Merchant and redcoat: The papers of John Gordon Macomb, July 1757 to June 1760

Joseph Francis Meany, Fordham University


This doctoral dissertation in documentary editing presents a definitive edition, fully annotated, of the unpublished letterbook of John Gordon Macomb. The manuscript is located in the New York State Library in Albany. The edition comprises four volumes. Volume I includes an introductory essay that incorporates a description of the manuscript, a biography of the author and a discussion of civil-military relations in mid-eighteenth century Albany. The essay closes with a description of the city in the French and Indian War. Volume I concludes with letters 1-56, written in 1757. Volumes II and III follow with letters 57-282, written in 1758 and letters 283-358, written in 1759. Volume IV includes letters 359-378, written in 1760, followed by a glossary, a bibliography and an index. The annotation identifies places and individuals and focuses on the material and physical culture of John Macomb's world. Interspersed among the letters are twenty-two headnotes that follow traditional narrative history and provide context within which the letters were written. John Gordon Macomb, a Belfast merchant, followed the British Army to North America early in 1757. In Albany, he offered his customers, British officers, a variety of luxury items and personal services: wines and spirits for the regimental mess, professional and leisure reading including drill books, plays and political pamphlets, castile soap, silver snuff boxes and personal telescopes. Macomb also offered secure storage for officers' luggage, brokered the sale of commissions, conducted auctions of deceased officers effects, arranged allotments paid to mistresses and placed illegitimate children of deceased officers in appropriate apprenticeships. The Macomb papers are a valuable window into the social history and material culture of the British Army. Previous scholarship has focused on large military contractors with little attention paid to small-scale sutlers and merchants although such individuals, exemplified by Macomb, were an integral component of the British Army's logistical "tail." The Macomb papers present day-to-day details of the business activities of such men. Additionally they offer insights into the interaction of soldiers and civilians in a frontier community as well as insights into the deeply "celtic" cultural identity of the eighteenth century British Army.

Subject Area

American history|Biographies

Recommended Citation

Meany, Joseph Francis, "Merchant and redcoat: The papers of John Gordon Macomb, July 1757 to June 1760" (1990). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9020019.