Cover image for Thirteen soldiers a personal history of Americans at war
Title:
Thirteen soldiers a personal history of Americans at war
Author:
McCain, John, 1936-
Personal Author:
Edition:
Unabridged.
Publication Information:
[New York] : Simon & Schuster Audio, [2014]
Physical Description:
11 audio discs (13 hr., 30 min.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.
Summary:
John McCain's evocative history of Americans at war, told through the personal accounts of thirteen remarkable soldiers who fought in major military conflicts, from the Revolutionary War of 1776 to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
General Note:
Compact discs.

Duration: 13:30:00.
Language:
English
Genre:
Added Author:
ISBN:
9781442374881
Format :
Audiobook on CD

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Summary

Summary

John McCain's evocative history of Americans at war, told through the personal accounts of thirteen remarkable soldiers who fought in major military conflicts, from the Revolutionary War of 1776 to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As a veteran himself, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and a long-time student of history, John McCain brings a distinctive perspective to this subject. Thirteen Soldiers tells the stories of real soldiers through the years who personify an essential characteristic of combat, from valor, savagery, and terror to obedience, enterprise, and love. You'll meet Joseph Plumb Martin, who at the tender age of fifteen fought in the Revolutionary War; Charles Black, a freeborn African American sailor in the War of 1812; and Sam Chamberlain, of the Mexican American War, whose life inspired novelist Cormac McCarthy. Then there's Oliver Wendell Holmes, an aristocratic idealist disillusioned by the Civil War, and Littleton "Tony" Waller, court-martialed for refusing to massacre Filipino civilians.

Each account illustrates a particular aspect of war, such as Mary Rhoads, an Army reservist forever changed by an Iraqi scud missile attack during the Persian Gulf War, and Monica Lin Brown, a frontline medic in rural Afghanistan who saved several lives in an ambushed convoy. From their acts of self-sacrifice to their astonishing bravery, the thirteen soldiers profiled here embody the best America has to offer.


Author Notes

John Sidney McCain III was born in the Panama Canal Zone at Coco Solo Naval Air Station on August 29, 1936. In 1954, he entered the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. He fought in the Vietnam War as a naval aviator and was a prisoner of war (POW) beginning on October 26, 1967. In March 1968, he was put into solitary confinement, where he would remain for two years. He was a POW for five and a half years before being released on March 14, 1973. He retired from the Navy as a Captain in 1981.

He moved to Arizona and began a career in politics. He won two terms in the U. S. House of Representatives, from 1983 to 1987, followed by six terms in the U. S. Senate. He was the Republican presidential nominee in the 2008 United States presidential election. In 2015, he became chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

He wrote numerous books with his aide Mark Salter including Worth the Fighting For; Why Courage Matters: The Way to a Braver Life; Character Is Destiny: Inspiring Stories Every Young Person Should Know and Every Adult Should Remember; Hard Call: Great Decisions and the Extraordinary People Who Made Them; 13 Soldiers: A Personal History of Americans at War; Faith of My Fathers; and The Restless Wave: Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights and Other Appreciations. He died from brain cancer on August 25, 2018 at the age of 81.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Senator McCain and staffer Salter (Hard Call: Great Decisions and the People Who Made Them) deliver inspirational accounts of 13 Americans who fought in various wars. Their introduction, lauding soldiers "who went to war for our country, who risked their lives and suffered, and should not be forgotten," will warn readers what to expect. Among the choices are Joseph Martin, who wrote a Revolutionary War memoir long beloved by historians, and Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., who barely survived the U.S. Civil War. The authors make an attempt at diversity, choosing two black representatives: Charles Black, a sailor in the War of 1812, and Edward Baker, a buffalo soldier cavalryman who fought in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. Mary Rhoads, one of two women included, survived a catastrophic Scud missile strike during the 1991 Gulf War, while Monica Lin Brown, a medic, earned a Silver Star in Afghanistan. Incidents of racism and sexism are highlighted as they emerge in the narrative. Each chapter includes an overview of the relevant war to contextualize the soldier's story. "War is wretched beyond description," but McCain and Salter aptly reveal humanizing moments in such theaters of cruelty. Agent: Philippa Brophy, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

In their latest collaboration, McCain and Salter (coauthors, Character Is Destiny) share 13 individual stories of military life and offer powerful glimpses into the personal experiences of war for the men and women serving the United States throughout history. This book features an in-depth profile of one individual from each of the 13 major military conflicts in U.S. history. Listeners will get to know soldiers from the Revolutionary War through the World Wars and the current War on Terror. Each story provides a deep understanding of the individual's life and unique experiences fighting for this country. A real strength of this work is its ability to bring history vividly to life. For example, one story allows listeners to overhear the not-so-nice comments George Washington made to retreating soldiers who were supposed to be pressing the attack. Use of correspondence and personal journals provide wonderful anecdotes and capture emotions firsthand. Although it is evident he is not a professional narrator, McCain displays a passion for history and the military that shine through. VERDICT Recommended for those interested in military history and fans of biographies. ["The text as a whole offers insights into life during battle; however, it comes across as a bit disjointed, seeming more a compilation of minibiographies than a work with an overriding theme," read the review of the S. & S. hc, LJ 11/1/14.]-Sean Kennedy, Cleveland State Univ. Law Lib. (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Thirteen Soldiers CHAPTER ONE Soldier of the Revolution Joseph Plumb Martin joined the Revolutionary War at fifteen and fought from Long Island to Yorktown. TWO DAYS AFTER JOHN HANCOCK affixed his extravagant signature to the Declaration of Independence, an intelligent, spirited boy of fifteen pretended to write his name on an order for a six-month enlistment in the Connecticut militia: "I took up the pen, loaded it with the fatal charge, made several mimic imitations of writing my name but took especial care not to touch the paper." Someone standing behind him, probably a recruiting officer, reached over his shoulder and forced his hand. The pen scratched the paper. The helpful agent declared, "The boy has made his mark." "Well, thought I, I may as well go through with the business now as not. So I wrote my name fairly upon the indentures. And now I was a soldier, in name at least, if not in practice." Joseph Plumb Martin would remain a soldier for the duration of the revolution. He first saw action as part of Washington's outnumbered army on Long Island. Five years and many hardships later he witnessed the British surrender at Yorktown. He lived the remainder of his life in obscurity and poverty. He received little compensation for his service, not even, at least in his lifetime, the reverence of his countrymen that was his due as one of the patriots to whom they owed their liberty. MAJOR GENERAL GEORGE WASHINGTON'S self-control, maintained in its severest trials by a supreme exertion of will, seldom failed conspicuously. But in the instances when it did, the effect was spectacular. Those who witnessed Washington's temper were stunned by its ferocity and left accounts of the experience that imagination need hardly embellish. Around noon on September 15, 1776, after galloping the four miles from his command post at New York's Harlem Heights, General Washington beheld five hundred or so shell-shocked Connecticut militia fleeing from hastily constructed defensive works on the East River at Kip's Bay. As they ran from British and Hessian bayonets, he urged them to turn and retake the ground they had surrendered without a fight. They flooded past him. Washington's physical bearing appeared no less striking, and perhaps more so, for his loss of composure. He wheeled his white charger amid the noise and confusion, his powerful legs gripped the animal firmly, his broad-shouldered, six-foot-two-inch frame sat erect in the saddle. Enraged, he cursed and threatened officers and men alike and struck at a few with his riding crop. Then he drew his sword and pistol and charged toward the enemy within range of their muskets, seeking to impart courage by his example. It was all to no avail, as the terrified farmers and shopkeepers, boys and men, some having lost or abandoned their muskets, others armed only with pikes, found more to fear from the glittering bayonets of the enemy than the violent anger of their commander in chief. He threw his hat to the ground and groaned, "Are these the men with which I am to defend America?" At last the great man's frantic aides convinced him to ride to safety. Private Joseph Martin must have made his escape that day by a route that avoided proximity to the raging Washington. Had he witnessed the unforgettable sight, he would surely have recounted it in his remarkable memoir, which includes a characteristically candid and ironic account of "the famous Kip's Bay affair, which has been criticized so much by the historians of the Revolution." The British commander in chief, General William Howe, had waited more than two weeks to pursue the rebel army after Washington ordered its evacuation from Long Island to Manhattan on August 29. In the interim Washington and his officers had decided to abandon New York City, recognizing it was indefensible while the British fleet commanded its rivers and harbor. The American forces were widely scattered: four thousand men under General Israel Putnam garrisoned the city in lower Manhattan; nine thousand men under Major General William Heath protected