Back to top

Search Constraints

Start Over You searched for: Subjects Military discipline--United States. Remove constraint Subjects: Military discipline--United States.
Number of results to display per page
View results as:

Search Results


Revolutionary War orders, written in Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, [1781?]

1 volume

1774 Philadelphia reprint of the first volume of The Works of Laurence Sterne (Tristram Shandy, Gentleman), containing manuscript orders for a brigade possibly encamped in Morristown, New Jersey, around May 1781.

The four pages of notes written in the flyleaf of Laurence Sterne's novel, Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, contain orders from a brigade commander and from General George Washington, likely given in May 1781 at Morristown, New Jersey. Orders were typically written in regimental orderly books, but, for an unknown reason, they were instead copied into the novel. The first portion of the document contains the orders of the brigade commander, which concern the shoeing of artillery and ammunition horses, the distribution of 50 pairs of stockings, and the securing of a hogshead of rum. Below this are orders from General George Washington, which establish a "standing Rule" forbidding the impressment of horses and wagons, except by commanding officers and colonels. The document also provides for punishment of violators, including arrest and "39 Lashes whithout Ceremony of a Cour[t] mar[tial]."


Robert Sherry papers, 1861-1867

60 items, 1 tintype

Robert Sherry enlisted in the 21st New York Infantry during the Civil War, a regiment that was beset with discipline and logistical problems, and and by a pattern of mutual animosity between officers and enlisted men. His letters to his wife, Caroline, provide valuable insight into the problems of the regiment and his deep hostility toward officers.

The Sherry papers includes 50 letters written by Robert Sherry to his wife, Caroline, and two to a friend, Oscar. The eight remaining items in the collection include letters and documents addressed to Caroline Sherry regarding the death of her husband and arrangements to receive a widow's pension.

Sherry was a rough-edged man, whose strong personality is reflected in the tintype that accompanies the collection, in which he stands glaring at the camera, leaning casually against his rifle, pistol stashed in his belt. Sherry writes what he feels without reservation, even when those feelings are murderous, and as a result, his letters are always interesting to read. His candor in discussing the problems in the regiment and his deep hostility toward officers provides a particularly valuable insight into the mind of many soldiers subjected to harsh conditions and to the extraordinary military inefficiency and arbitrariness that characterized some units.

Personal finances were among Sherry's greatest concerns, and the money offered to recruits may have been the primary factoring in inducing him to enlist and reenlist. He is vocal about the fact that he is not fighting for "adam nigger" or for the Republican Party, and he berates his wife because she no longer denigrates Blacks in her letters. He relished the opportunity to loot an elegant Virginia home in October, 1861, and wrote proudly of having taken $2,000 in Confederate money from a dead Virginian, which he buried by the banks of the Rappahannock, should he ever return. Sherry talked of returning to Virginia after the war, where he had been assured by a plantation overseer that he could make an easy living and high wages.


Valley Forge Headquarters orderly book, 1778

55 pages (1 volume)

The Valley Forge Headquarters orderly book (55 pages) contains the general orders and brigade orders issued by Continental Army headquarters at Valley Forge during winter encampment, from January 20-February 22, 1778.

The Valley Forge Headquarters orderly book (55 pages) contains the general orders and brigade orders issued from Continental Army headquarters at Valley Forge during winter encampment of January 20-February 22, 1778. An anonymous American officer, stationed at the "Head Quarters, Great Valley," recorded the orders. Each entry provides the signal, the names the field officers on duty, and the brigade major on duty. Later, the author made grammatical corrections to the volume.

Entries primarily concern disciplinary actions and courts-martial decisions for soldiers in Continental Army regiments. The most common crimes were stealing, drunken fights, and desertion attempts. The Commander-in-Chief, George Washington, is mentioned frequently, and on page 47 the author refers to General Washington by name. Orders also concern parade duty, officers' meetings, and rations and supplies. Brigade orders deal almost exclusively with alcohol use.

Two notable entries describe the role of women at Valley Forge:
  • "A report having circulated that Mr. Jones [D.C: of I. Jones] had granted a pass to a woman to carry 3 [lbs] of Butter Philadelphia, the Matter has been inquired into, and appears to be without foundation" (February 3, 1778).
  • "The most Pernicious consequences having arisen from persons, women in particular being allowed to pass & repass from Philadelphia to camp, under pretense of coming out to visit their friends in the army, & returning with necessities for their families, but, really, with an intent to intice the soldiers to desert...[officers must forbid] the soldiers, under the severest penalties, from having any communication with such persons" (February 4, 1778).

This volume holds a loose fragment containing brigade orders for August 23, 1777, and a list of men found guilty by a court-martial (located between pages 1-2).