Guide to the Fort Constitution Papers, 1820-1880

Collection number: MC 200
Size: 4 boxes (1.66 cu.ft.)

About Fort Constitution

Fort Constitution, originally known as Fort William and Mary (or Castle William and Mary), was built in 1632 on the island of New Castle, New Hampshire, at the mouth of the Piscataqua River, to protect and defend Portsmouth Harbor. Through several centuries, from the colonial era to the mid-twentieth century, the post served as a trading port, a target of warfare, and a training ground for the military.

Initially established to regulate commerce in the colonial era, Fort Constitution became a center of rebellion several months before the battles of Lexington and Concord ushered in the American Revolution. On December 14, 1774, the day after Paul Revere brought news from Boston, Massachusetts to Portsmouth, New Hampshire of British forces heading toward the harbor, crowds swarmed the streets in a popular uprising. Some four hundred men headed to the fort where the commander, Captain Cochran, blocked the entrance and ordered fire. Nevertheless, the rebels seized the captain, captured the king’s flag, and took the gunpowder. The subsequent day, the men joined by several militia units, retook the fort, and secured cannons, muskets, and other arms.

After the United States government acquired the land from the state of New Hampshire in 1791, Fort Constitution continued to be used as a military stronghold. In the early 1800s, following the establishment of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, the federal government oversaw the construction of several brick buildings, and renovations that doubled the height of the fort walls. The government also renamed the post Fort Constitution and equipped it with a garrison and artillery. In the War of 1812, the government maintained forces and erected Walbach Tower on the site. During the American Civil War, while troops were stationed at the fort to train and safeguard the site from invasion, construction ensued. Due to military advancements, however, plans to build an extensive, three-tiered granite edifice were curtailed.

Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, Fort Constitution remained in operation and under further renovations. In the late 1800s, and early 1900s, fortifications were built outside of the original section. During the Spanish American War, World War I, and World War II, mines were installed to safeguard the harbor. Finally, in 1961, the state of New Hampshire regained custody of the site, and in 1973, Fort Constitution earned a position on the National Register of Historic Places.

About the Fort Constitution Papers

The bulk of the collection consists of records generally between the 1840s and 1860s, around the time when Ordnance Sergeant James Davidson served at the fort. He left behind correspondence (including circulars and invitations); personnel records (such as muster rolls, orders, court proceedings, and reports); inventories and requisitions (for fuel, food, clothing, ordnance, and other provisions); and financial records (such as payrolls, expenditures, and invoices). Of note are very early New Hampshire Volunteer and Milford Volunteer muster rolls from spring 1861.

References and Suggested Readings:

  • John Derhak, “The Portsmouth Uprising of 1774 and the Crowd Actions at Castle William and Mary: A Case Study of a Popular Uprising in Colonial British America,” Master’s thesis, University of New Hampshire, 1991.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

This collection is open.

Copyright Notice

Contents of this collection are governed by U.S. copyright law. For questions about publication or reproduction rights, contact Special Collections staff.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], [Folder], [Box], Fort Constitution Papers, 1820-1880, MC 200, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH, USA.

Acquisitions Information

Purchase, Carmen Valentino, 2007 (2007.11)

Purchase, James Mountain Antiques, 2018 (2018.12)

Collection Contents

Series 1: Correspondence, 1827-1871

Oversize Box 1
Oversize Box 1, Folder 11827-1852
Oversize Box 1, Folder 21853-1854
Oversize Box 1, Folder 31855-1856
Oversize Box 1, Folder 41857-1859
Oversize Box 1, Folder 51861
Oversize Box 1, Folder 61862
Oversize Box 1, Folder 71863
Oversize Box 1, Folder 81864
Oversize Box 1, Folder 91865-1871
Oversize Box 1, Folder 10Circulars November 22, 1848 and April 19, 1850
Oversize Box 1, Folder 11Invitations October 31, 1864 and December 16, 1867
Oversize Box 1, Folder 12Envelopes

Series 2: Personnel Records, 1839-1871

Oversize Box 1, Folder 13Lists of commissioned officers of the New Hampshire Volunteers and their clothing at Fort Constitution, No date
Oversize Box 1, Folder 14Account of shoes delivered, October 10, 1861

List of shoes delivered, June 9, 1862

Oversize Box 1, Folder 15General and Special Orders:

November 9, 1839; September 31, 1848; November 13, 1848; December 13, 1849; May 31, 1850; June 17, 1850; May 20, 1852; July 21, 1852; November 6, 1852; November 19, 1852; December 14, 1852; June 14, 1861; July 3, 1861; May 15, 1862.

