Original Correspondence : America and West Indies : Military Despatches (CO 5/83-111) : 1763 - 1783.

Call Number: HIL-MICL FC LMR .G7C6A4C6M6
Category: Military
Creator: Great Britain. Colonial Office.
Description: 15 microfilm textual records (29 volumes) ; 35 mm
            Records precede the development of the Colonial Office, created in 1854, and contain records in the offices of the Board of Trade and the Secretaries of State which held responsibility for British colonial matters at different times until 1782; thereafter, responsibility was held by the Home Office until the War and Colonial Department was created in 1801.  The Original Correspondence, or in-letters, are those sent from a British colony to Great Britain, and are one of 6 groups or classes of documents pertaining to a colony.

The Original Correspondence, or in-letters, are those sent from the colony to Great Britain, and are one of 6 groups of documents pertaining to a colony.  The others are:  Entry Books (letter books recording out-going letters from Britain), Acts, Sessional Papers (printed proceedings of local legislatures), Government Gazettes (official government newspapers), and Miscellanea.  Apart from the first 285 volumes, the CO 5 records have been classified under the names of American colonies, for example; Carolina (Propriety) is volumes 286-292. 

From 1768 to 1782 responsibility for the American colonies, including the West Indies, came under the care of the following colonial secretaries:  the Earl of Hillsborough (1768-72), the Earl of Dartmouth (1772-75), Lord George Germain (1775-82), and Welbore Ellis (Feb.- 8 Mar. 1782).  The secretaries of state were assisted by under-secretaries of state.

The commander-in-chief, North America was a military position of the British Army, which since its establishment in 1755 had been held mostly by Lieut. General Thomas Gage until the position was split into 2 positions with the beginnings of the American Revolution in 1775:  commander-in-chief, America responsible for troops from West Florida to Newfoundland; and commander-in-chief, Quebec responsible for the defence of Quebec.  During the American Revolution, the American commanders were William Howe (1775-78), Henry Clinton (1778-82), and Guy Carleton (1782-83); and the Quebec commanders were Guy Carleton (1775-78) and Frederick Haldimand (1778-86).            

Original Correspondence contains reports and papers from, and orders and instructions to, the responsible officials in each colony, especially the governors. They contain not only correspondence with the colonies, but also with other officials and private individuals in the United Kingdom and between Secretary of State and Board of Trade.  The military correspondence encompasses a period of time from the end of the Seven Years' War, known as the French and Indian War in North America, until the conclusion of the American Revolution. It contains letters and enclosures from commanders-in-chief and other officers in North America to the  British Secretary of State for the colonies in Britain. The letters are, principally, from generals Thomas Gage, Frederick Haldimand, William Howe, Henry Clinton, and Guy Carleton. Drafts of letters to the Commander-in-Chief from the Secretary of State are also found in these volumes. Other types of documents include for example: instructions, commissions, memorials, appointments, reports (intelligence and situation), and lists of officers. Some of the topics covered relate to the following: military (Britian, army, navy, provincial forces, operations, expeditions, battles, personnel), war and justice (prisoner exchanges, courts martial), native/indigenous affairs, Loyalists and emigration, Black history, and Black Loyalists, slavery, and diplomacy.

Arrangement:  Organised chronologically but includes enclosures which date earlier than the correspondence.

Volume 111, Military Despatches, 1783-1784. This volume contains despatches from Sir Guy Carleton in New York to Lord North, including many enclosures that relate to military affairs in America at the end of the war. A few examples of the enclosures include: List of Officers of His Majesty's British American Forces under the Command of His Excellency General Sir Guy Carleton. New York, 25 November 1783; List of the Seconded Officers of His Majesty's British American Forces under the Command of His Excellency General Sir Guy Carleton. New York, 25 November 1783; State of the Army under the Command of His Excellency General Sir Guy Carleton. New York, 10 November 1783; Memorial of Widows of British American Officers. New York, 25 November 1783; Return of Persons who were Lost on the Martha Transport, Captain John Willis, 23 September 1783, near the Seal [Island] Rocks, Nova Scotia (only the officers of 2nd Delancey's Brigade and the Maryland Loyalists are named); and Return of the Loyalists gone from New York to Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Abaco. New York, 24 November 1783.

Originals: The original records are held by The National Archives in London (TNA), formerly known as the Public Record Office (PRO).
Archival Ref. No.: (TNA) PRO CO 5/83-111.
Finding Aids:
            A microfilm shelf list containing both the University of New Brunswick and Library and Archives Canada microfilm reel numbers along with the corresponding volumes is available online (see Electronic Finding Aid section); as well as in The Loyalist Collection red binders.

Documents of the American Revolution 1770-1783; (Colonial Office series), volumes 1-21; edited by K.G. Davies and published by Irish University Press, organised chronologically; provides indexes, abstracts and transcripts to some of the material from the Colonial Office (including CO 5) pertaining to the period of the American controversy. (Available with The Loyalist Collection books. To locate the originals using the references for each of the documents in the book:

  • CO 5, 109, fos. 271-231 translates to volume 109, document numbers 271-231
  • Use the microfilm shelf list to find the reel number for volume 109
Electronic Finding Aid Record: CO 5-83-111 Shelf List.pdf
Black History References.pdf

Reel 1, vol. 83-84 is missing (Jan. 2020).

Related Material: Majority of records concerning naval operations will be found among the Admiralty records (ADM) from the National Archives. Many concerning military operations, including a proportion removed from the papers of the secretary of state and board of trade, are found in War Office (WO) records. A detailed index to War Office records is found in "Alphabetical Guide to the War Office and other Series" (PRO List and Index Series, volume 53) located in the Harriet Irving Library.

Colonial Office 5, Volumes 83-111, are similar to, and are a continuation of, Colonial Office 5, Volumes 48-64, which deal with military events during the time period of the French and Indian War (1754-1763)./p

Online Related Material: Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies. The State Papers Colonial are the accumulated papers of the British colonial secretaries of state relating to colonial affairs from the 16th to the 18th century. This series details papers relating to Colonial America and the West Indies for the period 1574-1739. Documents mostly come from CO 1 and CO 5. Summaries of each document is given; choose volume/years of interest, then search topics.

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