Pensacola, Florida: 1774. Disbound.
This disbound 12-page section of a letter copy book from the 16th Regiment of Foot, stationed in Pensacola, West Florida, contains eight letters and one document on eight pages; four pages are blank. The letters begin on 12 August 1774 and end on 22 September 1774. In nice shape.
The letters were sent between Major Alexander Dickson, “the Commander of the Troops in West Florida,” i.e.the 16th Regiment of Foot, and James Barbut, the Commissary General of Stores and War Provisions in Pensacola. The single document is a list of the spoiled provision verified by the signatures of three officers assigned to the 16th Regiment.
The spoiled food consisted of “128 Barrels flour / 2 Teirces Bread / 27 Teirces Rice / 12 Barrels Pork / [and] 1 Barrel Pease”.
In the initial letter written on 10 August, Dickson instructs Barbut, by order of Major General Haldemand, to sell at public auction
“All the provisions condemned on the 10th Instant [10 August]” and transmit the resulting funds to “the Deputy Quarter Master General at New York. . ..”
Barbut takes exception to this order and replies,
“I must own this Startles me greatly, as I never knew or even heard in all the Garrisons &c. I have served in, that the Company was accountable for them, on the Contrary, the King’s orders and Thal all such provisions that on a proper Survey shall be found unfit for Service or bad shall be regularly condemned and Destroyed in the Order which I have stricktly copyed from your Orderly Book. . ..”
Over the remaining letters, the two officers become ever more emphatic in holding their positions, and at one point Barbut notes
“I have had the Honor to serve the Crown above Thirty five years with Zeal, Spirit and with a just and stirckt obedience to all Orders, but I must say I seldom have seen or heard of Private Orders of this nature. “
Dickson was not intimidated and held his ground. Eventually, Barbut was forced to back down, eat crow, and grovel.
“I received your favor, enclosing me some private orders left with you by Major General Haldimand, I shall say no more on that Subject, only, that I find I was wrong. . .. There for [I] hope Major Dickson will not interpret my objection to obey his orders, to any want of respect and esteem for him, but that I may carry on in the Duty of my Office in its proper line, for believe me Sir, when I most sincerely assure you, that ever sence I had the honor of you acquaintance, I formed a peculiar regard and affection which I hall ever study to cultivate and improve.”. Very good. Item #010162
During the early years of the Revolutionary War, Dickson and the 16th Regiment served in New York, however they returned to West Florida to defend the British colony against an invasion by Spain, an ally of the United States, during the Gulf Coast Campaign. They were unsuccessful, and the 16th along with other British regiments that had been deployed along with them surrendered Pensacola to the Governor of Spanish Louisiana, Bernardo de Gálvez, on 10 May 1781.
(For more information, see Siebert’s “The Loyalists in West Florida and the Natchez District” in the March 1916 edition of The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, available online.”
Exceptionally scarce. Although the content of this letter is not inspiringly militaristic, it is an important piece of correspondence nonetheless as it appears to be the only extant record from the British Army’s pre-Revolutionary War presence in West Florida, although several items from the 16th’s service in New York during the war have appeared at auction, and it is possible that some documents from the British Army’s pre-war West Florida service may be included in a miscellaneous collection of military documents from the Southeast dating from 1773 to 1868 that is held by Florida State University..