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Mordecai Sheftall papers

Identifier: P-12

Scope and Content Note

The Mordecai Sheftall Papers record the personal and business affairs of Mordecai Sheftall, and to a lesser extent, his wife, Frances, and their sons Sheftall, Moses, and Benjamin. The smaller portion of the collection includes Mordecai's family papers along with his merchant business dealings prior to and toward the end of the American Revolution, including his appointment to Deputy Commissary of Issues then to Commissary of Issues for the State of Georgia and his grievances against the United States for lack of payment for supplies he purchased and issued to troops. The majority of the collection is comprised of the roughly 2,792 slips of paper known as "provision returns": receipts of goods and items such as beef, pork, candles, rice, flour, etc., provided to troops and units of the First through Fourth Georgia Regiments and Battalions, some South Carolina Regiments, other militias and volunteer units working with the Continental Army, and vessels in the employ of the Continental Navy. These returns document supplies to Georgia troops from late 1777 through 1778. Some returns request supplies instead of being receipts for them, but these make up a small portion of the returns.

The papers were purchased circa 1927 from Mrs. (Dr.) Walter M. Brickner (née Perla S. Abrahams) by A.S.W. Rosenbach and later donated to the American Jewish Historical Society by Rosenbach. Mrs. Brickner was the grand-daughter of Perla Sheftall Solomons (wife of Lizar), who was the daughter of Moses Sheftall, youngest child of Mordecai Sheftall.


  • undated, 1761-1867, 1873, 1932, 1941
  • Majority of material found within 1977 - 1978


Language of Materials

The collection is in English.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers, except items that may be restricted due to their fragility, or privacy.

Use Restrictions

No permission is required to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection, as long as the usage is scholarly, educational, and non-commercial. For inquiries about other usage, please contact the Director of Collections and Engagement at

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Biographical Note

Mordecai Sheftall (1735-1797)

Mordecai Sheftall was born in the town of Savannah on December 2, 1735 in the British land trust of Georgia to Prussian-born Jews, Benjamin and Perla Sheftall. According to John McKay Sheftall in "The Sheftalls of Savannah," Mordecai's father, Benjamin, was born in Frankfurt-on-Oder in 1692, and moved from Prussia to London some time prior to marrying Perla in 1730 or 1731. Benjamin and Perla landed in July 1733, and were among a group of forty-one Jews eventually granted permission to settle in Georgia by the British resident trustee, James Oglethorpe. The Sheftalls, along with the family of Abraham Minis and Jacob Yowel, were the only Ashkenazic Jews among the Sephardic families in the Portuguese and German group hailing from the Port of London. As citizens of Georgia, the land trust Georgia, the colony, and finally the state, the Sheftalls established themselves not only as forefathers of the fledgling Jewish community in the greater community of Savannah but, ultimately, as forefathers of the United States of America itself.

The Georgia trusteeship was established by Oglethorpe in 1732 with the purpose of assisting the worthy poor of England to "better their condition by giving them land in the New World, and assisting them in its cultivation by bounties or otherwise." The "worthy poor," those released from debtor prisons in England, never quite made it to the philanthropic-minded colony, and Georgia slowly became a haven for Scots with crafts and construction ability, poor English tradesmen and artisans, and Protestant religious refugees from Switzerland, France and Germany. Jews were not necessarily included as part of the "worthy poor" or religious refugees, but Oglethorpe did not, despite hesitancy from England, turn the Jewish group away when they arrived.

At the time of Mordecai's birth, Georgia served as a buffer zone for the English against the Spanish in Spanish East Florida; the frontier settlement of Savannah was little more than an outpost along the southernmost edge of the British Empire in North America. From 1640 on, the Spanish and British clashed over territory, with the British establishing South Carolina above Georgia, and the Spanish maintaining outposts below it.

All of the Sephardic Jews who landed with Sheftall or arrived later, fled Georgia when the War of Jenkins' Ear (1739-1743( - which became part of the larger European War of Austrian Succession (1740-1748) - broke out between the Spanish and British in their North American colonies. The Sephardim were aligned by birth to Spain rather than Britain (who were aligned with the Austrian Empire), while the Askenazic German Sheftalls stayed neutral. The British eventually won the larger war, but James Oglethorpe, who led the Georgian battles against Spain, lost control of the colony and sailed back to England in 1743. From 1741 to the late 1750s, only two Jewish families remained in Savannah, the Sheftalls and the family of Abraham Minis.

Benjamin and Perla had two children, the first of which, Sheftall Sheftall, was born on August 3, 1734, and died as a toddler. Perla was quickly pregnant again, having Mordecai a little over a year later. The birth combined with colonial living conditions weakened Perla considerably and she died eleven months after Mordecai was born, on November 2, 1736. Benjamin raised Mordecai for a few years by himself until he remarried Hannah Solomons in Savannah in 1738. Hannah hailed from Amsterdam and little is known about her life prior to arriving in Georgia. She had migrated to Philadelphia, and, in what may have been an arranged marriage for the couple, moved to Savannah on October 5, 1738. She was married to Benjamin on November 20. They had two sons: Levi, born on December 12, 1739; and Solomon, who was born in 1741 and died in 1743.

Benjamin established himself in Savannah as a farmer, merchant, shipper, and community leader. He never accumulated much real wealth, and owned five slaves at the time of his death. This said, he provided well for his family. In 1734 he translated for a group of newly-arrived, German-speaking Austrian Lutherans - the Salzburgers - who were expelled from Austria by Count Leopold. In the same year, Sheftall, with other Savannah Jews, established the first synagogue in Georgia, Congregation Mikveh Israel (Kahal Kadosh Mickva Israel). In addition, he was one of the five founders of the inter-faith organization, St. George's Society for the Education of Orphan Children, and was inducted into the Savannah Solomon's Lodge, a Masonic Temple founded by Oglethorpe. When Benjamin died in 1765, he was buried in a small family plot created by Levi Sheftall that exists today. Benjamin's son Mordecai would go on to establish a more permanent Jewish burial ground for the larger community.

Though Benjamin was respected in the non-Jewish community, he was somewhat reluctant to engage fully in the communal life with them, having grown up in European Jewish ghettoes. His native-born and outgoing son, Mordecai, growing up in Georgia, didn't experience these exclusions. Mordecai had only a few years of formal schooling and his bar mitzvah (the first recorded bar mitzvah in what would become America) was delayed as Hebraic books did not arrive in a timely fashion from England, but Mordecai was never denied the rights of citizenship denied to Benjamin. As a native-born Jewish Georgian with young Christian friends, Mordecai developed the same feelings and opinions as a growing portion of his fellow Georgians regarding concepts of freedom and independence as the colonies moved steadily toward separation from England.

Georgia became an official crown colony of Great Britain in 1752. With this, citizens were naturalized under British rule, and could petition the crown for at least fifty acres of land. While Benjamin reluctantly filed for land, Mordecai wholeheartedly applied for his first plot in 1753. This petition began a lifelong passion for acquiring land by Mordecai and Levi, both of whom ultimately bought or petitioned the colony for thousands of acres, though many of their requests were denied and most of their holdings lost after the American Revolution.

