Topic: Documentary editing

“To enchain syllables, and to lash the wind”: An Introduction to Style Guides

By Jane Haxby, Copy Editor
October 13, 2017

The first ever Washington Papers style guide. Image provided by author.

When I tell people that I am a copy editor at The Washington Papers, most are horrified: “You edit George Washington?!” When I explain that The Washington Papers is a documentary editing project, they are even more confused: “You make movies?”

Eventually, I get around to describing what I really do. Copyediting is what I imagine most people think of as editing: correcting grammar, syntax, and spelling; clarifying meaning; and checking for consistency of style and formatting. I do not, I promise, change Washington’s words. Our volume editors carefully and accurately transcribe his letters and documents (hence, “documentary editing”) and then annotate them, researching and explaining all references to people, places, and events so that readers can understand what Washington and his correspondents wrote. It is primarily this annotation that I copyedit.

When I arrived at The Washington Papers, my first task was to read through our in-house style guide. Readers may be familiar with the Chicago Manual of Style, or with MLA or AP style. These guides independently address a plethora of questions ranging from how to hyphenate and capitalize, to the correct use of pronouns (yes, Chicago now sanctions the singular “they”1), to how to cite virtually any source imaginable. Many of us were taught that there is only one right way to do these things. I remember learning in grade school that in a list of three or more items, I should not separate the last two with a comma, and that when typing, I should follow every period with two spaces. The latter rule is a relic of the typewriter age and has been superseded, one of many examples of how written (not to mention spoken) language evolves. The former is still followed by some style guides but not by others,2 indicating that language rules are not universal even at any one moment. This is why The Washington Papers has a style guide.

In the few years I have been with The Washington Papers, we have added to our in-house style guide multiple rules that reflect recent discussions specific to our project. One of the challenges and joys of working on a multivolume documentary editing project is that each volume is part of a much larger edition. Once a style decision is made, we include the new rule in our style guide so that volume editors can apply it moving forward. This week, I am fixing what has been a somewhat haphazard approach to historic college names in past volumes—for example, Columbia University was “King’s College” until 1784, when it was renamed “Columbia College.” The fact that we haven’t been consistent in how we refer to this and similar institutions, even on a long-term project with careful scholars, simply shows the slipperiness of language. The question is not merely one of following rules, but of making the rules in order to follow them in the future.

Style guides, as we know them today, began about a century ago. The first Chicago Manual of Style was published in 1906, the same year as Henry Watson Fowler’s The King’s English. Only 20 years later came Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage, which, now in its fourth edition, is still a mainstay of writers and publishers.3 These style guides, of course, build on even earlier publications. The author of a 16th-century proto-dictionary introduced his work as an “elementarie which entreateth chefelie of the right writing of our English tung.”4 In 1755, more than a century before the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, Samuel Johnson published his Dictionary of the English Language. His preface reminds us of the mutability of language even while it introduces his attempt to impose stability on it:

Those who have been persuaded to think well of my design, require that it should fix our language, and put a stop to those alterations which time and chance have hitherto been suffered to make in it without opposition. With this consequence I will confess that I flattered myself for a while; but now begin to fear that I have indulged expectation which neither reason nor experience can justify. When we see men grow old and die at a certain time one after another, from century to century, we laugh at the elixir that promises to prolong life to a thousand years; and with equal justice may the lexicographer be derided, who being able to produce no example of a nation that has preserved their words and phrases from mutability, shall imagine that his dictionary can embalm his language, and secure it from corruption and decay, that it is in his power to change sublunary nature, or clear the world at once from folly, vanity, and affectation.

With this hope, however, academies have been instituted, to guard the avenues of their languages, to retain fugitives, and repulse intruders; but their vigilance and activity have hitherto been vain; sounds are too volatile and subtile for legal restraints; to enchain syllables, and to lash the wind, are equally the undertakings of pride, unwilling to measure its desires by its strength.5

Sadly, neither Johnson’s dictionary nor any style guide can clear the world of folly. But our in-house style guide does serve the larger purpose of documentary editing–conservation–which Johnson is simultaneously celebrating and lamenting the impossibility of here. We publish Washington’s papers to preserve his words and wisdom for any and all to read and use. Our in-house rules, as pedantic as they may sometimes appear, help stabilize our approach, making those words and their annotation as consistent and comprehensible as we “sublunary”6 mortals can make them.

