Robert Johnston papers  1863-1865
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Abraham Schenck orderly book contains approximately 100 pages of orders and 15 pages of records, spanning September 26, 1776-January 1777. Though it is written in three different hands, with varying levels of spelling mastery, Schenck seems to have written most of it. The accounts in the back of the book relate primarily to his military-related financial transactions. The book accounts for daily orders, given variously at the brigade, division, regiment, and company level to the Duchess County Minute Man militia. It provides information on the movements and activities of the troops, as well as on the larger logistical and disciplinary problems experienced by the militia early in the war. The records include a company roster and documents concerning supplies and payments received by Schenck.

The orders shed light on many of the disciplinary problems that arose in the employment of a largely untrained force of militia, as well as other, more general issues. An order of October 7, 1776, urges officers to "prevent the Irregular and Promiscus [sic] Placing of huts," while another attempts to crack down on the plundering of "Fields Gardens Hens Roots and Even Beehives" (October 24, 1776), which it calls a "Disgrace." One order, dated October 9, 1776, addresses the proper use of tents, and forbids covering the floors with dirt. Alcohol was also a problem, and an order of October 5, 1776, addresses the problem of sutlers "crouding into" the camp and selling without permission or restraint, by allowing just one appointed supplier. Orders also mandated that scouting parties travel with advanced or flanking parties on all occasions, in order to provide for their "Safty and Sucsess [sic]." The orderly book records a number of courts martial for crimes such as robbery, cursing, desertion, and the plundering.

Orders reference engagements with the enemy and preparations for marching and fighting. On October 20, 1776, eight days before the Battle of White Plains, orders require that soldiers receive "4 Days provisions ready Cook" in order to be ready to march at any time. An entry in the book dated October 27, 1776, encourages the militia to attack mounted British soldiers by hiding behind stone walls and offered cash for "every trooper and his horse and acutriments [sic] which shall be brought in." Although the orders do not directly reference the Battle of White Plains, several entries incidentally praise militia conduct there. An item in the book entitled "Extract of a Letter to the President of the Convention of New York," which is dated December 30, 1776, contains a description of the Battle of Trenton, which states that General Washington "totaly [sic] Routed them About 50 where Left Dead in the Streets 919 taken Prisoners with Trophies." Included is a list of the spoils, some of which were pieces of Brass Cannon, 12 drums, 4 regimental standards, 1200 small arms, 6 wagons, swords, caps, trumpets, clarions, and about 40 horses. The orderly book closes with 15 pages of records pertaining to the militia, including a roster, several provision returns for January 1777, records of ordnance distributed by Schenck, and several documents of financial transactions.

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