Mordecai followed his father into the merchant and trading business, establishing himself in a variety of businesses such as warehousing, tanning, ranching, and the import/export trade. In 1759, he petitioned for and received land along the Savannah River and built a dock and warehouse. With this warehouse and family ties to the mercantile industry in England, Charleston, Philadelphia, and the Caribbean Islands, Sheftall was able to grow his business, acquire more land and slaves, and, by 1776, had made numerous trips to the Caribbean and at least one trip to England. Levi initially worked in the mercantile business, but eventually settled into the work of tanning, sawmilling, and ranching. As Mordecai became financially secure, he married Frances Hart (1740-1820) of Charleston, South Carolina, on October 28, 1761 in the home of Frances' brother, Joshua Hart, a prominent Jewish merchant in Charleston and friend of Mordecai's. Together, Mordecai and Frances had five children: sons Sheftall (named after Mordecai's deceased brother), Benjamin, and Moses; and daughters Perla and Esther. A sixth son, Elias, died in infancy. Levi married Sarah De La Motta of St. Croix in 1768. Sarah was fourteen, and Levi twenty-eight. They had several children together.

By 1771 a little fewer than 2,000 residents, including Negros and "infidels" (Native Americans), lived in Chatham County with Savannah as the county seat. Notes from the files of former American Jewish Historical Society librarian Isidore Meyer (who worked on the original Works Progress Administration Guide for the Sheftall papers), report that a Chatham County ecclesiastical census by the Rev. Mr. Frink listed the residents by religion: Church of England, 1,185; Lutherans, 193; Presbyterians and Independents, 499; Jews, 49; Negros, 40; and Infidels, 30. Mordecai, as head of the Jewish community, reestablished the Congregation Mikveh Israel in 1774, long with a larger Jewish cemetery.

The Sheftalls lived in relative comfort; their businesses were thriving, they owned land and snalces, and were respected in the community. However, the American Revolution overturned their economic and domestic conditions. Mordecai was a devout Patriot, and member of the Sons of Liberty; the British referred to him as a "rabble-rouser." Like many Georgians at the beginning of the American Revolution, Levi was more cautious and reserved.

B.H. Levy notes that prior to 1763, Georgia was the southernmost and youngest frontier colony, as well as the poorest and weakest, though it was ruled well by Royal Governor James Wright. Wright, governor from 1760-1776, was generally well-liked and respected. He was Georgia's third royal governor, and the colony fared well under the English, who protected it from Indians and Spanairds on the borders. Many Georgians were not necessarily against taxation without representation, but opposed the individual taxes themselves; particular those levied by the Stamp and Sugar Acts. The Stamp Act was particularly onerous, as the tax had to be paid in gold or silver; both in short supply in Georgia. From 1764 to 1767, the passage of the Stamp, Sugar, and Townsend Acts were all used to raise revenues for the British Crown as they had depleted their coffers during Europe's Seven Years War, and that conflict's North American extension, the French and Indian Wars (1754-1763). These taxes sapped the profits of the successful Georgia colony.

In addition to the tension that British-born Georgians and their American-born children brought to the fore, Georgia became increasingly difficult for Governor Wright to rule as the colony's legislative Assembly bodies - the upper Council and lower Commons - consistently were at odds with each other over Continental support. The upper house contained primarily loyalists to the crown, while the lower house mostly those in favor of succession. Wright dissolved the Commons more than once during this time, and refused to seat certain members voted to the Assembly. In late 1765, Wright officially declared that the Stamp Act was in effect, and closed the port of Savannah until the stamps could be affixed to export goods. This led to an increase in tensions between South Carolina and Georgia legislators and merchants, who felt that Georgia should have put up a stronger fight against the use of the Stamps. Trade was temporarily halted as Governor Wright contended with the newly-established Carolina Sons of Liberty, who destroyed two ships attempting to leave Charleston for Savannah shortly thereafter. Ten years of continual strife and incidents between 1765-1775 took their toll, and war between Britain and its American colonies eventually broke out in 1775.

All of the colonies except for Georgia were represented in the First Continental Congress that convened in Philadelphia from September to October of 1774. After the Boston Tea Party of 1773, Britain retaliated by closing Boston Harbor in May 1774 and enacted the Second Quartering Act (part of the Intolerable, or Coercive/Restraining Acts widely denounced in the colonies). These actions helped push the revolutionary call in Georgia, as members of the Liberty Parties called a meeting for July 27, later postponed to August 10, to respond to the British as a colony. Although Governor Wright issued a proclamation against the upcoming meeting, it went ahead as planned with twenty-six invited delegates attending and every parish represented. The meeting adopted eight resolutions regarding Britain's actions, but did not approve a representative to send to the first Congress; they were not yet ready to "openly oppose British rule in America," but did send provisions of rice and coin to Boston.

Governor Wright challenged the August resolutions and offered pay to residents to sign petitions against them, while Georgia's only newspaper, The Gazette, published the resolutions adopted by the First Continental Congress and announced an all-parish meeting on January 15, 1775, to be held in Savannah. This would be Georgia's First Provincial Congress, called to prepare for the Second Continental Congress scheduled for May 10. Only four parishes out of twelve sent representatives to the First Provincial Congress and the attendees voted not to send representatives to the second Congress. On the day of the Second Continental Congress, word reached Savannah of the April 19th outbreak of fighting between British and American troops at Lexington and Concord. This news pushed the Whigs of the Liberty Parties, including Noble Wymberly Jones, Joseph Habersham, Edward Telfair, and Mordecai Sheftall to break into the royal powder magazine and seize five hundred pounds of gunpowder, which they then sent to Boston.

By summer 1775, the Whigs held the Georgian majority. The Second Provincial Congress met in June 1775, passed nineteen resolutions, barred exports and imports from Great Britain, elected delegates to Congress, appropriated funds for defense, and created the Council (or Committee) of Safety to "function as the executive arm of the government when Congress was not in session." Mordecai Sheftall, a Whig and vocal patriot, was appointed Chairman of the Council of Safety, a position he held until his capture by the British in 1778. This committee enforced the ban on British goods, and demanded that ship's papers be handed over to them in order to verify the origin of said goods. In July 1775, Georgia, under Oliver Bowen, commandeered a British vessel, Philippa, and seized its cargo of gunpowder, lead bullets, shots, and guns. The firearms were stored in Savannah's powderhouse, and the ship was put into the service of Georgia and the Continental Navy.

Mordecai was eventually appointed Deputy Commissary of Issues for Georgia. A committee report from Georgia submitted to the Continental Congress in January 1778 and published on February 13, 1778 reads: "Resolved, That all Provisions for the Troops in Georgia, shall be supplied by Contract, or in such other way as shall appear to the Government of the said State, to be the surest Supply and the least prejudicial to the said State and the United States." These appointments made him a colonel in the civilian staff of the Georgia Continental Line and, as Deputy Commissary of Issues, Sheftall's job was to furnish the Georgian troops with food and supplies. He purchased rations with his own funds and billed the government. This merchant provision system was a part of the Quartermaster system during the war. Mordecai's son, Sheftall, would eventually join him as a Commissary of Issues, though unfortunately, the Sheftall family would never fully recoup the funds put forward for the troops of Georgia and South Carolina. From late 1777 to December 1778, Sheftall performed in this capacity as Deputy Commissary of Issues within the Georgia Continental Army structure and provision returns for both Army and Navy functions may be found within this collection of papers.

In 1778, Continental troops won the Battle for Georgia, defending the towns of Sunbury and Savannah from British attacks. Georgia's small navy, commissioned in 1777 - including the galleys Washington, Bulloch, Congress, and Lee - successfully captured one major British vessel, The Hinchenbrook. In September 1778, Great Britain attacked Savannah for the second time, ultimately capturing Savannah in November, 1778, and occupying Sunbury in January 1779. Many of Savannah's citizens, including Mordecai's wife, Frances, fled to the larger city of Charleston. Mordecai and Sheftall were captured in Savannah on December 29, 1778, along with "thirty-eight officers, four hundred and fifteen non-commissioned officers and privates, including the sick, wounded and the aged inhabitants of the town," according to McCall's historical account of the defeat of the city. The British occupied Savannah through the end of the war.

