Skip to Content
Special Home > Guide to the Fort Constitution Papers, 1820-1880

Guide to the Fort Constitution Papers, 1820-1880

Collection number: MC 200

Size: 2 boxes (1 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).

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.

For further information on the 1774 uprising, see The Capture of Fort William & Mary.

Search in the online catalog using the term “Fort Constitution Historic Site (N.H.)” for historic structure reports.

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], 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)

Collection Contents

Series I: Correspondence, 1827-1871

Oversize Box 1
Oversize Box 1, Folder 1 1827-1852
Oversize Box 1, Folder 2 1853-1854
Oversize Box 1, Folder 3 1855-1856
Oversize Box 1, Folder 4 1857-1859
Oversize Box 1, Folder 5 1861
Oversize Box 1, Folder 6 1862
Oversize Box 1, Folder 7 1863
Oversize Box 1, Folder 8 1864
Oversize Box 1, Folder 9 1865-1871
Oversize Box 1, Folder 10 Circulars November 22, 1848 and April 19, 1850
Oversize Box 1, Folder 11 Invitations October 31, 1864 and December 16, 1867
Oversize Box 1, Folder 12 Envelopes

Series II: Personnel Records, 1839-1871

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

List of shoes delivered, June 9, 1862

Oversize Box 1, Folder 15 General 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 16 Proceedings 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 17 Court proceedings, no date
Oversize Box 1, Folder 18 Muster 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 19 Morning Report of Surgeon at Fort Constitution, August 8, 1861

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

Oversize Box 1, Folder 20 Morning 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 21 Board of Health permission slips, ca. 1850s; August 29, 1858
Oversize Box 1, Folder 22 Post 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 23 Officers 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 25 Bayonet Exercise, no date

Series III: Inventories and Requisitions, 1852-1869

Oversize Box 2
Oversize Box 2, Folder 1 Invoice 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 2 Invoice 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 3 Requisition 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 5 Clothing 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 9 Provision 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 10 Requisition 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 12 Quarterly 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 13 List 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 14 Quarterly Return of Provisions Received, Issued, and Remaining on Hand, at Fort Constitution NH during the Quarter ending: December 31, 1862
Oversize Box 2, Folder 15 Quarterly 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 16 Abstract of Materials Expended or Consumed at Fort Constitution NH during the Third Quarter of 1853
Oversize Box 2, Folder 17 Inventory of Part I: Artillery, Small Arms, Ammunition and other Ordnance Stores, and Part II: Tools and Materials, 1853-1854
Oversize Box 2, Folder 18 Received 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 19 Abstract of Articles Transferred at the Post of Fort Constitution NH in the Quarter ending: March 31, 1863

Series IV: Financial Records, 1853-1863

Oversize Box 2, Folder 20 Pay 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 21 The 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 22 The 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 23 Abstract 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 24 Voucher 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 26 Estimate 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 27 Monthly Summary Statement, December, 1861
Oversize Box 2, Folder 28 Abstract 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 29 Purchase 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 30 More 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 31 Invoices from James Davidson, Esq. 1853; 1854; 1863
Oversize Box 2, Folder 32 Account Book, 1841-1881
Oversize Box 2, Folder 33 Articles 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 34 Statement of Difference arising on settlement of the accounts of Ord. Sgt. James Davidson, 1861-1863
Oversize Box 2, Folder 35 From 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

Post a Comment

If you are requesting materials from this collection, please use our Contact Form.