the army's escape route in the north from Harlem to Westchester County; dispersed widely across the center of Manhattan were General Nathanael Greene's several thousand men, including the Connecticut militia under the command of the experienced Colonel William Douglas. Washington was unsure where the British invasion would make landfall. He feared they would try to block his outnumbered army's escape by attacking at Harlem, where he made his headquarters and where his largest force was deployed. On September 13 four large warships (by Martin's account, although most historical accounts put the number at five) sailed into Kip's Bay, a small cove that offered a deep-water anchorage on the East River's west bank. Half of Private Martin's regiment was deployed to Kip's Bay that night to, in his words, "man something that were called 'lines,' although they were nothing more than a ditch dug along the bank of the river with the dirt thrown out toward the water." They returned to camp in the morning, and the following night the other half of the regiment, including Martin, were ordered to take their place in the lines. Sentinels were posted along the river for several miles and passed the watchword "All is well" on the half hour. "We will alter your tune before tomorrow night," Martin remembered the British on their warships retorting. "They were as good as their word for once." He awoke that Sunday morning tired--and, as he would be throughout most of the war, starving--and saw the warships anchored within musket range of his regiment's crude defensive line. Although the ships' crews appeared to be busy with preparations, nothing happened until midmorning. "We lay very quiet in our ditch waiting their motions," he recalled. By ten o'clock he could see scores of flatboats embark from Newton's Creek on the Long Island shore, ferrying four thousand British and Hessian soldiers across the river. They formed their boats into a line and continued "to augment their forces . . . until they appeared like a large clover field in full bloom." By late afternoon another nine thousand would join them. Martin was idly investigating an old warehouse near their lines when, at eleven o'clock, he heard the first roar of ships' cannon, which, by his account, constituted over a hundred guns. He dove into the ditch and "lay as still as I possibly could" until British guns leveled the militia's breastworks, burying men in blasted earth. At that point, realizing they were completely exposed to enemy fire, their officers neither possessing nor issuing orders to continue their futile resistance, to the dismay of their commander in chief, the Connecticut men ran for their lives. "In retreating we had to cross a level clear spot of ground 40 or 50 rods wide," Martin wrote, "exposed to the whole of the enemy's fire; and they gave it to us in prime order. The grapeshot and lagrange flew merrily, which served to quicken our motions." Martin was separated from his regiment in the melee. He spent the long, dangerous, oppressively hot day searching for them with a neighbor from home. They made their way to the American lines in Harlem while trying to avoid, not always successfully, encounters with the enemy. Their progress was slow. His Connecticut neighbor became ill and dispirited, and Martin had considerable trouble convincing him to continue. At one point, after nearly stumbling into contact with a company of British soldiers, he quit the road they were traveling on and hid in a bog. When the enemy passed by after coming so close to him that he "could see the buttons on their coats," Martin emerged from his hiding place and discovered that his sick friend had vanished. He found him later, resting with a group of rebels in the shade of a tree. Martin pleaded with him to continue the march north but was rebuffed. "No, I must die here," his friend despaired. "At length with more persuasion and some force I succeeded in getting him on his feet again and moving on." Martin and his companion had not eaten anything in more than a day. They had slept hardly at all the previous night. They were thinly clothed, starving, and exhausted. Twice they spotted American forces in the distance only to watch them be overtaken by British or Hessians and flee in terror. "Our people were all militia," he explained, "and the demons of fear and disorder seemed to take full possession of all and everything on that day." It began to rain, and as sundown approached, the hot day turned cool. "We were as wet as water could make us," Martin remembered, and he began to fear his sick friend would succumb to the chill. They came upon a large body of Americans preparing to make a stand with a few artillery fieldpieces. An officer ordered them to remain there. Martin argued that they were trying to rejoin their regiment, which he believed was located a short distance ahead. The officer didn't believe him and again ordered them to take a place in the line. Martin pleaded for his sick comrade, who would die of exposure if he spent the night in the cold air. "Well, if he dies the country will be rid of one who can do it no good," the officer coolly replied. "When a man has got his bane in his country's cause," wrote Martin, who was still appalled by the cruel remark a half century later, "let him die like an old horse or dog, because he can do no more." A drunk and distracted sentinel guarding the road north gave Martin and his friend an opportunity to escape. Not long afterward they found their regiment, which had joined Washington's lines at Harlem Heights, "resting themselves on the cold ground after the fatigues of the day." They were warmly received by their fellows, who had assumed they had been captured, as many others had, including the regiment's major, or killed. Martin closed his reminiscence of the "Kip's Bay affair" by mocking the much publicized story of a soldier who claimed to have been sitting by the highway when Washington rode by and asked him why he sat there. "I would rather be killed than trodden to death by cowards," the soldier was purported to reply. Martin doubted whether the soldier had taken part in the fighting on September 15 and attributed the day's humiliation to the conspicuous absence of officers to lead them. "Every man that I saw was endeavoring by all sober means to escape death or captivity," he recalled. "The men were confused being without officers to command them. I do not recollect of seeing a commissioned officer from the time I left the lines on the banks of the East River in the morning until met with the gentlemanly one [the artillery officer who had insulted his ailing friend] in the evening." What luck Washington's army had that day appeared in the cautiousness of the dilatory General Howe. After the British made quick work of the American defenders at Kip's Bay, Howe halted their advance to wait for reinforcements when they reached a small rise, now known as Murray Hill, less than a half mile from the landing. General Putnam, fearing his four thousand men would be cut off and trapped in lower Manhattan, rode to Kip's Bay to consult with Washington, who was futilely exhorting his soldiers to fight. Washington agreed that Putnam's position was hopeless and authorized his retreat to Harlem, which Putnam managed with astonishing speed, leaving his supplies and more than fifty cannon behind. Had Howe ordered his troops to continue their advance west they would have encountered little resistance and reached the Hudson shoreline long before Putnam could escape, dooming a third of Washington's army and possibly ending the war. But he didn't. He held his forces at Murray Hill until five o'clock, and halted them again at nightfall. Putnam's rapid march north reached Harlem that night, with only the last of his line having been inconvenienced by the musket fire of the late-arriving British. American casualties, while not light, with nearly fifty killed and four hundred captured, were not determinative either. Washington's army, tired, bedraggled, and outnumbered though it was, remained intact. The next morning, in the Battle of Harlem Heights, the Americans proved themselves capable of more than a retreat. Martin's regiment gave a good account of themselves that, if it didn't erase the memory of their disgrace at Kip's Bay, certainly improved their morale. Just after daybreak a British force was spotted advancing north, and Washington dispatched a reconnaissance party under the command of Colonel Thomas Knowlton from Connecticut. They were soon skirmishing with advance elements of British light infantry, with little advantage gained by either. The Americans retreated in good order when superior British numbers began to press them. As the British followed, their buglers played "Gone Away," a tune familiar to fox hunt enthusiasts like Washington, signaling the fox was in flight from the hounds. The insult enraged the Americans, except for Washington, who ignored it while he conceived a plan for a counterattack. When Knowlton's rangers reached the American lines, Washington reinforced them and ordered them to flank the British right while another party of volunteers staged a diversionary attack. The British escaped the trap and retreated some distance before turning to fight. Knowlton was killed early in the ensuing battle, as was his second-in-command, Major Andrew Leitch of Virginia. Martin had known Knowlton in Connecticut and regarded him as "a brave man and excellent citizen." But his loss didn't dispirit the Americans, who pushed the British back repeatedly. Martin's regiment was ordered to take the field after Knowlton fell and the British were retreating into nearby woods. They remained in the battle until Washington called off the chase that afternoon, when the retreating British had reached the protection of their ships' cannon. Both sides had suffered heavy casualties, though British losses were greater. Martin recollected his regiment had lost eight to ten men, and their commander, Colonel James Arnold, had been wounded and would not return to the army. But the British had left the field. For the first time in the young war, Washington had stopped a British advance and won a battle. And the men of the 5th Connecticut, including young Joseph Martin, had played their part in the victory bravely. During the battle a sergeant from one of the Connecticut regiments had been sent to find ammunition. An officer, a general's aide, stopped him and accused him of desertion. The sergeant explained his purpose, but the officer ordered him to return to his regiment. The sergeant refused, protesting that his mission was urgent. The officer drew his sword and