According to one account of Savannah's capture, Mordecai and Sheftall attempted to escape from the British who landed at Brewton Hill near Savannah earlier in the day. Around 3:00 PM, the British entered the town and took possession of Savannah. Mordecai and Sheftall tried to cross the Musgrove Creek by following Colonel Samuel Elbert and Major James Habersham's forces, but the troops came under fire from the Light Infantry of Sir James Baird while the creek was at high tide. Sheftall Sheftall could not swim, and so Mordecai stayed with him. They, along with other Continental officers and privates, were pinned down by the British, surrendered, and were transported to the prison ship Nancy in Savannah harbor. Mordecai was kept on the Nancy until February 25, and was paroled to Sunbury in April; Sheftall was detained for a longer period of time aboard the prison ship. Mordecai successfully petitioned for Sheftall's parole and in June. During this time, Mordecai made very little money to send to his family stranded in Charleston. The Sheftalls, along with other Continental troops, attempted to escape from Sunbury. The British captured them, and sent them into exile on Antigua. Mordecai requested that Continental forces conduct a prisoner exchange for those on Antigua, and eventually the British granted him parole and, on April 11, 1780, exchanged him for Jacob Jarvis on July 14. As fighting continued in Georgia, the British forbade the Sheftalls from returning to Savannah. So, the Sheftalls made their way to New York and Philadelphia, where Mordecai hoped to restart his mercantile business.

Levi Sheftall fared no better than Mordecai during this period. In 1779, the Patriots accused him of being a Tory, and vice versa. As, at this point in the war, Levi believed that the British would win, he accepted a general pardon from the British in order to return to his family in Charleston. When the Patriots regained control of Georgia in 1782, they banished him and confiscated his land under the Act of Confiscation and Amercement.

Francis Sheftall, who fled Savannah to Charleston with the four other Sheftall children, supported herself and the children through washing and ironing. In Philadelphia, Mordecai asked Congress for back pay or reimbursement for out-of-pocket funds provided for troops to bring his family to Philadelphia, but Congress would not provide enough to recoup his losses. When the Board of War asked Sheftall Sheftall to sail as a flag master on the Carolina, a "flag-of-truce" ship being sent to Charleston on a mercy mission, Sheftall requested back pay and additional money for ships' stores, which led some members of Congress to accuse him of extortion. Sheftall sailed with the ship and anchored in Charleston on February 14, 1781. The ship remained anchored there for six weeks. Despite not having funds to pay for Frances and the children, they were able to board the Carolina and head to Philadelphia with Sheftall Sheftall after Mordecai made an arrangement with the ship's owners. The family was reunited after a two-year separation.

Their financial situation eased slightly when Mordecai was appointed as Georgia's agent for purchasing troops clothing in 1781, allowing the Sheftalls to invest in a Philadelphia-based sloop called the Hetty. This investment began a short-lived and ill-fated investment adventure in the business of 18th century privateering; captured and successfully sold the confiscated goods of only one British vessel, the sloop Swift. Mordecai eventually sold his interest in the ship.

The Sheftalls returned to Savannah after the war. Though Mordecai resumed his position as a merchant and community leader, much of his property and assets were gone. He was able to somewhat rebuild the business, but financial woes plagued him as the Continental government could not reimburse him for all of his expenses accrued during the war as tht body owed millions in war debt. Even though he suffered from cash flow issues, Mordecai continued to buy land on credit or mortgage, and had to relinquish properties as a result of suits brought against him for lack of payment to debts on several occasions. Despite this, he retained his standing in the community, and he served on numerous committees and positions until his death.

In 1789, he successfully obtained an incorporation charter from the Georgia government for the re-established Congregation Mikveh Israel after the state passed legislation allowing for the incorporation of religious societies other than the Episcopal Church. He was elected synagogue president, and served from 1791-1796. As a slave owner, Mordecai was appointed as a Commissioner to Supervise, Regulate, and License Slaves; Commissioner for the Streets and Commons; and held the only approved tobacco-inspection warehouse in Savannah. He also served on the board of the Union Society for Orphans established by his father, was a Chairman on the Board of Wardens, and served as a lumber inspector, among various positions. Mordecai Sheftall died on July 6, 1797.

Mordecai worked steadfastly on behalf of Levi Sheftall's return to Savannah, writing to the Assembly, and encouraging friends to do the same. In August 1783, the Assembly relented and allowed Levi to return to Savannah, and by 1787, reinstated all of his rights as a citizen, including the right to vote and hold office. However, a rift developed between Mordecai and Levy over finances loaned to Frances during the war, which shattered the brothers' relationship.

Levi died in 1809 and his wife, Sarah, passed away in 1811.

Frances Hart lived with her unmarried daughters, Perla and Esther, after her husband's death, and died in 1820. Little is known about Perla, but Esther operated a successful millinery shop out of their home. Benjamin Sheftall perished at sea on a French privateer ship, the Industry, in 1794.

Moses Sheftall went to Philadelphia to study medicine under Benjamin Rush at the University of Pennsylvania, and graduated in 1790. He returned to Savannah to practice medicine, and became an expert in infectious diseases. He also served in the state legislature and married a Gentile woman named Nellie Bush. Moses died in 1835.

Sheftall Sheftall lived the longest of his siblings, dying in 1849. Sheftall was somewhat of a wandering spirit after the war, drifting off to Philadelphia and New York where he petitioned many an official, including Alexander Hamilton, to reimburse his father monies owed him during the war. He eventually moved back to Savannah, and, in 1819 was an honored guest at a dinner for President James Monroe. He was active in Congregation Mikveh Israel. As he aged, he became reclusive and eccentric and wore revolutionary-era clothing and three-cornered hats. Sheftall died at the age of 90.


