3 linear feet
The Henry Burbeck papers (approximately 2,300 items) consist of military and personal correspondence of Brigadier General Henry Burbeck, a career artillery officer in the United States army (1775-1784, 1786-1815). The papers include Burbeck's incoming correspondence (approx. 1,350 items), drafts of outgoing letters (approx. 360 items), returns and muster rolls submitted to Burbeck by officers under his command (approx. 190 items), an orderly book, manuscript maps (10 items), and other financial and military papers. The collection is particularly strong in documenting the administration and development of the artillery branch of the United States Army in the decade leading up to the outbreak of the War of 1812.
The Correspondence and Documents series (approximately 2,220 items) contains Burbeck’s incoming and outgoing correspondence with military officers, army contractors, politicians, and other officials. Frequent correspondents represented in the collection include Secretary of War Henry Dearborn; as well as artillery officers Amos Stoddard, Moses Porter, Richard Whiley, George Armistead, James House, Nehemiah Freeman; and many others. Over seventy incoming letters are addressed to Secretary of War Henry Dearborn, which were then forwarded to Burbeck. The series includes returns, muster rolls, inventories, receipts, General Orders, instructions, memorandums, courts-martial documents, contracts, oaths of allegiance, and other miscellaneous items.
The bulk of the manuscripts in this series reveal practical day to day concerns of U.S. Army artillery officers, such as recruitment of men, desertions, provisions, payments, and exercises and drills. A frequent topic of concern was the recruitment and provisioning of musicians. Over 10 letters and documents, for example, relate to Francesco Masi, an Italian musician who served under Captain Nehemiah Freeman at Fort Independence in Boston harbor. Additional regular subjects include the planning and construction of artillery and shot, and the construction of coastal and internal fortifications. Henry Burbeck and other officers provided detailed reports on the forts occupied and constructed by American troops. Examples include: Fort Hale (October 24, 1811), Fort Trumbull (Oct 25, 1811), Fort Eustis (September 11, 1810), Castle Williams (October 1810), Fort Independence (October 5, 1811), Fort Niagara (September 29, 1808), Fort Detroit (November 5, 1808), Fort Mifflin (November 17, 1811), Newport, Rhode Island (October 25, 1811), Fort Norfolk and Fort Nelson (November 4, 1811), and Fort Powhatan (December 14, 1811).
Many letters are concerned with the design and testing of guns, shot, and gun-carriages. These subjects are especially prevalent in correspondence between Burbeck and contractors Jacob Eustis and Henry Foxall; and correspondence between Burbeck, Lieutenant Samuel Perkins, and Captain George Bomford, head of the United States Arsenal at New York. The collection's correspondence is focused almost exclusively on military affairs, with only a small number of letters related to Burbeck’s personal affairs. One example is twelve letters between Burbeck and Elisha Sigourney, an associate in Boston, concerning financial matters.
- Marriage certificate dated February 27, 1790, for Henry Burbeck and Abigail Webb for their wedding on February 25, 1790.
- Magret Dowland ALS dated March 2, 1803. An enlisted man’s wife asked for back pay owed to her for working as Matron of the Hospital.
- A copy of instructions given by Burbeck to Captain John Whistler dated July 13, 1803, in which he gave Whistler instructions to establish Fort Dearborn.
- Simon Levy ALS dated April 12, 1805. Levy, the first Jewish and second ever graduate of West Point, asked to be transferred for health reasons.
- Return J. Meigs, Sr. ALS dated January 1, 1807. Meigs wrote concerning settler and Native American relations in Tennessee.
- Samuel Dyson ALS dated August 10, 1807. Dyson wrote that he had received news of an imminent Native American attack on Detroit.
- Draft from Henry Burbeck dated November 1808. Burbeck wrote to John Walbach complaining of being sent to Detroit.
- Satterlee Clark ALS dated November 2, 1811. Clark gave a detailed description (5 pages) of a fight between a sergeant and an artificer on the wharf in Annapolis.
- Draft from Henry Burbeck dated February 8-9, 1812. On the back of this draft, Burbeck wrote to an unnamed correspondent giving his feelings on how women should sit for their portrait.
The Revolutionary War Reminiscences series (11 items) contains draft copies of letters written by Burbeck in the later years of his life, in which he described his service in the American Revolution. He focused particularly on his memories of the evacuation of New York in September 1776. Of particular note is one draft (December 24, 1847) in which Burbeck wrote in detail about the changes in uniform and appearance of American officers after the arrival of Baron Von Steuben. At least one of the drafts was intended for Charles Davies of the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati.
The Orderly Book series (1 item) contains a 114-page bound volume dating from January 2, 1784, to May 16, 1784. This volume respects day to day activities of the First American Regiment, a unit of the Continental Army organized at West Point in the months following the ratification of the Treaty of Paris (1783). Most of the entries regard daily duty assignments, courts-martial proceedings, and promotions. The orderly book concludes weeks before the disbandment of the regiment.
The Maps series (10 items) is made up primarily of manuscript maps of fortifications dating from 1790 to 1811. One item of note is the 1790 map of Fort St. Tammany given to Burbeck by Surgeon's Mate Nathan Hayward. Burbeck personally oversaw the construction of Fort St. Tammany, and this item contains a detailed depiction of the garrison, complete with an American flag. Please see the "Separated Items" section of the finding aid below for a complete list of the maps present in the Henry Burbeck papers.
The Printed Materials series (58 items) is comprised of printed circulars issued by the United States Government and Army, blank enlistment forms, and personal materials collected by and about Henry Burbeck (including newspaper articles and other published items). A copy of the Second Congress's 1791Act for Making Further and More Effectual Provision for the Protection of the Frontier of the United States is housed in the Oversize Printed Materials folder. A small number of bound items include a copy of Andre; a Tragedy in Five Acts (1798), and 19th century booklets on military and artillery tactics. Two copies of an engraved portrait of Henry Burbeck, by Charles Balthazar Julien Févret de Saint-Mémin are also present.