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A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier Mass Market Paperback

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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: 6.8 x 4.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #341,202 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 41 customer reviews
This is a very interesting book.
He is very human and suffers miserably under excruciating circumstances; yet, he is able to see the humorous side to things as well.
Nathan Knight
The book is a must for everyone who enjoys history and wants to know more about the people and times.
A. Long

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 64 people found the following review helpful 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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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Sherman Peabody on December 21, 2001
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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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Peter Reeve VINE VOICE on July 5, 2004
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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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Wayne A. Smith VINE VOICE on October 26, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The diary of Joseph Plumb Martin is an excellent account of the Revolutionary War told from the soldier's view.
Martin campaigned almost continuously from the beginning of the War through Yorktown (with the exception of the first winter after his initial three month service). He lived much of what have become the hallowed tales of our epic struggle for nationhood. He was at the Battles of Brooklyn, Harlem Heights and White Plains, endured Valley Forge (though for most of that winter stationed away from the camp as a forager), Monmouth, the other terrible winter encampments and Yorktown to name a few. Through it all, Martin marched, froze, starved and suffered for his service. It is remarkable that he kept at it for most of the war. (One reads of the constant lack of food - often for two or more days - and is amazed that more soldiers didn't simply just quit.) It is more remarkable that he kept at it in fairly good humor - though he did parade with the Connecticut troops who conducted a minor mutiny over the lack of provisions. (An incident that Washington reported to Congress as more worrisome to the cause than the British force occupying New York.)
Martin is a good storyteller and raconteur. The reader will not find detailed accounts of battle here. In fact, battle is mentioned rather matter-of-factly. What is delightful to find is an account of the day in and day out hardships of life in Washington's army. Stories abound of camp life, foraging, marching, guard duty, scrapes with Torries, the hunt for clothing and the other ever-present challenges that soldiers had to endure and perform to simply survive between battles.
This is a wonderful book that I highly recommend.
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