The Hector MacLean journal and orderly book is a small volume that contains 155 pages of writing. The first and last sections of the volume contain copied orders, beginning July 17, 1781, and covering the final months of the Revolutionary War, particularly the events leading up to the Battle of Eutaw Springs on September 8, 1781, and its aftermath through September 16, 1781. MacLean later used the volume's middle section as a diary, documenting pioneer life in Douglas, Nova Scotia, from 1785-1787.
MacLean first recorded orders at Orangeburg, South Carolina; they state that "Each Corps will send to the Genl Hospl tomorrow morng by day light three men with one Tomyhawk to receive their orders from the Steward there" (July 17, 1781). Illness is the topic of several additional entries, which note the number of sick soldiers and how their absence affected strength reports. On September 9, 1781, the day after an extremely bloody British victory at Eutaw Springs, MacLean documented, and likely read aloud, a statement from Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Stewart to the men who had fought under him. In it, Stewart expressed deep gratitude for their "gallant conduct," singled out several officers for praise, and segued into a prohibition on burning tents and wigwams. A few additional entries concern passes, the foraging of horses, and the preparation of returns. The final orders in the book, recorded September 16, 1781 and issued by Charles Cornwallis, provide restrictions on the use of carts by officers. The book also contains returns for MacLean's company, including the number of men fit for duty, sick in camp, and sick in the hospital, for July, August, and September of 1781. Also included are the names of some British casualties at Eutaw Springs.
Approximately 100 pages in the volume are devoted to MacLean's postwar experiences in Douglas, Nova Scotia, between December 24, 1785, and March 26, 1787. His brief, near-daily diary entries center on the planting and harvesting of crops, the activities of his farmhands, hunting, road-blazing, and his visits to friends. In late June and early July 1786, he described a boating expedition though Tennycape, Noel, and Selma, Nova Scotia, the highlight of which seemed to be "visit[ing] the sweet Girls at Mr Putnams" (July 2, 1786). He also mentioned the raising of a mill (August 23, 1786) "airing" a wet wheat stack (September 22, 1786), constructing a wood shed (November 22, 1786) and barn (January 22, 1786), and other tasks of an early Canadian pioneer. The diary closes with a description of a failed, multiday hunt, in which his party and their dogs chased a moose for many miles, only to lose it to other hunters who caught the fatigued animal (March 21-23, 1787).