threatened to kill him on the spot if he didn't obey. The sergeant drew and cocked his musket in response and was arrested, tried for mutiny, convicted, and, with Washington's approval, sentenced to death. The Connecticut troops were ordered to witness his execution, and Martin's account of the incident claims they were on the verge of mutiny over the injustice. At the last moment the sergeant was granted a reprieve. "It was well that he was," Martin remembered, "for his blood would have not been the only blood that would have been spilt." Martin's regiment also took part in the Battle of White Plains in late October, where they "lost in killed and wounded a considerable number." After the British left White Plains, many of the Connecticut men, including Martin, having had little or nothing to eat for days and being poorly clad for the wet autumn weather, became ill. They were sent to convalesce in Norwalk, Connecticut, quartering with local, mostly Tory residents, and returned to camp in New York a few weeks later. He remained in the militia until Christmas, when his enlistment expired. "I had learned something of a soldier's life," he wrote, "enough I thought to keep me at home for the future." The sixteen-year-old veteran bid his comrades farewell and walked home to his grandparents' farm in Milford, Connecticut. He did not remain there long. By spring he would again take up arms, this time as a regular soldier, a private in the new Continental Army. FIFTY YEARS AFTER HE helped America win its independence, Joseph Martin, at the age of seventy, anonymously published a memoir of his service in the war. A Narrative of Some of the Adventures, Danger and Suffering of a Revolutionary Soldier, Interspersed with Anecdotes of Incident that Occurred Within His Own Observation did not sell well in the author's lifetime, and the aged veteran died a pauper at ninety. Many who did happen to read it were offended by its tone and content. Rediscovered a century later, it has become a highly valued primary source for historians of the revolution, and Martin has finally received the acclaim he never received in his lifetime. Martin's is not a story of glorious triumph over adversity but a chronicle of privation, misery, confusion, blunder, near mutiny, endurance, humiliation, and resentment. He warns his readers not to expect an account of "great transactions," of martial conquests won by great men daring to change the course of history. "No Alpine wonders thunder through my tale," he wrote in the book's preface, quoting a British poem written at the turn of the nineteenth century. His was merely an anecdotal account of the "common transactions of one of the lowest in station in an army, a private soldier." His narrative is outspoken, acerbic, self-deprecating, irreverent, humorous--often darkly so--sarcastic, ironic, poignant, and at times embittered. He doesn't trumpet his or anyone's heroism. He doesn't expound eloquently on the meaning of the revolution and the ideals of the glorious cause. His patriotism sprang from a simpler understanding of the purposes for which the founding fathers pledged their lives and sacred honor. He shows rather than professes his love of country and her cause by his endurance in a terrible trial of body and mind. And his claim is made more powerful by the honesty and humility of his testimony. He admired Washington and other celebrated heroes of the revolution. Some officers he served under received his praise and others his contempt. He reserved his greatest respect for the men like him, the mostly poor and young regulars of Washington's army, the weary, hungry, aggrieved survivors of shell, shot, ball, and bayonet, of deadly winters and lost battles, of harsh discipline and their countrymen's indifference. His father was an itinerant and impoverished preacher, who sent young Martin to be raised by his maternal grandparents on their farm near Milford. They were exacting guardians, who put him to work on the farm at an early age. They were caring and generous as well. He remembers his childhood with fondness and parting from his grandparents with sadness. Martin rarely interrupts the account of his life with a discourse on the ideals of the revolution. Patriotic sentiments are scarce and written matter-of-factly. "I collected pretty correct ideas of the contest between this country and the mother country," he wrote about his decision to enlist in the militia. "I thought I was as warm a patriot as the best of them." His grandparents opposed his enlistment. Even he didn't warm to the idea until his friends and neighbors began enlisting. He recalled the passions aroused by the Stamp Act and the Boston Tea Party and confessed they had not stirred him to militancy. His grandfather described to him the hardships and savagery of the French and Indian War, and Martin felt then that "nothing should induce me to get caught in the toils of an army. 'I am well, so I'll keep,' was my motto then, and it would have been well for [me] if I had ever retained it." His attitude changed when war came. Enthused by the spectacle of neighbors marching off to Boston, excited by the talk of soldiers who had been briefly billeted on his grandparents' farm, and having become tired of farm work, he resolved to "go a sogering." But his grandparents refused their permission. He spent 1775 resenting his fate, envying the adventures of his friends, and working up the nerve to defy his grandparents. They finally relented early the following year, after he threatened to run off to sea. But his enthusiasm for "sogering" dimmed when he discovered that enlistment in the militia obligated him to give a year's service. "I wished only to take a priming," he explained, "before I took upon the whole coat of paint for a soldier." His opportunity arrived when the army, facing daunting odds against a numerically superior British in New York and desperate for troops, cut the enlistment period to six months. So he made his mark and went to war as many young men have, harboring misgivings and expressing bravado. He confessed his determination was at times "almost overset" by the knowledge that once he enlisted there would be no turning back: "I must stick to it; there will be no receding." And yet when he heard the British were being reinforced by another fifteen thousand troops, he claimed, "I did not care if there had been 15 times 15,000. . . . The Americans were invincible in my opinion." His opinion soon changed. He sailed for New York City, where he joined his regiment and began brief and improvised training in the practices of soldiering. His regiment was ordered into action not long after the start of the Battle of Long Island. They were ferried to Brooklyn and marched to a plain, where he first encountered soldiers wounded in battle, the sight of which "a little daunted me and made me think of home." A battle raged nearby, and a young lieutenant lost control of his emotions, "sniveling and blubbering" and begging the men in his company to forgive any injuries he had done them. Martin saw his first action the next afternoon, when some men of his regiment, making for a cornfield in search of something to eat, chanced upon an equal number of British soldiers. The advantage shifted back and forth as both sides reinforced, until most of Martin's regiment was engaged and the British were driven off. The battle for Long Island ended the next night. Surrounded by the British and facing the prospect of complete annihilation, Washington ordered his army's evacuation after a valiant stand by Maryland troops had temporarily delayed its destruction. Martin's regiment marched back to Brooklyn as quietly as it could manage and joined the rest of the army waiting on the wharves to be ferried to Manhattan. In the morning the British discovered the rebels had escaped. Then came the disgrace at Kip's Bay and the regiment's partial redemption in Harlem, the retreat from White Plains and Martin's return home, a bloodied, hard-worn veteran, still possessing the boyish sense of humor he would never lose but not the swagger that had been the first casualty of his war. In his telling Martin went to war the first time for adventure, the second time for money. After his defeat at Fort Washington in November, Washington took his main army to New Jersey and across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania, where, a month later, he would recross the Delaware and surprise a Hessian garrison at Trenton and a British garrison at Princeton. The Continental Congress, heeding Washington's urgent pleas, had finally recognized the need to field and train an army that would not be in constant danger of disintegration due to the prevalence of short-term enlistments and poorly trained, independent-minded militia. It authorized a new standing army of seventy-five thousand men who would enlist for three years or the duration of the war. Each of the thirteen states was given a recruitment quota it was to fill by whatever means it deemed necessary. Notwithstanding the morale-boosting victories at Trenton and Princeton, the size and success of the British offensive dampened the patriotic fervor for the war that had characterized the initial response to Concord and Lexington. States had a difficult time meeting their quotas and instituted drafts, or schemes that were not quite drafts but that obligated towns to recruit the service of a specific number of citizens. In Connecticut, townships divided men into separate groups, and each group was required to procure one soldier for the army either by finding a volunteer or paying for a substitute. If they failed to produce a volunteer or substitute, one of their number would be drafted. In the spring of 1777 Martin was entreated to reenlist by a friend who had taken a lieutenant's commission. He was slowly warming to the idea, and eventually decided to put his name forward as a substitute, and was happily accepted by his peers. "I thought, as I must go, I might as well get as much for my skin as I could," he explained. He didn't remember the sum he was paid but doubted it was more than the amount he spent enjoying his last few days of freedom. He marched off to war for the second time with greater misgivings than he had the first time and none of the bravado. His sense of humor, however, remained intact. "That little insignificant monosyllable--No--was the hardest word in the language for me to pronounce," he recalled, "especially when solicited to do a thing which was in the least degree indifferent to me; I could say Yes, with half the trouble." He joined his new regiment, the 8th Connecticut, in May in Newtown, New York, and