 

Notes

  1. For a discussion of Chicago‘s recommended uses of “they” as a generic singular pronoun, see “CMOS Stop Talk” for April 3, 2017: http://cmosshoptalk.com/2017/04/03/chicago-style-for-the-singular-they/
  2. The absence of this comma can have real-world effects, as a Maine dairy company learned in March 2017. See Daniel Victor, “Lack of Oxford Comma Could Cost Maine Company Millions in Overtime Dispute,” New York Times for March 16, 2017, at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/16/us/oxford-comma-lawsuit.html?_r=0.
  3. For this edition, see http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780199661350.001.0001/acref-9780199661350; for an entertaining review, see Jim Holt, “H. W. Fowler, the King of English,” New York Times Book Review for Dec. 10, 2009, at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/13/books/review/Holt-t.html. For the full 1908 edition, see http://www.bartleby.com/116/101.html.
  4. For the British Library note and images, see http://www.bl.uk/learning/timeline/item126632.html.
  5. For the British Library note and images, see http://www.bl.uk/learning/timeline/item126707.html. For a transcription of the full preface by Jack Lynch of Rutgers University, see https://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Texts/preface.html.
  6. “Sublunary” literally means “beneath the moon,” or earthly. Johnson used it to connote impermanence, as in the third OED definition, “Characteristic of this world and its concerns; mundane; material; temporal, ephemeral.” The corresponding 1609 example following this OED entry illustrates it even better: “No pompe (how euer glorious) No ioy or pleasure, if sublunarie, But brings sacietie soone with their vse.”

 

Three Degrees to Washington: What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

by Kim Curtis, Research Editor
September 20, 2017

Miniature of Martha Parke Custis, as painted by Charles Willson Peale (1772). Courtesy of Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Throughout my childhood and young adulthood, I flirted with different answers to this ever-present question: teacher, pediatrician, school psychologist, child psychologist. Having earned a BA in psychology (and classics) from the University of Virginia in 2000, I settled on clinical psychologist, with the goal of teaching college students and treating patients. Since this required a PhD, I applied to several highly competitive doctoral programs but was rejected by all of them. What would have happened had I been accepted? For one thing, I would have missed becoming acquainted with George and Martha Washington.

It may seem like a reach for me to say that my psychology background and history, specifically of the founding era, go hand-in-hand. My father paved the way for me. For a graduate seminar in counseling, he wrote a psychoanalytic profile of Thomas Jefferson, in which he suggested that Jefferson’s fraught relationship with his mother led to his architectural fixation with domes! A field of academic scholarship with this approach actually exists: psychobiography analyzes the lives and psyches of historic figures. Psychobiographers Elizabeth Wirth Marvick, Jerome A. Winer, and James William Anderson took a psychoanalytic approach (like my father did) to profile Washington, Jefferson, and James Madison. Marvick, Winer, and Anderson concluded that Madison “most closely follows the model of the angry revolutionary striving to overcome his passivity toward the father and replace him with his own righteous authority.”1

My interest in psychology also stems from my love for biographies. In addition to exploring different kinds of people and the worlds in which they live, biographies bring readers inside the minds of their subjects. When I was about five years old (in the mid-1980s), I checked out my first biography from the local library; it was a children’s biography of Madonna! As an adult, my favorite (auto)biography is Katharine Graham’s Personal History, in which Graham recounts her time as publisher of The Washington Post (unheard of for a woman in the 1960s and 1970s) and the Post‘s game-changing coverage of the Watergate scandal.

My psychology background, along with my interest in people and history, helps me fully engage with The Washington Papers. I connect on a personal level with the individuals who wrote and received the correspondence with which we editors now are entrusted.

For example, a thread that runs throughout Martha Washington’s correspondence is her concern about her family’s well-being, especially the precarious health of her daughter Martha Parke “Patcy” Custis. Martha’s anxiety came to a head in a gut-wrenching letter (written by George on June 20, 1773) that I transcribed for the upcoming Martha Washington Papers project volume. George described Patcy’s death to Martha’s brother-in-law, Burwell Bassett:

It is an easier matter to conceive, than to describe, the distress of this Family; especially that of the unhappy Parent of our Dear Patcy Custis, when I inform you that yesterday removed the Sweet Innocent Girl into a more happy, & peaceful abode than any she has met with, in the afflicted Path she hitherto has trod. She rose from Dinner about four Oclock, in better health and spirits that she appeard to have been in for some time; soon after which she was siezd with one of her usual Fits & expird in it, in less than two Minutes without uttering a Word, a groan, or scarce a Sigh.2

