I’ve been reading the diary of Benjamin Gilbert, who was an American soldier for the entire Revolution. Most of the diary is filled with one or two line entries about the weather.
the 3rd Sunday. Fair Pleasant day.
the 5th Fair and Clear.
the 6th. Fair.
the 7th. Clear and warm.
You get the gist.
Then there are the entries about his health. He may well have been suffering pellagra or beriberi because of vitamin deficiencies, as well as thrush.
the 11th I am not so well this Day.
the 12th I had a Very sick Fitt and Puking.
the 13th I am Very Poorly this Day.
the 14th I was Very Poorly in the forenoon
His illness continued.
the 25th Christmas. Very Cold. I am still Poorly. At Night snowed.
It’s not all weather and pukes, however. He was long stationed on the Hudson River and talks about standing guard, preparing for attack, and punishments for soldiers.
the 17 This Morning one Smith formally Belonging to Colo Greatons Regt [regiment] was Shot to Death for Desertion and Inlisting severall times.
Richard Ford of Capt Goodales Compy [company] was Whipped 30 Lashes for selling his shirt.
And a few interesting action/consequence sequences
the 9th At Nigt. Serjt. Cook got home his whiskey and we kept it up very High. [i.e. they partied all night long]
the 10th Serjt Cook Got under Guard [arrested] for Selling Liquor.
I could go on and on, but I wanted to give you a flavor of some of the primary sources I read when I’m working on a historical novel. So far, I have not found any scenes in Gilbert’s diary that I want to borrow from for my novel, but I am adopting several of his phrases and medicinal remedies.
If you’re interested in reading the diary yourself, ask your librarian to track down a copy of A Citizen-Soldier in the American Revolution: The Diary of Benjamin Gilbert in Massachusetts and New York. Edited by Rebecca D. Symmes, pub. The New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown, N.Y., 1980.