The Diary of Job Whitall
By Sue Huesken
Diaries are a wonderful source of primary information on all aspects of 18th century life. They are also great fun to read. Job Whitall's diary written during the American Revolutionary War gives a unique picture of life by the writer.
Job Whitall was a Quaker living in Gloucester County, New Jersey. He was the adult son of the owners of the house that still stands today in the middle of Redbank Battlefield, National Park, N.J. The surviving portion of the diary is dated from 1775 to 1779.
The published copy of the diary is well transcribed. I had the opportunity to see the photo copy of the original that was used for the transcription. The handwriting is neat and legible. The spelling is very erratic, typical of the period.
Many of the entries begin with a weather report. The comments are matter of fact as are all entries in the diary. Little or no emotion comes through. While he mentions his wife, he never calls her by name. Soldiers are discussed but there are no references to the battle.
The last forty pages are Job's day book. A valuable source of information on the costs of goods for this time period.
As with any written material, more questions than answers come from the information in the diary. One of the more interesting entries is:
11Mo 21Day 1777 A Pleasent Day. I staid at home on acount of ye English soldiers coming by here to Day. They took two mares from me. One sorrel mare out of ye stable, ye other they took out of ye lot, a Brown mare, both with foal & while ye army were a passing by, they came in & took our bread, pyes, milk, chees, meet, dishes, cups, spoons & then took shirts, sheets, Blankets, coverleds, stockings, Breeches, a lite Broadax & drove our catle out of ye Brickshed & they all came Back but big, brown ox that we workt. While here, they Broke open two doors & ransackt ye hous all over but ye seller.
I find the items taken by the British soldiers very interesting. It appears they took things for which they had a need. The clothing especially was a surprise. could the British army not have been as well equipped as we have been led to believe? Or were individual soldiers looking for extras? We will never know!
General knowledge of everyday life during the period of the American Revolution helps to create more realistic living history portrayals. Diaries offer easy reading and should be on every re-enactor's book list. This is just one example, many others have been published as well. Read one today!!!!!!!!!