As emotional as this scene is, what really hits home for me is Martha’s reaction, which George recounted in the same letter: “This sudden, and unexpected blow, I scarce need add has almost reduced my poor Wife to the lowest ebb of Misery; which is encreas’d by the absence of her Son…and want of the balmy Consolation of her Relations; which leads me more than ever to wish she could see them.”3

Now that I have a daughter, I can relate even more to Martha as a mother. I can’t begin to imagine what she felt after Patcy’s death. There are some things that even a psychology degree can’t prepare you for.

 

This blog post is the second of a three-part series, “Three Degrees to Washington,” about how my humanities majors help me at The Washington Papers. Part three will explore my educational background in film. You can read part one, about my classics degree, here.

 

Notes

  1. Elizabeth Wirth Marvick, Jerome A. Winer, and James William Anderson, “Notes Toward a Psychoanalytic Perspective on Three Virginia ‘Founding Fathers,'” Annual of Psychoanalysis 31 (2003): 163.
  2. “To Burwell Bassett from George Washington, June 20, 1773,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified June 29, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/02-09-02-0185. Also available in print: The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series 9: 243-44.
  3. Ibid.

Rick Britton: Portrait of the (Map) Artist

by Jane Haxby, Copy Editor, and Kathryn Lebert, Communications Specialist
September 6, 2017

British Operations Against Charleston, S.C. (1780), as originally published in Revolutionary War Series, volume 24. Copyright of Rick Britton.

In Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Tom Stoppard’s take on Hamlet, Rosencrantz tells Guildenstern that he doesn’t believe in England. Guildenstern shoots back, “Just a conspiracy of cartographers, you mean?”1

Here at The Washington Papers, we may not have the makings of a conspiracy, but—amazingly—we do have a cartographer. Historian, photographer, and tour guide, Rick Britton conspires with our editors to craft the maps that appear in our volumes.2 Perhaps more accurately described as, in his words, a “map illustrator,” Britton draws maps by hand using historical references and a list of landmarks compiled by the editors. He goes beyond simply including all the necessary elements, however: His maps are not only accurate and scholarly, but original works of art.

How does one become a historical map illustrator? For Britton, it began with an interest in history. As he tells it, when he was a teenager, he “just fell in love with the maps in the old history books, the maps the way they looked back then, the maps the way they were drawn during the Civil War and during the American Revolution.” He taught himself to enlarge maps using the same “grid method” artists have been using for centuries. This involves drawing a grid over an image and then proportionally reproducing that image by using a larger grid of equal ratio.3 He covered his bedroom walls with freehand reproductions of his favorite maps. And in the course of copying the maps he loved, he also learned how to draw the terrain symbols and other graphic design elements used by the cartographers of those periods.

Britton still revels in the details of historically accurate maps. For him, “it’s all about making it fit the period.” As with all true craftsmen, the joy he takes in the details of his art shines through. In the map of Virginia that will appear in the upcoming edition of George Washington’s Barbados diary, Britton drew icons for the buildings that were important in Washington’s youth, including his childhood home (now called Ferry Farm) and his later residence, Mount Vernon. To render these tiny images, he found depictions online of the buildings as they looked at the time, drew them, and then shrunk them (now using modern technology rather than his early training in the grid method). For the same upcoming volume, Britton mapped the route to Barbados that Washington recorded in his ship’s log, as recreated mathematically by editor Alicia K. Anderson. For that map, he departed from the border that he has made standard for The Washington Papers and drew a new one based on eighteenth-century nautical maps. He reflects that the period-specific border was “pretty complicated to draw, but it makes the whole thing fit.”

Northeast New Jersey (1780), as originally published in Revolutionary War Series, volume 25. Copyright of Rick Britton.

