A Key Reference for Revolutionary War Researchers

White, J. Todd, and Charles H. Lesser. Fighters for Independence: A Guide to Sources of Biographical Information on Soldiers and Sailors of the American Revolution. Clements Library Bicentennial Studies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977.

Don’t be put off by the look of this book’s cover!   Although the cover picture may look more appropriate for a juvenile reader, this is a “must have” reference for serious Revolutionary War researchers and historians.  Prepared by two archivists, this is a serious guide to finding biographical information on War of Independence participants.  While only 109 pages long, the editors provide descriptions and access instructions for 876  primary and secondary research sources.  The editor’s note the bibliographical information for published sources and location of non-published documents in fifty-six archives and collections.

Developed under the auspicious of The University of Michigan Clements Library, the guide is divided into four chapters, each containing a type of research information.

  1. Military and Related Records – Sources are divided into war-time documents including muster rolls, payrolls, administrative documents, and petitions for officer commissions,  and post war-time documents including Revolutionary War claims, land bounties, and pension applications.
  2. Compiled Lists of Names and Biographical Sketches – Published lists of Revolutionary War soldiers are described in this section.  Many of these lists are  state specific and include information on locations where they can be found.
  3. Other Sources of Biographical Information – While sounding like a catch-all category, this chapter provides a list of published guides to manuscript collections in state, local, and historical societies archives.
  4. Diaries, Journals, Memoirs, and Autobiographies – The final chapter is a list of published and privately available auto-biographical documents.  In addition, the editors provide three published lists of individual diaries and other remembrances.  William Mathews published two of the lists, which remain authoritative sources for today’s researchers.¹

A highly valuable resource, I recommend a copy of this guide in the library of both historical and genealogical researchers.  It is especially pertinent to those seeking primary source, first hand  accounts of battles and events.

¹William Mathew. American Diaries:  An Annotated Bibliography of American Diaries Written prior to the Year 1861 (Berkeley and Los Angeles:  University of California Press, 1945).

William Matthew. American Diaries in Manuscript, 1580-1954:  A Descriptive Bibliography (Athens:  University of Georgia Pres, 1974).