A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier is a memoir written by Joseph Plumb Martin, an ordinary soldier who served the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. As the name indicated, the memoir mainly portrays the common men’s experiences and feelings, especially their dangers and sufferings, during the revolutionary period. Based on Martin’s unique perspective, his memoir cannot provide us with the big picture from the top down, such as the military strategy and the charismatic leadership of American revolutionary army. However, it offers exclusive insights and precious details that allow us to closely examine what truly transpired among the thousands of soldiers during that period.
Martin wrote the memoir at the age of 70 and refreshed his memory that dated back to about 50 years ago, but the lapse of time did not greatly affect the validity. Every vivid scene of the soldiers’ normal life was effectively represented in a rational style in the memoir. The old age brought Martian a mature view of the world as well as a relatively subjective way of writing.
Compared to the great men’s narratives, Martin’s memoir serves as an equally important source of history. If we start with Martin’s memory to probe into the confrontation at ground level, from the perspective of an ordinary participant, the revolution emerges into a more complex and obscure event. There was not only courage, but also fear. There were not only romance and epic, but also savagery and brutality. There were not only heroes and victors, but also survivors and victims. Martin starts the first chapter with “the heroes of all Histories, Narratives, Adventures, Novels and Romances," demonstrating the prevalent notion of romanticizing the war, but in the latter chapters even himself could not count how many times he went through the hunger, coldness, and defeat. The teenager had the dream of “fire and sword” and “the thoughts of service”, but also kept doubting himself as “a coward.”
On the one hand, Martin never defined himself as one who possessed...