Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Jeduthan Baldwin Diary Finding Aid

The Swain Report, Number Three

We recently acquired the Jeduthan Baldwin Diary from the Massachusetts Historical Society. What follows is David Swain's excellent and intriguing report of what he discovered in the diary. David describes the three main sections of the diary and lets us in on some of the juiciest nuggets he discovered.

Reading David's report, I was struck by two things. First, Baldwin’s diary truly captures the era of the Revolution, beginning with the Seven Years War and ending in the midst of ratification. Although many works of history begin or end with 1776, Baldwin's life shows how for many the era of the Revolution was a period of continuity. What Baldwin's diary tells us about this era is something for researchers to answer.

The second observation comes at the end of David's detailed and fascinating report. David mentions a portion of the diary that includes records relating to Shays' Rebellion and notes that while portions of Baldwin's Diary have been published, this part has not. I did a quick search of Google Books and found that few books have cited this manuscript copy. What new insight on Shays' Rebellion might this collection hold?

Patrick Spero

Jeduthan Baldwin Diaries

by David Swain

Biographical Information

Jeduthan Baldwin (1732-1788) was born in Woburn, MA. He lived most of his life in North Brookfield, a small town in a still rural area NW of Worcester. He apparently learned the construction trades and mechanical engineering early in life because he served in both the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War as an engineer, designing and supervising (and probably doing) the construction of fortifications, buildings, bridges, and the like for American colonial and then US national military efforts. His rank during the French and Indian War was Captain. By late in the Revolutionary War, he had risen to the level of Colonel.

Printed Diaries

The 1750s and 1770s diaries of Jeduthan Baldwin have previously been published. The original printed version was called The Revolutionary Journal of Colonel Jeduthan Baldwin, 1775-1778, printed for the De Burians by C. H. Glass & Co., Bangor, ME, 1906. The De Burians were a small book-collecting club in Bangor, ME around the beginning of the 20th Century. The Baldwin family may have moved from North Brookfield, MA to Bangor, ME sometime in the 19th Century. See the reference to the “Memoir” below. In 1971, the New York Times and Arno Press reprinted the original 1906 book, and in 1995, Ayer Company Publishers, Inc. again reprinted the original.

The David Library owns a copy of the 1995 reprint. Comparison of this book with the microfilms of Baldwin’s original diaries described below leads to some surprising results:

--Despite its title, the printed volume includes the diary from 1755-56.

--Despite its title, it also includes additional entries for days not included in the manuscript. It identifies December 28, 29, and 30, 1778 as dates for the final three lines of the manuscript that actually have no dates, and then it also includes entries for January 1 through January 17, 1779. As presented in the printed book, these are very short, not very interesting entries, but why they do not appear in the microfilms of the manuscript diary is not clear.

--Despite the anomalies described above, the printed version appears to be an accurate typescript of the original manuscript, down to the actual punctuation and spelling.

--Neither the manuscript nor the printed book reveals clearly whether Baldwin continued his diary between 1756 and 1775. What is clear is that the style of writing and the kind of notebook used are consistent across the years from the 1750s through the 1770s.

--The printed book contains a “Memoir,” which is a lengthy and seemingly well researched historical introduction. This makes quite good reading and helps to fill in gaps in Baldwin’s life between the two pieces of diary and to provide context for his war experiences. Baldwin apparently was a leading citizen for many years in North Brookfield, MA. This is also the source of information about the Baldwin family’s move to Bangor, Maine.

Microfilmed Diaries

The single, small, microfilm reel of Jeduthan Baldwin’s manuscript diaries contains daily entries during three unconnected time periods:

-- From December 1, 1755 through May 4, 1756, when Baldwin was 23-24 years old, during the time he was serving with other New Englanders in the French and Indian War. During this war, Baldwin was assigned to the Lake George area of New York, including time at Fort William Henry, Fort Edward, and Crown Point.

-- From December 7, 1775 through December 28 [?], 1778 (with a break [by Baldwin] between December 1, 1777 and July 6, 1778), when Baldwin was 43-47 years old, during the time he was serving in the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War. Early in this section of the diary, he was assigned at first to the Boston area, later (in March 1776) to New York and Long Island, and then (from April 1776 through November 1777 to the campaign to (and retreat from) Quebec and subsequent time at Fort Ticonderoga and Saratoga. At the end of the diary manuscript, in the last half of 1778, he was traveling up and down the Hudson River, apparently still working on engineering projects, visiting places like Purchase, Fishkill, Peekskill, Westpoint, Fredericksburg, and Albany.

