Joseph Plumb Martin was the son of a Massachusetts reverend and was sent to live with his grandparents in Connecticut after the Battles of Lexington and Concord. In June 1776, he threatened to join the crew of a American privateer out of Hartford if his grandparents didn’t allow him to join the Continental Army which just arrived in New York to defend against the inevitable British invasion there. His grandparents relented and on 29 June 1776, the 16 year old joined the Connecticut State Troops, and almost immediately was recruited into the 8th Connecticut Continental Line. He wouldn’t see his grandparents again until 1783.
Pvt Martin fought in every major battle from Long Island to Yorktown. He crossed the Delaware and surprised the Hessians at Trenton and was promoted to corporal in early 1777. He froze his ass off at Valley Forge and after MG Sullivan’s Iroquois campaign in 1779 was promoted to sergeant. He stayed a sergeant for the rest of the war and was present when LTG Washington disbanded the Continental Army in 1783.
What set Martin apart from the thousands of other Continental Army soldiers was that he kept a diary nearly every day of the war. Many officers at the time kept journals but few soldiers could read and write. Martin’s journal provides a nearly unique view into a soldier’s life in the Continental Army and its operations. He rarely mentions any officers above his company commander and mentions George Washington only once: when Washington once returned his salute while on guard duty.
The diary is a nearly unique look into the daily life of an American soldier in the Continental Line. Martin’s diary is definitive proof that some things never change and Joe will be Joe no matter the time period.