Skillfully using pencil and compass, Britton illuminates events for readers of presidential papers, including The Washington Papers, The Papers of James Madison, and The Papers of Thomas Jefferson; for students of the American Civil War and World Wars I and II; and even for players of a Tolkien-based game for which he hand-lettered maps of Middle Earth. Partly because his maps often depict places and scenarios that no longer exist—or that exist only in the imagination—Britton routinely cannot visit the sites he illustrates. But even when he is unable to see an area, his work offers a new perspective on it, not only for readers but for himself as well. In the course of his research into the Civil War battles of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, two Confederate forts whose captures opened major waterways to the Union army, Britton’s geographical fluency helped him to grasp the brilliance of General Ulysses S. Grant’s gunboat strategy. Grant knew that the Tennessee River, on which Fort Henry stood, and the Cumberland River, likewise guarded by Fort Donelson, flow north into the Ohio. “Of course, looking at the map I could see it!” Britton marvels. “Even though [the steam-paddle gunboats were] going south, they were going upriver to bombard the boats and the forts on the land. If they got in too much trouble—for example, if they were getting too much enemy fire—all they had to do was cut the engines and float away.”4

Britton is particularly interested in the minutiae of historical engagements and the unique ability of maps to convey those details. Two of Britton’s favorites among his own works are his illustrations of Northeast New Jersey and of British operations against Charleston, S.C., both in 1780 (published in Revolutionary War Series volumes 24 and 25, and reproduced here). He enjoys illustrating in such detail because “it makes it so much easier for the reader to understand exactly what happened.” On a deeper level, the historian within him values maps like these because such “small-unit actions” have been “largely overlooked, and it’s so important for us to honor those who fought, and suffered, and died on our behalf.”

Rick Britton advances the study of and joy in history in everything he does. He confesses that he loves “things the way they used to be.” The twin goals of documentary editing are scholarship and accessibility, helping a wider audience understand the past. Britton’s maps offer both, and the volumes of The Washington Papers that have the good fortune to include them are all the more beautiful for it.

 

Notes

  1. Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (New York, 1967), Act 3, p. 106.
  2. Find Rick Britton’s website at http://www.rickbritton.com.
  3. Find step-by-step instructions in the “grid” technique at https://sibleyfineart.com/tutorial–gridding-art.htm.
  4. For a summary of the battle of Fort Henry, see https://www.nps.gov/abpp/battles/tn001.htm. For an 1875 map showing the two forts and their respective rivers, see https://www.civilwar.org/learn/maps/positions-fort-henry-fort-donelson.

Interrogating the Text; How to Annotate a George Washington Document

by William M. Ferraro, Managing Editor
August 17, 2o17

Moderating a panel on public engagement at the 2017 meeting of the Association for Documentary Editing, Washington Papers communications specialist Katie Lebert observed that content that explores the basic practices of documentary editing is often received favorably by and connects with a wide audience. Taking the cue from Katie, I devote this blog post to annotating documents that appear in The Papers of George Washington.

An editor working on elucidating a document for readers approaches this task by “interrogating the text” in order to determine which information is needed to comprehend it. The process begins by asking questions from the perspective of a reader. Who is mentioned? What is the purpose of the document? Are place references obscure? Does this document result in some action, especially an action involving Washington?

To identify research directions and establish the contours of the eventual annotation, the editor first must determine whether the people, places, and facts in the document already have been covered editorially. People identifications and places mentioned in The Washington Papers’ Revolutionary War and Presidential Series can be located quickly through searchable authoritative files found on the “Washington Papers Resources” webpage, an internal online database through which editors and staff share resources and information. The Papers of George Washington Digital Edition‘s cumulative index and conversations with colleagues also help at this stage. Ascertaining what already is known and has been presented avoids redundant research and suggests potential cross-references.

Sources most useful in annotation are those closest to the document being edited. Thus, the most relevant and dynamic pieces of annotation are texts directly linked to the document. These can be enclosed letters or extracts from letters, intelligence reports, legislative resolutions, or military returns regarding troops, provisions, or equipment. Replies, particularly shorter replies that simply address the document, frequently function better as notes to the document that prompted their creation than as separate and distinct entries.

Work then moves outward to the large universe of primary sources that might shed light on the content of the document. The Papers of George Washington offices in the University of Virginia’s Alderman Library hold hundreds of these sources, including contemporary letters (manuscripts on microfilm and printed editions), diaries, journals, and governmental proceedings. Vast amounts of similar material can now be accessed through ancestry.com and fold3.com. Searchable newspaper and bibliographic databases offer ready access to an astounding amount of printed information from Washington’s lifetime. It is a challenge to avoid getting lost in this forest of source material! Contemporary writings and publications can suggest a rich array of research directions, but these can also lead editors far afield of the document. Editors must always keep the text in mind and maintain focus on answering the questions it raises.