shortly thereafter marched to Peekskill, New York. He remained in the Hudson highlands most of that summer as part of an undermanned force that was expected to prevent the British from gaining control of the entire Hudson and severing New England from the other colonies. But rather than challenge the Americans' hold on the highlands, General Howe believed he could end the rebellion by occupying the rebel capital, Philadelphia. In late August he landed a force of fifteen thousand men at the northern reach of the Chesapeake Bay and two weeks later defeated the Americans at Brandywine Creek, after which he marched triumphantly into Philadelphia. Martin's regiment was one of several ordered to reinforce the battered main army after the Brandywine defeat. Martin had injured his ankle some days before and was left to guard the regiment's baggage train as it made its way to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. But he chafed at the duty. He had for some time been under the command of officers who were not from his regiment, and he didn't like it. "Soldiers always like to be under the command of their own officers," he explained. "They are generally bad enough, but strangers are worse." As soon as the baggage reached Bethlehem, he asked for permission to rejoin his regiment. He returned in time to limp along with the 8th Connecticut as it marched through the night to Germantown, where Americans and British were about to clash again. The regiment arrived not long before the tide of battle turned. The Americans fought well in the beginning and seemed to have the advantage. But Washington had conceived a complicated battle plan involving four separate columns, and in the gun smoke and low-lying fog their lines became entangled. Americans began to fire on each other, precipitating another disorderly retreat. The Battle of Germantown inaugurated what Martin would remember as the period that encompassed his worst experiences in the war, including a brutal siege of a small island fort in the Delaware River, but also a more comfortable winter than that experienced by soldiers who bore the awful deprivations of Valley Forge--hardships that Martin witnessed but, for the most part, did not share. He begins his account with reference to the deprivation that plagued him the worst throughout the war: the constant want of food. He makes his first complaint about hunger days after entering the army. From there to the end of his narrative all the experiences he recounts, the battles won and lost, the long marches and near escapes, the many mishaps and few occasions of unexpected good fortune, all the wounds and exhaustion and heat and cold he and his comrades endured, never figure so prominently in his story as does the subject to which he always returns: starvation. Every few pages there appears another account of it. Sometimes, most times he recalls it humorously, just as he does the improvised feasts he rarely enjoyed. Nothing in the war seems to have lodged so firmly in his memory as the experience of marching, fighting, freezing, and boiling without enough to eat. When the army reorganized after their rout at Germantown, Martin recalls "marching and countermarching, starving and freezing, nothing else happened, although that was enough," until they encamped at White Marsh north of Philadelphia, and he went to sleep having had nothing to eat since noon the previous day. Soon afterward he wandered into a place where cattle had recently been slaughtered and happened upon an ox spleen, which he took back to camp, roasted, and hastily consumed. "I had not had it long in my stomach," he recalled, "when it began to make strong remonstrances and to manifest a great inclination to be set at liberty again . . . and with eyes overflowing with tears at parting with what I had thought to be a friend, I gave it a discharge." Shortly after his brief bout with the ox spleen, his regiment joined a detachment ordered to scatter a British force encampment on the other side of the Schuylkill River. They carried few provisions and nothing edible. They waded across the freezing river that night before their officers ordered them to halt. For the remainder of the night they stayed in place, shivering, forbidden to light fires to warm themselves and dry their clothes. Near daybreak they were made to ford the river again and backtrack to a place they had reached the previous day to wait for reinforcements. That next night, after reinforcements arrived, they forded the Schuylkill again. Wet, cold, and starving, they arrived the next morning where the British were believed to be camped. But the British had left. They marched back to White Marsh slowly, pausing for an hour's rest near a walnut tree, where nuts lay on the ground in abundance. Martin grabbed a few handfuls and cracked and ate them. They crossed the river again at sunset at a ford where the cold water was deeper. On the other side they were met by quartermasters who had brought no nourishment other than barrels of whiskey. Their intention was to give the men a small measure to warm them, but the tired and hungry marchers tried to revive themselves by consuming more than their allotment, and empty stomachs ensured the effect was immediate and noticeable. Resuming the march, the inebriates encountered a fence they had to climb over. "Here was fun," Martin remembered. The men "would pile themselves up on each side of the fence, swearing and hallooing, some losing their arms, some their hats, some their shoes, and some themselves." Once over they stumbled on and reached camp at midnight. "I had been nearly 30 hours without a mouthful of anything to eat, excepting the walnuts, having been the whole time on my feet (unless I happened to fall over the fence, which I do not remember to have done) and wading in and being wet with the water. . . . I rolled myself up in my innocency, lay down on the leaves and forgot my misery till morning." As winter approached, General Howe increasingly turned his attention to opening secure supply routes from New York to occupied Philadelphia. At present the British were landing supplies at Head of Elk, Maryland, and marching them fifty miles to Philadelphia, a route vulnerable to American raids. A safer alternative was to bring British supply ships up the Delaware River. But the Americans had established a network of forts along the Delaware to make it impassable to British ships. Howe resolved to destroy it. British forces had captured the southernmost fort on the New Jersey side of the Delaware, and British land and naval batteries had laid siege throughout October to the two most important forts, Fort Mercer in Red Bank and Fort Mifflin, on an island in the Delaware, just below its confluence with the Schuylkill River (where Philadelphia International Airport is located today). Washington dispatched two Connecticut regiments, including Martin's, to reinforce them. They marched through the night, as they were often made to, barefoot, poorly clothed, tired, hungry, and cold, until they "could proceed no further from sheer hunger and fatigue." They crossed the Delaware at Bristol, Pennsylvania. At the end of a three days' march, having eaten meals of rotten beef one night and a goose wing the next, Martin arrived at the army's encampment in the village of Woodbury, New Jersey. From there, in the last week of October, he and the other able-bodied soldiers of the two Connecticut regiments deployed to Fort Mifflin, which lay on an island surrounded by a swamp that Martin describes as "nothing more than a mudflat." The fort itself was hardly picturesque. In a colorful description of its wretchedness and vulnerability to British artillery, Martin disparaged "the pen I was confined in," a "fort it could not with propriety be called." The historian Thomas McGuire called it "a hodgepodge of stone and mud; of logs and ship's spars and pine rafts set in mud; of ramparts and dikes filled with more mud." The history of the American Revolution often seems to abound in improbable coincidences. Built before the revolution by a British Army engineer, Captain John Montresor, Fort Mifflin's fate was again in its creator's hands, for Montresor had been assigned the duty of destroying it. The defense of Fort Mifflin was Martin's worst experience in the war. He devotes more pages of his narrative to his sufferings there than he does to any other battle. Fifty years later the memory of it still embittered him. "In the cold month of November," he begins, "without provisions, without clothing, not a scrap of either shoes or stockings to my feet or legs, and in this condition to endure a siege in such a place as that, was appalling in the highest degree." The siege had begun on September 26 and didn't end until November 15, two weeks after Martin's regiment reinforced its beleaguered defenders, who throughout the siege never numbered more than five hundred. Martin mistakenly remembered the first attack on Mifflin he experienced beginning on the night of October 22. It was actually an attack on Mercer by a Hessian force of two thousand infantry and an artillery battalion. It was repulsed with staggering losses by the fort's two hundred American defenders and the entangling, at times impenetrable network of sharpened tree branches they had constructed, called "abatis." Two British warships, the Augusta and the Merlin, were also lost in the failed attack, caught in the chevaux-de-frise, a marine abatis of long wooden poles with sharp metal tips, and destroyed in the morning by cannons from both Mercer and Mifflin. Martin recalled the fate of the Augusta being the result of a failed attack on Mifflin. The attack on Mifflin was an ongoing affair, a daily bombardment of shell and shot, with little shelter available to its defenders. Martin describes the barracks at Mifflin being particularly dangerous: "It was as much as a man's life was worth to enter them, the enemy often directing their shot at them in particular." The men slept little if at all. Martin claims he never slept a minute through the entire siege. There were those who were so fatigued they went into the barracks to sleep a little, but "it seldom happened they all came out again alive." The soldiers worked through the night rebuilding the works the British batteries leveled during the day, steeling themselves for the rain of grapeshot from British mortars. The only place Martin recalls being safe enough to grab a few moments' rest was a ditch between the fort's eastern wall and a palisade facing away from the British batteries. But the fort's engineer, a French officer named Fleury, "a very austere man," kept them at their labors. When