Papers of the War Department 1784-1800 1

Washington entry to NY

Photo Credit: Library of Congress: Washington's entry into New York: on the evacuation of the city by the British, Nov. 25th. 1783

Thanks to a friend, I was introduced to this amazing website: Papers of the War Department.  It is an ongoing project by the Center for History and New MediaGeorge Mason University. Funding for the project comes from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

In a nutshell, this project is trying to reconstruct files and papers which were lost when the War Office burned on 8 November 1800.  The files from 1784-1800 were lost that night, but copies of these documents were filed elsewhere and are now being brought together for the first time in this open online digital archive.  You can read more about the project here.

The blog for the project is also a must read.  Filled with great information for the public and researchers on the project and what the collection contains.  They are into their 53rd month of the project which means there is a lot of information out there already.

Here is the project history from the website:

"The project to reconstitute the War Department Papers was begun by Ted Crackel more than a dozen years ago, and it has involved years of painstaking work, including visits to more than 200 repositories and the consulting of more than 3,000 collections in the United States, Canada, England, France, and Scotland. In 2004, however, work on the project was essentially suspended when Crackel became the editor of the George Washington Papers. But in early 2006, the project was transferred to the Center for History & New Media at George Mason University, which is working to realize Crackel’s original vision. Indeed, perhaps uniquely among U.S. institutions, Mason combines the scholarly, technical, and institutional qualities (including substantial staff with credentials in military history, the history of the early republic, historical editing, and especially digital history) necessary to complete the project in a professional and timely manner."

Best part, you can help!  The project is looking for people to help transcribe these documents. This is a fantastic opportunity for historians as well as anyone who has family ties to the early operation and founding of the United States.  If you want to sign up to be a transcription assistant you can do so here.

Go out to the site and type in socks in the search box.  Or heck, blankets even.  What you get will astound you.  They have papers not only of military significance, but the quartermaster reports as well.  The War Department was responsible not only for military matters but many social welfare programs as well.


About Shannon Combs Bennett

Shannon Combs-Bennett, owner of T2 Family History, is a speaker and author based out of Virginia. She enjoys teaching about a wide range of topics from DNA to methodology. Currently Shannon is the Creative Director for The In-Depth Genealogist. You can learn more about her at

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