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Diary of Samuel Frost, American Revolution, May 1781

First diary of Samuel Frost, soldier

First diary of Samuel Frost, soldier

Other, USMA_Frost_Diary_First
 
Document Description
Diary of Samuel Frost, a Revolutionary War soldier, May 1781.
 
Transcription
West Point May 1781
 
Saturday 12th – It is expected that another detachment will be sent to the Southward.
 
Sun 13th – A detachment of the Enemy consisting of Cavalry & Infantry, advanced to Croton last night & surprised Col. Green of the Rhode Island line, & part of the detachment under his command. Col. Green& Major Flagg & some others was killed. The barbarities committed on the unfortunate persons who fell into their hands is past description. Col. Green & Major Flagg was cut to pieces, not even satisfied with killing them but even to cut off their limbs, which was the fate of several others who fell into their hand. They may expect retaliation. Their prisoners taken at [illegible], many who were deserters from our own Army, were treated tenderly, no blood was spilled that could be avoided.

[additional pages]
 
 
Questions
When and where were these entries made?
Hypothesize as to why ‘it is expected another detachment will be sent to the Southward’? 
Summarize the events that occurred on Sun 13th.
How did the Americans treat captured British troops, including those who had deserted from the American army?
 
 
Historical Challenges
Research the course of the American Revolution in 1781.  To what extent and in what ways did British and American strategy change?  How successful were those changes?
 
Research the location of and what role West Point played during the American Revolution.
 
Interdisciplinary Connections
Language Arts – Write a letter of support to Samuel Frost.
 
 
Resources
 

Historical Context
Military records for the American Revolution come from three main sources:  state veterans’ lists which date to the early 19th century, federal veterans’ pension applications dating to 1832, and the records of the Daughters of the American Revolution.  Consequently it is difficult to pinpoint the exact number of American soldiers who fought during the American Revolution.  Approximately 175,000 men served as soldiers, including five thousand free black men and slaves. 
Colonial militias and the Continental Army constituted the two main branches of military service. Colonial militias generally required service of every male between the ages of 16 and 60.  There were exceptions made for clergy and college students, among others, but the colonial militias provided the largest force of soldiers during the war.  Militiamen were able to live at home most of the time during the war and were generally only called into action when there were battles in their home regions.  As the war progressed, many militiamen, concerned about their families and farms were reluctant to sign on for long periods of service.  Some, including General George Washington, believed that militiamen were less disciplined, hardened, and professional than soldiers should be.  Despite concerns, the militias served an important role in the Revolutionary War.  In June of 1775, the Continental Congress established a standing professional army, the American Continental Army.  Continental soldiers enlisted for terms of service ranging from one year initially to a longer enlistment later in the war.  On average, Continental soldiers were younger, under 20 years of age, and poorer than their militia counterparts.  The middle and upper classes generally avoided service in the Continental Army by paying substitutes to enlist for them.  Baron Von Steuben helped bring discipline and skills to the Continental Army and it became an effective fighting force.  For some soldiers, even the harsh discipline and lack of resources of Army life were preferable to their lives at home.  Although often delayed, soldiers of the Continental Army at least received pay.  As the war progressed, many colonial governments drafted men to serve in the militia or the Continental Army.
Soldiers had to endure harsh conditions during the war.  They were often not given enough clothing or food and medical care was minimal.  Many soldiers died of disease.  The harsh conditions and brutality of battle prompted many soldiers to desert. 
 
 
Essential Question
What were some of the conditions faced by soldiers in the American Revolution and how did they respond to them?
 
 
Check for Understanding
According to Samuel Frost, how did American treatment of British prisoners of war differ from that of the American forces?  Write a short summary.  Suggest at least one way to check the accuracy of Samuel Frost’s observation.