Waterman, Asa Correspondence

6 folders

This collection is stored at Firestone Library.

Requests will be delivered to Manuscripts Division, RBSC Reading Room .

Collection Creator: De Coppet, Andre, 1892-1953..

Dates: 1777-1780.

Extent: 6 folders

Languages: English.

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use. Researchers may be required to use surrogates of collection items stored in special vault facilities.

Description

This series consists of the correspondence of Asa Waterman (1743-1789), who served as a commissary for the American government during the Revolutionary War. Asa Waterman was born May 1, 1743 in Norwich, Connecticut to Asa and Lucy Hyde Waterman. In 1777 he married Anne Cooke Sterry (1752-1837), daughter of Governor Cook of Providence, R.I. Before the outbreak of the war, Waterman served in various military posts and operated as a ship merchant. His experience in dealing goods undoubtedly contributed to his appointment as a commissary. Waterman was among the first commissaries in America, as the commissariat system was established during (and in response to) the Revolutionary War. Before then, the provisioning of any military troops in the American colonies was conducted by piecemeal contract with individual suppliers. As the fight for independence escalated, the Continental Congress decided a more stable system was needed to provide food, clothes, and weapons to the troops. Congress therefore established the office of the Commissary General of Stores and Provisions in June 1775. The structure and success of the commissariat system changed throughout the war. Initially, Joseph Trumbull (1737-1778) was appointed Commissary General and was given wide latitude to organize the commissariat system as he saw fit, with little input from Congress. By 1777 it became clear more standards and regulations were needed, causing Congress to reorganize the system. The department was split between a Commissary General of Issues and a Commissary General of Purchases, positions filled by William Buchanan and Jeremiah Wadsworth (1743-1804) respectively. When this proved faulty, yet another revision was made whereby each state was required to fulfill a quota of provisions. This last iteration of the commissariat operated under the direction of Ephraim Blaine (1741-1804). Stationed in Rhode Island, Asa Waterman appears to have started his tenure with the commissariat around the time of the split into separate issue and purchasing departments, though his titles and responsibilities reflect how unsuccessful the split proved to be. From October 1777 to June 1779, Waterman was Assistant Commissary of Issues, but he also helped with purchasing. In June 1779 he officially switched to Assistant Commissary of Purchases. When the commissariat was again reorganized into a state quota system, he remained in the service of Rhode Island until August 1780 at which point he returned to his hometown of Norwich, Connecticut, to serve as Deputy Commissary of Purchases. He appears to have remained in Norwich until his death there in early 1789. The correspondence in this series dates from Waterman’s years in Rhode Island (1777-1780). Included are letters both to and from Waterman. The correspondents include military officers requesting provisions, private suppliers writing about the availability of certain goods, and most frequently other commissaries, notably Peter Colt—Waterman’s superior who was in charge of purchasing for the entire “Eastern Department” (comprised of New England and parts of New York). As a whole, the series highlights two major themes. The first is the difficulty of provisioning the troops with adequate, nutritious food due to a scarcity of staples (most often flour) and the problem of shipping goods at the risk of enemy seizure. Creative methods of “lengthening” food were encouraged (e.g. adding rice to flour to make it last longer). The second theme is the frequent reorganization of the commissariat system, resulting in new regulations that affected how and when troops could be supplied. The constant change in rules and salaries clearly frustrated Waterman, Colt, and other members of the Commissariat as evidenced by many of the letters in this series. The papers are arranged chronologically.

Preferred Citation

Waterman, Asa Correspondence; 1777-1780; Andre De Coppet Collection, Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

