It was a terrible event in our nation's history. The fire that ravaged the War Department on the night of November 8, 1800, destroyed records and books. Shortly after, Secretary of War Samuel Dexter was still in despair as he wrote "“All the papers in my office [have] been destroyed.”
Fast forward to the present. For over a dozen years, Ted Crackel collected collections of papers from around the world which related to this time period. In 2006, the project was turned over to George Mason University.
Now you can search this wonderful history filled collection of documents by visiting the War Department Papers 1784-1800 at http://wardepartmentpapers.org/ .
I can say I was personally thrilled to find over 19,000 documents pertaining to my family name. Of course, it doesn't hurt that an uncle of mine who was an accountant for Continental Army and later for the War Department was the author or recipient of the letters. As an added bonus for me, my 5g grandfather is also listed on some of the documents on the site.
My buddy Bill and I are going to contact the Collections Group to see if they have more information on my family or if they would like what we have gathered.
Sure do wish I could let Mr. Dexter know that all was not lost.