Oversize Box 1, Folder 16Proceedings of a Garrison Court Martial convened at Fort Constitution, NH: December 3, 1850, March 8, 1851

Proceedings of Garrison Court Martial at Fort McHenry: March 26, 1853

Oversize Box 1, Folder 17Court proceedings, no date
Oversize Box 1, Folder 18Muster Roll of Steward, Wardmaster, Cooks, Nurses, and Matrons, attached to the Hospital at Fort Constitution NH

October 31, 1848 to December 31, 1848; August 31, 1849 (partial document); February 28, 1853 to April 30, 1853

Oversize Box 1, Folder 19Morning Report of Surgeon at Fort Constitution, August 8, 1861

Number of rations drawn in Hospital, July 25-August 9, 1861

Oversize Box 1, Folder 20Morning Report of Captain G.H. Gillis, Milford Volunteers, Stationed at Fort Constitution: August 23, 1861; August 24, 1861; August 30, 1861; September 23, 1861
Oversize Box 1, Folder 21Board of Health permission slips, ca. 1850s; August 29, 1858
Oversize Box 1, Folder 22Post Return of Fort Constitution NH commanded by Captain James Davidson, NH Volunteers, for the month of: May 1862; July 1862; September 1862
Oversize Box 1, Folder 23Officers of the 9th Infantry, no date
Oversize Box 1, Folder 24 Members and Descriptions of the Public Buildings at Fort Constitution NH, September 30, 1871

Description and Inventory of Fort Constitution, no date

Oversize Box 1, Folder 25Bayonet Exercise, no date

Series 3: Inventories and Requisitions, 1852-1869

Oversize Box 2
Oversize Box 2, Folder 1Invoice of Ordnance and Ordnance Stores, turned over: November 1852, 2 copies; April 8, 1856; August 25, 1857; July 31, 1863; July 31, 1863; May 26, 1864; July 22, 1865
Oversize Box 2, Folder 2Invoice of Quarter Masters Stores at Fort McClary, ME, placed in charge of John Campbell for safe keeping for Quarter Masters Department, No date
Oversize Box 2, Folder 3Requisition of Ordnance and Ordnance Stores for the Post of Fort Constitution, August 9, 1852; July 14, 1862
Oversize Box 2, Folder 4 Return of Ordnance and Ordnance Stores, received issued and remaining on hand in Comp. K 3d Artillery during the Quarter ending 30th June 1853

Received, Fort Constitution NH, this 16th day of June 1863, of James Davidson Ordnance Sergeant, U.S. Army, the following Ordnance and Ordnance Stores

Quarterly Return of Ordnance and Ordnance Stores, Received, and Issued, and Remaining on hand at Fort McClary, ME, for the Quarter ending June 30, 1863

Oversize Box 2, Folder 5Clothing and camp equipage received at Fort Constitution NH, May 24, 1862