A similar discipline must be practiced when writing annotation. Except for the occasional figure or place of relative obscurity or exceptional importance, people and places are identified in thumbnail sketches of two or three sentences that explain or suggest why they appear in that document. Quotes from manuscript documents or other primary sources are limited to the pertinent portions and introduced as plainly as possible (“In a dispatch written at New York City on 8 Nov., Hessian major Carl Leopold Baurmeister reported:”).1 Cross references further direct readers to pertinent information elsewhere in the volume or edition. (“For the instigation behind this general order, see Anthony Wayne to GW, 18 December.”)2 Rarely is it desirable to repeat information at any length.

Just as editors must resist the temptation to follow wide-ranging but not strictly pertinent research directions, we must limit—and generally avoid—free-ranging prose in the numbered notes tagged to a document. Such prose commentary can add bulk without value, cluttering the presentation and confusing readers. If research turns up sources—primary or secondary—with interesting content beyond the needs of establishing basic context, it might be included as a “see also” reference. The list of sources used while editing a volume is compiled in the “Short Title List” and becomes an enduring scholarly contribution.

As a documentary editor with more than 28 years of experience, I have condensed what I consider the ideal approach to annotation into a phrase: deploying bibliography to contextualize texts. The editor filters and structures sources—especially primary sources—to illuminate each document. Rather than interpret or narrate, the editor places, points, reports, and guides. In our case, the repetitive cycle of work is engrossing because it centers on an endlessly fascinating subject—George Washington.

Brig. Gen. Peter Muhlenberg

An excellent example of the annotation practices discussed here is the letter from Brig. Gen. Peter Muhlenberg to Washington, written at Fredericksburg, Va., on May 8, 1780. It appears in volume 25 of the Revolutionary War Series, which will be published soon by the University of Virginia Press.

One note offers brief quotes from his father’s diary on the travails of Muhlenberg’s family on the journey from Philadelphia to Virginia (travails which Muhlenberg kept from Washington). Several notes present lengthy quotations from enclosures Muhlenberg sent with his letter. A short note identifies Rocky Ridge, a place later named Manchester and eventually annexed to Richmond. Muhlenberg mentions to Washington that he has advertised for officers to assemble, and a note includes the text of his advertisement from an issue of The Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg). A passing allusion to “Parson Hurt at Charleston” triggered a note to identify John Hurt, who served as a chaplain for the Virginia troops. Most of that note points to a 19th-century book with a sermon he preached in 1777, a letter Hurt wrote Washington during his presidency, and a biographical sketch published in a little-known modern journal.

The 14 notes attached to this document are more than the usual number, but the complexity and length of Muhlenberg’s letter justifies such handling. Please look at it yourself when the volume appears in print and let me know if you agree!

 

Notes

  1. See Silvanus Seely to GW, 4 Nov. 1779, n.2, in The Papers of George Washington: Revolutionary War Series (Charlottesville, Va., 2015), 23:150-51.
  2. See General Orders, 20 Dec. 1779, n.1, in Papers, Revolutionary War Series, 23:656.

Three Degrees to Washington: How “I Came, I Saw, I Conquered” Working at The Washington Papers

By Kim Curtis, Research Editor
July 7, 2017

Caesar Crossing the Rubicon, an illumination on vellum by Jean Fouquet (c. 15th century).

“Veni, vidi, vici.” Roman emperor Julius Caesar supposedly proclaimed this famous Latin phrase after a military victory. For centuries, young students of Latin have learned this quotation, which translates to “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Their history lessons presented another well-known general who crossed a river (Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon in 49 BC, and George Washington crossed the Delaware in 1776).1 But as one of those junior scholars of Latin, I didn’t think  I would explore the connections between these two worlds much further. I had never imagined I would grow up to be a research editor at The Washington Papers and use my background in classics every day on the job. 

I started learning Latin to satisfy my eighth-grade foreign language requirement. At the time, I wanted to be a pediatrician and thought Latin would help me with complicated medical terms. My teacher, a seemingly mild-mannered older woman, gave my class a list of common curse words in Latin, which unsurprisingly helped further stoke my interest. I took to learning the language fairly easily and continued studying it in high school (where I won sixth place on the Virginia Junior Classical League’s mythology test) and in the University of Virginia (UVA)’s Classics Department. At UVA, I also took a required year of ancient Greek (which I didn’t like as well as Latin) and classes in Greek and Roman culture, history, and mythology. I earned my BA in Classics in 2000.

