This order book has been identified as being associated with the 40th Regiment of Foot via various officers’ names cited in regimental orders. The entries cover a crucial period of the war in the middle states. While Major General John Burgoyne’s northern army invaded New York from Canada, General Sir William Howe’s forces maintained garrisons on Manhattan, Long, and Staten Islands, and in and around New Brunswick, New Jersey. Throughout the winter and spring of 1777 Crown and American forces fought several minor engagements. Beginning in early June British forces moved further into New Jersey in an attempt to draw General George Washington’s newly reorganized Continental Army from its strong position on the heights of Middlebrook. These maneuvers finally resulted in a larger action on 26 June between British and German troops under Major General Charles Earl Cornwallis and the American detached division positioned at Short Hills under Major General William Alexander, Lord Stirling. The American force was split apart and forced to retire after a fierce action, but the engagement was hardly conclusive. Shortly afterwards Cornwallis’ contingent withdrew to Staten Island. On 23 July an army of British and German troops, Sir William Howe commanding, sailed aboard transports from Sandy Hook, New Jersey. The southward voyage ultimately took Howe’s army up the Chesapeake Bay where they landed near the Head of Elk (present-day Elkton, Maryland) on 25 August. Meanwhile, after a period of indecision regarding the intended objective of Howe’s force, Washington’s army had encamped on 13 August at the Crossroads, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, to await reliable news of the British army’s destination. Fnally hearing that the enemy fleet was in the Chesapeake, on August 23rd the main Continental Army marched south to block the British march north into Pennsylvania.
Order books frequently contain wonderful insights into the minutiae of military life, such as details of the army’s daily routine, uniforms and equipment, the role and treatment of camp followers, food and shelter, etc. The 40th Regiment order book deals with all these subjects and more. This order book was especially useful in assisting the recreated 40th Regiment Light Company in recreating clothing, equipment, and soldiers’ necessaries. For further clarification, several notes have been inserted after the relevant passages to amplify details such as the British troops’ use of blanket slings instead of knapsacks on campaign.
Several clarifications regarding content and editing are in order. Many of the manuscript’s entries deal with orders for officers’ duty assignments, picket duty, announcements of promotions throughout the army’s officer corps, and court martial proceedings and findings. With some few exceptions, most such entries have not been transcribed. The court martial contents provide only minimal information, while duty assignments tend to be highly repetitive. Promotions may hold interest for some researchers; for those wishing to view passages not transcribed they can be accessed by viewing the original manucript online. (See link to the George Washington Papers at the end of this transcription; go to Captured British Army Orderly Book, April 20 - August 28, 1777.)
The document has been subjected to a minimal amount of editing. A forward slash ( / ) has occasionally been inserted to delineate sentence breaks. Original spelling has been retained throughout, with clarifications inserted in brackets when considered necessary. Dates have also been added in brackets wherever they are missing in the original. The transcribed order book entries appear in the same sequence as in the original manuscript. Entry dates are not always in chronological order; this is often due to the lag between the issue of army orders, and the date those orders were received by detached commands.
Christopher Ward, The War of the Revolution, John Richard Alden, ed., vol. I (New York: The MacMillan Co., 1952)
Howard H. Peckham, The Toll of Independence: Engagements & Battle Casualties of the American Revolution (Chicago and London; The Univ. of Chicago Press, 1974)
For pictorial confirmation of light and battalion troops carrying blanket slings, as well as uniform details see Stephen R. Gilbert, “An Analysis of the Xavier della Gatta Paintings of the Battles of Paoli and Germantown, 1777,” Military Collector & Historian: part I, 46 (Fall 1994), 98-108; part II, 47 (Winter 1995), 146-162. The two battle paintings by Xavier della Gatta (circa 1782) are in the collections of the Valley Forge Historical Society, Valley Forge, Pa.
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