July 11, 1733
Forty-one Jews are granted permission to settle in Georgia, including Benjamin and Perla Sheftall, Ashkenazic Jews. Thirty-three of the Jewish settlers were Sephardic while eight were Ashkenazi. Benjamin begins private diary/record of births, deaths, marriages, and arrivals in the Savannah Jewish community. This record is updated by his son Levi until 1808.
August 3, 1734
Sheftall, first son of Benjamin and Perla, is born. His death sometime thereafter is ascribed to a "nurse feeding him acorns."
July 1735
Congregation Mikveh Israel established by the Jews in Savannah, including the parents of Mordecai Sheftall who would become President of the Congregation in 1791 until his death in 1796.
December 2, 1735
Mordecai Sheftall born to Perla and Benjamin Sheftall
November 2, 1736
Perla Sheftall dies.
October 5, 1738
Hannah Solomons, second wife to Benjamin, arrives from Amsterdam to Savannah. Benjamin and Hannah are married within two months, possibly an arranged marriage.
War of Jenkins' Ear begins, and is later subsumed by the larger War of Austrian Succession
December 12, 1739
Levi Sheftall, son of Benjamin and Hannah and half-brother to Mordecai, is born
December 16, 1740
War of Austrian Succession breaks out in Europe
Sephardic Jews flee Savannah during the year; two Askenazic families, the Sheftalls and the Minises are only Jewish families in Savannah until late 1750s
August 8, 1741
Benjamin and Hannah have a third son, Solomon, who dies in 1743.
Mid-year 1743
War of Jenkins' Ear ends, though War of Austrian Succession rages on in Europe.
Mid-year 1743
Oglethorpe returns to England.
October 8, 1748
War of Austrian Succession ends in Europe
Savannah's St. George's Union Society, a charitable society for the education of orphans, is founded by three men, a Protestant, a Catholic, and a Jew, Benjamin Sheftall.
October 7, 1750
Benjamin becomes a naturalized citizen of Georgia25
June 23, 1752
Last meeting of Georgia Trusteeship occurs and Georgia becomes a royal colony of Great Britain
April 1, 1755
Mordecai is denied a land grant from the Georgia colony
May 15, 1756
Benjamin petitions for a "Lot in Savannah with Garden and farm lots." He requests an additional 350 acres in 1757 and is granted 200 acres.
July 29, 1756
Reynolds recalled as Governor; replaced by Henry Ellis on February 16, 1757
December 8, 1756
Mordecai is granted his first share of land from Georgia of fifty acres.
May 30, 1760
Governor Ellis resigns due to health issues; replaced by James Wright
October 28, 1761
Mordecai marries Frances Hart of Charleston in the home of her merchant brother, Joshua
September 8, 1762
Eldest son of Mordecai and Frances born. He is named Sheftall after Mordecai's brother who died as a toddler.
September 29, 1764
Sugar Act passed in Parliament and modified in 1766
July 1, 1765
Benjamin Franklin becomes Georgia's provincial agent in London, thereby settling two years of legislative and gubernatorial bickering regarding the appointment of an agent
October 3, 1765
Benjamin Sheftall, father of Mordecai and Levi, dies (b. 1692)
October 19, 1765
Stamp Act Congress called by Massachusetts General Assembly to protest taxes; due to circumstances Georgia representatives could not attend
October 31, 1765
Stamp Act Congress documents published in the Georgia Gazette; effigy of stamp officer hanged and burned in Savannah
November 1, 1765
Stamp Act commences, but no stamps or stamp officer is present in Georgia
November 5, 1765
Savannah citizens press British sailor into playing a Stamp officer and mock hang him on Guy Fawkes Day
November 6, 1765
Sons of Liberty, aka "Liberty Boys" publicly meet for the first time in Savannah
December 4, 1765
Governor Wright closes the port of Savannah and all ships are held until the Stamp Act can be enacted
December 16, 1765
Governor Wright takes the oath of the Stamp Act, which becomes enforced in Georgia
December 17, 1765
Stamps arrive in Savannah though the English Stamp Master had not arrived in Georgia.
January 3, 1766
Stamp Master George Angus arrives in Savannah; Wright has stamps put on goods and ships are allowed to leave Savannah
March 17, 1766
Stamp Act repealed
July 1766
Georgia Assembly meets; Wright presents official repeal of Stamp Act
June 29, 1767
Townsend Acts, a series of five acts, including one to raise duties on the colonies, passed by Parliament
October 14, 1767
Benjamin, son of Mordecai and Frances, born
May 1768
Boston's unrest over the Townsend Acts leads to British military occupying city
May 25, 1768
Levi Sheftall, Mordecai's half-brother, marries Sarah de la Motta of St. Croix
June 10, 1768
John Hancock's ship, Liberty seized in Boston due to charges of smuggling
October 1, 1768
British send four regiments of troops to Boston
October 12, 1769
Moses Sheftall, son of Mordecai and Frances, born
March 5, 1770
Boston Massacre occurs in Massachusetts; Townsend Act is partially repealed, leaving the Tea Act in placed
March 16, 1770
Mordecai mortgages St. Catherine's Island from Button Gwinnett26
Mordecai donates 1.5 acres to cemetery known for many years as the Sheftall Cemetery, opened to all Jews of good standing with the community
February 21, 1772
Hannah Sheftall dies
May 10, 1773
Tea Act is passed by Parliament.
December 3, 1773
Boston Tea Party erupts in Massachusetts.
May 14, 1774
Britain closes the Port of Boston and enacts Second Quartering Act, leading to additional unrest in the colonies
June 16, 1774
Magna Charta merchant ship is forced to destroy its tea shipment by the Charleston General Committee; tea is later found not destroyed but sequesteredl by customs collector, angering the local Patriots. The ship's captain barely escapes from an angry mob.
July 14, 1774
Georgia Liberty Parties issue call for residents to attend a meeting on the actions of British closing the port of Boston
August 10, 1774
Georgia delegates meet at Tondee's Tavern despite meeting ban by Wright; fail to elect delegates to Continental Congress but pass resolutions and elect a general committee
September 4, 1774
Worship services resume for Congregation Mikveh Israel in the home of Mordecai Sheftall
September 5 to October 26, 1774
First Continental Congress meets in Philadelphia; adopts Declaration of Resolves and Continental Association; sets May date to meet again depending on response from London; Georgia does not send a representative
September 9, 1774
Suffolk Resolves published denouncing the Intolerable Acts (Boston Port Act; Massachusetts Government Act; Administration of Justice Act; Quartering Act)
November 30, 1774
King George III opens Parliament with a condemnation of Massachusetts and the Suffolk Resolves
January 18, 1775
Georgia Provincial Congress in Savannah meets to consider joining Continental Association meeting set for May and ban trade with England; votes to send three delegates; Wright dissolves Provincial Congress
April 19, 1775
Battle of Lexington and Concord
April 20, 1775
Gunpowder Incident, Virginia. Lord Dunmore attempts to stem unrest in the colonies by taking away the means for colonists to protect themselves. Patrick Henry demands payment for the munitions.
May 10, 1775
Second Continental Congress is scheduled to meet; news of Lexington and Concord reaches Savannah
May 11, 1775
Georgia patriots including Sheftall break into royal arsenal in Savannah and seize 500 pounds of gunpowder; munitions are sent to Boston
June 1775
Savannah Council of Safety appointed
June 17, 1775
Battle of Bunker Hill; Savannah munitions are used in battle
July 1775
Ship Philippa arrives from London and docks near Tybee Island. It is eventually seized by Georgia
July 4, 1775
Second Georgia Provincial Congress meets
November 1775
Lord Dunmore issues emancipation proclamation, promising freedom to slaves who join to fight with the British Crown
March 1, 1776
Charles Lee becomes Commander of the Southern Department
March 4, 1776
Yamacrow Bluff Battle (Battle of the Rice Boats) on the Savannah River
March 7, 1776
Hutchinson's Island Battle. Savannah
May 1776
British expedition lands in North Carolina but decides to continue to Charleston
May 1776
Mordecai is elected Chairman of the Savannah Parochial Committee of Savannah
June 28, 1776
First Siege of Charleston at Fort Sullivan. British, defeated, withdraw to New York
July 4, 1776
Declaration of Independence signed in Philadephia
August 10, 1776
Beaufort Battle. Beaufort, SC
September 9, 1776
Charles Lee relieved of Command of the Southern Department
September 25, 1776
Robert Howe appointed Commander of the Southern Department
January 29, 1777
Augusta Battle. Georgia.
February 2-4, 1777
Fort McIntosh Battle. Georgia
June 14, 1777
Battle of Saratoga, New York begins; ends October 17th with the defeat of the British; France joins the colonies against Britain.
April ?, 1778
South Carolina appoints nine State Commissioners of the Navy; continues to organize naval forces for the South.
April 6, 1778
Mordecai is appointed Assistant Deputy Commissary of Issues for Georgia
May-July 1778
General Howe marches through South Carolina and Georgia (known as the Florida Expedition) and ultimately captures Fort Tonyn for the Continental Army.
June 22, 1778
Captain James Moore with members of the Florida militia are ambushed and captured by the British
June 28, 1778
Battle of Monmouth
July 28, 1778
Mordecai is promoted to Commissary of Issues for Georgia
July 29, 1778
Mordecai re-appoints Sheftall Sheftall as Assistant Deputy Commissary of Issues
September 25, 1778
Robert Howe loses Command of Southern Department after the Battle of St. Augustine though he is not relieved from duty until after Christmas and Savannah falls to the British. Benjamin Lincoln appointed Southern Department Commander.
November 24, 1778
Midway Church Battle. Georgia
November 29, 1778
Savannah falls to the British while under the command of General Howe and General Huger
December 29, 1778
Savannah is occupied by British troops until July 11, 1782. Mordecai and his son Sheftall are taken prisoner by the British.
January 6-9, 1779
Sunbury Battle. Georgia
February 3, 1779
Beaufort Battle. South Carolina
February 25, 1779
Mordecai is released from British prison ship, Nancy while Sheftall remains incarcerated.
March 20, 1779
The Congress and Lee galleys clash with the HMS Greenwich in Abercorn Creek, GA and are abandoned. Earlier in the year, the Washington and Bulloch galleys are burned by their Continental crews to avoid capture by the British.
May 11-13, 1779
Charleston Siege. South Carolina
June 26, 1779
Sheftall Sheftall paroled from the Nancy to Sunbury
September 23 - October 18, 1779
Savannah Siege. Georgia. Mordecai and Sheftall attempt to escape from hostilities and are recaptured by the British and sent to Antigua.
March 29-May 12, 1780
Charleston Siege. South Carolina; Command structure of the Southern Department is destroyed.
April 11, 1780
Mordecai released in a prisoner exchange.
June 13, 1780
Benjamin Lincoln leaves Command of Southern Department; Horatio Gates becomes Commander of the Southern Department
July 6, 1780
Disqualifying Act is passed by Royal leadership barring disloyal colonists from holding office. Mordecai Sheftall of the "rebel Parochial Committee" is listed.
July 14, 1780
Sheftall is paroled in a prisoner exchange. The Sheftalls cannot return to Georgia, and go North to New York and Philadelphia
August 16, 1780
Southern Department command structure destroyed for second time at Battle of Camden (South Carolina).27
September 14-18, 1780
Augusta Battle. Georgia
October 17, 1780
Gates is replaced as the final Commander of the Southern Department through the end of the war.
March 1, 1781
Articles of Confederation go into effect
April 16-June 5, 1781
Augusta Battle. Georgia
May 21, 1781
Fort Galphin. Georgia
September 6, 1781
The Hetty is registered under Captain Henry Darnall with eight guns and thirty crew and as owned by Mordecai Sheftall, though it was purchased by Sheftall earlier.28
January 11, 1782
Mordecai Sheftall is called to testify for General Howe regarding Howe's defense of Savannah.
January 12-April 12, 1782
Final Siege of Savannah
March 14, 1782
Captainship of the Hetty transferred to Thomas Deburk
May 21, 1782
Ogeechee Road Battle. Georgia
June 23, 1782
Ebenezer Battle. Georgia
August 8, 1794
Benjamin Sheftall dies at sea
July 6, 1797
Mordecai Sheftall dies
November 6, 1811
Sarah de la Motta, born in St. Croix and married to Levi Sheftall at the age of 14, dies.
October 25, 1820
Frances Hart dies in Beaufort, SC
June 10, 1835
Moses Sheftall dies in Philadelphia
August 15, 1849
Sheftall Sheftall dies in Savannah


