Most famous for his diary accounts of the American War for Independence, Joseph Plumb Martin was born to the Reverend Ebenezer Martin and Susannah Plumb in Massachusetts, 1760. At the age of seven, he was sent to live with his well-to-do grandparents, where he received an excellent education.
When the war started in 1775, Martin was too young to enlist, although he eagerly wished to do so. The next year, at the age of 15, he signed up for six months as a private in the Connecticut State Troops. Although his grandparents were not enthusiastic about his enlistment, they did not oppose his decision. That December, he determined not to rejoin, but by the next year had changed his mind and joined Washington's Continental Army. He entered the 8th Connecticut Regiment, under command of General James Varnum. Serving in the Light Infantry and in the Corps of Sappers and Miners, he eventually rose through the ranks to become a sergeant. He participated in many famous battles, endured the hardships of Valley Forge, and was present at the Siege of Yorktown and Cornwallis's surrender.
All through the war Martin kept a diary, which vividly details his experiences. Recounting the miseries of being under siege, Martin speaks of enduring "hardships sufficient to kill half a dozen horses." Once, he ponders on God's providence when a volunteer is killed in front of him. Martin had almost offered himself for the position of the dead man. Containing very clear descriptions of Martin's surroundings, his diary vividly recreates the battles for the reader. Because Martin was an ordinary soldier, his account does not include the usual famous people mentioned in history books, and therefore gives a valuable illustration of the everyday experiences of the war.
When the fighting was over, Martin undertook work as a teacher in New York for a year. In 1784, he moved to Maine and helped found the town of Prospect, near what is now Stockton Springs. Remaining there for the rest of his life, Martin held several occupations—including farmer and justice of the peace—before settling on the position of town clerk.
Ten years aftoer founding Prospect, Joseph married Lucy Clewley. Together they enjoyed five children. Martin continued his writing, mostly in the form of small stories, poems, and songs. In 1830, he published his diary anonymously, but it did not become popular. However, he must have been a fairly well known hero of the war, for in 1836 a troop of US Light Infantry was passing through Prospect, and upon hearing that Martin lived there, fired a salute oustide his home.
Joseph Plumb Martin lived to the age of 89, and died May 2, 1850. He is buried with his wife in Sandy Point, Maine.
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