“Non-standard” Sources for the American Revolutionary Era



21 February 2013

When we research a major episode in history, it’s easy to fall into the habit of using “standard sources” that are easily available. We’re especially guilty of this when doing biographical research during one or another war. We rely so heavily upon compiled service records, pensions, and bounty-land applications to provide us the basic information on our person-of-interest.

If you’re wishing for a trove of non-standard documents on the American Revolution, from which you can glean new perspectives, try the Northern Illinois University Libraries’ American Archives: Documents of the American Revolution, 1774-1776. As a sampling of the thousands of little-known personal and administrative documents available:

18 November 1775

The SC Provincial Congress decreed that "every Company of Militia throughout the Colony should be assembled, mustered, trained and exercised once a fortnight." http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/cgi-bin/amarch/getdoc.pl?/var/lib/philologic/databases/amarch/.9692

22 January 1776

Edward Thomas of Elizabethtown, NJ drew up a list of 75 members of the local militia who had volunteered to take several shallops and attempt to seize the British transport ship, Blue-Mountain-Valley. All 75 volunteers are named. http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/cgi-bin/amarch/getdoc.pl?/var/lib/philologic/databases/amarch/.11458

7 February 1776

Margaret Graham of NYC petitioned the Committee of Safety to have mercy on her poor "emaciated" husband, who was being held in the city barracks "in a truly deplorable state." http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/cgi-bin/amarch/getdoc.pl?/var/lib/philologic/databases/amarch/.11379

Enjoy!—and do tell us about your finds.

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