Ordinary Lives in George Washington’s Papers: The Revolutionary War

These two unpublished groups of papers, once in the possession of George Washington, create a record of the experience of ordinary people in wartime. One is a set of notes made by Washington’s aides on their interrogations with approximately 168 British deserters, undertaken in New York in 1782 and 1783. The deserters were diverse in their backgrounds and motivations, and included British soldiers and sailors, Americans pressed into British service, Hessian mercenaries, and Americans serving in loyalist regiments.

The other is a group of 185 receipts submitted to Washington from the people, many of them women, who supplied him and his household with bread, wine, household furnishings, laundry, tavern meals, and more as he pursued the war through New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware between April, 1776 and November, 1780. Washington had his housekeeper, Mary Smith, and his steward, Caleb Gibbs, keep these so that he could submit them to Congress for reimbursement after the war. One of the two copies Washington made of his expense account, based on these receipts, is also in his papers.

This campaign launched June 29, 2020 and completed July 4, 2020.

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