Excerpt: A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier

I thought I was as warm a patriot as the best of them; the war was waged; we had joined issue, and it would not do to “put the hand to the plough and look back.” I felt more anxious than ever, if possible, to be called a defender of my country. I had not forgot the commencement affair [see excerpt from pp. 10-11], that still stuck in my crop; and it would not do for me to forget it, for that affront was to be my passport to the army. p. 15

The author of the introduction to this Signet edition, Thomas Fleming, seems to have misread the this passage. As a result, the following statement appears on p. viii of the Introduction. For the life of me, I cannot even guess how he came to the leap about the British in Lexington in this connection. For what it’s worth, I recommend the text only on the merits of the memoir itself as this Introduction and the Afterward can be entirely dispensed with without diminishing Mr. Martin’s words one iota.

Why did he stick it out? Part of the reason, of course, was the legal claim the army had on him once he enlisted. Deserters were summarily hanged…But he also felt, after the war began, that “it would not do to put the hand to the plough and look back.” Moreover, the “commencement of the affair”–the brutal way the British shot Americans on Lexington green in April 1775–”stuck in my crop.”




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