition against the British in St. Augustine in June and July 1778. Howe's general orders contain details on troop instructions, promotions, the treatment of prisoners, care for the sick and wounded, troop discipline, troop rations and supplies, and records of courts martial. In addition to orders from General Howe, which comprise the bulk of the entries, are instructions from Major General Charles Lee, resolutions from the Continental Congress, extracts from minutes of the Department of War, and tables accounting for numbers of captains, subalterns, sergeants, and the rank and file in Howe's army.

Below are some notable orders:

  • September 4, 1776: Orders threatening punishment for soldiers who were caught pulling down a house near Sunbury, Georgia (page 25)
  • January 8, 1777: Orders concerning the relaying of orders between officers and their soldiers (page 39)
  • May 8, 1777: Orders forbidding gambling among soldiers as commanded by General George Washington (pages 87-88)
  • November 16, 1777: Orders concerning the appearance of soldiers (clothes and hygiene) (page 81)
  • December 12, 1777: Description of annual supplies for each soldier (one coat, one blanket, one pair of breeches, etc.) (pages 90-91)
  • May 10, 1778: Orders forbidding the use of bayonets as tent stakes (page 133)
  • May 20, 1778: Orders regulating hunting and fishing parties (page 120)
  • June 25, 1778: Marching orders for Howe's forces into East Florida to face the British (page 169)

Below is a list of some of the topics covered:

  • June 21, 1776: Copied extracts from War Office minutes signed by John Adams et. al. (page 17-18)
  • November 29, 1776: Announcement that General Robert Howe and his forces arrived in Savannah, Georgia (page 33)
  • May 26, 1778: Orders concerning the formation of enslaved African Americans into two companies, policies for their well-being (rations, camping conditions, and roll call), and their assignment for road clearing duty (page 148)
  • May 11, 1778: Council of war at Fort Tonyn, presided over by Robert Howe, concerning the North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia forces and the campaign against the British in East Florida
  • May 31, 1778: News that France had publicly acknowledged the independence of the United States of America (page 154)
Subject Terms

    • Altamaha River (Ga.)
    • Charleston (S.C.)--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
    • Courts-martial and courts of inquiry--United States--History--18th century.
    • Georgia--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
    • Hooper, Archibald Maclaine, 1775-1853.
    • Howe, Robert, 1732-1786.
    • Military discipline.
    • Saint Augustine (Fla.)--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
    • Savannah (Ga.)--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
    • United States. Continental Army--History.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Campaigns.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Participation, African American.
    Genre Terms:
    • Orderly books.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Volume   1  
    Robert Howe orderly book [series]
    Pages   1-20  
    Headquarters, Charleston, South Carolina,  June 16-August 8, 1776
    Pages   20-24  
    Headquarters, Savannah, Georgia,  August 18-September 20, 1776
    Pages   24-26  
    Camp near Sunbury, Georgia,  September 20-October 22, 1776
    Pages   26-32  
    Headquarters, Charleston, South Carolina,  October 10-November 24, 1776
    Pages   33-35  
    Headquarters, Savannah, Georgia,  November 29-December 11, 1776
    Pages   36-91  
    Headquarters, Charleston, South Carolina,  December 14, 1776-December 13, 1777
    Pages   92-131  
    Headquarters, Savannah, Georgia,  December 23, 1777-April 6, 1778
    Pages   132-150  
    Camp at Fort Howe, also known as Fort Barrington, Georgia,  May 10-May 27, 1778
    Page   151  
    Camp at Reid's Bluff on the Altamaha River,  May 29-June 14, 1778
    Page   164  
    Camp at Carney's Cowpen,  June 17, 1778
    Page   165  
    Camp Intelligence,  June 18, 1778
    Pages   165-167  
    Camp Cowford on the St. Illa River, also known as the Satilla River,  June 19-June 21, 1778
    Pages   168-169  
    Camp at Cantey's Place,  June 24-25, 1778
    Page   170  
    Camp Bailey's Branch,  June 25, 1778
    Pages   171-185  
    Camp Fort Tonyn, Florida,  June 29-July 14, 1778
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The following Clements Library collections contain letters to or from Robert Howe:

    The following item in the Clements Library Book Division concerns Robert Howe: Howe, Robert. Proceedings of a General Court Martial, Held at Philadelphia, in the State of Pennsylvania, by Order of His Excellency General Washington, Commander In Chief of the Army of the United States of America, for the Trial of Major General Howe, December 7, 1781: Major General Baron Steuben, President. Philadelphia: Printed by Hall and Sellers, in Market-Street, 1782.

    The Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has a collection of Robert Howe Papers


    Bennett, Charles E., and Donald R Lennon. A Quest for Glory: Major General Robert Howe and the American Revolution. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991.

    Powell, William S. "Howe, Robert (1732--1786)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2004.