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Mathieu Dumas preceded the army to set up camp on the march to Yorktown. His diary recounts the circumstances of this march in a lively and detailed manner, the communication with the army, his encounters, and the practical difficulties he had to solve. He also provides much information about the logistics of supplying and supporting an army overseas, a topic which is pretty much untreated. His account is filled with descriptions of the natural world through which he passed and of American politics, as well as reflections on the differences between the States and the effects of the war on the American economy.


This diary, which was not intended to be published, is a unique source on the direct experience of war since drafts like this have rarely been preserved. Most French accounts on the “American War” have often been written decades after the war. This diary gives an unfiltered and spontaneous account of the immediacy of the war, the logistical issues the French faced, the high level of improvisation, but also of Dumas’s personal fears and emotions.


It also gives a lively portrait of America during the last phase of the War of Independence, through descriptions of American landscapes, towns, and people. Furthermore, this diary demonstrates the inner workings of the process of producing memoirs and war journals.


Dumas’s diary is one of only three diaries from a quartermaster’s point of view and it is very different from the other accounts. The quartermasters were staff officers who were responsible for the procurement and distribution of food, clothing and supplies as well as for reconnoitering travel routes, the repair and maintenance of roads and bridges; the layout, organization and construction of camps; the supply and maintenance of wagons and teams and of boats for water transport.


The book also includes an appendix on Dumas’s Reconnaissance of the positions at Portsmouth and of the British works around Yorktown and another on his travels in Virginia in 1782 as well as his observations on places in the West Indies.

Journal of a French Quartermaster on the March to Yorktown June 16—October 6, 17

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