By: Alex Myers
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publishing Date: January 2014
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: February 26, 2014
Revolutionary is a real gem; it will make readers as well as historians look at the Revolutionary War in an entirely new light.
Beginning in Massachusetts in 1782, Deborah Samson is a young woman looking for adventure. On her own, she has left her church, her very good friend, Jennie, and no longer wants to wait on (or, as they called it in this small Massachusetts village), ‘serve’ men who disrespect her and all of her gender. She wants to join the Army and serve her country.
Deborah starts out on her new adventure. Cutting her long hair, she dresses in boy’s clothing to enlist in the Continental Army in order to fight for her freedom. Changing her name to Robert Shurtliff, Deborah joins the Army and takes up the job of caretaker for the horses. Deborah eats beans gladly, because they’re better than what she’s used to, and prays to the Lord that she can keep her scheme up and be able to do her job as a boy in the Army. With her mind set, she and her cohorts set off for West Point, marching to a drummer’s beat.
Deborah turns out to be a brave soldier under fire; some of her fellow soldiers make remarks like; “Good Man” and “Someday, you’ll make someone a fine husband.” In other words, the illusion is working. After being wounded, Deborah is taken to the Army Hospital in Philadelphia and then on to the home of Dr. Barnabas Binney to recuperate. Dr. Binney assures Deborah that even though he knows she’s a woman, it will remain their secret. However, when Deborah is well enough to leave the doctor’s home he gives her a letter to give to her commanding officer stating that she is a woman; he tells her, “The letter is for your commander, it declares who you are and I leave it up to you as to what you want to do. One should never be ashamed of their true nature and there are worse ways the General could find out than from your own hand.”
Deciding to leave the Army as Robert Shurtliff, she does hand the letter to the General and tells him her story, hoping that – in the end – he will come to terms with her situation and why she chose to do what she did.
Based on a true story, the tale of a woman living and doing the work of a man, Deborah is actually a distant relative of the author. Very much an in-depth story of the Revolutionary War, the research done by the author is an excellent account of both history and the lives of the people who lived through it.
Quill says: In the 21st Century, Deborah’s story is a true battle for identity; proving to one and all that gender is not, and never should be, the foundation for honor and heroism.