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A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier Mass Market Paperback – September 1, 2001

4.7 out of 5 stars 98 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Thomas Fleming is a distinguished historian and the author of numerous critically acclaimed and bestselling novels. His masterpiece, The Officers’ Wives, was an international bestseller with over two million copies sold. His novels Time and Tide and Liberty Tavern were both New York Times bestsellers. He is also the author to the award-winning PBS mini-series Liberty! The American Revolution. A decade ago Fleming was elected a Fellow of the Society of American Historians. He writes frequently for American Heritage Magazine and is contributing editor of the Quarterly Journal of Military History. His most recent non-fiction novel is Duel: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and the Future of America. Thomas Fleming lives in New York City.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Signet Classics; Reprint edition (September 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451528115
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451528117
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 0.8 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,085,079 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael J. Mazza HALL OF FAME on December 3, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Joseph Plumb Martin (1760-1850) served as an enlisted soldier in the American Revolutionary War, and published a memoir of his war experiences in 1830. That book, "A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier," is an amazing document of a pivotal era in United States history.
Martin recalls his experiences in military campaigns from 1776 to 1783. He was an enlisted man who rose to the rank of sergeant, and his memoirs present the war from that perspective, rather than from the viewpoint of generals or political leaders. The suffering of the common troops is vividly detailed. Martin tells of the sleep deprivation, hostile weather conditions, combat death and injury, and lack of clothes. The men suffered from many diseases. But their most constant enemy was probably "the monster Hunger." Martin describes at length the horrible foods the men had to eat: bread "hard enough to break the teeth of a rat," carrion beef, and even tree bark.
From a tactical standpoint, Martin's descriptions of 18th century trench warfare are fascinating. Martin is eventually transferred to the Corps of Miners, and I was especially interested by the descriptions of his corps' duties: blasting rocks, dismantling enemy fortifications with axes, etc. He gives insights into how the miners' corps worked together with the infantry.
Martin's narrative is enlivened by his wit and humor. One of my favorite lines comes after he mentions the village of Maidenhead: "don't stare, dear reader, I did not name it."
Martin ends his narrative with a passionate defense of the rights and dignity of veterans. He notes with anger that Revolutionary soldiers were "turned adrift like old worn out horses" after the war.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Martin was born into a dysfunctional family in the Massachusetts frontier town of Becket, but grew up outside New Haven at his maternal grandparents' farm on Long Island Sound. He first joined a Connecticut Militia regiment for six months service in the summer of 1776: the regiment was best remembered for running away during the British landing at Kip's Bay. The unit did fight well at the Battle of White Plains, but at the end of their enlistment, the unit and Martin returned home.
He enlisted a second time during the spring of 1777 for three years and reenlisted until 1783. He served in a Connecticut Infantry regiment, in the Light Infantry, and then for most of the war as a sergeant in a company of Sappers and Miners (Combat Engineers.) His service took to the defense of Red Bank in the fall of 1777, Valley Forge, Monmouth, and back to the Hudson Highlands (where in 1780 he says he could have easily killed Benedict Arnold, an officer he hated, had he the benefit of hindsight.)
Martin marched to Yorktown, Virginia in 1781 and was one of Alexander Hamilton's storming party that captured a key redoubt.
After leaving the army he made his way up to Maine and wrote this book from memory early in the 19th century. Lucky we are that when it was first published no editor had tried to improve Martin's text. Reading Martin is like listening to an 18th century man speak. He leaves in sex and violence. He is not ashamed. And he tells the truth, which is something hard to do when recording something that happened forty years since.
This book will tell a reader more about the Revolutionary War and the 18th century American world than any other book ever published. I got my first copy of Martin forty years ago and I still read and reread him regularly.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
An invaluable primary source. There are few first hand accounts of the American Revolutionary War and of those few, Martin's is the most famous. And justly so. It offers many insights into the attitudes of the day, for example when he describes the enmity that existed between the 'Yankees', such as himself, and the Pennsylvanians with which he served and says that he would as happily serve with a tribe of Western Indians as with those 'southerners'. Such comments remind us how concepts of race and nationhood evolve through the generations. There is much humour too, sometimes rather grim, such as the description of the 'tricks' that the men play on an unpopular officer, that come close to killing him. If the common soldiers' greatest enemies were hunger, cold and disease, it seems that the officers' greatest enemies were sometimes the men they commanded. It is important to remember that these are the memoirs of a man writing late in life about events in his youth, events that had already become mythologized. Half a century and a strong patriotic sense take their toll on objectivity. So this personal narrative is not a substitute for a sober academic history; it is an essential adjunct. And a damn fine read.
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Quite simply a MUST read for any age student of our country's Revolutionary War! Written by a foot soldier in the war, it gives the reader a personal detailed account of Joseph Plumb Martin's experiences. The reader feels his intense hunger, his thirst, his intense pain from cold and heat, his frustrations and even some lighter moments with other fellow soldiers. I have visited some of the key battle sites mentioned in Martin's accounts and with the detail he provides, one can easier imagine the scene and the terrible carnage he illuminates so succinctly....he even corrects some of his contemporaries accounts of events he took part in!

High School and College level history teachers should place this on their recommended reading lists.
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