“Great men get great praise, little men, nothing” (83). The words from Martin's memoir seeped with veracity. Instead of reading about the occurrences“Great men get great praise, little men, nothing” (83). The words from Martin's memoir seeped with veracity. Instead of reading about the occurrences of famous generals like Nathanael Greene, Horatio Gates, Benedict Arnold, and George Washington or about what the Founding Fathers were doing politically at this time to secure its separation from the Mother Country, Joseph gave readers an inside gritty look into the lives of the soldiers during the Revolutionary War. This was not the average Historical occurrence of a general obtaining widespread recognition for his success at the battle of Saratoga, or of one who became filled with envy that he became a traitor to the colonies, but a true account of the fear and sufferings of the Americans who fought for this country's independence---the “little men” whose praises have been lost on the bloody battlefield over 200 years ago.
When learning about this revolutionary era, many Historians make it seem like a patriotic adventure. Notwithstanding, these men were terrified during the war: dealing with the harsh weathers of summer and winter, starvation and sickness, and sleepless night to stay alert because of the redcoats. Some soldiers would kill themselves on duty. One in particular was a troop who feigned thirst and pretended to drink water but had actually drowned himself (34). In class one is taught about the zealous, patriotic spirits of the colonists wanting to become independent, but Joseph Martin has given readers a different perspective. He wrote, “Every man I saw was endeavoring by all sober means to escape from death or captivity” (37). It is sort of a dichotomy how the soldiers were endeavoring to escape from death or captivity (or the war in of itself) that they would do so by killing themselves.
Martin and his troops were well acquainted with hunger, for it is mentioned ubiquitously throughout the pages of his memoir. Fatigue and freezing snowy or rainy nights were their constant companions, as well. Anything was done to satiate their hunger: eating tree barks, roasting their own shoes, and killing a soldier’s dog. Martin was on the verge of eating an already squashed cat. Such a time was “a time that tried men’s souls” (147). A lot of soldiers were not thinking about independence, but warmth, staying alive, satisfying their bellies or deserting his assigned regiment. One cannot fathom the pain and fear these troops experienced; though some try to desert or took their lives, the majority stuck it out and fought to the death--men of which merit respect.
Out of the 25 battles of the revolution, Martin was in 9 of them. The story of the war from a soldier’s perspective was tedious to read but horrifying. In 1778, Martin and the troops are assigned to Valley Forge under the disciplinary drill of Baron von Steuben of Prussia. Von Steuben trained the Continental Army with Prussian exercises that aided them greatly for the next battle: battle of Monmouth. What a battle it was, for Martin may have killed a redcoat for the first time. It was at this battle, too, that a woman made a striking, unforgettable appearance, giving her the name Molly Pitcher. She took part in this battle giving water to the soldiers and refilling the cartridge. According to Joseph Martin, she showed absolute courage and was unconcerned at a cannonball which miraculously flew between her legs. Martin showed reverence for women in his memoir who cared for the soldiers and did what they could to help them and their country to obtain its independence. Though it is not mentioned in the narrative, but during this time, too, African Americans saw this as an opportunity to obtain freedom, and thought it ironic the colonists wanted liberty and not enslavement. Blacks would protest about their liberty, join the war in hopes that the colonists would set them free, or they joined the side of the British because they were promised freedom when the war was over.
After the final battle at Yorktown and General Cornwallis of England capitulated with his men before George Washington in 1783, Joseph Martin moved to Maine and stayed there until the day of his death. His story is a little unfortunate, for he was paid a small pension for his service to his country. At the age of 70, he wrote this book to make extra money, but the memoir was, like the “little men’s” praise during the war, swept away. Very few people read it or even cared. He died twenty years later, but his narrative was discovered and republished again almost a hundred years later. Maybe Joseph Plumb Martin would have lived a successful life had he stayed with his grandparents instead of enlisting himself in the war at 15, maybe not. Though he had not lived to see the success of his narrative, his voice and story has lived on, and has helped Historians and students gain a better insight on the Revolutionary War that substantially shaped America and made it what is today....more