  1. Sheftall, John McKay. "The Sheftalls of Savannah: Colonial Leaders and Founding Fathers of Georgia Judaism." In Jews of the South: Selected Essays from the Southern Jewish Historical Society, edited by Samuel and Louis Schmier with Malcolm Stern Proctor, 64-78. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1984, 65-66.
  2. Morgan, David T. "The Sheftalls of Savannah." American Jewish Historical Quarterly, September-June 1972-1973: 348.
  3. (Sheftall 1984, 69, 73)
  4. B.H. Levy. Mordecai Sheftall: Jewish Revolutionary Patriot. Savannah, GA: Georgia Historical Society, 1999, pg. 20-2; Sheftall, pg. 69-70.
  5. (Morgan 1972-1973, 350)
  6. (Levy 1999, 25-26, 32, 43-47, 51-54, , 60-61, 102-103)
  7. Sheftall Papers Inventory-Notes, 1939-[1942]; Isidore Meyer Papers; P-905; Box 34; Folders 4-5; American Jewish Historical Society, Boston, MA and New York, NY. Meyer notes on the Sheftall Family from George White's Statistics of the State of Georgia. Savannah, 1849, pg. 170.
  8. (Levy 1999); (White, Historical Collections of Georgia 1899; 1996; 2004, 340) (Cashin 2005)
  9. Cohen, Sheldon S. "The Philippa Affair." The Georgia Historical Quarterly vol. 69, no. 3 (Fall 1985): 345-349.
  10. Journals of Continental Congress, February 13, 1778, Vol. X, pp. 159-165. (Also located on pages 294-295 of the WPA1941)
  11. McCall, Hugh. History of Georgia from Its First Discovery by Europeans to the Adoption of the Present Constitution. Vol. 2. Philadephia: D. Appleton & Co., 1859, 380.
  12. Works Progress Administration Guide to the Papers of Mordecai Sheftall. New York: Works Progress Administration, 1941, page 309, contains an excerpt of George White's Historical Collections, pp. 340, recounting Mordecai and Sheftall Sheftall's capture by the British.
  13. (Morgan, Sheftalls of Savannah 1972-1973, 349, 355-356, 359)
  14. Isidore Meyer, notes to unpublished Works Progress Administration Guide to the Papers of Mordecai Sheftall. Papers are currently being processed under the auspices of the Levy Grant by Rachel Miller. P-905, Sheftall Research.
  15. Mortgage of St. Catherines, pg. 297-302, WPA Guide 1941 Transcript.
  16. Military Departments in the American Army: Southern Department Accessed 3/12/2010.
  17. Meyer, unpublished Works Progress Administration Guide Introduction. Meyers papers are currently being processed by the Levy Grant archivist, Rachel Miller. P-905, Notes on the Schooner Hetty.
  18. The Continental Army of 1777-1780. Accessed 4/5/2011:
  19. Paullin, Charles Oscar. The Navy of the American Revolution: Its Administration, Its Policy and Its Achievements. Burrows Brothers Company: Chicago, Il, 1906, pgs. 459-462.
  20. Elliot, Daniel T. Ebenezer Revolutionary War Headquarters: A Quest to Locate and Preserve. Lamar Institute Publication Series, Report Number 73. Pg. 227. Accessed April 6, 2011.
  21. WPA Guide, pg. 151A


5 Linear Feet (11 binders; 6 boxes; 1 oversized folder in shared box; 1 folder in shared box)


The Mordecai Sheftall collection consists of the family papers and business records of the American Revolution patriot, Mordecai Sheftall, and the Sheftall family of Savannah, Georgia from 1761-1873. This collection includes a American Revolution provision returns (1777-1778), and correspondence for the Continental Army and Navy of Georgia and South Carolina. The collection also includes an original Works Progress Administration Guide to the materials.


