Edward Hand papers

Collection 0261

( Bulk, 1771-1798 ) 1766-1907
(1.6 Linear feet ; 2 boxes, 3 volumes)

Summary Information

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Hand, Edward, 1744-1802.
Edward Hand papers
Date [bulk]
Bulk, 1771-1798
Date [inclusive]
1.6 Linear feet ; 2 boxes, 3 volumes
Finding aid prepared by Cary Majewicz.
Processing made possible by a generous donation from the Abington Junior High History Club.
Mixed materials [Box]
Mixed materials [Volume]
Edward Hand (1744-1802) was born in Ireland, came to America with the British Army in the 1760s, and served with the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. This collection of his papers includes three bound volumes and two boxes of papers that contain correspondence, accounts and other financial papers, commissions, and a copy of his Valley Forge orderly book from 1776. There is also a group of letters dated 1775 to 1785 that Hand wrote to his wife.

Preferred Citation note

Cite as: [Indicate cited item or series here], Edward Hand papers (Collection 261), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

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Biographical/Historical note

Edward Hand was born in 1744 in Clyduff, County Kings, Ireland. He studied medicine at Trinity College in Dublin and went on to serve with the 18th Royal Irish Regiment as a surgeon's mate (or assistant surgeon). This work took him to America in 1767 where he served at Fort Pitt on the Ohio River. In 1774, he resigned from the army and moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he met his wife, Katherine (or Catherine) Ewing (1751-1805). The two were married in 1775 and eventually had three daughters, only one of whom survived to adulthood, and one son. That same year, he accepted a commission in the Continental Army. He entered as a lieutenant colonel of the Pennsylvania Battalion of Riflemen and was promoted to colonel just a few months later. In 1777, his promotion to brigadier general brought him back to Fort Pitt where he commanded American forces. In short succession, he was promoted twice more: to brigadier general of Major Lafayette's division in 1780 and to adjutant general of Washington's army in 1781.

Hand resigned from the military in 1783 and moved back to Lancaster. He purchased several hundred acres of land on which he built a Georgian-style brick mansion that became known as Rock Ford Plantation. In Lancaster, Hand resumed life with his family, returned to a career in medicine, and served in a variety of civic and political positions. He was elected a member of the Congress of Confederation, 1784-1785, and the Pennsylvania Assembly, 1785-1786. He was also appointed a delegate to the 1790 Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention. In 1791, President George Washington appointed Hand inspector of revenue for Survey No. 3 in the district of Pennsylvania, and Hand spent some time in his later years overseeing local tax collectors. Hand died in Lancaster in 1802 and is buried in the St. James Episcopal Cemetery.

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Scope and Contents note

The Edward Hand papers, housed in three volumes and two boxes, mostly span the mid to late 1700s, though the copy of his orderly book in Box 1, Folder 15 dates from 1843, and there is a 1907 auction catalog in Box 1, Folder 16. This collection presents a coherent narrative of Hand's military career through correspondence, accounts, orders, commissions, and other miscellaneous documents. There are no papers related to his family or personal life, save for a group of letters he wrote to his wife during the war.

Box 1 contains a mix of Hand's personal correspondence with his wife Katherine (or "Kitty"), letters to various officials, accounts, a copy of his Valley Forge orderly book, and other miscellaneous but mostly military-related papers. In the first seven folders are Hand's letters to his wife dating from 1775 to 1778, 1780 to 1781, and 1783 to 1785. Despite the missing years, these letters thoroughly document Hand's service with the military during and after the Revolutionary War. He often commented on the conditions at the camps and gave some opinions about movements and the enemy. Because the correspondence is so regular throughout the course of the war, it helps chronicle Hand's state of mind, as well as his physical well-being. In his early letters, he expressed optimism and enthusiasm. "You will be surprised when I tell you that I am perfectly hearty," he wrote on 29 August 1775, ". . . I am certain we have nothing to apprehend from the Enemy." As the conflict dragged on, his positivity gave way to weariness and he frequently noted his desire to return home. "Every thing is quiet here now," he wrote from Fort Pitt in late 1776, "God Grant that it may continue so, and that I may soon have the Happiness to hold you + our Dear Little [babies] in my longing arms." In some of his later letters he also discussed troop movements and current events. On 29 March, 1780, he noted that every day he was required to attended "a very troublesome Court Martial" [of Dr. William Shippen Jr.]. He apologized on 8 July 1781 for not writing due, in part, to his obligation "to march with a part of the Army to the vicinity of Kings Bridge." Hand continued to write to his wife after the war and further discussed his military experience, westward expansion, and dealings with Indians.

