Established in 1988, the Society's Robert Charles Lawrence Fergusson Collection specializes in the art of war in the age of the American Revolution. At the core of the collection are early printed works on military and naval art and science known to the American, British, and European officers of the eighteenth century, including treatises on fortification and tactics, artillery and drill manuals, medical texts, and officers' guides. Military and naval histories and biographies are also included among the literature that informed and inspired the eighteenth-century practitioners of warfare. The holdings extend to some sixteenth- and seventeenth-century works that can be shown to have relevance to what the officers of the eighteenth century read and studied. A highlight of the collection is a first edition of the great compendium of Enlightenment thought, Diderot's Encyclopédie.
The Fergusson Collection also encompasses official publications, such the acts and laws of the Continental Congress, Ordonnances du Roi for the French army and navy, and a nearly complete set of the British Army Lists spanning the years 1754 to 1800. Contemporary histories, memoirs, political pamphlets, sermons, newspapers, and other publications support broad research on the American Revolution. An extensive collection of period maps, battle plans, broadsides, and graphic arts further enhance and illuminate topics relating to the people and events of the era.
Complementing the early printed works are bound and individual-leaf manuscripts. The library holds more than thirty-five manuscript orderly books of American and British military units, which document day-to-day operations. Other bound manuscripts reveal the art of the art of war, including several finely rendered studies after Vauban, the great French master of fortification. The manuscript collection also includes letters and diaries recorded by participants and observers of the Revolutionary War, as well as muster rolls, supply and clothing lists, and other documentary evidence of operations in the armed services.
The growing collection honors the memory of a young twentieth-century Cincinnatus who gave his life in service to his country. Robert Charles Lawrence Fergusson (1943-1967) was elected to the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of Virginia in 1966, representing Capt. Benjamin Biggs of the Virginia Continental Line. The following year, as a first lieutenant in the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army, he was fatally wounded while commanding an infantry company in combat in Vietnam. For his valor and sacrifice, Lieutenant Fergusson was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Bronze Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Purple Heart.