A Common Soldier Plays Ball in the Revolution

I just finished reading Diary of a Common Soldier in the American Revolution, 1775-1783 edited by Robert C. Bray & Paul E. Bushnell.

This is an annotated, published diary of Jeremiah Greenman’s experiences in the military during the American Revolution. Greenman was born in Newport, RI in 1758 and enlisted in the Rhode Island Continentals at the age of 17. When the British invaded and occupied Newport, Greenman’s family left and settled in a village called Acoaxet in Dartmouth, Mass now in Westport. Greenman made many trips to visit with family in Acoaxet while in military service.

Among Greeman’s adventures in the Revolution was an expedition under Benedict Arnold to Quebec and two stints as a prisoner of war. Also included in his diary are several entries related to playing ball:

(May 1776 In Quebec Prison)
 “we can’t see no Snow but plenty of Ice in our bumprofe / keep o[u]r Selvs ha[r]ty in playin ball in ye yard [illeg.]
(April 1782, Philadelphia)
“The fore noon spent in playing wicket ball / Continuing the Remainder of the day in Barracks.”
(May-June 1783 Saratoga)
“Nothing happing worthy remarks, implying our selvs in a skettle & ball Alle[y]”
There are no mentions specifically related to baseball. We do not know what he meant by “playing ball in ye yard”. Skettle according to the diary is nine pins. But Greenman’s diary does show us that adults were playing ball games by the time of the Revolution. Although adults were not probably playing ball games as a leisure activity as they were by the mid 19th century but more of a diversion to the sometimes lag of activity that accompanied military life.
Besides the references to ball playing this is a facinating read if you would like to know more about military life during the Revolution. Unfortunatly I could not find a copy of this in the SAILS library catalog. But go to your library anyway and ask for it. They can get a copy for you as well as find other similar published diaries.

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