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Robert Kirkwood documents from the collection of Helen and Paul Elm

Identifier: MSS 0777

Scope and Contents

This collection features a letter, dated June 23, 1777, from Captain Robert Kirkwood of Newark, Delaware, to his father (Robert Kirkwood, Sr.) during the Continental Army’s New Jersey Campaign of the American Revolutionary War. The collection also contains military records related to officer appointments, muster rolls, subsistence rolls, and clothing supplies.

The centerpiece of this collection is a letter written by Robert Kirkwood to his father on June 23, 1777. Kirkwood described the letter as a “Journal of what has happened” since he last wrote his father on June 12. Kirkwood first chronicled his regiment’s march from Princeton to Rocky Hill and Sourland Mountain between June 13 and 15. On the evening of June 15, 1777, Kirkwood was ordered to command a picket guard, a prospect he described as “not over pleasing to me as that had been the third day of a constant March.” Kirkwood met Major General John Sullivan at a tavern and requested the formation of a scouting party, which Sullivan granted. Kirkwood was unable to locate the British enemy although a local resident stated that a nearby wheat field “seemed Red with them about Dark.” Kirkwood then spent the night tracking down a reported Tory, and masqueraded as a loyalist officer to gain the confidence of a local woman and her family. The woman’s son led Kirkwood to a prominent local Tory who had been spying on the Continental encampment and passing information to British forces. Kirkwood apprehended the Tory and his “Negro man” before returning to his picket. Kirkwood’s regiment marched back to Sourland Mountain on June 19 before marching to Rocky Hill and Brunswick, New Jersey. At the close of the letter, Kirkwood noted he was again under marching orders and possibly headed to Amboy, New Jersey.

The collection contains two other documents from 1777, a receipt from January and a subsistence roll from February of that year. The receipt recorded Captain Kirkwood’s payment to Thomas Musgrove for James Winright’s board for January 10-24, 1777. Musgrove received payment from Kirkwood on January 31, 1777. The subsistence roll is entitled “A Subsistence Roll of Capt Robt Kirkwood’s Comp’y in the Delaware Regiment from the Date of Inlistment until first of Febry 1777.” The document shows that Kirkwood recruited 72 men (one lieutenant, one ensign, four sergeants, four corporals, and sixty-two privates) between December 20, 1776 and February 1, 1777. The roll notes the date each man enlisted, the number of weeks and days since he had enlisted, and the money paid out to him for clothing, food, and other necessities. On the back of this document is a payroll for Captain Enoch Anderson’s Company in the Delaware Regiment, which is blank.

The collection also contains two documents from 1779. The first is entitled “A List of the Names, Ranks, and Dates of Appointment of the Officers of the Delaware Regiment” dated June 24, 1779 and signed by Colonel David Hall of the Delaware Regiment. Hall, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Pope, and Major Joseph Vaughn were appointed on April 5, 1777, but were “entitled to receive commissions bearing the date 4 Jany at Col. Hazlets fall.” This notation refers to the death of Colonel John Haslet at the Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777.

In addition to Kirkwood, the document names five other captains, one captain lieutenant, seven first lieutenants, eight second lieutenants, and one ensign. Two of the officers, Captain James Moore and Second Lieutenant John Hyatt, were described as being taken prisoner in 1778. The back of the document reads “Arrangement of the Delaware Officers (Copy)” and “His Excellency,” suggesting the list was sent to General Washington.

The second document is entitled “A Cloathing Return of Capt Robert Kirkwood Company of the Delaware Regiment commanded by Col David Hall” and dated December 28, 1779. The document includes the number of hats, coats, shirts, shoes, socks, jackets, and overalls received by Kirkwood’s company. Most of the men did not receive a full complement of clothing. The sergeants and corporals signed their names next to the items they received. The drummer, fifer, and privates all made their marks instead. This document was signed by “D.P. Cox Lt.,” probably First Lieutenant Daniel P. Cox.

This collection also contains a muster roll entitled “Muster Roll of the Late Delaware Regiment now the First Company in the Second Battalion of Col. William’s Regiment of Infantry serving in the Southern Army of the United States for the Month of November 1780.” This document was created following the Battle of Camden in August 1780, when the Delaware Regiment was divided into two companies under Robert Kirkwood and Peter Jaquett. This muster roll relates to Captain Jaquett’s company and includes the names of 181 men, the length of their enlistments, and where they were assigned in November 1780.

The final document is entitled “Coates Delivered to Capt. Kirkwood Comp’y Nov. 19th” but does not include a year. The list shows forty-seven men each receiving one coat. The document also features a watermark consisting of a crown and the letters “GR.”


  • Creation: 1777, 1779-1780


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections, University of Delaware Library,

Biographical Note: Robert Kirkwood, Jr. (1756-1791)

Robert Kirkwood, Jr., was born in 1756 to Robert Kirkwood, Sr., and Sarah McDowell Kirkwood. The family resided on a farm located on Polly Drummond Hill, approximately two miles north of Newark, Delaware. Kirkwood attended Newark Academy and intended to become a minister, but instead joined the First Delaware Regiment of the Continental Army in December 1775. He was commissioned as a first lieutenant in Colonel John Haslet’s regiment of Continental troops in January 1776, where he served in Captain Henry Darby’s company. His regiment was summoned to Philadelphia later that year and fought with Thomas Mifflin’s brigade at the Battle of Long Island in August 1776. Kirkwood was promoted to the rank of captain in December 1776 and transferred to Colonel David Hall’s regiment. He spent December 1776 and January 1777 recruiting troops in Delaware and was therefore not present at the Battles of Trenton and Princeton.

