Joseph Plumb Martin – Stories from the Battlefield
Joseph Plumb Martin
arrow Watch Joseph Plumb
Martin describe his decision
to join the Continental Army
A teenage private in the 8th Connecticut regiment and then in Washington’s Continental army, Plumb Martin kept a diary of his experiences for 7 years. Later published as “A Narrative of Some of the Adventures, Dangers and Sufferings of a Revolutionary Soldier,” the memoir is a vivid first-person account of the Revolutionary War and is the most complete text available for understanding the life of a continental soldier. Even so, readers should take the text with a grain of salt. Plumb Martin had a gift for exaggeration and often embellished his tales – witnessing events he could not possibly have seen and improving the outcomes of certain happenings. Below are some excerpts from his diary:

The Differences Between Colonists
They put me in this regiment, half New Englanders and half Pennsylvanians. Folks as different as night and day. Myself, I'd rather be fighting with a tribe of Indians than with these Southerners. I mean they're foreigners, can't hardly speak English. They don't like me either. They call me that 'damn Yankee.' That's about the nicest thing they say.

The Danger of Battle
… the fire was incessant. In the height of the cannonade it was desirable to hoist a signal flag for some of our galleys that were lying above us to come down to our assistance. The officers inquired who would undertake it. As none appeared willing for some time, I was about to offer my services. I considered it no more exposure of my life than it was to remain where I was. The flagstaff was of easy ascent, being an old ship's mast, having shrouds to the ground, and the round top still remaining. While I was still hesitating, a sergeant of the artillery offered himself. He accordingly ascended to the round top, pulled down the flag to affix the signal flag to the halyard, upon which the enemy, thinking we had struck, [surrendered] ceased firing in every direction and cheered. "Up with the flag!" was the cry of our officers in every part of the fort. The flags were accordingly hoisted, and the firing was immediately renewed. The sergeant then came down and had not gone half a rod from the foot of the staff when he was cut in two by a cannon shot. This caused me some serious reflection at the time. He was killed! Had I been at the same business I might have been killed…

The Hardships of Being a Soldier
I was soon relieved from this guard, and with those who were able, of our two regiments, sent to reinforce those in the fort [Mifflin], which was then besieged by the British. Here I endured hardships sufficient to kill half a dozen horses. Let the reader only consider for a moment and he will still be satisfied if not sickened. In the cold month of November, without provisions, without clothing, not a scrap of either shoes or stockings to my feet or legs, and in this condition to endure a siege in such a place as that was appalling in the highest degree.