In Box 2 are oversized financial papers and accounting sheets from Hand's work as Pennsylvania's inspector of revenue, Survey No. 3, a position he held from the 1790s till his death. In five folders are accounts of tax collectors and abstracts on taxes collected on a variety of goods, such as distilled spirits, parchment, and vellum.

The three bound volumes contain papers that further document either Hand's military career (1771 to about 1785) or his work as inspector of revenue (about 1785 to 1803). As this last date suggests, there a few papers dating from after Hand's death in 1802. The military-related papers in Volume 1 primarily consist of requests sent to Hand for supplies, orders from commanding officers, and updates on troop movements. There are occasional letters or drafts of letters from Hand, as well as scattered agreements, indentures, and seemingly unrelated papers, such as a scientific essay from Lewis Nicola, written in 1771, on the Great Flood mentioned in the Bible in Genesis, chapters 7 and 8.

The later papers at the end of Volume 2 and in Volume 3 are comprised mostly of receipts related to Hand's work as inspector of revenue. The vast majority of these receipts are signed by one "Henry Miller, Supervisor." There are also more accounting sheets, financial papers, and occasional letters, extracts, notes, and essays, such as one on courts martial (Volume 3). It is not always clear if these miscellaneous writings were Hand's original thoughts or if he copied them from other sources.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

 The Historical Society of Pennsylvania (2010)

1300 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19107

Conditions Governing Access note

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use note

The collection is available on microfilm (XX610). Since the collection has been processed, its current arrangment may differ from the order in which the papers were filmed.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

The provenance for the bulk of the collection is unknown with the following exceptions:

The copies of Edward Hand's orderly book (formerly Am .613 and Am .6131) were given by W. B. Reed Esq.

Miscellaneous papers in Box 1, Folder 16 were given by the City of Philadelphia, circa 1913.

There are notes written on some of the papers indicating that they were purchased in 1949.

Existence and Location of Copies note

Some of Hand's correspondence, 1779-1781, was published in the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 33:3 (1909), 353-360.

The copy of Hand's orderly book, 1776, was published in the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 41:2 (1917), 198-223; 41:3 (1917), 257-273; and 41:4 (1917), 458-467.

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Controlled Access Headings

Geographic Name(s)

  • Fort Pitt (Pa.).
  • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
  • United States. Continental Army.

Personal Name(s)

  • Hand, Katherine Ewing.


  • Generals--United States--History--18th century.
  • Spouses--Correspondence--18th century.

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Collection Inventory

Box Folder

Letters of Edward Hand to Katherine Ewing Hand 20 August 1775-24 November 1785 

1 1-7

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Commissions and appointments (1775-1792) 

1 8

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Letters to government and military officials (1781-1782) 

1 9

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Letters to Edward Hand (1781-1802) 

1 10

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Copy of letter from General Washington, 2 July 1783 (circa 1783) 

1 11

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Sketch of revenue account of Edward Hand (1792-1802) 

1 12

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Account of certificates for removal of spirits (1 July 1797-15 August 1801) 

1 13

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Sketch of tax accounts of Edward Hand (1800-1802) 

1 14

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Orderly book of Edward Hand, Valley Forge, June-October 1776 [copy in 2 volumes] (1834) 

1 15

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Miscellaneous (1766-1802, 1907, undated) 

1 16

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Abstracts of duties on country stills and city stills (1791-1792, 1797-1799) 

2 1

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Accounts of taxes collected on spirits distilled (1791-1798) 

2 2

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Accounts current with tax collectors (1791-1800) 

2 3

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Abstracts of duties arising on stamped vellum, parchment, and paper (July-September 1798) 

2 4

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Miscellaneous accounts and abstracts (1791-1803) 

2 5

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Bound papers, January 1771-May 1781 


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Bound papers, June 1781-1785 


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Bound papers, 1796-1803 


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