Private Yankee Doodle by Joseph Plumb Martin


February 19, 2013
by Hugh T. Harrington Also by this Author


Journal of the American Revolution is the leading source of knowledge about the American Revolution and Founding Era. We feature smart, groundbreaking research and well-written narratives from expert writers. Our work has been featured by the New York Times, TIME magazine, History Channel, Discovery Channel, Smithsonian, Mental Floss, NPR, and more. Journal of the American Revolution also produces annual hardcover volumes, a branded book series, and the podcast, Dispatches

Private Yankee DoodleThis book is must reading for anyone interested in the American Revolution.  It is by far the best account written by a private soldier.  Some officers wrote about their experiences but few private soldiers writings survive.

The book was first published by Martin in 1830 with the title A Narrative of Some of the Adventures, Dangers and Sufferings of a Revolutionary Soldier, Interspersed with Anecdotes of Incidents That Occurred Within His Own Observation.  In 1962, it was republished along with gentle editing by historian George F. Scheer under the title Private Yankee Doodle, Being a Narrative of some of the Adventures, Dangers and Sufferings of a Revolutionary Soldier.  More recently it has appeared as A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier featuring a Introduction by Thomas Fleming and a Afterward by William Chad Stanley.  The reader will be delighted with whichever edition he reads.

Martin is a delightful writer.  He has the ability to make the reader feel the cold, the hunger, the fear and the laughter.  In addition, Martin witnessed many events over an active military career spanning 1776 to 1783.  His descriptions are valuable as they give a feel of the war from the foot soldier’s view but also because he describes events as only an eyewitness could.  In some cases his reporting is the only eyewitness report available.

Often the memoirs of old soldiers are filled with errors, oversights or slanted in one way or another.  Many are overly “patriotic” as if they were written for an audience to enjoy.  Martin does not write that way.  He writes it the way he remembers it and hopes that readers will get something out of it.  And, he has an excellent memory and a gift for words.

I would urge anyone who has not read this book to track down a copy.  And, anyone who has read it in the past… pull it off the shelf and read it again.  It’s a true classic.

Book Title: Private Yankee Doodle
Alternative title: A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier
Author: Joseph Plumb Martin


  • This was an amazing book. You are so right when you say that Joseph Plumb Martin has the ability to make one feel the cold and hunger. Although everyone knows how the soldiers suffered, after reading this book, you come away with a whole new understanding of what they went through.

  • I agree with this review. If I were a Revolutionary War history Professor, I would have to take it a step further by mandating this as required reading in the class. This book is essential to understanding the real life of a soldier during the war. Thanks for highlighting this book!

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