Pvt. Moses Sleeper’s Diary

One of the treasures of the Longfellow House archives is the diary of an American soldier during the first months of the Revolutionary War, when Gen. George Washington moved into the mansion. (This document was not left at the House, but purchased by the Longfellow family in the early 1900s.)

The diary has never been published. Frances Dickinson Ackerly transcribed the text and identified its author as Pvt. Moses Sleeper of Newburyport. Her essay about that identification is available for downloading.

The diary begins on June 10, 1775, shortly before the Battle of Bunker Hill. For July 2-3, as shown to the right, Sleeper recorded events this way:
Sunday [July] 2
the Gageites* fired upon our people
At Roxbury and hove a number of
Carcases* and bums* but did no damage
Only burnt one house In the Afternoon
Rain till Knight General Washington
Came In to the Camps

[* “Gageites” were the British troops, so called after their commander, Gen. Thomas Gage. “Carcases” were hollow cases or shells filled with combustible material and and thrown from a mortar or howitzer in an attempt to set fire to buildings. “Bums” was Sleeper’s spelling of “bombs.”]

Monday July 3
turned out Early In the
Morning Got in Rediness to Recieve
the General New Orders Given out
by General Washington
The diary ends on September 7, 1776, during the British army’s campaign to capture New York.

Here is a searchable online transcription of the diary.