Kirkwood was in Princeton, New Jersey, by May 1777 and his regiment took part in the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown that autumn. The Delaware Regiment also played a minor role in the Battle of Monmouth in June 1778. Following a furlough, Kirkwood’s regiment was put under the command of Major General Johann De Kalb in 1779 and spent the winter of 1779-1780 encamped at Morristown, New Jersey. In the spring of 1780, the Delaware Regiment marched with De Kalb to South Carolina and engaged in the Battle of Camden (South Carolina) in August of that year. Although by all accounts the Delaware Regiment fought valiantly, 20% of the regiment perished in battle and another 30% were captured by British forces. De Kalb was mortally wounded in the battle. The remainder of the Delaware Regiment was brigaded with the Maryland Regiment, where Capt. Kirkwood acted as the Delaware contingent’s senior officer. Under Kirkwood, the Delaware Regiment fought at the Battles of Cowpens, Guilford Courthouse, and Hobkirk Hill in 1781. His light infantry participated in numerous reconnaissance missions, foraging raids, and covering force operations. Kirkwood was furloughed in January 1782 and was brevetted major at the conclusion of the war in September 1783.

Following the war, Kirkwood married Sarah England and had two surviving children, Joseph and Mary Kirkwood. Sarah England Kirkwood died in 1787. Around this time, Robert Kirkwood became a member of the Society of the Cincinnati and received a land grant in the Northwest Territory from the state of Virginia. By 1790, Kirkwood was a Justice of the Peace in the Northwest Territory. In 1791, he served as a captain in a military expedition led by General Arthur St. Clair, the governor of the Northwest Territory. He was killed in a raid by members of the Miami tribe near Fort Recovery at the Battle of the Wabash (also known as St. Clair's Defeat) on November 4, 1791.

During the Revolutionary War, Kirkwood served under the command of John Sullivan, Nathanael Greene, Daniel Morgan, and Henry Lee. He maintained an order book during the New Jersey Campaign in 1777 and a journal during the Southern Campaign of 1780-1782. Both of these documents are held by the Delaware Historical Society and were first published in 1910. The Kirkwood Highway connecting Newark to Wilmington, Delaware, recognizes his legacy.

When Kirkwood wrote to his father on June 23, 1777, he was encamped in central New Jersey, having recently marched from Princeton to Rocky Hill, Flemington, Sourland Mountain, and Brunswick. In mid-June, British Lieutenant General William Howe marched westward from Brunswick with 11,000 troops, hoping to cut off Major General John Sullivan’s small division from George Washington’s larger forces at Middlebrook. Washington ordered Sullivan’s troops, including the Delaware Regiment, to march north to the Sourland Hills where they could link up with the main army. Failing to isolate Sullivan’s division, the British withdrew back to Brunswick and then abandoned the town to prepare for the attack on Philadelphia later that year.


Delaware in the American Revolution: An Exhibition from the Library and Museum Collections of the Society of the Cincinnati. Washington, D.C.: The Society of the Cincinnati, 2002.

Delaware Public Archives Commission. Delaware Archives, Vols. I-III. Wilmington, DE: Star Publishing Company, 1911.

Delaware Register. Vol. II, No. 6, January 1839.

Hill, Steven. The Delaware Cincinnati, 1783-1988. Bryn Mawr, PA: Dorrance & Company, Inc., 1988.

The Journal and Order Book of Captain Robert Kirkwood of the Delaware Regiment of the Continental Line. Edited by Rev. Joseph Brown Turner. Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1970.

Rider, Thomas “Son of the Army: Captain Robert Kirkwood of the Delaware Regiment.” In Sons of the Father: George Washington and his Protégés. Edited by Robert M.S. McDonald. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013.

Ward, Christopher L. The Delaware Continentals, 1776-1783. Wilmington, DE: The Historical Society of Delaware, 1941.

Delaware Military Heritage website, “Robert Kirkwood” (accessed January 25, 2017)

Information derived from the collection.

Biographical Note: Helen and Paul Elm

Helen and Paul Elm were native Pittsburghers. Born in 1919, they married in 1939 and both joined the armed services to serve in WWII. Paul, a Seabee in the Navy, served in the Pacific, and Helena a SPAR (Coast Guard), was stationed in New Orleans. Paul was a bookbinder by trade and Helen, a homemaker. They were part-time dealers, traders, and collectors with an avid interest in paper documents, paper advertising and memorabilia, and photographs. They frequented house and estate sales, which is how they acquired the Kirkwood documents.


Information derived from the collection.


7 item

Metadata Rights Declarations


This collection features a letter, dated June 23, 1777, from Captain Robert Kirkwood of Newark, Delaware, to his father (Robert Kirkwood, Sr.) during the Continental Army’s New Jersey Campaign of the American Revolutionary War. The collection also contains military records related to officer appointments, muster rolls, subsistence rolls, and clothing supplies.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Sandra Elm and Gary and Mary Elm in memory of their parents, December 2016

Materials Available in Alternative Format

Digitized versions of the documents are available through the University of Delaware Digital Institutional Repository.

Related Materials in other Repositories

Robert Kirkwood Papers, Delaware Historical Society, Wilmington, Delaware

Shelving Summary

Box 1: Shelved in SPEC MSS osz 18

OCLC Number

Processing Information

Processed and encoded by Elizabeth Jones-Minsinger, January 2017.

Finding aid for Robert Kirkwood documents from the collection of Helen and Paul Elm
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2017 January 30
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA