J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Life and Death in the Camps with Pvt. David How

David How (1758-1842) of Methuen enlisted in the Continental Army at the end of 1775. He kept a diary, largely for financial transactions, though he also included notes about sermons and major military events.

It’s often noted that in the eighteenth century more soldiers died in camps of disease or other causes than on the battlefield. Here are extracts from David How’s diary in February 1776, during the siege of Boston, that pertain to life and death:
7 [Feb 1776] This Day two men In Cambridge got a bantering Who wodd Drink the most and they Drinkd So much That one of them Died In About one houre or two after . . .

10 There was two women Drumd out of Camp This fore noon
That man was Buried that killed himself Drinking . . .

12 There was a man found Dead in a room with A. Woman this morning. It is not known what killed him. . . .

17 Liet. Chandler Broke out with the Small pox and was sent To the pest house this afterNoon . . .

21 Leut. Chandler Died with the Small pox At the pest house About one a Clock in the Day . . .

27 Daniel Chandler paid me Lawfull money that Lieut. Chandler owd me.
As I said, mostly financial transactions. And yet How was just seventeen.

3 comments:

Joan Q said...

I am currently reading the diary of Joseph Plumb Martin and would love to read How's diary. Where can I find it?

J. L. Bell said...

There's a copy available through Google Books. It takes only a little while to read because How wasn't the storyteller that Martin was.

Dan Craig said...

I love these short historical diaries, especially the line-a-day ones. Even better are those that are turned into offset real-time blogs or twitter feeds, like George Orwell, J. Q. Adams, or Jonas Clarke. Either of these guys have digitized diaries? Might there be interest in creating a site that is a collection of interesting people's diaries published as modern feeds?