Revolutionary War in the Northwest: American Commanders’ Correspondence


Military correspondence among American commanders throughout the Northwest, between those commanders and General George Washington, and with civilians involved in the war effort.

The Revolutionary War in the old Northwest (Great Lakes region) isn’t covered in detail in most histories of the war. Battles were small-scale, and few regular army troops and resources were committed to the region by either side. However, American settlers and militias in Kentucky, western Virginia and western Pennsylvania were greatly impacted. The British, particularly the commander at Detroit, employed Indian tribes in the region for attacks on American settlements. British and American leaders brought their utmost diplomatic skills to bear to persuade Indian leaders to fight on their side’s behalf, or refrain from allying with the enemy. The astonishing feats of the American regiment under the command of Colonel George Rogers Clark in taking Kaskaskia and Vincennes kept the British command in continual dread that Clark would attack Detroit, losing the entire region to the Americans.


The Draper Series consists of 5 volumes of documents from the period 1774 to 1781 related to American military activities in the Northwest, selected from the enormous “Draper Collection” of documents, and edited by staff of the Wisconsin Historical Society at the beginning of the 20th century. Most documents are letters between commanders in the region, or correspondence between regional commanders and General George Washington or other Patriot military or civil leaders.

Volume 1 contains documents related to Lord Dunmore’s War in 1774 (a British/American expedition into Ohio country against Indian tribes), and the remaining four volumes cover the period of the Revolutionary War. The editors began Volume 1 with a 20-page introduction that describes the increasing violence along the Ohio River frontier from 1763 to 1774 and gives a short narrative of Lord Dunmore’s War. Volumes 2 through 5 (1775 – 1781) also have introductions that summarize military events in the Northwest during the period covered by each volume, providing background for documents within. Footnotes throughout include biographies of key figures and additional background information to clarify issues referenced in the correspondence.

The five volumes in the Draper series, below, are also found on the Great Lakes War and Military page of this web site. Additional books and articles on the Revolutionary War can be found on that page and on the Ohio and Illinois War and Military pages.


Click on the page name to open it in a new tab. For tips on reading online and downloading, see the note at the bottom of this page.

Great Lakes War & Military page


Ohio War & Military page


Illinois War & Military page


Also see the blog post;

American Revolution: Correspondence of British Commanders in the West



Documentary History of Dunmore’s War, 1774

Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society, 1905
Thwaites, Reuben G., Kellogg, Louise P., comp.Go to Book

Volume 1 of the Draper Series

Lyman Copeland Draper (1815-1891) began research in the late 1830s on frontier days and particularly on the Indian wars of the Ohio River Valley, collecting documents, writing notes, and corresponding with people who had experienced historical events there. He continued his research throughout his life, leaving behind at the Wisconsin Historical Society, which he directed, an enormous volume of materials referred to as the Draper Manuscript Collection.

The Draper Series consists of 5 volumes of documents selected from the Draper Manuscript Collection, edited by staff of the Wisconsin Historical Society at the beginning of the 20th century. Volume 1 covers Lord Dunmore’s War in 1774, and the remaining four volumes, also found on this web page, cover the period of the American Revolution. The editors began this volume with a 20-page introduction that describes the increasing violence along the Ohio River frontier from 1763 to 1774 and provides a short narrative of Lord Dunmore’s War.

The Revolution on the Upper Ohio, 1775-1777

Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society 1908
Thwaites, Reuben G., Kellogg, Louise P., eds. Go to Book

Volume 2 of the Draper Series.

This volume of documents covers the first years of the Revolutionary War on the Ohio River frontier.

Frontier Defense on the Upper Ohio, 1777-1778

Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society 1912
Thwaites, Reuben G., Kellogg, Louise P., eds. Go to Book

Volume 3 of the Draper Series.

Frontier Advance on the Upper Ohio, 1778-1779

Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin 1916
Kellogg, Louise P., ed.Go to Book

Volume 4 of the Draper Series.

This volume is a collection of historical documents for the Revolutionary War in the west from May, 1778 to July, 1779, described by editor Louise Kellogg as the most momentous period in that theater of war. Kellogg, an historian at the Wisconsin Historical Society, describes military events during this period in a 28-page introduction. Since there does not appear to be a list of the many documents in the volume, reading the introduction first would be a help in putting the documents into context.

Frontier Retreat on the Upper Ohio, 1779-1781

Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin 1917
Kellogg, Louise P., ed.Go to Book

Volume 5 of the Draper Series.



Tips for Reading Online and Downloading

More than half the books on our website at History of the Great Lakes States are hosted by Internet Archive or Open Library. They are sister organizations and use the same online viewer application. In most cases this viewer will give you nearly perfect text if you;

1. switch from the double-page to the single-page view by using the icons in the bottom right corner, and;

2. Keep zooming in until the text snaps into a clear focus.

Using the single-page view allows you to scroll pages down with your mouse wheel.

You can download books from these two sites by clicking on the book name at the top-left corner of the page (in the viewer) to get to the download menu.

To receive links to free history articles and resources every day in your Twitter or Facebook feeds, follow:

Century Past History (Twitter)

History of the Great Lakes States (Facebook)