The collection is arranged into three subgroups as follows:

  1. Subgroup I: Mordecai Sheftall, Sheftall Family Papers, and Privateer Papers, undated, 1761-1867, 1932
  2. Series I: Mordecai Sheftall Papers, undated, 1761-1795, 1932
  3. Subseries I: Mordecai Sheftall Correspondence and Papers, undated, 1770, 1772, 1777, 1778-1782, 1784, 1786, 1788-1792, 1794, 1932
  4. Subseries II: Mordecai Sheftall Ledgers and Account Book, 1761-1774, 1783, 1788, 1790-1795
  5. Series II: Sheftall Family Papers, undated, 1780-1867
  6. Subseries I: Sheftall Sheftall, undated, 1780-1781, 1787, 1792, 1799, 1817, 1840
  7. Subseries II: Moses Sheftall, undated, 1795, 1807, 1815, 1827, 1833-1834
  8. Subseries III: Frances Sheftall, undated, 1788, 1802
  9. Subseries IV: Benjamin Sheftall, undated, 1790, 1797
  10. Subseries V: General Family Papers, undated, 1776, 1785, 1798, 1805, 1822, 1841, 1856, 1865, 1867
  11. Series III: Privateer and Schooner Hetty Papers, undated, 1781-1872, 1793
  12. Oversized Materials, 1786, 1807, 1833, 1857-1858, 1873
  13. Subgroup II: American Revolutionary and Continental Troop Commissarial Work and Provision Return Records, undated, 1777-1779, 1782-1783
  14. Series I: American-Revolution Correspondence, War Credentials and Documentation, undated, 1777-1779, 1782-1783
  15. Subseries I: American Revolution Provision Return and Other Correspondence, undated, 1777-1779, 1782-1783
  16. Subseries II: War Credentials and Case Against United States and Georgia Records, 1778
  17. Series II: Commissarial Records - Army, undated, 1777-1778
  18. Subseries I: Provision Returns for the 1st Regiment and 1st Battalion, undated, 1777-1778
  19. Subseries II: Provision Returns 2nd Regiment and 2nd Battalion, undated, 1777-1778
  20. Subseries III: Provision Returns for the 3rd Regiment and 3rd Battalion, undated, 1777-1778
  21. Subseries IV: Provision Returns for the 4th Regiment and 4th Battalion
  22. Subseries V: Provision Returns, Signed-Only, Illegible and Fragmented, undated, 1777-1778
  23. Subseries VI: Provision Returns for the South Carolina Regiments, Battalions, and Units, undated, 1778
  24. Subseries VII: Provision Returns for Multiple Battalions, 1778
  25. Subseries VIII: Provision Returns for the Artificers, undated, 1778
  26. Subseries IX: Provision Returns for the Artillery, undated, 1778
  27. Subseries X: Provision Returns for the Barrack Master, 1778
  28. Subseries XI: Provision Returns for the Cattle Guard, Drovers, Forage Master, 1778
  29. Subseries XII: Provision Returns for the Coopers, 1778
  30. Subseries XIII: Provision Returns for the Grenadiers, undated, 1778
  31. Subseries XIV: Provision Returns for the Independent Companies, Militias, and Volunteers, 1778
  32. Subseries XV: Provision Returns for the Light Dragoons and Light Infantry, undated, 1777-1778
  33. Subseries XVI: Provision Returns for the Magazine and Main Guard, undated, 1778
  34. Subseries XVII: Provision Returns for the Sick and Hospital, undated, 1778
  35. Subseries XVIII: Provision Returns for the Wagoners, Georgia and Georgia and South Carolina, undated, 1778
  36. Subseries XIX: Provision Returns for the Wagoners, South Carolina, undated, 1778
  37. Series III: Commissarial Records - Naval, undated, 1777-1778
  38. Subseries I: Provision Returns for the Bulloch Galley, 1778
  39. Subseries II: Provision Returns for the Congress Galley, undated, 1778
  40. Subseries III: Provision Returns for the Washington Galley, undated, 1777-1778
  41. Subseries IV: Provision Returns for Multiple Vessels, 1778
  42. Subseries V: Provision Returns for Other Vessels, undated, 1778
  43. Subseries VI: Provision Returns for Unknown Vessels, 1777-1778
  44. Series IV: Commissarial Ledgers and Account Books, undated, 1777-1778
  45. Subseries I: Account Books and Ledgers, undated, 1777-1778
  46. Subseries II: Individual Ledger Pages, undated, 1778
  47. Subseries III: Provision Return Unit Covers, undated, 1778
  48. Subgroup III: Works Progress Administration Guide and Index, 1941
  49. Series I: Works Progress Administration Guide, 1941
  50. Series II: Index Cards, undated

Physical Location

Located in AJHS New York, NY


The Mordecai Sheftall Papers WPA Index of Names - American Revolution contains names found within the American Revolution-era papers of Mordecai Sheftall. This family history database transcribes Part II of the Works Progress Administration Guide (pages 150-259), Analytical Indexes to the Sheftall Papers and may be viewed here.

Acquisition Information

The collection was donated by A.S.W. Rosenbach, circa 1927 and the Elsie O. and Phillip D. Sang Foundation, 1982.

Microfilm Listing

The collection is on 12 reels.

Reel 1

Mordecai Sheftall (Binder 1)

Mordecai Sheftall Account Books (Box 2 and Box 3)

Sheftall Sheftall (Binder 1)

Moses Sheftall (Binder 1)

Francis Sheftall (Binder 1) (See also Reel 12)

Benjamin Sheftall (Binder 1)

Sheftall Family (Binder 1)

Hetty (Binder 1)

Works Progress Administration Guide (Box 14)

Works Progress Administration Index Folders (Box 18)

Reel 2

Newspapers - Oversized Folder 1 (OS2F)

Reel 3

Works Progress Administration Index Cards (Box 17)

1st Regiment/1st Battalion #1-134 (Binder 5)

2nd Regiment/2nd Battalion #1-200 (Binder 5)

Reel 4

2nd Regiment/2nd Battalion #201-295 (Binder 5)

3rd Regiment/3rd Battalion #1-328 (Binder 6)

Reel 5

4th Battalion/4th Regiment #1-239 (Binder 7)

Signed-Only, Illegible, and Fragmented Provision Returns #1A-187 (Binder 8)

Reel 6

Signed-Only, Illegible, and Fragmented Provision Returns #188-363 (Binder 8)

South Carolina Regiments, Battalions and Units #1-35 (Binder 9)

Multiple Battalions or Regiments #1-8 (Binder 9)

Artificers #1-33 (Binder 9)

Artillery #1-212 (Binder 9)

Reel 7

Barrack Master #1-22 (Binder 9)

Cattle Guard and Drovers #1-32 (Binder 9)

Coopers #1-2 (Binder 9)

Grenadiers #1-16 (Binder 9)

Independent Companies, Militias, and Volunteers 1-35 (Binder 9)

Light Dragoons/Light Infantry #1-125 (Binder 10)

Reel 8

Light Dragoons/Light Infantry #126-291 (Binder 10)

Reel 9

Magazine/Main Guard #1-148 (Binder 10)

Sick and Hospital #1-137 (Binder 11)

Reel 10

Sick and Hospital #138-259 (Binder 11)

Wagoners #1-87 (Binder 11)

Reel 11

Wagoners #88-181 (Binder 11)

Wagoners of South Carolina #1-32 (Binder 11)

Bulloch Galley #1-16 (Binder 12)

Congress Galley #1-37 (Binder 12)

Washington Galley #1-19 (Binder 12)

Washington, Congress, Lee, Bulloch Gallies 1-12 (Binder 12)

Other Boats including the Lee Galley #1-45 (Binder 12)

Reel 12

Unknown Vessels #1-23 (Binder 12)

American Revolution Account Books and Ledgers #1-25 (Binder 13)

American Revolution Individual Ledger Pages #1-11 (Binder 4)

Provision Return Unit Covers #1-18 (Binder 4)

American Revolution Provision Return and Other Correspondence #1-27 (Binder 4)

War Credentials and Case Against United States and Georgia Records #1A-11 (Binder 4)

Invoice to Mary Hartley from Mrs. Sheftall for Sewing and Gowns, [Christmas Day], 1778 (Binder 1)


Collection and Works Progress Administration Guide Note

Collection and Works Progress Administration Guide Note The collection was originally organized by the Works Progress Administration's Historical Records Survey upon that program's expansion from public and church archives to private manuscript repository collections. The collection was surveyed under the New York City Historical Records Survey and published in unfinished book format in 1941. The publication was the fourth New York City Historical Records Survey contribution in manuscripts, and posed a "difficult problem in editorial planning, and the solution for compressing all the significant content of the manuscripts into an orderly and limited framework[s] makes this volume something of an anomaly among manuscript collection guides and calendars." Indeed, the records, though calendered by the WPA, have been primarily unusable despite the effort made by the Historical Records Survey.