Washington Crossing the Delaware, painted by Emmanuel Leutze (1851). Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

At The Washington Papers, one of the more obvious benefits of a classics degree is that when I’m conducting research, I understand classical references that I may come across. For example, George Washington’s favorite play was Cato, a Tragedy, written by Joseph Addison in 1712.2 Cato tells the story of Roman senator Marcus Porcius Cato (95­–46 BC), who stood up to the tyranny of a dictator and believed passionately in republican ideals.3 Sound familiar? Inspired by Cato’s stand against Julius Caesar, Washington requested that Cato be performed for American troops at Valley Forge.4  It’s exciting when my worlds connect like that!

I’ve also used my knowledge of Latin to figure out unfamiliar words while proofreading document transcriptions for an upcoming volume of The Papers of George Washington: Presidential Series. In one instance, the volume editor had transcribed a word from a Washington letter as “supernumeracy.” I had never heard of that word. As I looked more closely at the word in the original document, I could see that the “c” was actually an “r,” and so the word was “supernumerary.”  I had never heard of this word either, but thanks to Latin, I now had some clues. In Latin, “super” means “above,” and “numerus” means “number” (as you probably guessed). So, put those two parts together, and you have literally “above the number.” I looked up “supernumerary” on the Oxford English Dictionary (OED)’s website, and sure enough, “supernumerary” meant “beyond or in excess of a usual, regular, stated, or prescribed number or amount; additional, extra, or left over.” According to the OED, the Latin word origin is “supernumerarius,” a military term, meaning “appointed to a legion after it is complete.” The letter’s context backed up this reading of “supernumerary.” In this case, my Classics degree helped me solve this word puzzle and prevent a mistake in the printed volume.5

This blog post is the first of a three-part series, “Three Degrees to Washington,” about how my humanities majors help me at The Washington Papers. Part two will be about my psychology degree, and part three will explore my educational background in film.

 

Notes

1. Michael Gagarin, ed. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome (New York, 2010), 4:155; “To John Cadwalader from George Washington, Dec. 25, 1776,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified March 30, 2017, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-07-02-0343. Also available in print: The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series 7:439.

2. Henry C. Montgomery. “Addison’s Cato and George Washington.” The Classical Journal 55 (1960), 210.

3. Gagarin, Ancient Greece and Rome, 2:62.

4. Montgomery, “Cato and Washington,” 210.

5. Because of the large number of documents to proofread for this volume, I’m unable to go into too much detail in the blog post about this letter. However, I look forward to readers seeing evidence of my proofreading work on this and other letters in the upcoming volume, Presidential Series volume 20.

Who’s That Guy?: Identifying an Unnamed Individual from Washington’s Correspondence

by Adrina Garbooshian-Huggins, Assistant Editor
May 17, 2017

An engraving of Ezra Lee (1916), from The Story of the Submarine by Farnham Bishop.

Identifying individuals mentioned in George Washington’s correspondence often poses an exciting challenge for the editors at The Washington Papers. When the only clue you have is a title or occupation (e.g., “quartermaster,” “painter”), it can prove even more challenging. I came across an example of this when coediting the forthcoming volume 26 of The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, with Washington Papers associate editor Benjamin Huggins.

On May 13, 1780, Washington wrote to Jedediah Huntington (1743-1818),1 a Norwich, Conn., merchant who had been serving since May 1777 as a Continental brigadier general. In the letter, Washington advised that Brigadier General William Maxwell’s New Jersey brigade would soon relieve Huntington’s command. In addition, upon Maxwell’s arrival, Huntington was to march his Connecticut brigade, which had been on the army’s outpost lines since February 1780, to the army’s winter encampment at Jockey Hollow, southwest of Morristown, New Jersey. Washington further directed Huntington to “send up” his “Quarter Master” to prepare huts in the encampment for the reception of Huntington’s brigade.

In an effort to fully understand the document, I sought to identify the “Quarter Master” of Huntington’s brigade. I examined the muster rolls for the 1st Connecticut Regiment (which was part of Huntington’s brigade), and discovered that in the summer and fall of 1779, Ezra Lee (1749-1821), a lieutenant in that regiment, was listed on muster rolls as “Q.M.B.” and “B.Q.M.,” common abbreviations for brigade quartermaster.2 Lee’s position as brigade quartermaster also appeared on muster rolls for the entire year of 1780, indicating that he held the position when Washington penned his May 13, 1780, letter to Huntington.