Statement of Clothing Drawn from the United States, July 1, 1862

Quarterly Return of Clothing, Camp and Garrison Equipage, September 13, 1862

Oversize Box 2, Folder 6 Invoice of Hospital Stores and Furniture turned over at Fort Constitution, NH, this 5th day of October 1853 to Ordnance Sergeant James Davidson
Oversize Box 2, Folder 7 Abstract of Stationary issued at Fort Constitution NH in the Quarter ending: December 31, 1860; December 31, 1861
Oversize Box 2, Folder 8 Requisition for Stationary, for Ordnance Sergeant James Davidson, in the service of the United States, stationed at Fort Constitution NH Commencing January 1, 1851, and ending December 31, 1851
Oversize Box 2, Folder 9Provision Return for Captain James Davidson: ca. 1860s; August 1-7, 1861; June 1-7, 1862; June 8-14, 1862; June 15-21, 1862; June 22-30, 1862; August 1-2, 1862; August 3-5, 1862; August 6-9, 1862; August 10-16, 1862; August 17-23, 1862; August 24-31, 1862; September 1-7, 1862
Oversize Box 2, Folder 10Requisition for Fuel, for James Davidson of the Ordnance Sergeant, in the service of the United States, stationed at Fort Constitution: December 1853; April-June 1854; July-September 1854; October-December 1854; April-June 1855; October-December 1855; January 1863
Oversize Box 2, Folder 11 Abstract of Fuel issued at Fort Constitution NH, in the Quarter ending: June 30, 1855; September 30, 1855; June 30, 1856; June 30, 1857; December 31, 1857; September 30, 1858; June 30, 1859; September 30, 1860
Oversize Box 2, Folder 12Quarterly Return of Quarter Masters Stores, Received, and Issued, at Fort Constitution NH, during the Quarter ending: September 30, 1854; June 30, 1855; December 31, 1855; December 31, 1856; September 30, 1857; March 31, 1858; September 30, 1858; June 30, 1859; December 31, 1860
Oversize Box 2, Folder 13List of Quarter Masters Stores expended, in public service at Fort Constitution NH under the direction of Ordnance Sergeant James Davidson U.S. Army, during the Quarter ending: June 30, 1862
Oversize Box 2, Folder 14Quarterly Return of Provisions Received, Issued, and Remaining on Hand, at Fort Constitution NH during the Quarter ending: December 31, 1862
Oversize Box 2, Folder 15Quarterly Return of Commissary Property, Received, Issued, and Remaining on hand at Fort Constitution NH during the Quarter ending: September 30, 1854
Oversize Box 2, Folder 16Abstract of Materials Expended or Consumed at Fort Constitution NH during the Third Quarter of 1853
Oversize Box 2, Folder 17Inventory of Part I: Artillery, Small Arms, Ammunition and other Ordnance Stores, and Part II: Tools and Materials, 1853-1854
Oversize Box 2, Folder 18Received from Bot. Capt. H.B. Field, August 8, 1853

Received at Boston, Massachusetts, January 6, 1863

Received Fort Constitution, April 13, 1869

Oversize Box 2, Folder 19Abstract of Articles Transferred at the Post of Fort Constitution NH in the Quarter ending: March 31, 1863

Series 4: Financial Records, 1853-1863

Oversize Box 2, Folder 20Pay Roll of the Company of NH Volunteers Stationed at Fort Constitution, ca. 1861

Muster and Pay Roll of the Company of Volunteers Stationed at Fort Constitution, ca 1861

Muster Roll, Captain James Davidson Company in the Sea Coast, Guards of New Hampshire Volunteers, 1862

