Edward Hand papers
Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Edward Hand was born in 1744 in Clyduff, County Kings, Ireland. He studied medicine at Trinity College in Dublin and went on to serve with the 18th Royal Irish Regiment as a surgeon's mate (or assistant surgeon). This work took him to America in 1767 where he served at Fort Pitt on the Ohio River. In 1774, he resigned from the army and moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he met his wife, Katherine (or Catherine) Ewing (1751-1805). The two were married in 1775 and eventually had eight children. That same year, he accepted a commission in the Continental Army. He entered as a lieutenant colonel of the Pennsylvania Battalion of Riflemen and was promoted to colonel just a few months later. In 1777, his promotion to brigadier general brought him back to Fort Pitt where he commanded American forces. In short succession, he was promoted twice more: to brigadier general of Major Lafayette's division in 1780 and to adjutant general of Washington's army in 1781.
Hand resigned from the military in 1783 and moved back to Lancaster. He purchased several hundred acres of land on which he built a Georgian-style brick mansion that became known as Rock Ford Plantation. In Lancaster, Hand resumed life with his family, returned to a career in medicine, and served in a variety of civic and political positions. He was elected a member of the Congress of Confederation, 1784-1785, and the Pennsylvania Assembly, 1785-1786. He was also appointed a delegate to the 1790 Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention. In 1791, President George Washington appointed Hand inspector of revenue for Survey No. 3 in the district of Pennsylvania, and Hand spent some time in his later years overseeing local tax collectors. Hand died in Lancaster in 1802 and is buried in the St. James Episcopal Cemetery.
The Edward Hand papers, housed in three volumes and two boxes, mostly span the mid to late 1700s, though the copy of his orderly book in Box 1, Folder 15 dates from 1843, and there is a 1907 auction catalog in Box 1, Folder 16. This collection presents a coherent narrative of Hand's military career through correspondence, accounts, orders, commissions, and other miscellaneous documents. There are no papers related to his family or personal life, save for a group of letters he wrote to his wife during the war.
Box 1 contains a mix of Hand's personal correspondence with his wife Katherine (or "Kitty"), letters to various officials, accounts, copies of entries from various orderly books kept during 1776, and other miscellaneous but mostly military-related papers. In the first seven folders are Hand's letters to his wife dating from 1775 to 1778, 1780 to 1781, and 1783 to 1785. Despite the missing years, these letters thoroughly document Hand's service with the military during and after the Revolutionary War. He often commented on the conditions at the camps and gave some opinions about movements and the enemy. Because the correspondence is so regular throughout the course of the war, it helps chronicle Hand's state of mind, as well as his physical well-being. In his early letters, he expressed optimism and enthusiasm. "You will be surprised when I tell you that I am perfectly hearty," he wrote on 29 August 1775, ". . . I am certain we have nothing to apprehend from the Enemy." As the conflict dragged on, his positivity gave way to weariness and he frequently noted his desire to return home. "Every thing is quiet here now," he wrote from Fort Pitt in late 1777, "God Grant that it may continue so, and that I may soon have the Happiness to hold you + our Dear Little [babies] in my longing arms." In some of his later letters he also discussed troop movements and current events. On 29 March, 1780, he noted that every day he was required to attended "a very troublesome Court Martial" [of Dr. William Shippen Jr.]. He apologized on 8 July 1781 for not writing due, in part, to his obligation "to march with a part of the Army to the vicinity of Kings Bridge." Hand continued to write to his wife after the war and further discussed his military experience, westward expansion, and dealings with Indians.
In Box 2 are oversized financial papers and accounting sheets from Hand's work as Pennsylvania's inspector of revenue, Survey No. 3, a position he held from the 1790s till his death. In five folders are accounts of tax collectors and abstracts on taxes collected on a variety of goods, such as distilled spirits, parchment, and vellum.
The three bound volumes contain papers that further document either Hand's military career (1771 to about 1785) or his work as inspector of revenue (about 1785 to 1803). As this last date suggests, there a few papers dating from after Hand's death in 1802. The military-related papers in Volume 1 primarily consist of requests sent to Hand for supplies, orders from commanding officers, and updates on troop movements. There are occasional letters or drafts of letters from Hand, as well as scattered agreements, indentures, and seemingly unrelated papers, such as a scientific essay from Lewis Nicola, written in 1771, on the Great Flood mentioned in the Bible in Genesis, chapters 7 and 8.
The later papers at the end of Volume 2 and in Volume 3 are comprised mostly of receipts related to Hand's work as inspector of revenue. The vast majority of these receipts are signed by one "Henry Miller, Supervisor." There are also more accounting sheets, financial papers, and occasional letters, extracts, notes, and essays, such as one on courts martial (Volume 3). It is not always clear if these miscellaneous writings were Hand's original thoughts or if he copied them from other sources.
Some of Hand's correspondence, 1779-1781, was published in the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 33:3 (1909), 353-360.
The copy of Hand's orderly book, 1776, was published in the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 41:2 (1917), 198-223; 41:3 (1917), 257-273; and 41:4 (1917), 458-467.
The provenance for the bulk of the collection is unknown with the following exceptions:
The copies of Edward Hand's orderly book (formerly Am .613 and Am .6131) were given by W. B. Reed Esq.
Miscellaneous papers in Box 1, Folder 16 were given by the City of Philadelphia, circa 1913.
There are notes written on some of the papers indicating that they were purchased in 1949.
- Generals--United States--History--18th century
- Spouses--Correspondence--18th century
- United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783
- Historical Society of Pennsylvania
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Cary Majewicz.
- Finding Aid Date
- Processing made possible by a generous donation from the Abington Junior High History Club.
- Access Restrictions
The collection is open for research.
- Use Restrictions
The collection is available on microfilm (XX610). Since the collection has been processed, its current arrangment may differ from the order in which the papers were filmed.