Edited and introduced by E. Lee Shepard
Eyewitness narratives of the American Revolution, compiled during the conflict itself, are decidedly rare, especially those regarding the campaign in Virginia. On the infrequent occasion when such diaries and reports are discovered, they augment the letters of American soldiers that survive scattered in repositories across the country. The appearance, then, of a source that is new to students of the War for Independence is a notable event. And when that document also offers fresh insights from an important perspective, its value as a resource compels its wide dissemination.
Such is the case with the diary of Capt. Benjamin Bartholomew. A company commander in the 5th Pennsylvania Regiment of the U.S. Continental Line in 1781, Bartholomew religiously entered succinct summaries of daily events in his journal, summaries that today inform, surprise, and often tantalize the reader of this remarkable saga of a revolutionary warrior. His reports of the marches, skirmishes, battles, and siege in Virginia that made up what proved to be the Revolution's climactic campaign offer an unparalleled glimpse into both the monotony of the soldier's life and the high drama that was acted out at Yorktown in September and October 1781.
Bartholomew's diary came to the Virginia Historical Society in 2000, part of a generous bequest of rare books, manuscripts, maps, and newspapers from the estate of Paul Mellon. Mellon's agents had acquired the volume for his extensive collection of Americana in 1967 from H. P. Kraus, Inc., of New York, which had in turn secured the diary at an auction the preceding year. It remained in Mellon's library for more than thirty years, known only to a select few persons. Apparently, the owner always intended that the diary be made accessible to the public at a major historical repository. At Mellon's death, his executors took his wishes to heart. After thorough and careful deliberation, they designated Bartholomew's journal, along with a host of other valuable historical resources, to reside permanently in the collections of the Virginia Historical Society.
The publication of this document as Marching to Victory: Capt. Benjamin Bartholomew's Diary of the Yorktown Campaign, May 1781 to March 1782 was made possible by a gift from VHS trustee Cecelia Stump Howell and her mother, Lucile H. Stump.
44 pages, Softcover, ISBN 0945015240, Virginia Historical Society, 2002.
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