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Re: [Revlist] RE: Black Officers in The South - NONE???-

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  • Roofus@aol.com
    From the Unit Records section of the Continental Army Orderly Book Index at www.RevWar75.com: One of the most desirable reports for a given unit is a
    Message 1 of 8 , Sep 30, 2003
      From the "Unit Records" section of the Continental Army Orderly Book Index at

      "One of the most desirable reports for a given unit is a descriptive roster.
      For purposes of both genealogical research and “sociological” studies of the
      army, the content of these documents is invaluable, detailing for each unit
      member: his date and term of enlistment, his age, height, race (typically via “
      complexion”), civilian occupation, home town and/or country of birth and, at
      times, special “comments”. While a remarkably valuable source for profiling the
      composition of particular units and the army in general, the original purpose
      of these records was much less benign, their being maintained to assist in
      identifying and apprehending deserters. Unfortunately, as well, descriptive
      rosters are among the least common general records, some units' files containing,
      for example, all eighteen muster rolls for a three-year period, but not one
      descriptive roster."
      It is the very rare exception to find personal descriptive data within
      American orderly books. Military records of the period, of course, are nowhere near
      as demographically oriented as are present-day personnel files. As noted
      above, "descriptive rosters" (or "rolls") are the only standard data source
      specifying race. Patrick's posting appears to suggest that these are predictably
      found within the unit files relating to the NC line. My own experience in working
      with the unit files of the several New England and mid-Atlantic state lines at
      the NARA has been less successful in that descriptive rosters are certainly
      not consistently available. The odds seem to be about even that a given
      regimental file will have one versus not.
      In part, their relative rarity is likely due to being prepared only at the
      regimental level, not on a per company basis, as were muster rolls, payrolls,
      etc. It should also be noted that descriptive rosters tend to be concentrated
      during the latter half of the war, this likely the result of two factors. First,
      the army's documentation, in general, improved in consistency and
      completeness as the war progressed, pre-printed forms emerging during the 1781-83 period.
      Second, the entire issue of desertion became more common, and its management
      more of a priority, in the latter half of the war. When available, though,
      these descriptive rosters provide excellent profiling data and are, IMO, an
      essential first step.


      Bob McDonald

      I had a chance to see the American Army, man for man. ... It is incredible
      that soldiers composed of men of every age, even children of fifteen, of whites
      and blacks, unpaid and rather poorly fed, can march so fast and withstand fire
      so steadfastly.

      Baron J. C. L. von Closen
      White Plains, New York
      July 1781

      For Superb Primary Resources: www.RevWar75.com

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