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Israel Shreve Revolutionary War Letters

Identifier: 1965-001

This 76-item collection mainly consists of letters written to and from Colonel Israel Shreve between the years of 1776 and 1793, with the bulk of the correspondence taking place between the years 1777 and 1780. Most of the correspondence is between Shreve and other officers in George Washington's Continental Army, and was written while Shreve was Colonel of the Second Regiment of New Jersey during the Revolutionary War. The collection is divided into two series, one of the Colonel Israel Shreve Correspondence, and one of Miscellaneous materials, including other correspondence.

Typed transcriptions of these items are available in the bound book The Shreve Papers 1776-1792, which is located in the collection file.

A set of photocopies of the Israel Shreve holdings of Rutgers University is also available for use. The Rutgers collection includes letters to and from Shreve, as well as documents pertaining to him, which are contemporary with those of this collection. There are 340 photocopied items total.


  • 1768-1894


Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

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0.50 linear feet

Biographical Information

Colonel Israel Shreve was born in 1739 in New Jersey. Before rising to a position of military leadership in General George Washington's Continental Army during the American Revolution, he worked as a farmer in Gloucester County.

On October 31, 1775, Shreve was appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the Second Regiment of New Jersey troops. On November 28, 1776, he was promoted to Colonel for the reorganized line, which was now known as the Second New Jersey Regiment, Second Establishment.

The 2nd N.J. Regiment fought at the Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777, and at the Battle of Germantown on October 4, 1777. They also spent the cold winter of 1777, short of clothing and food supplies, with Washington's troops at Valley Forge.

On June 28, 1778, Shreve played a part in the strange events of the Battle of Monmouth. Major General Charles Lee led the advance column against the British troops, but gave his men hasty orders to retreat after being startled by a counterattack from the British. He did not give word of his decision to General Washington, who was following behind him with the main army. As an angry Washington met up with columns of confused troops falling back from the front, he pressed the approaching Colonel Israel Shreve for an explanation. "Colonel Shreve answered in a very significant manner, smiling, that he did not know, but that he had retreated by order, he did not say by whose order." Following the Battle of Monmouth, Lee was court-martialled and removed from command.

In July of 1779, Shreve and the 2nd N.J. Regiment joined Major General John Sullivan in his campaign against the Tory-allied Iroquois Indians. Shreve was appointed commander of the expedition's base at Fort Sullivan at Tioga, while General Sullivan and his troops went on a punishing spree against the Indians, burning 40 of their towns and destroying corn, vegetables, and orchards.

According to one source, Shreve was "immensely fat" and such an incompetent officer that in December of 1780 Washington declined to promote him to Brigadier General, saying, "Here I drop the curtain." Shreve retired from the army on January 1, 1781, but for inexplicable reasons remained in command through the rest of the month. In early January, troops in the Pennsylvania Line mutinied over lack of pay and other grievances. When the New Jersey Line followed suit on January 20, Shreve by all accounts botched or neglected handling the situation. At the end of January, Elias Dayton took over as Colonel.

Shreve apparently participated in the General Assembly of New Jersey following the end of his military career. In April 1783, members of the New Jersey Line requested that he represent them to the Assembly on the issue of receiving five years' full pay at the end of their service, rather than half-pay for life.

Shreve returned to farming after the war, eventually settling in the west with his wife and children. He died in 1799.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The greater part of the collection was donated to the University of Houston Libraries in 1965 by Emily Scott Evans. Items 9, 10, and 37 (the George Washington letters and document) were added to the collection by her daughter Mrs. Alice Evans Pratt between 1968 and 1976.

Digital Collections

Israel Shreve Revolutionary War Letters, 1768-1894 digital collection

Processing Information

Julie Grob, 1995

Guide to the Israel Shreve Revolutionary War Letters
Julie Grob
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections Repository

University of Houston Libraries Special Collections
MD Anderson Library
4333 University Drive
Houston TX 77204-2000 USA