    Request Checked Items
    Title Date Container
    Eaton, Joseph 1777 January 3 Box 40, Folder 1
    Leffingwell, Christopher 1777 March 15 Box 40, Folder 1
    Leffingwell, Christopher 1777 April 9 Box 40, Folder 1
    Wheaton, Comfort 1777 May 29 Box 40, Folder 1
    Huntington, Andrew 1777 June 16 Box 40, Folder 1
    Carpenter, Gardner 1777 June 16 Box 40, Folder 1
    Richardson, Guy 1777 June 17 Box 40, Folder 1
    Spencer (General) 1777 July 24 Box 40, Folder 1
    Spencer (General) 1777 September 30 Box 40, Folder 1
    Phillips, Peter 1777 November 14 Box 40, Folder 1
    Colt, Peter 1777 December 23 Box 40, Folder 1
    Gray, Samuel 1778 January 20 Box 40, Folder 2
    Gray, Samuel 1778 February 4 Box 40, Folder 2
    Gray, Samuel 1778 February 26 Box 40, Folder 2
    Colt, Peter 1778 March 9 Box 40, Folder 2
    Gray, Samuel 1778 March 26 Box 40, Folder 2
    Colt, Peter 1778 April 10 Box 40, Folder 2
    Muirson, Henry 1778 April 16 Box 40, Folder 2
    Colt, Peter 1778 May 2 Box 40, Folder 2
    Gray, Samuel 1778 May 13 Box 40, Folder 2
    Colt, Peter 1778 June 1 Box 40, Folder 2
    Colt, Peter 1778 June 8 Box 40, Folder 2
    Child, Jeremiah 1778 June 18 Box 40, Folder 2
    Huntington, Andrew 1778 August 4 Box 40, Folder 3
    Colt, Peter 1778 August 4 Box 40, Folder 3
    Colt, Peter 1778 August 6 Box 40, Folder 3
    Colt, Peter 1778 August 7 Box 40, Folder 3
    Shepard, Hazael 1778 August 13 Box 40, Folder 3
    Halsey, Thomas L 1778 August 14 Box 40, Folder 3
    M., John 1778 August 21 Box 40, Folder 3
    Rogers, Zabdiel 1778 August 25 Box 40, Folder 3
    Keyes, Amasa 1778 August 27 Box 40, Folder 3
    Colt, Peter 1778 August 31 Box 40, Folder 3
    Waldron, John 1778 September 3 Box 40, Folder 3
    Woodbridge, Dudley & Samuel 1778 September 17 Box 40, Folder 3
    Waldron, John 1778 September 26 Box 40, Folder 3
    Waldron, John 1778 October 14 Box 40, Folder 3
    Tallman, William 1778 October 14 Box 40, Folder 3
    Pearce, Isaac 1778 October 26 Box 40, Folder 3
    Phillips, Peter 1778 October 27 Box 40, Folder 3
    Phillips, Peter 1778 November 11 Box 40, Folder 3
    Colt, Peter 1778 November 15 Box 40, Folder 3
    Colt, Peter 1778 December 1 Box 40, Folder 3
    Greene, Griffin (for Jacob Greene & Co.) 1778 Box 40, Folder 3
    Loring, William 1779 January 15 Box 40, Folder 4
    Colt, Elisha 1779 January 29 Box 40, Folder 4
    Champion, Henry 1779 February Box 40, Folder 4
    Colt, Peter 1779 February 14 Box 40, Folder 4
    Abbee, Shubell 1779 February 23 Box 40, Folder 4
    Colt, Peter 1779 March 9 Box 40, Folder 4
    Gray, Samuel 1779 April 25 Box 40, Folder 4
    Proctor, John 1779 April 28 Box 40, Folder 4
    Gates, (Major General) 1779 May 4 Box 40, Folder 4
    Gates, (Major General) 1779 May 4 Box 40, Folder 4
    Gates, (Major General) 1779 May 4 Box 40, Folder 4
    Tracy, Jared 1779 May 9 Box 40, Folder 4
    Colt, Peter 1779 May 15 Box 40, Folder 4
    Colt, Peter 1779 May 17 Box 40, Folder 4
    Colt, Peter 1779 May 19 Box 40, Folder 4
    Colt, Peter 1779 May 26 Box 40, Folder 4
    Colt, Peter 1779 June 16 Box 40, Folder 4
    Dunn, John Augusta 1779 July 9 Box 40, Folder 4
    Wallace, J 1778 July 26 Box 40, Folder 4
    Learned, Amasa 1779 August 20 Box 40, Folder 5
    Colt, Peter 1779 September 19 Box 40, Folder 5
    Williams, Joseph 1779 September 20 Box 40, Folder 5
    Gray, Samuel 1779 September 23 Box 40, Folder 5
    Miller & Tracy 1779 October 1 Box 40, Folder 5
    Rogers, Zabdiel 1779 October 9 Box 40, Folder 5
    Douglas, J 1779 October 17 Box 40, Folder 5
    Smith, Steven 1779 October 21 Box 40, Folder 5
    Colt, Peter 1779 October 23 Box 40, Folder 5
    Hunt, William 1779 October 25 Box 40, Folder 5
    Colt, Peter 1779 November 6 Box 40, Folder 5
    Colt, Peter 1779 November 12 Box 40, Folder 5
    Colt, Peter 1779 November 10 Box 40, Folder 5
    Colt, Peter 1779 November 21 Box 40, Folder 5
    Hubbard, Nehim 1779 November 22 Box 40, Folder 5
    Mumford, Thomas 1779 November 25 Box 40, Folder 5
    Colt, Peter 1779 December 1 Box 40, Folder 5
    Abell, Rufus B 1779 December 6 Box 40, Folder 5
    T., Constant 1779 December 16 Box 40, Folder 5
    Baker, Joseph 1779 December 25 Box 40, Folder 5
    Baker, Joseph 1779 December 26 Box 40, Folder 5
    Colt, Peter 1780 January 4 Box 40, Folder 6
    Colt, Peter 1780 January Box 40, Folder 6
    Colt, Peter 1780 January 19 Box 40, Folder 6
    Cooke, Daniel 1780 January 25 Box 40, Folder 6
    Colt, Peter 1780 January 29 Box 40, Folder 6
    Cooke, Joseph 1780 February 5 Box 40, Folder 6
    Cooke, Joseph 1780 February 8 Box 40, Folder 6
    Southwick, Solomon 1780 March 10 Box 40, Folder 6
    Cozzens, William 1780 March 12 Box 40, Folder 6
    Colt, Peter 1780 March 28 Box 40, Folder 6
    Waterman, Asa 1774-1780 Box 40, Folder 6
    Allen, Samuel 1780 June 5 Box 40, Folder 6
    Colt, Peter 1780 June 23 Box 40, Folder 6
    Colt, Peter 1780 June 29 Box 40, Folder 6
    Unknown 1780 July 28 Box 40, Folder 6
    Allen, Thomas 1771-1784 Box 40, Folder 6
    Dunn, John Augusta undated Box 40, Folder 6
    Hubbard, N(ehim) undated Box 40, Folder 6
    Waterman, Asa undated Box 40, Folder 6