Excerpt: A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier

I recently finished reading an excellent little piece of American history, A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier: The Memoir Previously Published as Private Yankee Doodle: Some of the Adventures, Dangers, and Sufferings of Joseph Plumb Martin. While I learned the usual rote memorization details of the American Revolutionary War back in grade school, and precious little else even in college American History, since this war was but mere chapter in our great saga, the emphasis I’d learned focused on the usual precipitating events, great names, battles, dates, locations, and outcomes, but only in the broadest of brush strokes. Never had I been exposed to the fine details one might find by looking at the war through the eyes of Everyman. This work has been my introduction to that particular view.

Many times I find the writing of merit merely on its charm. Other times the tales told shed light on people, the times, the places in a way that never would have occurred to me. Other times the passages that struck me just hit some particular nerve, or occasionally serve to illustrate parallels between the times as they were and the times as they are now. Since I enjoyed the book so very much, I thought I’d do you, kind reader, the service of sharing the occasional excerpt such that you might feel compelled to do yourself the favor of giving the work a read.

With that little bit of preamble out of the way, let’s get started, shall we?

Chapter 1: Introductory

My father being once in that condition [sick], and being at board at this aunt’s, my mother happened to be there on a visit: my father seeing her, it seems, like a great many others in like circumstances, took a fancy to her, followed up his courtship, and very possibly obtained her consent as well as her parents—married her a year and a half before his collegial studies were ended, which, (if known at the time), would have been cause of his expulsion from College; but it seems it never was known there, and he, of course, escaped a keelhaling [sic]. p. 5

Only on the very first page, and I was struck by the charm in this passage. How common such fancies must have been, but will we ever know how often the suitor risked all for the sake of his bride’s hand? With this insight, we learn little of our narrator, Mr. Martin, except that he himself found this particular detail about his parentage of note.

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