they tried to slip away to their hiding place, Martin sadly recounts, Colonel Fleury would "come to the entrance and call us out. He had always his cane in his hand, and woe betided him he could get a stroke at." Martin counted five British batteries with six heavy guns each on the Jersey shore, as well as three mortar batteries, and another battery of heavy guns higher up the river, all of them hammering away at Mifflin night and day. Soldiers can become inured to ceaseless terrors, and some will acquire a sort of shell-shocked indifference to their circumstances. The Americans had one 32-pound cannon in the fort but no shot for it. The British also had a 32-pounder, with an ample supply of solid shot, which they regularly fired at the fort's parade ground. The fort's artillery officers decreed that any soldier who managed somehow to get hold of one of the fired cannonballs would receive a slug of rum. "I have seen 20 to 50 men standing on the parade waiting with impatience the coming of the shot, which would often be seized before its motion had fully ceased," Martin recalled, "and conveyed off to our gun to be sent back to its former owners. When the lucky fellow had swallowed his rum, he would return to wait for another." At dawn on November 14 the British commenced a final daylong artillery barrage in preparation for storming the fort. In addition to their seven land-based gun batteries and three mortars, Martin counted nine British ships bringing their guns to bear on Mifflin, including six sixty-four-gun ships of the line and a thirty-six-gun frigate. If his memory is correct, a total of 480 land and naval guns, as well as the three mortars, fired on Fort Mifflin in a single day. Some officers tried to count how many guns were fired every minute, "but it was impossible; the fire was incessant." Mifflin had become a hell that would disturb the sleep of its survivors for the rest of their lives. The soldiers manned their posts on the palisades, "ordered to defend to the last extremity." Martin saw one man, who had climbed a flagstaff to raise a signal flag, cut in half as he descended. He saw five men manning one cannon "cut down by a single shot." Others were "split like fish to be broiled." The dead and wounded were too numerous to count. "Our men were cut down like cornstalks," he remembered. By that afternoon all the fort's guns had been silenced despite a brief decrease in the volume of British fire as their ships battled several American ships that had attempted to come to Mifflin's rescue. "If ever destruction was complete, it was here," Martin wrote. The fort's grounds were "as completely ploughed as a field," all its buildings "hanging in broken fragments." At sundown the cannonade ceased, and the Americans, having little left to defend and no guns to defend it with, prepared their escape before the British stormed the fort. As the survivors made their way to the wharves, Martin looked for his closest friend in the army and found him "lying in a long line of dead men." After most of the defenders took what supplies could be carried and abandoned the fort, Martin stayed behind as one of a party of soldiers ordered to torch anything left that would burn. As he was working, some of the British ships were near enough that he could hear soldiers saying they would "give it to the damned rebels in the morning." After the last of Mifflin's defenders had trooped to the wharves, where flatboats waited to ferry them across the river, the mounting flames consuming the battered fort so illuminated the river that Martin and his comrades could be plainly seen by the British, who immediately fired their guns at them. Miraculously they made it across unharmed. Five days later Fort Mercer was destroyed, and the Delaware was opened to British supply ships. Martin ends his account "of as hard and fatiguing job . . . as occurred during the Revolutionary War" with an observation that has appeared in many histories of the war. It is a lament common to soldiers of every nation in every war and quite likely the inspiration for his book. I was at the siege and capture of Lord Cornwallis, and the hardships of that were no more to be compared with this than the sting of a bee is to the bite of a rattlesnake. But there has been but little notice taken of it; the reason of which is there was no Washington, Putnam or Wayne there. Had there been, the affair would have been extolled to the skies. No, it was only a few officers and soldiers who accomplished it in a remote quarter of the army. Such circumstances and such troops generally get but little notice taken of them, do what they will. What is it soldiers expect from those whose lives and liberty they defend? Not fame and no more in the way of material compensation than the modest benefits they are promised. Few veterans of the Revolutionary War would receive in their lifetime the acclaim or compensation they deserved. But they must have had hopes that their countrymen would make good on that most basic obligation to them: a simple understanding of their sacrifice and appreciation of its contribution to the character of their country and the history of their times. Yet in that expectation too, as Martin's complaint makes clear, they were often disappointed. After the loss of the Delaware forts, Martin's regiment rejoined the main army as it marched and countermarched to little effect in the weeks before it encamped for the winter. As winter came on, the soldiers' accumulating miseries left them, in Martin's words, "as starved and as cross and ill-natured as curs." He writes of envying a squirrel he watched starve to death: "He got rid of his misery soon. He did not live to starve piecemeal six or seven years." He mocks a Thanksgiving meal decreed by Congress that followed two or three days without any rations and amounted to nothing more than a small portion of rice and vinegar. "The army was not only starved but naked," he complains. "The greatest part were not only shirtless and barefoot but destitute of all other clothing, especially blankets." It is in this condition that they entered winter quarters at Valley Forge. Martin arrived at Valley Forge on December 18 having had little or nothing to eat for days and "perishing with thirst." He couldn't find water in the camp, hadn't the strength to build a shelter, and worried that the entire army would freeze to death. He feared that were the British to attack then, the revolution would be finished. "But a kind and holy Providence took more notice and better care of us than did the country in whose service we were wearing away our lives." He had been there for two nights with nothing more to eat than half a small pumpkin, when he was warned that in the morning he would be ordered to march again. "I never heard a summons to duty with so much disgust before or since as I did that." But the summons proved to be fortuitous. He was ordered to join a foraging party that scoured the Pennsylvania countryside for the army's provisions that terrible winter. The duty wasn't onerous. They were headquartered in a little village and were comfortably sheltered and fed well. When Martin wasn't hunting and collecting provisions, he was at liberty to come and go as he pleased. "I had had enough to eat and been under no restraint," he recalled. "I had picked up a few articles of comfortable summer clothing. . . . Our lieutenant had never concerned himself about us." He remained in these comparatively pleasant circumstances until late April 1778, when he rejoined his regiment at Valley Forge. Nearly a quarter of the eleven thousand soldiers encamped there had perished during the worst suffering that winter. Martin returned in time to join the Continentals as they learned the drills, tactics, and exacting discipline of the Prussian military system under the tutelage of Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, who was turning the ragtag, wasted remnant of a fighting force into a professional army. In May Martin marched across the Schuylkill River to within twelve miles of Philadelphia with three thousand soldiers under the command of the Marquis de Lafayette. The British, having got wind of the advance, marched out to meet them and nearly trapped the Americans. But Lafayette recognized their vulnerability and skillfully got his force safely away, earning the praise of Martin, who wasn't normally given to complimenting the officers he served under. The young general "knew what he was about," Martin wrote. "He was not deficient in either courage or conduct." That year's summer would be remembered as especially warm. In late June, as Martin marched through New Jersey to Monmouth Courthouse (where the town of Freehold is located today), oppressive heat with temperatures reaching 100 degrees was added to the usual miseries of hunger and fatigue. General Howe had asked to be relieved of command that winter and had been replaced by Sir Henry Clinton. The new British commander in chief was ordered to evacuate Philadelphia. His troops started to move in the third week of June, as fatigued by the miserable heat as were the Americans. Washington determined to strike them as they slowly progressed to New York. Martin marched with an advance guard of Continentals, ordered to harass General Clinton's retreating columns while Washington and his generals decided where and whether to force a major engagement. The officer who argued most insistently against bringing the British to battle was General Charles Lee, a surly, eccentric though experienced officer. Lee had served as a soldier of fortune for several European monarchs and was notorious for his wanton lifestyle and his temper. He was convinced there was not another officer of his caliber in the Continental Army, including Washington. He argued that it was foolhardy to confront the British in New Jersey. He thought it foolhardy ever to risk a major engagement with the British, believing Americans were incapable of winning a set battle despite their recently acquired, well-drilled professionalism at the hands of von Steuben. Despite Lee's reservations and arrogance, Washington gave him command of a force of five thousand men, including Martin's detachment, and ordered him to attack the rear of the British force and keep it engaged until Washington could bring up the rest of the army. Dipping again into the meager supply of praise he reserved for officers, Martin recalled having been inspired on the eve of battle by the officer who commanded his "platoon," a captain in a Rhode Island regiment, who told them they had "been wanting to fight. Now you shall have fighting enough before the night." Even the