-- From April 26 through May 2, 1787, when Baldwin was 55 years old, during his observation of (and participation in?) the trial of Shays Rebellion leaders.

French and Indian War and Revolutionary War Diaries

Most of Baldwin’s daily diary entries (in both the 1750s and 1770s) are short, terse, and to the point. Yet these entries reveal that he was an intelligent observer, often astute at summarizing what was important in each day. Still, he had a distinctly on-the-ground perspective, describing his own day-by-day life in the midst of larger military/political dramas, on which he did not speculate or comment. Nor did he fill his diary with descriptions of the construction projects on which he worked. Rather, he simply identified what projects he was working on as he described other aspects of each day.

Still, one gets an indirect sense of the larger military contests in which he was involved. Occasionally he reports (briefly, without description) about military movements and violence. Only when he is directly involved (especially during the disastrous retreat from Quebec) does he offer occasional description and even personal comment.

Two contrasting aspects of Baldwin’s diary are particularly interesting—descriptions of what might be called “war in the wilderness,” and descriptions of his frequent working with and socializing with generals and other top military leaders.

-- Baldwin’s war experience in the 1750s was one of marching, living, and working in the forested wilderness of the Lake George region, including time during frigid-cold midwinter. His diary entries are long on the daily rigors of living and short on military strategy or even his own construction projects. In particular, he repeatedly reports on illness, especially small pox, which killed many of his fellow military men and laid Baldwin himself low for several weeks (real personal description here). During the Revolutionary War, he and fellow offices all inoculated themselves, but he got another bad case of small pox 20 years after his first bout (in May 1776 while in Canada south of Quebec).

In the wilderness, deaths occurred frequently and are routinely recorded but without emotion. Most deaths seem to have been from illness, but during more tense times, individual men would be shot, often by Indians, who often also took scalps, out in the woods. The weather in these northern woods took a grim toll as well, especially in winter. We never get the sense that Baldwin felt himself in grave danger from military violence. He was always “behind the lines” doing his construction work—but often was nearby or in the path of oncoming real military violence and was always immersed in the unforgiving wilderness.

Baldwin’s military experiences in the 1770s, during the Revolutionary War, were quite different but reverted to “wilderness war” during his lengthy involvement in the American invasion of Canada, with the intent of capturing Quebec, which failed miserably and led to a long, cruel retreat of the Americans back as far as the Lake George region (leading to significant military action at Ticonderoga and later at Saratoga, where the Americans finally won a major victory in October 1777). Once again, but aged in his 40s rather than his 20s, Baldwin marched, lived, and supervised military construction in a wilderness.

-- As an engineer and officer who rose substantially in rank through the years, Baldwin led a military life, even on the frontier, of the military elite. He was constantly working with, and hosting inspections by, the top brass who were the bosses over his construction projects. Rubbing elbows with them during the day often seemed to lead to socializing in the evening. The diary frequently reports dining with top generals etc., sometimes with wine. In the French and Indian War, these included especially Captains Rogers, Parker, and Putnam. In this war, generals seemed few and far between, at least in this war theater.

During the Revolutionary War, Baldwin worked and dined with the really top brass, both in the Boston and New York (Long Island and up the Hudson) theaters, including “Genl. Washington and his lady,” as well as Generals Putnam (again—the same one??) Gates, Lincoln, Lee (sounds like the Civil War, and these two were ancestors of the Civil War leaders), St. Clair, and Wayne. During the Quebec campaign, he dined occasionally With General Benedict Arnold, among others, and at Ticonderoga and Saratoga with Generals Schuyler and Gates (again).

The following are interesting tidbits found in the process of perusing Baldwin’s 1770s diaries:

-- On April 29, 1776, while in Albany preparing to head north toward Quebec, Baldwin had an experience that elicited a lengthy personalized description uncharacteristic of most of the diary. “…in the afternoon I attended a Treaty between the Indians & Inglish…” He proceeds to describe this very ceremonial event in great detail. According to his description, the ceremony was lengthy and consisted mostly of a series of rounds of pipe smoking and liquor consumption and conversation. “then a kind of Quaker meeting lasted near ½ an hour, except for some little conversation.” Then, they went back to drinking and “smoaking” and more conversation. “…& then we withdrew from such a sent (proceeding from the Indians & Tobaco smoak, the room being crowded), as you can have but a faint Idea of. at night the Indians had a great Dance.”

