Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Featured Manuscript: Diary of Joseph Plumb Martin


Narrative of Some of the Adventures, Dangers and Sufferings of a Revolutionary Soldier, (known today as Private Yankee Doodle),which is featured in this month's object of the month. The volume held at Morristown NHP (picture above) is a first edition which was published anonymously and is now known to have been written by Joseph Plum Martin. The volume is unusual in that both the front and back boards are literally boards. The cover consists of paper cover wood with a gold tooled and quarter leather spine. There is an inscription on the title page presumably front a former owner which reads, Charles C. Tyler Cooper, 1839. The publication date is 1830.

The book was donated to the museum in 1959 by Lloyd W. Smith via 1955 and is part of the rare book collection.

MORR 9600

About Joseph Plumb Martin:

Joseph Plumb Martin entered active military service at age 15 in 1776. During his eight-year tour of duty in the army, he kept a journal of his experiences.

In 1830, he published his memoir, based on his journals composed during the Revolution, under the title A Narrative of Some of the Adventures, Dangers and Sufferings of a Revolutionary Solider. The work is a vivid first-person account of the life and times of a common Revolutionary War solider and is often referred to for its detailed descriptions in terms of understanding the life of a continental solider.

The work however suffers from a malady quite common of period in which it was published and of the style and genre of writing. Put simply, Martin tended to embellish or exaggerate episodes and events to present a more favorable or action-packed account of his or the armies exploits.

Again, while this was common, modern readers and researchers should rely on Martin with an appropriate amount of caution added. Martin was 70 years old when he published the work, but memory beyond what is reasonable in most individuals.

Finally, the work suffered one more malady common to historical tracts of the period: poor sales. It was Morristown NHP superintendent Dr. Francis Ronalds who showed the Morristown NHP copy to George Scheer who then edited the volume for publication as Private Yankee Doodle. It has not been out of print for over 50 years.


Chronicle of The Revolutionary War, Joseph Plumb Martin." Liberty! The American Revolution. PBS, h.d. Web. 2 June 2011. plummartin.html>.

"Selections from the Diary of Private Joseph Plumb Martin."

USHistory.org. Independence Hall Association, 2010. Web. 2011.

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