sick and injured were stirred by their captain's call to arms and refused to remain behind. Remembering with pride the excitement he felt in that moment, Martin called the captain "a fine brave man. . . . He feared nobody nor nothing." The attack began on June 28, and it would soon be clear that General Lee feared somebody. The morning broke hotter and more humid than the previous day. Men on foot and horseback stripped to the waist for relief from the roasting sun. Before the day ended many men and horses, British and American, who had survived musket ball and bayonet would perish from heatstroke. Martin's company was working its way through a dense wood late in the morning toward the sound of cannon and musket fire. They came into the clear onto a field that was a "trifle hotter" than a "heated oven" and fell back to the woods because "it was almost impossible to breathe." A moment later they were ordered to retreat. They hadn't gone far when Washington himself rode by and demanded to know who had ordered them to retreat. "General Lee," he was informed. "Damn him," Washington exclaimed. "It was certainly very unlike him," Martin writes, "but he seemed in the instant to be in a very great passion." That he was. Lee had given his officers hardly any orders, much less a battle plan, before Americans struck the British in an uncoordinated attack, with some units fighting and others unengaged. General Clinton had anticipated the attack and detached forces from his column to reinforce his rearguard, commanded by General Charles Cornwallis. Confusion overtook the American ranks. Not knowing whether to advance or retreat, they prudently chose the latter. Lee did nothing to impose order on his soldiers, and their retreat turned into a rout. The scene Washington surveyed as he rode up beside his diffident subordinate shocked him. Seeing his ranks completely broken, he demanded of Lee, "What is the meaning of this, sir? I desire to know the meaning of this disorder and confusion!" "The troops," Lee replied, "would not stand the British bayonets." "You damn poltroon," Washington countered, "you never tried them." Washington did as much violence to Lee as words could do. According to an eyewitness, he "swore on that day until the leaves shook on the trees." The situation was desperate, however, and he couldn't give any more attention to the insufferable Lee, whom he ordered to leave the field. He spurred his white charger into the thick of retreating soldiers, shouting at them, "Stand fast . . . and receive your enemy. The [army] is advancing to support you." While British cannonballs tore up the earth all around him, he was everywhere at once, ordering, frightening, and inspiring his soldiers to turn and fight. His horse collapsed from exhaustion, but he quickly mounted another, impervious to the enveloping danger. He was as magnificent on that day as on any day of the long war for independence. "Never have I beheld such a superb man," Lafayette remembered. He rode back to where Martin and the New England troops had stopped their retreat and ordered them to make a stand behind a fence and keep the advancing British busy until the artillery formed a line. This they did, retreating only after what seemed to Martin to be the entire British force had charged them. Martin claimed they had been ordered by their officers to withdraw. The British brought their cannon to bear on the American artillery, but the Americans won the duel, leaving the British guns "mostly disabled" and forcing the British to fall back. During the cannonade Martin saw Mary McCauley, the famous Molly Pitcher, help man one of the guns, and admired her pluck when, after a British cannonball passed between her legs and tore away her petticoat, she appeared unconcerned by the near miss. Martin remembered her remarking only that it was "a good thing it did not pass a little higher, for in that case it might have carried away something else." Some of the outgunned British sought shelter from the heat in an orchard. Martin and his fellow New Englanders were ordered to charge their position. "You are the boys I want to assist in driving those rascals from yon orchard," a New Hampshire colonel informed them. The British began retreating before the Americans could reach them. The same New Hampshire colonel ordered some of the troops, including Martin, to chase after them and keep them engaged until the rest of the New Englanders could catch them. "We overtook the enemy just as they were entering a meadow," Martin recalled. "They were retreating in line, though in some disorder." Martin singled out a British soldier "and took my aim directly between his shoulders." It is the only time in his narrative that he mentions trying to kill someone, and fifty years later he seemed to regret it. "He was a good mark; being a broad-shouldered fellow. What became of him I know not; the fire and smoke hid him from my sight. One thing I know . . . I took as deliberate aim at him as ever I did any game in my life. But after all I hope I did not kill him, although I intended to at the time." When the retreating British reached a defensible position they turned and began exchanging fire with the pursuing New Englanders. Martin watched as a British cannonball cleaved an American officer's leg at the thigh. Soon, though, the British were forced to resume their retreat. The Americans fired a final volley, and the engagement ended. "We then laid ourselves down under the fences and bushes to take a breath," Martin wrote, "for we had need of it; I presume everyone has heard of the heat that day, but none can realize it that did not experience it." Martin helped carry the captain who had lost his leg to the field surgeon. His part in the battle of Monmouth Courthouse ended there, although the battle continued throughout the day and "the troops remained on the field all night with the Commander in Chief." Darkness ended the fighting with both sides still on the field. But the British withdrew during the night, while the Americans remained with the man who had prevented their defeat and inspired them to fight the British to a standstill. Both sides had suffered heavy casualties, but the British had lost more men. Evidence of the Continental Army's newly acquired discipline, ability, and resolve was plain for both sides to see. Monmouth Courthouse was the last major battle of the war in the north. The British concentrated their efforts thereafter on conquering the south. But in that last major engagement, Joseph Martin and his Continentals, malnourished and exhausted though they were, had fought to a draw the best the British Empire could field. The next morning each of them received a drink of rum as a reward, though nothing to eat. Washington followed the British and moved the main army back to New York. The Americans crossed the Hudson River at King's Ferry and marched on to White Plains, where Martin's regiment had fought two years earlier. Revisiting the battlefield, Martin was surprised to discover the skeletal remains of Hessians who had fallen at White Plains littering the ground, having been dug up, he assumed, by rooting dogs and wild hogs. The sad sight prompted him to offer a succinct and especially affecting definition of the cause for which he fought. There are more elaborate explanations of what liberty meant to the men who fought in the revolution, but never one that conveyed its essence more sensitively than the one Martin provides as he contemplates the inglorious fate of his fallen foes: Poor fellows! They were left unburied in a foreign land; they had, perhaps, as near and dear friends to lament their sad destiny as the Americans who lay buried near them. But they should have kept home; we should then never have gone after them to kill them in their own country. But, the reader will say, they were forced to come and be killed here; forced by their rulers who have absolute power and death over their subjects. Well then, reader, bless a kind Providence that has made such a distinction between your condition and theirs. And be careful too that you do not allow yourself ever to be brought to such an abject, servile and debased condition. MARTIN WAS NOT YET eighteen years old. He suffered a worse fate in the winter of 1779 than he had the previous winter, when he was excused from the agonies of Valley Forge. The winter at Morristown was the worst of the war, with the coldest temperatures of the century and heavy snowfalls; food, adequate clothing, and warm shelter extremely scarce; and the men, as usual, denied the pay they were promised. "We were absolutely, literally starved," he recalled. He was reduced to eating birch bark, and others to roasting their shoes, if they had any. By the spring of 1780, before the fighting season resumed, they began to mutiny. They had been pushed beyond endurance. With Congress insensible to their situation and a lack of support from too many of their countrymen whose hearts were hardened to their plight, they "saw no other alternative," in Martin's words, "but to starve to death or break up the army. . . . We had borne as long as human nature could endure." There were only three major mutinies in the Continental Army during eight years of war. The Connecticut line mutiny of May 25, 1780, in which Martin participated, was the first. During an evening roll call, grumbling in Martin's regiment swelled to insubordination and then to open revolt when an officer traded abuse with one of the men. The men refused to leave the parade ground and, with their arms shouldered, formed into lines. Another regiment joined them. Though they had no clear plan of how they would proceed, they marched to where two other regiments were camped a couple hundred yards away to enlist them in their demonstration. The officers of the two Connecticut regiments that were now mustering on their parade grounds tried to prevent their men from taking their arms with them. In an ensuing scuffle the officer in command of the 6th Connecticut, Colonel Return Jonathan Meigs, was stabbed with a bayonet and severely wounded. Martin, who admired Meigs, believed the wound was an accident. Accidental or not, the colonel's misfortune may have served to cool somewhat the passions of the rebellious regiments. Martin's regiment started to return to their camp when one of the men shouted for them to stop. Some officers dragged the hothead out of the ranks, but before they could abuse him further they were forced at bayonet point to release him. When the men reached camp they reformed lines. An officer tried to plead and coax them into dispersing, falsely promising them at one point that the army had