The Military History Collections
The holdings of the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center in the field of military history are composed of two autonomous collections: the working library and archives of the Massachusetts First Corps of Cadets, and the library of the Military Historical Society of Massachusetts. Together they create a specialized subject collection of more than 7,500 printed volumes and approximately two hundred linear feet of manuscripts.
The First Corps of Cadets is the oldest military unit in continuous existence in the United States; it was chartered in 1741 as the bodyguard of the Governor of the province of Massachusetts Bay and took active part in the War for Independence, the Civil War and both World Wars. Its library of over 3,500 volumes was largely formed between 1860 and 1910, though works written and printed much earlier are extant. Foremost among these are eighteenth-century American works on military affairs and several seventeenth-century Continental books, the earliest being a 1616 printing of Aelian’s Tactics. There is also a group of Confederate imprints, several of which bear inscriptions.
Of greater significance than the First Corps library are its archives. In addition to its original charter and early records, the oldest papers reveal the part played by the Corps during the Revolutionary War. As the personal bodyguard of the British governor, it was called upon to protect life and property during the Stamp Act upheavals and the Hutchinson Riots. When in 1774 a quarrel arose between Governor Gage and Corps Commander John Hancock, the unit severed its connection with the British government, and its members joined the American forces. Manuscripts from this era include a letter of George Washington to John Hancock and prewar correspondence of some of Boston’s revolutionary leaders, including Sam Adams and William Palfrey.
Material relating to the Civil War is voluminous, and includes the personal papers of General Manning Force, commander of an Ohio unit and a military administrator in the South following the war. His papers reveal both the military concerns of an officer at war and the political problems of Reconstruction.
The Corps was called into action during the Lawrence Mill Strike of 1912 and the Boston Police Strike of 1919. These records of day-by-day activities and reports of duty constitute a primary source for the student of labor history. The archives also include are the files of the Cadet Theatricals, produced between 1891 and 1909, with scores, libretti and photographs.
The library of the Military Historical Society of Massachusetts contains some 4,000 volumes on the various phases of military operations, as well as on many wars. The holdings on the Napoleonic Wars, documented by several hundred contemporary accounts and later memoirs, and on the American Civil War, which is chronicled in more than 1,500 works, including regimental histories, military biographies, first-person accounts and publications of veterans organizations, are strong. Extensive collections of similar works relating to the classical wars and conquests, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Boer War and both World Wars can also be found. Books on military medicine, tactics, armaments, military education, artillery, cavalry, naval operations, and even poetry about war, dating from the eighteenth century to the present day, are also available.
A letter to John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, from George Washington, Commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, regretfully accepting Hancock’s resignation; in the hand of Washington’s secretary, James McHenry, October 22, 1777.