Out-Letters : Secretary at War: American Letter Books (WO 4/273-276, 987-988) :1763 - 1790.

Call Number: HIL-MICL FC LMR .G7W3S4A5O9
Category: Military
Creator: Great Britain. War Office.
Description: 2 microfilm textual records (6 Volumes) ; 35 mm
Background:
            This series of the Secretary-at-War's Letter Books begins in 1684, but not until the middle of the eighteenth century do they become particularly important for the colonies. 

See Electronic Finding Aid section for a link to background history on the War Office Department.            
Contents:
            This collection of Secretary at War's letter books contains letters, instructions and warrants to military officers serving in North America and the West Indies, as well as governors of the colonies.  Occasionally letters received from the colonies are entered.  The main subject relates to the British military, specifically the army, and its policies, organisation, personnel and movements.

Volumes 273-275 (1775-1784)

The Secretary-at-War's American Letter Books contain despatches from Secretaries Jenkinson, Barrington, Townsend, Yonge and Fitzpatrick to commanders and officials in North America including: Howe, Gage, Carleton, Clinton, Haldimand, Phillips, Tryon, Prescott, Stopford, Prevost, and many others, as well as to a number of officers of lower rank and to several officers in the West Indies. The despatches include: promotions; sale of commissions; lists of garrison officers; distribution of troops (Hessians and other German auxiliary troops); transfers; leaves of absence; lists of vacancies; hospital instructions and appointments; officers to be relieved; shipments of clothing; instructions and observations; memorials; warrants for court-martial; returns of camp equipage; warrants for pay; questions of rank; exchange of prisoners; inquiries in case of defeat; and documents containing many other subjects. Letters regarding the Saratoga Convention can be found in Volume 274, p. 153-154; and Volume 275 (1780-84) includes many despatches to Canada and the West Indies (there is also a West India Letter Book). Indexed.

Volume 276 (1784 - 1790) 

This volume is different from the other volumes and was purchased for their Canadian content.  While the despatches in Volume 276 were also sent by the Secretary-at-War, they were issued after the treaty of peace in 1783 and are addressed to the governors, lieutenant-governors, generals and other officers serving in British North America. The letters include: lists of officials; instructions; appointments; leaves of absence; lists of garrison officers and their pay at Annapolis Royal, Halifax, Island of Cape Breton, and Island of St. John's (now Prince Edward Island); warrants; promotions; replies to letters from officials and individuals; and numerous other documents. The first despatch on the reel from Secretary-at-War, Sir George Yonge, is dated 19 August 1784, and states that the King has signified that the Province of Nova Scotia should be divided into two governments. The name of the westernmost part shall be called New Brunswick, and a governor appointed for said Province. Correspondence in this volume is addressed to generals and officials including the following: Lieutenant-General Haldimand in Quebec, Major-General Campbell in Halifax, Governor Parr of Nova Scotia, Lieutenant- Governor DesBarres of Cape Breton, Governor Carleton of New Brunswick, Brigadier-General Hope in Quebec, Lord Dorchester in Quebec, and numerous officers attached to British regiments serving in North America. Indexed.

Volumes 987-988 (1763-1784)

The Secretary-at-War's American Letter Books contain despatches, many long and detailed, of the Secretaries-at-War to the Commanders-in-Chief and Colonial Governors. These despatches are of great importance in defining British war policy and relate to the British army in America and in the West Indies. Subjects related to health include: hospital accounts, appointments, vacancies, staffing, medicines, returns, invalids, sickness, etc.  Occasionally, letters received from America have been included in these Volumes. The Volumes are indexed.            
Originals: The original records are held by The National Archives, Kew, United Kingdom.
Archival Ref. No.: TNA (formerly PRO) WO 4/273-276, 987-988.
Finding Aids:
            An index is available at the end of each volume, mostly nominal and selective.  The indices are available in print in The Loyalist Collection red binders.

A microfilm shelf list, which corresponds volume and reel numbers is available in print in The Loyalist Collection red binders and electronically (see Electronic Finding Aid section).

For material we hold, see also references in Alphabetical Guide to War Office Records (HIL-GOV SG81 FP41 L773i no.53)            
Electronic Finding Aid Record: WO 4 273-276, 987-988 Out-Letters Secretary at War Shelf List.pdf
WO Background Information.pdf
Health and Medicine Selections.pdf
Notes: Historical information on the War Office Department found in the Electronic Finding Aid field was scanned from: Andrews, Charles. Guide to the Materials for American History to 1783 in the Public Record Office of Great Britain. Vol.2. Washington: Carnegie Institution, 1914, p.282-283.
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