Oversize Box 2, Folder 21The United States, in Account Current, with Ordnance Sergeant James Davidson, U.S. Army, for Expenditures at Fort Constitution NH on Account of Contingencies of the Army, Quarter Masters Department, in the Quarter ending: December 31, 1853; June 30, 1854; March 31, 1855; June 30, 1855; December 31, 1855; March 31, 1856; September 30, 1856; March 31, 1858; June 30, 1858; September 30, 1858; June 30, 1859; December 31, 1859; June 30, 1860; December 31, 1860; December 31, 1861
Oversize Box 2, Folder 22The United States, on Account of Army Subsistence at Fort Constitution NH, in the Quarter ending: December 31, 1853; June 30, 1854; September 30, 1854; September 30, 1855; September 30, 1856; September 30, 1857; December 31, 1857; September 30, 1858; December 31, 1859; June 30, 1860; December 31, 1861; June 30, 1863; October 23, 1863
Oversize Box 2, Folder 23Abstract of Disbursements on Account Contingencies at Fort Constitution NH by James Davidson Ordnance Sergeant U.S. Army, for Army Subsistence, in the Quarter ending: September 30, 1854; June 30, 1855; September 30, 1855; March 31, 1859; September 20, 1860; March 31, 1863; June 30, 1863
Oversize Box 2, Folder 24Voucher of Disbursements in Subs Department at Fort Constitution: September 30, 1853; October 31, 1853; November 14, 1853. 2 copies; September 30, 1854; December 31, 1854; June 30, 1855; March 31, 1857; June 30, 1857; June 30, 1858; March 31, 1859; September 30, 1863
Oversize Box 2, Folder 25 Abstract of Disbursement of Contingencies in Subs Department at Fort Constitution NH by Ordinance Sergeant, James Davidson U.S. Army in Charge of Fort, in the Quarter ending: June 30, 1863, 2 copies
Oversize Box 2, Folder 26Estimate of Funds Required for the Service of Quarter Masters Department at Fort Constitution: April 1855; April-May 1855; 3rd quarter of 1858
Oversize Box 2, Folder 27Monthly Summary Statement, December, 1861
Oversize Box 2, Folder 28Abstract of Articles Purchased at the Port of Fort Constitution NH during the Quarter ending: December 31, 1854; September 30, 1856; September 30, 1858; March 31, 1860; June 30, 1860; September 30, 1860; March 31, 1863
Oversize Box 2, Folder 29Purchase Receipts from the United States, October 14, 1853, 2 copies; May 20, 1855, 2 copies; September 30, 1858; March 31, 1860; June 30, 1860; June 30, 1862; December 31, 1862, 2 copies; September 30, 1863
Oversize Box 2, Folder 30More receipts, September 30, 1849; October 1, 1848; December 31, 1852; November 16, 1853; January 14, 1854; February 22, 1862; May 13, 1862; July 19, 1862
Oversize Box 2, Folder 31Invoices from James Davidson, Esq. 1853; 1854; 1863
Oversize Box 2, Folder 32Account Book, 1841-1881
Oversize Box 2, Folder 33Articles of Agreement, between George Gibson, Commissary General of Subsistence and John K. Graham, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for food and provisions, October 25, 1845
Oversize Box 2, Folder 34Statement of Difference arising on settlement of the accounts of Ord. Sgt. James Davidson, 1861-1863
Oversize Box 2, Folder 35From the Treasury Department, for James Davidson, October 21, 1857

From the United States, for the services of James Davidson, between April 1-June 30, 1858.

From Ordnance Office, War Department, receipt of requisition of items, June 23, 1863

Oversize Box 2, Folder 36New Hampshire Volunteers Materials, 1862

Muster rolls for the New Hampshire Volunteers for during their time stationed at Ft. Constitution during 1862. This folder was part of the 2018 acquisition.

Series 5: Collection Additions, 1822-1874

Box 3
Box 3, Folder 1Contextual materials, 2018
Box 3, Folder 21st Light Infantry Company Muster, 1822
Box 3, Folder 3Orders, Correspondence, etc., 1830-1839
Box 3, Folder 4Correspondence, Orders, 1845-1849
Box 3, Folder 5Correspondence, Orders, Court martials, 1850
Box 3, Folder 6Ft. Constitution Musters, 1851
Box 3, Folder 7Musters, Correspondence, Court martials, 1852
Box 3, Folder 8Musters, Correspondence, Court martials, 1853
Box 3, Folder 9Correspondence, 1854-1856
Box 3, Folder 10Orders, Correspondence, 1857-1859
Box 4
Box 4, Folder 1Musters of the Milford Volunteers under Capt. Giles, 1861
Box 4, Folder 2Early New Hampshire Volunteer musters, 1861
Box 4, Folder 3New Hampshire Recruits, 1860-1864
Box 4, Folder 4Orders, Correspondence, etc., 1860-1869
Box 4, Folder 5Correspondence, Orders, 1870-1874
Box 4, Folder 6Muster of the NH Volunteers at Fort Constitution, 1861-1862
Box 4, Folder 7Undated Materials, Ca. 1860s