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A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier

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The book, A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier, follows the seven year span of Joseph Plumb Martin's life as a revolutionary soldier and his accounts of his life during that time. Most historians would agree that this is a primary source of information from the revolutionary war because of the first hand experience that Martin relays. Martin's rank in the army was that of a private, so we do not hear about the heroes that are so often referred to during this time period. Among Martin's accounts of battle were the Battle of Brooklyn, Battle of White Plains and finally the Battle of Monmouth.

The revolutionary soldiers faced many hardships that their counterpart British soldier did not. The British soldiers were well trained and use to the life of roaming a country and living in harsh conditions. Also, the British army was well supplied for the most part while the American army was reliant on the people to supply them with food and other supplies. This reliance of the American army on the people was one of the most defining times of warfare.

Throughout the book, the soldiers are always talking about how the supplies are so scarce and how they had to steal them for the most part. This is an excerpt from the book when Martin comes down with a violent cold because of the temperature during the day being extremely hot and then at night in the trenches the temperature falling considerably. He was sent to the hospital ward, where there was no real structure only, "I had the canopy of heaven for my hospital, and the ground for my hammock."1 Martin goes on to explain the situation of food at this hospital, "In the evening, one of my messmates found me out, and soon after brought me some boiled hog's flesh and turnips, without either bread or salt. I could not eat it, but I felt obliged to him not withstanding; he did all he could do- he gave me the best he had to give, and had to steal that, poor fellow; necessity drove him to do it to satisfy the cravings of his own hunger, as well as to assist a fellow sufferer."2

These excerpts from the book show very well how the lives of these soldiers were very much dependent on their own ambitions and helping each other out. As Martin pointed out, there was no actual hospital structure were the sick and wounded received proper care, the infected would just hike a mile or two behind the front lines and find themselves a nice area on the ground and rest. Furthermore, the army did not have any rations or proper sustenance that the sick and wounded could receive. Martin explained how his messmate had to steal the turnips and hogs meat at his own accord because there was no other way for them to eat.

Martin also goes on to explain how the army was in dire need of supplies with his statement, "The army was now not only starved but naked; the greatest part were not only shirtless and barefoot, but destitute of all other clothing especially blankets."3

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