The items themselves were originally stored by serial number in eight lettered file boxes without a known original arrangement and numbered as follows: A 1-630, B 1-419, C 1-361, D 1-507, E 1-361, F 1-468, G 1-377 and H 1-49. The Historical Records Survey then "created a card catalog, alphabetically arranged by surname and subject, and referring to the documents by container-letter and serial number." Each document was taped to legal-sized paper stamped with the corresponding numbers next to the document.

This process was not archivally sound: it used non-acid-free backing paper and presumably non-archival tape that browned. In addition, the provision return materials themselves were subjected to pond and swamp water at some point during or after Mordecai and Sheftall Sheftall's flight or escape attempt from British troops in late 1778. As a result, the documents were fragile; age, water, taping, and lack of a system for easy retrieval of material made use difficult.

In 2008, Save America's Treasures, a joint private/public office of preservation administered by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Park Service, granted the American Jewish Historical Society funding in order to conserve, organize, microfilm, digitize and present these rare archival documents recording the founding of America. The papers were conserved by Jeffrey Rigby; organized and described by Tanya Elder; Encoded Archival Description was created by Marvin Rusinek; and microfilmed and digitized by Hudson Microimaging. The Gruss-Lipper Digital Laboratory of the Center for Jewish History ingested and presented the collection on the Center's Digitool system supervised by Andrea Buchner and ingested by Eric Fritzler.

As noted in the WPA Guide, the papers themselves fell into five original subgroups as follows:

1) Commissarial activities of Mordecai Sheftall during the American Revolution in and around Savannah, Georgia,

2) pre- and post-Revolutionary mercantile ledgers and records,

3) Continental money, which has disappeared from the AJHS repository, possibly after being on display sometime during the 1960s or 1970s,

4) papers regarding Mordecai's efforts with privateering and the Schooner Hetty and,

5) Sheftall family letters and papers.

WPA Number CJH Digital Lab Digitool Code WPA Index Number New Item Title/Date Document Size (cms.) Document Type
WPA_G-0100 aa-p12-sg02-s01-ss01-012-2 24 Provision Order for Pork Delivery to Moses Nunez for the Use of the Indians, Unknown Requestor [Torn], 03/1778 18.2x7.6 Requisition
The WPA selected representative items to transcribe in the WPA Guide, using the original document number and an added index number to identify items. The index numbers, 1-328, were assigned in numerical order according to subgroups: Commissarial Activities of Mordecai Sheftall (divided into Credentials and Instructions, Record of Supplies, and Account with United States and Georgia); Mercantile Ledger; Continental Paper Money (since disappeared); Privateer Papers: Schooner Hetty; and Sheftall Family Letters and Papers.

The American Jewish Historical Society applied for and received a Save America's Treasures grant in 2008 in order to preserve the papers by a conservator, organize and arrange the documents by a grant archivist, and microfilm and digitize the collection by a migration company. The grant team chose conservator Jeffrey Rigby and Hudson Microfilming for conservation, microfilming, and digitization. Originally calling for a grant archivist to concentrate fully on a difficult collection, the AJHS chose to use the full-time Senior Archivist, Tanya Elder, for this project.

In order to systematically preserve and re-organize the collection while maintaining a connection to the original WPA Guide, each document was removed from its paper backing, cleaned and deacidified by the conservator. Each document was housed in individual poly-archival folders and the original WPA code number printed on a label and placed on the poly-folder. Each code number begins with "WPA" followed by the alphabetical drawer and document number, i.e., WPA_A-0102; WPA_D-0001, WPA_H-0032. The affixed number was then entered onto an Excel spreadsheet.

As noted, there were 328 index numbers assigned to 328 transcribed documents within the WPA Guide. In order to maintain the connection to the WPA guide and the indexed documents, each document appearing in the WPA Guide was located and recorded. Once the documents were found within the collection, a hand-written asterisk was marked on the affixed WPA number label to denote that the document had been transcribed into the WPA Guide. The Index number was also placed into the Excel spreadsheet for identification.

Once this task was completed, an organizational framework was formulated as the original WPA number scheme could not be replicated in regards to original order. At times, original order seemed to be divided by original cover sheets found within the collection (see Subgroup II, Series IV, Subseries III: Covers) but a firm conclusion could not be made in regards to original order from the placement of the Covers.

Provision Returns in the collection are primarily handwritten. Printed return forms from the Continental Congress and Quartermaster Departments appeared later during the American Revolution, and a few examples of these printed forms can be found within the Sheftall papers. Provision returns followed a general pattern, described below. Each provision return was read and deciphered by the following standards, determining its placement within the collection and then a title for each document was created.

Note: Some items were not attached to their storage paper backings and subsequently lost their identifying WPA code number. Among these items is a 28-page Memorandum Book for the Congress galley with the Index #144 linked to document WPA_A-0011 as well as [WPA_A-0001 Index #150] [WPA_A-0006 Index #155] [WPA_A-0006 Index #156] [WPA_A-0007 Index #159]. Index #160 in the original WPA guide had no WPA code assigned to the document.

Provision Returns General Note

Please note that the recto and the verso of each Provision Return differs slightly with each Regiment, Battalion, Company, or Unit, and each Provision Return itself, and therefore describing each of the documents on the Item Title level became at times, a lesson in frustration. Even though there was no across-the-board uniformity, one standard of description eventually emerged to document almost 2900 Provision Returns by way of Item Level description.

This standard is noted below.

Rank and Position: No designations of rank or position such as Lt. Colonels, Majors, Quartermasters or Deputy Quartermasters have been used in Item Title Descriptions except where there is an omission of first name of either the signer or recipient on the Provision Return and their rank or position is indicated. This is due to the variations in names and ranks, found in the WPA Index of Names, for each item. Please consult the actual Provision Return and the WPA Index of Names to distinguish persons and rank. Please pay particular attention in this regard to Maj. Gen. Robert Howe, Doctor Robert Howe, and Ensign / Lt. / Quartermaster / Sgt. Robert Howe. In most cases, the provision return is signed by Robert Howe, Quartermaster.

Recto and Verso Certification of Distribution and Receipt: Provision returns in this collection were commonly issued on the recto of a return and certified as distributed on the verso of the return with an additional signature of the person receiving the provisions. Unless the verso of the return has significant information that the recto of the return does not contain (or, in a few instances, an entirely different Provision Return) there has been no attempt to document the verso of each return. In some cases, the verso has been used to verify dates, if provided on the verso, but verso signatures and dates are not recorded on the Item Title description.

Range of Dates: In some cases, a certification of distribution is provided on the recto of a return, along with a range of dates that the return provides for. Date ranges for these returns are included where possible. However, the Provision Return is filed by the date of certification, if found on the recto, and not the start of the date range of the provisions provided to a person or groups of persons. If there is only a range of dates stated on the Provision Return, then the Provision Return is filed for the start of the range of dates.