just that day received a large herd of cattle. A lieutenant colonel in the 4th Connecticut gave the order for his ranks to shoulder arms. He was ignored, which caused him, in Martin's description, to fall into "a violent passion" before storming back to his quarters. Eventually the officers gave up and returned to their huts. Most of the men remained on the parade ground. They were approached by a colonel from the Pennsylvania line whom they all admired and who mollified them a little by reminding them that their officers shared their privations. He "had not a sixpence," he told them, "to purchase a partridge that was offered me the other day." Eventually the mutiny, if it could fairly be called that since the Connecticut troops never formed a clear plan to do anything more than demonstrate their anger and desperation, subsided. Martin summed up their plight with the dark humor at which he was so adept: "We therefore still kept upon the parade in groups, venting our spleen at our country and government, then at our officers, and then at ourselves for our imbecility in staying there and starving in detail for an ungrateful people who did not care what became of us, so they could enjoy themselves while we were keeping a cruel enemy from them." But as ill used and aggrieved as they were, they remained "unwilling to desert the cause of our country." This hard-pressed loyalty, more than battles won or lost or individual heroics, was the proof of their patriotism, a more durable and honest patriotism than most possess. It cannot be diminished by their complaints and resentment, not even by insubordination and near mutiny. It is a patriotism supported by the rarest of resolves: they would not betray their country's cause even when they believed their country had betrayed them. MARTIN'S SERVICE WOULD CONTINUE until the war officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. The hardships and dangers he endured did not abate until after the Battle of Yorktown. He fought in other battles. He survived various illnesses, including frequent bouts of dysentery caused by rotten meat he consumed. He starved year after year. He froze in the winters and boiled in the summers. He watched close friends die. He never saw his grandparents again; when he returned home for a short leave early in 1781, he found his grandmother had died and his grandfather had moved away to live with one of his sons. He was nearly killed while exchanging insults across the Harlem River with some British cavalry, when an enemy soldier in a nearby house fired a shot at him. He saw the musket flash and instinctively dropped to the ground, and the ball passed just over him. The British thought they had killed him, but he jumped to his feet, slapped his backside at the enemy, and took off. Had he not moved when he did, "the ball would have gone directly through my body," he recalled. "But 'a miss is as good as a mile' as the proverb says." That same afternoon he was talking with a few other soldiers when a British sniper took a shot at them: "[The] ball passed between our noses which were not more than a foot apart." Not many days later he received his first and only wound of the war when a dozen Continentals were surprised by a larger party of loyalist troops. The two sides traded fire until the patriots ran off with the loyalists on their heels. They came to a fence made of fallen trees. Martin was the last to climb over it and caught his foot in one of the trees. He was still struggling to free himself when the enemy reached him. The loyalist commander drew his sword and slashed him below the knee, "which laid the bone bare." Martin gave his foot one last desperate tug and managed to get free, leaving behind his shoe. He heard the loyalist who had cut him call him by name and urge him to surrender. He was a childhood friend who had served in Martin's first regiment and had deserted early in the war. None of the loyalists fired their muskets at him as he ran, though he was within their range. Martin was never sure if their forbearance was an act of mercy from his former friend or if they just didn't have time to reload their muskets before he ran out of range. Martin left his Connecticut regiment in 1780, when he was selected to join a newly formed corps of miners and sappers and promoted to the rank of sergeant, an assignment that reflected the high regard his officers had for him. It was in this capacity that he found himself in Philadelphia in early September 1781, where he received his wages for the first time since 1776, with gold borrowed from the French after some soldiers refused to leave the rebel capital until they had been paid. He boarded a schooner there and sailed down the Delaware River, past the remnants of Fort Mifflin, where he had suffered two terrifying weeks in 1777, to Wilmington, Delaware. From there he marched overland to the north end of the Chesapeake Bay. During a brief halt in their march, he and his sergeant major sat on a fence that stood atop a steep bank. Their company's captain, whom Martin disliked, sat on the other end. Noticing the fence's flimsy construction, the sergeant major winked at Martin and both men began to wiggle the fence until it collapsed, tumbling the officer down the bank. When they reached the Chesapeake they boarded another ship and sailed to the James River and then on to Williamsburg, Virginia. There they joined a corps under the command of Lafayette and marched for Yorktown, a tobacco port named for the river that ran beneath its bluffs. General Clinton had ordered Lord Cornwallis to construct defensible fortifications for his nearly eight thousand British and Hessian troops along the deep-water port, from where, if need be, the British fleet could evacuate them. But on September 5 that fleet was defeated and chased back to New York by a French fleet commanded by the Comte de Grasse, recently arrived from the West Indies. By the last week of the month the British were surrounded on water by de Grasse's fleet and on land by eight thousand Continentals, an equal number of French troops commanded by the Comte de Rochambeau, and over three thousand militia. Rather than suffer heavy casualties by storming the British fortifications, Washington resolved to bombard the British into submission and ordered a series of parallel trenches dug where he could bring up his artillery and lay siege. Martin and his fellow miners and sappers were given the assignment. "We had holed him," Martin wrote, referring to the British, "and now nothing remained but to dig him out." As they were about their work one dark, rainy night, they were approached by a tall man in a long overcoat, who "talked familiarly with us a few minutes." Before he left, he warned the men that were they captured by the enemy, not to tell them who they were. The British would treat them like spies and refuse them quarter. The stranger returned a short time later with a company of engineers, who addressed him as "Your Excellency," and Martin and his comrades discovered they had just been amiably chatting with their commander in chief. Their work was undiscovered until the first line of trenches was nearly finished; too late the British began firing at them. The batteries were brought up at noon the following day, and the guns all fired at once. "It was a warm day for the British," as Martin described it. The bombardment lasted several days, until the enemy's forward guns were destroyed, after which Martin and his fellow sappers began work on a second, parallel line of trenches. Under fire from British redoubts one night, the Americans decided to storm them, and four hundred soldiers commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton made the assault. Martin's company was supplied with hatchets to cut away the abatis that lay in their way. A brief but bloody battle ensued, and Martin was exposed to a fierce barrage of British shells and grenades, his friends falling dead or seriously wounded at his side. Having cleared the abatis, he joined the assault on one of the redoubts armed with his hatchet. By the time Martin and his sappers finished the second line of trenches, Cornwallis asked for a cease-fire to negotiate the terms of his surrender. A day later the American army stood at attention and watched as the British army marched out of their fortifications and stacked their arms. After the surrender the French force remained at Yorktown, and the Continental Army returned to New York. Martin's corps remained behind for a few weeks as winter approached and cold rains fell. Lacking tents or any shelter they slept in the elements. Eventually they boarded schooners and sailed north, disembarked in Maryland, and marched overland from there. They stayed two weeks in Philadelphia before marching to Burlington, New Jersey, where they quartered for the winter in a "large, elegant house." With the war for independence effectively won, Martin looked forward to a more comfortable winter than he had spent since the war began. NEARLY TWO YEARS WOULD pass before the Treaty of Paris was signed and the war officially ended. Martin had more adventures before him, and more hardships too. He was ordered to leave winter headquarters and take two men with him to find and bring back a deserter. He took his time and never did manage to locate the fugitive, but he spent a number of nights enjoying the hospitality of families residing in the various towns he passed through, marveling at the change in civilian attitudes now that the country's independence was in sight. During previous encounters the Continentals had often been treated with disdain, suspicion, and sometimes outright hostility by people whose rights they were fighting to secure. They were begrudged food and other provisions, and often had to take it by force. They were given shelter reluctantly, usually only when demanded, accompanied by meager if any hospitality to underscore how greatly private citizens resented the army's demands and how broadly they distrusted standing armies, be they British or American. Now Martin and his friends were plied with food and drink, regaled with stories, and comfortably bedded in one household after another. They were conquering heroes. However, this benefaction too would prove temporary as the old prejudice against a standing army returned to the new republic in the years of peace ahead. He contracted yellow fever that winter, and it nearly killed him. He was placed in a hospital with a number of sick and dying men, and he lost all his hair. There were no army physicians available to attend them, and "the apothecary's stores in the Revolutionary army were as ill furnished