William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan
Finding aid for
Finding aid created by
Richard Blackburn Journal and Letterbook, 1789-1802
Philip Heslip, September 2009
Richard Blackburn journal and letterbook
Blackburn, Richard, 1760-1804
The Richard Blackburn journal contains an account of his journey from Virginia, through Pittsburgh, to Lexington, Kentucky, from March 26-May 3, 1789. The journal consists of brief entries describing the course of travel, the landscape and towns, and occasionally the people encountered.
The material is in English
William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu
Access and Use
Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.
Richard Blackburn Journal and Letterbook, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan
Richard Scott Blackburn was born around 1760 in Prince William, Virginia, to Thomas Blackburn and Christina Scott Blackburn. He was married to Judith Ball in 1781. As captain of the 1st Regiment of Artillery and Engineers, he left Winchester, Virginia, on March 26th, 1789, to join General James Wilkinson on his second trip to New Orleans. The goal of the trip was to gain the favor of Governor Esteban Miro, and solidify the trading monopoly Wilkinson had won two years previously. Traveling by way of the Youghiogheny and Ohio Rivers, Blackburn met with Wilkinson in Lexington, Kentucky, on April 21st, and from there proceeded to New Orleans.
From 1799 through June 1801, Blackburn was posted at Dumfries, Virginia, but in June 1801, was transferred to the border outpost at Fort Washington, Georgia, on the St. Mary's River, which formed the border with Spanish Florida. There, Blackburn had to contend with unusual discipline problems posed by an overabundance of rum and an international border that proved tempting to soldiers wishing to desert in order to avoid punishment. To make matters worse, Fort Washington was also, according to Blackburn, underprovisioned: "Troops of Frontier stations remote from the Seat of Government, will always be made to suffer, in order to fill the Pockets of those Blood Hounds [contractors]." Blackburn was promoted to major in April 1803, and died the following November.
Collection Scope and Content Note
The Richard Blackburn journal includes an account of his journey from Virginia, through Pittsburgh, to Lexington, Kentucky, from March 26-May 3, 1789. The journal consists of brief entries describing the course of travel, the landscape and towns, and occasionally the people he encountered. Included are interesting descriptions of Marietta, Ohio, and other small settlements along the Ohio River established by Revolutionary War veterans from the Virginia Line, as well as descriptions of Lexington, Kentucky. Blackburn stopped writing in the journal before departing Lexington for New Orleans.
The copybook portion of the journal includes over ninety copies of letters written by Blackburn to military officials. Many of the letters from Dumfries and Fort Washington are concerned with administrative matters, often provisioning, but a few from Georgia document special military discipline problems posed by life on the frontier and the proximity of the border with Spain. In his first two months at Fort Washington, Blackburn lost 10 men to Florida by desertion.
- Desertion, Military--United States.
- Dumfries (Va.)
- Florida--Description and travel.
- Georgia--Description and travel.
- Kentucky--Description and travel.
- Military Discipline.
- Military history, Modern--19th century.
- Pennsylvania--Description and travel.
- Spain--Foreign relations--United States.
- United States--Foreign relations--Spain.
- United States. Army. Artillery and Engineers Regiment, 1st.
- Virginia--Description and travel.
- Wilkinson, James, 1757-1825.
Additional Descriptive Data
The Clements Library's Josiah Harmar papers document Blackburn's visit to Fort Harmar in 1789.