Online Primary Sources for American History: The American Revolution from the British Perspective

While Cobbett’s Parliamentary History provides us with access to the debates, bills, King’s speeches/messages for this time period (as well as for hundreds of years altogether) as does The Parliamentary Register, and the 18th Century British Political Pamphlets Collection also gives us a window into the past,  we thought we would like to hear from the participants themselves:

John Burgoyne –  A letter from Lieut. Gen. Burgoyne to his constituents, upon his late resignation : with the correspondences between the secretaries of war and him, relative to his return to America (1779);  A Brief examination of the plan and conduct of the northern expedition in America, in 1777: and of the surrender of the army under the command of Lieutenant-General Burgoyne (1779); A state of the expedition from Canada as laid before the House of Commons, by Lieutenant-General Burgoyne, and verified by evidence : with a collection of authentic documents and an addition of many circumstances which were prevented from appearing before the House by the prorogation of Parliament (1780); and Orderly book of Lieut. Gen. John Burgoyne, from his entry into the state of New York until his surrender at Saratoga, 16th Oct. 1777 (1860).

Guy Carleton – Very little is known of the man because all his personal papers were burned after his death at his request.(Canadian Historical Review, 59(#3, September 1969):245. We do have: Hadden’s journal and orderly books. A journal kept in Canada and upon Burgoyne’s campaign in 1776 and 1777, by Lieut. James M. Hadden, Roy. art. Also orders kept by him and issued by Sir Guy Carleton, Lieut. General John Burgoyne, and Major General William Phillips, in 1776, 1777, and 1778 (1884); A Collection of several commissions, and other public instruments, proceeding from his Majesty’s Royal Authority: and other papers, relating to the state of the province of Quebec in North America, since the conquest of it by the British arms in 1760 (1772); and By His Excellency Guy Carleton, captain-general and governor in chief, in and over the province of Quebec … a proclamation, whereas a rebellion prevails in many of His Majesty’s colonies in America (1775?).

Henry Clinton –  The narrative of Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Clinton, K.B. relative to his conduct during part of his command of the king’s troops in North America particularly to that which respects the unfortunate issue of the campaign in 1781 : with an appendix, containing copies and extracts of those parts of his correspondence with Lord George Germain, Earl Cornwallis, Rear Admiral Graves, &c. which are referred to therein. (1783); and Observations on Earl Cornwallis’ Answer. By Sir Henry Clinton 1783; repr. 1866).

Charles CornwallisA reply to Sir Henry Clinton’s Narrative : wherein his numerous errors are pointed out, and the conduct of Lord Cornwallis fully vindicated from all aspersion…(2d ed., 1783); An answer to that part of the narrative of Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Clinton, K.B. which relates to the conduct of Lieutenant-General Earl Cornwallis during the campaign in North America in the year 1781 (1783); and Correspondence of Charles, first Marquis Cornwallis (3 Vols., 1859).

Thomas GageLetters to the ministry, from Governor Bernard, General Gage, and Commodore Hood (1769); extensive finding aids

George III Calendar of home office papers of the reign of George III : preserved in the Public Record Office [1760-1775](4 vols., 1878-99); and   The correspondence of King George the Third from 1760 to December 1783, printed from the original papers in the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle (6 vols., 1927-28).

William Howe – The narrative of Lieut. Gen. Sir William Howe in a committee of the House of Commons, on the 29th of April, 1779, relative to his conduct during his late command of the King’s troops in North America (1780); and General Sir William Howe’s Orderly book, at Charlestown, Boston and Halifax, June 17, 1775 to 1776, 26 May; to which is added the official abridgment of General Howe’s correspondence with the English Government during the siege of Boston, and some military returns (1890).

Banastre TarletonA history of the campaigns of 1780 and 1781, in the southern provinces of North America (1787).

In addition to the above, attention must be directed to this resource: Report on American manuscripts in the Royal institution of Great Britain (4 vols., 1904-09). These tomes comprise the headquarter papers of the British commanders-in-chief during the American Revolution. These are voluminous calendars containing thousand of summaries from the likes of Howe, Clinton, Carleton, and Cornwallis. In fact, these works are collectively called the “Carleton Papers”.

Founders Online gives free access to the papers of some of the Founding Fathers. Interspersed among the thousands of documents are both mentions of some of the British officers as well as the occasional letter; for example, see the correspondence between George Washington and Cornwallis at Yorktown.

Other works from the British perspective by other than the major figures are:

Thomas Anburey. Travels through the interior parts of America. (1923)

John Andre. André’s journal : an authentic record of the movements and engagements of the British Army in America from June 1777 to November 1778. (2 vols., 1903)

John Barker. The British in Boston, being the diary of Lieutenant John Barker of the King’s own regiment from November 15, 1774 to May 31, 1776. (1924)

James Baxter.The British invasion from the north: the campaigns of generals Carleton and Burgoyne from Canada, 1776-1777 : with the journal of Lieut. William Digby, of the 53d, or Shropshire Regiment of Foot. (1887)

John Clarke. An impartial and authentic narrative of the battle fought on the 17th of June, 1775, between His Britannic Majesty’s troops and the American provincial army, on Bu

Nicholas Cresswell. The journal of Nicholas Cresswell, 1774-1777. (1924)

The Detail and Conduct of the American War, under Generals Gage, Howe, Burgoyne, and Vice Admiral Lord Howe. (3rd ed, 1780).

Francis Downman. The services of Lieut.-Colonel Francis Downman … in France, North America, and the West Indies, between the years 1758 and 1784. (1898)

Samuel Drake. Bunker Hill: the story told in letters from the battle field by British officers engaged. With an introduction and sketch of the battle. (1875).

W.G. Evelyn. Memoir and letters of Captain W. Glanville Evelyn : of the 4th regiment, (“King’s own”) from North America, 1774-1776 (1879).

David Fanning. The narrative of Colonel David Fanning (a Tory in the revolutionary war with Great Britain) : giving an account of his adventures in North Carolina, from 1775 to 1783. (1861; repr. 1865)

John Krafft. Journal of John Charles Philip von Krafft … 1776-1784. (1888)

Roger Lamb. Memoir of his own life. (1811)

Jeremy Lister. The Concord fight; being so much of the narrative of Ensign Jeremy Lister of the 10th regiment of foot as pertains to his services on the 19th of April, 1775, and to his experiences in Boston during the early months of the siege. (1931)

Alexander McDonald. Letter-book of Captain Alexander McDonald, of the Royal Highland emigrants, 1775-1779 (1882)

The Montresor journals (1882)

Archibald Robertson. Archibald Robertson: his diaries and sketches in America, 1762-1780. (1971)

? Williams. Discord and civil wars; being a portion of the journal kept by Lieutenant Williams of His Majesty’s Twenty-third Regiment while stationed in British North America during the time of the Revolution. (1954)





Nicholas Cresswell. The journal of Nicholas Cresswell, 1774-1777. (1924)

The Detail and Conduct of the American War, under Generals Gage, Howe, Burgoyne, and Vice Admiral Lord Howe. (3rd ed, 1780).

Samuel Drake. Bunker Hill: the story told in letters from the battle field by British officers engaged. With an introduction and sketch of the battle. (1875).







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