Thomas Foster

image: Portrait of Thomas Foster

Thomas Foster
© 2008 Bryant White

Thomas Foster of Barnstable, Massachusetts, served in the 7th Massachusetts Regiment of the Continental Line. By 1783, he had been in the army for eight years and at age 49 was considerably older than most of his fellow enlisted men. His diary offers a rare and provocative glimpse into the life and opinions of an enlisted man on the eve of the demobilization of the Continental Army. Foster recorded his thoughts on the army, Congress, the approaching peace, and international events. Earlier in the war, he had been charged and tried at court martial for an as-yet unknown offense, and was reduced to the ranks from his earlier position as a sergeant. This blemish on his service record barred him from wearing the "badge of military merit" George Washington created in the closing months of the war. Despite these experiences and a strong sense of disillusionment about the treatment of the army by Congress and the country as a whole, Foster's diary expresses a remarkably strong sense of patriotism and esprit de corps. The original diary is owned by the Huntington Library. A full transcription is to be posted on-line at

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