-- On July 7, 1776, while on his way to Ticonderoga, his travel chest was broken into and many of his belongings stolen. He even had to borrow clothes to continue on. Over the next several weeks, the issue occasionally arose again in the diary entries, as bits and pieces of his belongings were recovered. By sometime in August the thief had been found and imprisoned and more of Baldwin’s belongings were found. As one would expect, the retreating troops heard nothing about independence on July 4 or thereafter and were too preoccupied with the hardships they were enduring to be thinking about what was going on far away in Philadelphia. However, months later in 1777, the diary contains references to the United States of America, without any patriotic reaction.

--Baldwin’s travels to Ticonderoga were part of the overall retreat of American forces from south of Quebec. The diary contains brief descriptions on a number of days that hint at the extreme hardships of this retreat. In particular, on July 17, 1776, Baldwin vented his feelings about the retreat as well as the thievery he had just experienced, using uncharacteristically strong, personal, and opinionated language. “…I am heartily tired of this Retreating, Raged starved, lousey, thievish, Pockey Army in this Unhealthy Country.” He thought of petitioning Congress to get out of his war commitment, composed but didn’t send a letter to Congress on July 22, and was soon talked out of sending it by General Gates, who apparently flattered Baldwin sufficiently about his outstanding work to persuade him to stay.

-- During the retreat, American forces captured a set of orders from British General Carlton to British forces pursuing the Americans. On August 12, 1776, Baldwin entered into his diary what appears to be a lengthy direct quote from what he called these “insolent” orders. According to Baldwin, Carlton defined the “enemy” as “rebels, traitors, rioters, disturbers of the publick peace, plunderers, Robbers, assassins, or Murderers” and instructed his forces to capture and imprison any and all of these whenever possible.

-- As Baldwin rose in rank, he gained responsibilities for supervising—and paying—many workers. The diary records the receipt, periodically, of what seem large sums of money (but which must have been inflated greenbacks). For instance, on October 8, 1776, while at Ticonderoga, he notes receipt of “£1372 New York Currency Equal to 3431 1/8 Dollars…”

-- Apparently one of Baldwin’s last major constructions was an attempt to build a bridge across the narrow water passage between Ticonderoga and what he first called Independency (later Independence Point). He seems to have designed it and supervised it for some time. Construction began on March 1, 1777. By the time he left Ticonderoga in early July, construction was still under way, and the Americans were in retreat again, so the bridge probably was never finished.

-- The diary “peters out” in late 1777. Baldwin was in the Saratoga area before and after the battle and reports on Burgoyne’s surrender on October 16 and 17. By November 17, he was home again, on leave. An entry for December 1 contains a lengthy, detailed statistical list of the crucial numbers of Saratoga (deaths, casualties, prisoners, cannon, etc. etc.). Evidently, Baldwin made no additional entries until the next July.

-- The diary picks up again on July 6.1778, describing a lot of travel and dining with generals up and down the Hudson River. Although Baldwin doesn’t describe what work he’s doing, it must have been military work and probably construction. Still, little of interest is contained in the very short entries during this time, until the manuscript ends. The last clearly dated entry is for December 28, 1778. However, single-line entries continue for three more days. HOWEVER, keep reading….

Shays Rebellion “Diary”

The final diary fragment is not strictly a diary, although it contains daily entries dated between April 26 and May 2, 1787. The manuscript itself has no explanation of what it is, or of what happened in the trial of Shays Rebellion leaders, or of what Baldwin’s role was in the trial (see the Massachusetts Historical Society’s content description and the printed “Memoir” for more on these questions).

What Baldwin decided to record is a detailed listing of those who testified during the several-day trial, who each was, and, in summary, what each said. The pages of this part of the manuscript are filled with several block paragraphs on each double-page, each paragraph starting with a person’s name. A researcher with knowledge of the Shays Rebellion and its aftermath could be quite interested in the details here. Otherwise, this manuscript would be essentially incomprehensible. Note that this part of the manuscript is NOT included in the printed book.

Have something you want to share, such as a question, research find, or a personal story about the Library? Email Will Tatum at tatum@dlar.org

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