When regimental and brigade quartermasters were on furlough, other officers sometimes would temporarily fulfill their duties. Due to such temporary reassignments, editors sometimes omit from annotation the identification of brigade majors and regimental quartermasters.

Prior to being named brigade quartermaster, Lee had been contributing to the war effort through military service since 1775. A native of Lyme, Conn., Lee served in Lieutenant Lee Lay’s company of Connecticut state troops in 1775 and entered the Continental ranks as a sergeant in January 1776. In the summer of that year, Brigadier General Samuel Holden Parsons chose Lee to operate David Bushnell’s famous submarine Turtle, aboard which Lee conducted tests and made an attempt against enemy vessels off Governors Island, New York.3 Lee later served as an ensign and then lieutenant in the 1st Connecticut Regiment, and in November 1778 was appointed that regiment’s quartermaster.  He transferred to the 5th Connecticut Regiment in 1781 and served as its paymaster before retiring from the army in June 1782.4

Notes

1. Draft, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, Library of Congress, George Washington’s Papers.

2. National Archives: Record Group 93, Compiled Revolutionary War Military Service Records, 1775–1783.

3. William Bell Clark et al., eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution, 11 vols. to date (Washington, D.C., 1964–), 6:736, 1499, 1507-11; The New-York Evening Post, Nov. 16, 1821.

4. GW to John Jay, Sept. 19-20, 1779, in The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, 22:458-59; Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution, April, 1775, to December, 1783, Rev. ed. (Washington, D.C., 1914), 345.

 

 

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (III): Louise Phelps Kellogg (1862-1942)

by William M. Ferraro, Managing Editor
March 31, 2017

No former editor has eased my research burdens more than Louise Phelps Kellogg, who built a remarkable career as a historian during the first decades of the twentieth century. Her work informs some of the most consistently challenging letters sent to George Washington: those from Colonel Daniel Brodhead, who commanded the western department from Fort Pitt during the Revolutionary War’s middle years. What makes Brodhead’s missives so problematic is that they cover a vast swath of frontier that ranges west across present-day Ohio to the upper Mississippi River Valley, north to Detroit, and east to the Appalachians, extending south into what is now West Virginia. Kellogg’s annotations in four documentary volumes cover an astounding percentage of obscure geographic and event references in Brodhead’s correspondence.1

Continue reading

The Simplicities and Intricacies of Indexing

By William M. Ferraro, Managing Editor
February 2, 2017

Bill's blog postDocumentary editors strive to make their products as accessible as possible. Systematic transcription facilitates reading by converting handwritten manuscripts into printed pages. Numbered notes explain obscure references or allusions in the texts. Introductions and editorial essays draw larger connections or present rich background information. The index, however, arguably stands as the most important feature of a documentary work as far as providing access. Even users with no interest in the principal historical figure easily can find new, potentially useful items on people, places, and subjects.

But something like the modern book index appeared only in the late seventeenth century, and it was not until the later nineteenth century that an alphabetical index became a customary addition to any substantial publication.1 As with so much else over the past few decades, technology has eased the process of creating an index. Gone are boxes of cards and painful hours hunched over while recording, sorting, and alphabetizing the entries. Inputting data remains a tedious task, but the purely clerical dimensions of the endeavor now take seconds rather than days or weeks.

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A Documentary Dilemma: Editing the Farewell Address

January 17, 2017

Senior Editor David Hoth’s guiding principle in documentary editing is to display the evidence without influencing a reader’s conclusions. His current focus, George Washington’s Farewell Address, complicates that principle. This document is included in Presidential Series volume 20 and arguably is one of Washington’s most significant contributions to the institution of the U.S. presidency. Hoth’s research into its preparation led him to suggest that we “cannot assume what has always been assumed” of this document.

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Washington Papers Editors Share Work, Meet Hamilton’s George Washington at Human/Ties National Endowment for the Humanities Conference

by Kim Curtis, Research Editor
September 30, 2016

From September 14 to 17, the University of Virginia (UVA) hosted Human/Ties, a four-day celebration of the 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). To explore and honor the vital role played by the humanities in today’s world, the forum brought together multiple University departments and programs, including the Washington Papers, as well as speakers and artists from across the country and around the world.

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