General Grey's orderly book kept during the British occupation of Philadelphia, 1778Revolutionary War: British General Charles Grey's Orderly Book, 1778. Over 200 pages (8.25" x 6.5") with daily entries from March 1, 1778, through May 20, 1778, all written from "Head Quarters Philadelphia." Every page is full of handwritten orders and details of British troops under the command of General Grey as they occupied Philadelphia. Recorded are daily assignments, orders for troop movements, reports of numerous courts-martial, and much more.
Although General George Washington made efforts to protect Philadelphia, the home of the Continental Congress, Charles Grey (1729-1807), the future 1st Earl Grey, and the British army still marched into the city in September 1777, where they remained until June of 1778. Grey was a most able field commander who had recently been promoted by King George III to major general. (Later, as the war neared its conclusion, Grey was made the commander in chief of British forces in America, but the war ended before he took his post.)
During their time in Philadelphia, Grey and his troops were responsible for protecting the city against American counterattacks. Little effort, though, was needed to accomplish this task during the months of March, April, and May of 1778, so Grey took advantage of the social opportunities offered in Philadelphia, such as dances, horse races, parades, and theater. Not only were he and his officers enjoying their stay in the city, but the general thought that his soldiers were especially healthy and well supplied (even as only twenty-five miles away, George Washington's poorly clad and undernourished Continental army suffered at Valley Forge). In April, Grey learned that his commander, General William Howe (referred to as "the Commdr in Chief" in the orderly book), was to be replaced by Henry Clinton, which happened in early May, only days before the final entries in this orderly book.
The first seven pages of the book are missing; numbering occurs on every alternate page beginning with "8" and ending with "115", so the total number of pages is over 210. On the front pastedown is written, "General Greys Orderly Book 23 Febr. 1778 Samuel Brotherton Sergt of Said Compy." Other early pages list British regiments (17th Dragons, 10th Foot, 15th, 17th, 22nd, 27th, etc.) and the officers associated with them, as well as the dates of the officers' promotions. The daily orders begin on page twelve from Philadelphia on March 1, 1778, with the order that "One Batt. only" was to accompany "The Waggons, Woodcutters &c," who were to "go out on the German town Road to morrow morning."
Daily assignments (e.g., assigning "Town Duty" to "Hessian Grenadiers") occur throughout the book. Many orders were issued to protect the inhabitants of the city, particularly "his Majestys Faithful Subjects," from British soldiers. One such order forbade soldiers from going over "Inclosers belonging to the Inhabitents . . . . Offenders may be brought to Condign punishment." The orderly book also records various other details, such as an appointment for officers to share dinner with Quakers, orders to "read for Devine Service," and specific procedures for "Sentenals." Important buildings and streets in Philadelphia are mentioned, including the "state house," the "Penselveney hosptle," Ridge Road, and the "Cyty tavern," which had been a favorite gathering place for many founding fathers. During the British occupation, the tavern was used as a convenient location to hold general courts-martial to "Try all of such prisoners as shall be brought before them."
Reports of courts-martial appear frequently throughout the book, since unruly and dangerous conduct were common. The orderly book reports offenses, such as fights between officers, robberies, and general "Misbehaving" that led to court-martial punishments. On March 15, Corporal John Fisher of the 28th Regiment of Foot was sentenced to "suffer Death by being hanged by the neck" for the "Reap [rape] on the Body of Maria Nickles, a woman child of 9 years." (Interestingly, Fisher was pardoned on March 24 "in Consideration of his Youth & a very good Character Given of him by the Field Officers of his Regiment.") On March 16 at another court-martial, a private was sentenced to hang "for Deserting from Said Regiment and bearing Arms in the Rebel Army." According to various entries, treason was often a cause of courts-martial, such as on March 11 when Captain Alexander Campble, a quartermaster, was accused of "holding Correspondence with and giving Intelligence to the Enemy." The final pages contain lists of the names of numerous men - one such list is labeled "Squad Roll of Genl Grey's Compy 25 Feb. 78."
The daily entries are written in several different hands. The edges of some pages are mildly dampstained. The covers are stained and most of the leather no longer covers the boards, but covers and pages remain bound.
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