Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
John Polley Orderly Book, 1775

Finding aid created by
Philip Heslip, December 2010

Summary Information
Title: John Polley orderly book
Creator: Polley, John, 1743-1829
Inclusive dates: 1775
Extent: 1 volume
The John Polley orderly book contains orders kept by a Connecticut soldier stationed in Roxbury, Massachusetts, from September 19 to December 31, 1775. Entries consist of brigade orders issued from General Artemas Ward's headquarters and general orders from Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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:

1954. M-964.

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:

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


John Polley was born in Dudley, Massachusetts, to John Polley, Sr., and Mary Hatch in 1743. In 1770, Polley married Phebe Chamberlain in Charlton, Massachusetts. He was later a resident of Union, Connecticut, and during the Revolution served as a private and orderly sergeant in Captain William Campbell's company. In 1775, his regiment was stationed in Roxbury, Massachusetts, under the command of Major General Artemas Ward. Polley died in Holland, Massachusetts, in 1829.

At the time Polley kept this orderly book (September-December 1775) Artemas Ward was a major general in the Continental Army and second-in-command to George Washington, headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He focused his energies on disciplining the troops and organizing the militias into a functioning unified army. In October 1775, Ward also assumed the role of chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas for Worcester County, Massachusetts.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The John Polley orderly book (162 pages) contains Continental Army orders kept by a Connecticut soldier stationed in Roxbury, Massachusetts, from September 19 to December 31, 1775. Entries include brigade orders issued from General Artemas Ward's headquarters at Roxbury, and general orders from Cambridge, Massachusetts. Subjects treated are camp conditions, hospitals, pickets and guard duties, construction, courts of inquiry for desertions and other crimes, punishments, provisions and rations, furloughs, and enlistments. Particularly well documented are courts martial under Artemas Ward. Polley's signatures are on page 16, 139, and 158. Besides Ward, other officers mentioned include General Charles Lee and Colonel Ebenezer Learned.

Entries of note:

  • September 22, 1775: Men were whipped and drummed out for disobedience, mutiny, and riot (page 6)
  • September 28, 1775: Inquiry into Dr. Benjamin Church's conduct (pages 22 and 28)
  • October 2, 1775: Order against gambling and "games of chance" (page 31)
  • October 3, 1775: Dr. Isaac Foster became Church's replacement as head of hospitals (page 32)
  • October 17, 1775: Announcement of a public auction for books, furniture, and accoutrements taken from the British (page 50)
  • October 22, 1775: Deputies from the Continental Congress met in Washington with the governors of Connecticut and Rhode Island, the Council of Massachusetts, and the Convention President of New Hampshire, concerning continuing troop levels in the army (page 56)
  • November 5, 1775: Comments on the danger of the "Rediculas and Childish Custom of the burning the Effigy of the Pope…at a time when we are Soliciting and have really obtained [the] friendship and alliance of the people of Canada whom we ought to Consider as Brethren…" (page 72)
  • November 10, 1775: Mention of a skirmish with the enemy at Leechmore's point (page 77)
  • November 12 and December 30, 1775: Discussions of free African Americans wanting to enlist in the Continental Army (pages 81 and 157)
  • November 28, 1775: News that Montreal had fallen to the Continental Army (page 112)
  • November 28, 1775: Order from Washington that forbade officers from "cursing and swearing and all profanity and Drunkenness" (page 114)
  • December 3, 1775: Mass desertion of Connecticut troops
  • Undated: List of the allowance of rations for officers July-December 1775 (page 159)
  • Undated: Holdings of the Brig Nancy coming from London to Boston (page 160)
  • Undated: Fragment of a description of a battle (page 162)
Subject Terms

    • Boston (Mass.)--History--Siege, 1775-1776.
    • Cambridge (Mass.)--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
    • Nancy (Brig)
    • Roxbury (Boston, Mass.)
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Participation, African American.
    • Ward, Artemas, 1727-1800.
    Genre Terms:
    • Orderly books.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Volume   1  
    John Polley orderly book,  September-December 1775 [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    Below are other Clements Library collections that relate to Artemas Ward's service in the American Revolution and the conflict at Boston in 1775:

    • The Henry Clinton papers
    • The Thomas Gage papers
    • The Fenno-Hoffman papers contain the papers of John Fenno, Artemus Ward's secretary.
    • The James S. Schoff Revolutionary War collection has a letter from John Frazer to Ward (April 8, 1776).

    The Chicago Historical Society has a John Polley collection, which includes an orderly book covering the fall of 1775.


    Forbes, Harriette Merrifield. New England Diaries, 1602-1800: A Descriptive Catalogue of Diaries, Orderly Books and Sea Journals. Topsfield, Massachusetts, 1923

    Martyn, Charles. The Life of Artemas Ward: The First Commander-in-Chief of the American Revolution. New York: A. Ward, 1921.