as any others." A local doctor treated him, and Martin credited his care and compassion with saving his life. He recovered in the spring, and after walking ninety miles in two days without provisions he caught up with his corps as it was about to cross the Hudson River. Shortly after he arrived, he and nine other men were ordered to hunt down two more deserters. They traveled another ninety miles in twenty-four hours without finding the fugitives, who, as it turned out, had been hiding only a few miles from camp. He spent the summer on an island in the Hudson quarrying rock to use in repairing the army's fortifications at West Point. The officious captain he had tumbled into a ditch the previous fall was still in command and still hated by his men. Martin discovered that some soldiers were planning to make a bomb in a canteen, filling it with gunpowder and attaching a fuse. They said they intended only to frighten the officer. Martin believed it would have killed him and was barely able to persuade the men to drop their plan. He spent another hard winter in New York waiting anxiously for peace to be declared. Sent on a detail one day to cut wood for the barracks, he walked downriver five miles, where he was caught in a sudden blizzard and had to return by a circuitous route of ten miles in a bitterly cold wind and snow eighteen inches deep. His right ear was frostbitten and he was sick for several days. Accustomed to suffering, he dismissed the incident, explaining, "Afflictions always attended the poor soldiers." A friend of his, of the same age, was showing off with his musket one day to amuse Martin, tossing it overhead and catching it, when he lost control and his bayonet stabbed him in the leg. "An ignoramus boy of a surgeon" dressed the wound. A few days later his friend complained that his neck and back hurt. Martin informed the captain, who had the boy taken to a hospital in Newburgh, where he was seized with lockjaw and died. When spring came the men watched to see if the great chain the Americans stretched across the Hudson in navigable months to impede British ships would be laid down again. If it were not, they reasoned, then peace must be at hand. It wasn't. On April 19, 1783, they learned that Congress had preliminarily approved the terms of the Treaty of Paris, which wouldn't be formally concluded until September. Martin described the men as exultant when they heard the news, but worried about the condition in which they would return to their homes. They were "starved, ragged, and meager," he wrote, with "not a cent to help themselves with." On June 11 their captain entered their barracks and informed them that, though they were not formally discharged from service, they could all return home and would be recalled if circumstances required it. If they weren't recalled, their furloughs would be considered honorable discharges when the war's end was officially declared. The joy they had expected to feel when the end arrived was little in evidence; sorrow was the more common emotion. They had lived so long together, shared so much suffering together, "bearing each other's burdens" and concealing "each other's faults," it was hard to part. "Ah, it was a serious time," Martin remembered. They were allowed to keep their muskets and take some ammunition with them. That and the clothes on their backs were all they possessed. They were to receive certificates for the years of back wages owed them and were told their discharges could later be used to claim the hundred acres of land in the Ohio country they had been promised when they enlisted. Many of the men set off immediately for home. Martin and others stayed at West Point, waiting for their "settlement certificates" for back pay. It wasn't clear when the certificates would be provided, so Martin volunteered to serve the final few months of a friend's enlistment while he waited for his money. He was honorably discharged less than two months later and received his certificates, some of which he sold for a little money to buy some clothes. He never went home. He stayed in New York for the year and taught school for a time. In the summer of 1784 he left New York for what is now the state of Maine, where he had heard rumors of free land being granted to veterans. He settled in a little town on Penobscot Bay where the water narrows into a river. He never received his hundred acres of Ohio land. Instead he worked a hundred acres of Maine farmland, to which he did not possess title; as many veterans did, he simply claimed a parcel of unused land and tried to make a life for himself. He married Lucy Clewley, and they had a daughter and a son, who was mentally disabled. The famous Henry Knox, who had been Washington's general of artillery, had acquired something called the Waldo Patent, a land grant giving him title to a vast swath of Maine, which encompassed many veterans' farms, including Martin's. He demanded payment for them and evicted the veterans who couldn't pay. Martin could not pay. "I throw myself and my family wholly at the feet of your Honor's mercy," he wrote Knox, "earnestly hoping that your Honor will think of some way, in your wisdom, that may be beneficial to your Honor and save a poor family from distress." Knox never replied, and Martin lost his farm. He is believed to be one of a party of veterans who fired their muskets one day at some of Knox's surveyors. He served as his town's clerk and a selectman and was a captain of the Maine militia. He managed somehow to obtain another, smaller holding and farmed it. He wrote poetry and hymns, and he painted. He was well liked by his neighbors. And he was always poor and often nearly destitute. IN THE FIRST DECADE of the new century, a national debate began over the question of providing pensions to Revolutionary War veterans. The idea was not universally popular; far from it. Most Americans, and many of their elected representatives, were still suspicious of standing armies. Reflecting that suspicion was the popular belief that it had never really been necessary to create the Continental Army, that militias could have won independence with more regard for the nation's republican character. Nevertheless a federal law was enacted in 1818 granting a $96 annual pension, approximately $1,800 in today's dollars, to any male who had served for more than nine months. A year later the law was amended to restrict pensions to those veterans who could prove they were living in poverty. The law didn't make any provision for women who had served or for the thousands of African Americans who had fought for the country's independence. In the end only a little more than three thousand veterans actually received compensation. Martin was one of them, and in a petition he filed to claim his pension he claimed his net worth to be negligible. He had "no real nor personal estate, nor any income whatever, my necessary bedding and wearing apparel excepted, except two cows, six sheep, one pig." A more generous law was adopted in 1832 that included many veterans who had been denied a pension previously. At the time Martin wrote his narrative, the debate over what the Continentals deserved from their country still continued, and many Americans resented even the modest compensation veterans received under the terms of the 1818 law. Martin saved the last few pages of his narrative to address the controversy, not bothering to conceal his contempt for those who questioned the honor and worth of the men who had liberated the nation and done so without demanding anything from the ungrateful people who now dismissed their sacrifices. He began by cataloguing everything they were promised when they enlisted and the very little they actually received, even basic commitments of food and clothing. He recalled their terrible suffering: "Almost every one had heard of the soldiers of the Revolution being tracked by the blood of their feet on the frozen ground. This is literally true; and the thousandth part of their sufferings has not, nor ever will be told." They had fought exhausted, naked, and starved, he reminded his readers, and were kept in that condition in winter quarters, when marching, and on the battlefield. He allowed that many militia had served bravely and well, a fact he could testify to personally as he had served alongside them. But he argued that militia had not and could not have won the war. That had been accomplished by a standing army, well trained and serving for the duration of the war because, he explained, militia "would not have endured the sufferings the army did; they would have considered themselves (as in reality they were and are) free citizens, not bound by any cords that were not of their own manufacturing." To those who resented veterans for receiving pensions, he wrote, "The only wish I would bestow upon such hardhearted wretches is, that they might be compelled to go through just such suffering and privations as that army did." He closes his tirade by assuring any readers for whom the old veterans were "an eyesore, a grief of mind," that they need only wait a little while to be relieved from their offense. "A few years longer will put [the veterans] all beyond the power of troubling them, for they will soon be 'where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.' " Joseph Plumb Martin would take a little longer to go to his rest, likely showing a spirited obstinacy to the end. He died twenty years later, in 1850, at age ninety. His narrative deserves an honored place in the archives of the revolution among our most famous founding documents. Martin would be the last person to begrudge the appellation "the father of his country" to the great man he served under and esteemed. But a nation doesn't have a single parent; our history identifies a whole class of founding fathers. The men who fought, suffered, and died to achieve the independence the founders declared surely deserve a share of the distinction, though for their part, they thought it honor enough to be described as just who they were. Joseph Martin's final resting place is in a small cemetery in Stockton Springs just a few paces from U.S. 1, which in summer is often choked with traffic as throngs of vacationers make their way to the pretty harbor towns of the Maine coast. If any of them happen to spot the small marble monument that decorates his grave, not one in ten thousand will know who it memorializes or read the simple inscription it bears: PRIVATE JOSEPH PLUMB MARTIN SOLDIER OF THE REVOLUTION Excerpted from 13 Soldiers: A Personal History of Americans at War by John McCain, Mark Salter All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.