John Polley was born in Dudley, Massachusetts, to John Polley, Sr., and Mary Hatch in 1743. In 1770, Polley married Phebe Chamberlain in Charlton, Massachusetts. He was later a resident of Union, Connecticut, and during the Revolution served as a private and orderly sergeant in Captain William Campbell's company. In 1775, his regiment was stationed in Roxbury, Massachusetts, under the command of Major General Artemas Ward. Polley died in Holland, Massachusetts, in 1829.
At the time Polley kept this orderly book (September-December 1775) Artemas Ward was a major general in the Continental Army and second-in-command to George Washington, headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He focused his energies on disciplining the troops and organizing the militias into a functioning unified army. In October 1775, Ward also assumed the role of chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas for Worcester County, Massachusetts.