Numbered Regiments, Battalions and Units: Provision Returns of the 1st Regiment/1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment/2nd Battalion, 3rd Regiment/3rd Battalion and 4th Regiment/4th Battalion have been filed together into one series for each numbered Regiment/Battalion. While a Regiment and a Battalion are two different military units, it became increasingly clear shifting through the Provision Returns that it would be impossible to separate the Provision Returns by Regiment and Battalion (and in a few cases, Brigades). Some returns are for a specific Regiment but signed by a member of a specific Battalion and vice versa and due to the reasons cited above regarding rank or position and the number of Provision Returns, it became impossible to note fully all distinctions in the Item Title. Therefore all returns of a numbered Regiment or Battalion are filed together under the number of each Regiment or Battalion.

Provision Returns with Unnamed Regiments and Battalions with Signatures Only: For the most part, a specific Regiment or Battalion (or in a few cases, Brigade) is noted in the text of the Provision Return and is therefore used to file the Provision Return. In other cases, the Regiment or Battalion is not named in the text of the Provision Return, but after the signature of the person certifying the Provision Return, and is therefore filed by that person's numbered Regiment or Battalion. In many cases, a Provision Return contains neither a numbered Regiment nor Battalion and is therefore filed in the "Signed-Only, Illegible and Fragmented" subseries.

Units: If the Provision Return is named for a specific type of Unit, i.e., Artillery, Light Dragoons/Light Infantry, Sick/Hospital, Wagoners, etc., these returns were singled out and filed by the type of Unit the Provision Return is for, rather than the numbered Regiment or Battalion, which in most cases is not noted.

Once the items were reorganized by Regiment, Battalion, Unit, Vessel or Unsigned, new code numbers were assigned to each document in order to facilitate the new organization and eventual digitization of the collection.

CJH Digital Lab Digitool Code

aa-p12-sg02-s01-ss01-012-2 aa=American Jewish Historical Society p12=AJHS collection number sg02=Subgroup 2 s01=Series 1 ss1=Subseries I 012=12th Document by date 2=number of pages digitized.
On the whole, the new organization scheme of the collection is not markedly different from the original Subgroups. New Subgroups are as follows: Subgroup I: Mordecai Sheftall, Sheftall Family Papers, and Privateer Papers, undated, 1761-1867, 1932; Subgroup II: American Revolutionary and Continental Troop Commissarial Work and Provision Return Records, undated, 1777-1779, 1782-1783 and Subgroup III: Works Progress Administration Guide and Index, 1941. Each of these Subgroups is divided into Series and Subseries, explained under the Series Description portion of this finding aid.

Some WPA Guide items found within the collection do not fall neatly into Subgroup Series. These items were placed into Series thought to be most relevant, particularly materials regarding Mordercai Sheftall's pre- and post-American Revolutionary papers and activities. As such, researchers should be aware of the crossover nature of some documents in Subgroup I, Series I, Subseries I and Subseries II: Mordecai Sheftall Correspondence and Papers and Subgroup II, Series I, Subseries II: War Credentials and Case Against United States and Georgia Records.

There are three WPA Guides within the collection, each in varying degrees of completion. Only the most complete of these guides was digitized, along with the set of Index Cards to the collection, which may be found in Subgroup III: Works Progress Administration Guide and Index, 1941. A further explanation of the Guide and Index Cards may be found in the Scope and Content Note portion of this finding aid for the Subgroup.


  1. Journals of Continental Congress. Vol. Vol. X. Philadelphia: United States Printing Office, 02 13, 1778. 159-165.
  2. Cashin, Edward J. Revolutionary War in Georgia. Georgia Humanities Council and the University of Georgia Press. 03 26, 2005. (accessed 08 11, 2011).
  3. Cohen, Sheldon S. "The Philippa Affair." The Georgia Historical Quarterly 69, no. 3 (Fall 1985): 338-354.
  4. Continental Army of 1777-1780. n.d. (accessed 5 April, 2011).
  5. Cooksey, Elizabeth B. Judaism and Jews in Georgia. n.d. (accessed 08 03, 2011).
  6. Elliot, Daniel T. Ebenezer Revolutionary War Headquarters: A Quest to Locate and Preserve. Vers. Report Number 73. Lamar Institute Publication Series. n.d. (accessed April 6, 2011).
  7. Levy, B.H. Mordecai Sheftall: Jewish Revolutionary Patriot. Savannah, GA: Georgia Historical Society, 1999.
  8. McCall, Hugh. History of Georgia from Its First Discovery by Europeans to the Adoption of the Present Constitution. Vol. Vol. 2. Philadephia: D. Appleton & Co., 1859.
  9. Meyer, Isidore. "Isidore Meyer Papers." American Jewish Historical Society, 1892-1992.
  10. Military Departments in the American Army: Southern Department. n.d. (accessed 12 03, 2010).
  11. Morgan, David T. "A New Look at Benjamin Franklin as Georgia's Colonial Agent." The Georgia Historical Quarterly 68, no. 2 (Summer 1984): 221-232.
  12. Morgan, David T. "The Sheftalls of Savannah." American Jewish Historical Quarterly, September-June 1972-1973: 348-360.
  13. Paullin, Charles Oscar. Navy of the American Revolution: Its Administration, Its Policy and Its Acheivements. Chicago, Il: Burrows Brothers Company, 1906.
  14. Sheftall, John McKay. "The Sheftalls of Savannah: Colonial Leaders and Founding Fathers of Georgia Judaism." In Jews of the South: Selected Essays from the Southern Jewish Historical Society, edited by Samuel and Louis Schmier with Malcolm Stern Proctor, 64-78. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1984.
  15. White, George. Statistics of the State of Georgia. Savannah, GA: W. Thorne Williams, 1849.
  16. -. Historical Collections of Georgia. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1899; 1996; 2004.
  17. Wikipedia - Congregation Mickve Israel. n.d. (accessed 19 August, 2011).
  18. Wikipedia - Grenadier. n.d.
  19. Wikipedia - James Oglethorpe. n.d. (accessed June 9, 2011).
  20. Wikipedia - Second Continental Congress. n.d. (accessed 11 08, 2011).
  21. Wikipedia - Townsend Acts. n.d. (accessed 08 05, 2011).
  22. Wikipedia - War of Jenkins' Ear. n.d. (accessed 03 2011, 08).
  23. Wikipedia - War of the Austrian Succession. n.d. (accessed 03 2011, 08).
  24. Works Progress Administration Guide to the Papers of Mordecai Sheftall. New York: Works Progress Administration, 1941.
  25. Wright, John. "Some Notes on the Continental Army." William and Mary Quarterly 11, no. 3 (July 1931): 185-209.

Processing Information

In 2008, Save America's Treasures, a joint private/public office of preservation administered by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Parks Service, granted the American Jewish Historical Society funding in order to conserve, organize, microfilm, digitize and present these rare archival documents of the founding of America. The papers were conserved by Jeffrey Rigby; organized and described by Tanya Elder; Encoded Archival Description was created by Marvin Rusinek; and microfilmed and digitized by Hudson Microimaging. The Gruss-Lipper Digital Laboratory of the Center for Jewish History ingested and presented the collection on the Center's DigiTool system and was supervised by Andrea Buchner and ingested by Eric Fritzler.

Guide to the Papers of Mordecai Sheftall (1735-1797), undated, 1761-1867, 1873, 1932, 1941 P-12
Processed by Tanya Elder
© 2011
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
The Mordecai Sheftall Collection was conserved, processed, and digitized under a grant from Save America's Treasures, a joint public-private partnership of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Park Service. Special thanks to Richard, Philip and Roger Steel who generously donated towards the arrangement and processing of the Sheftall Papers.

Revision Statements

  • 20130809: Added link to database.
  • March, June 2020: EHyman-post-ASpace migration cleanup

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States