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Masquerade: The Life and Times of Deborah…

Masquerade: The Life and Times of Deborah Sampson, Continental Soldier (2004)

by Alfred F. Young

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That was a lot of facts smooshed into only 300 or so pages (as an aside I'm not sure I've ever read a book, even a historical non-fiction one, with so many notes in the back).

The book was about Deborah Samson Gannett of Massachusetts, on of the most well known women to disguise themselves as a man and join the Continental Army. Not the only one, but one of the most successful. And, this book, unlike a lot of the other works about her, this was about her entire life, birth to death, not just one part, like her speaking tour, or her time in the army.

On the whole it was a good book, though a bit wordy. I really love that the author found out that, using Deborah's spelling her her diary during her speaking tour and a few of her letters that she may have had quite the Mass. accent. (Pahk the Cah, will ya, of course, they didn't have cars yet, so that may be a bad example of the accent, hers was more like she spelled audience with an o... etc.)

But, I didn't love it all. Even though here and there the author sort of barely allows that Deborah may have flirted with or had a relationship with a woman or two, he repeatedly states that it's totally and utterly 'improbable'. But, that's heteronormative HIStory for you. Although, to be fair to this author, Deborah Samson's original biographer Herman Mann was even worse, wildly vacillating between depicting Deborah in more 'animal love' (not platonic love) situations with women to 'lalalalala' she couldn't even physically have sex with another woman 'lalalala'.

Maybe she was straight, maybe she wasn't, but while in his final chapter the author gives sixteen paragraphs to whether or not she was a person of color, he only gives five to whether or not she had any same sex relationships. More HIStory.

So, a good book, sure, and the author obviously put a ton of research into it, but not a great book. ( )
  DanieXJ | Mar 22, 2012 |
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On January 10, 1784, three months after the news of a peace treaty with Britian had arrived in the United States, two months after a British army had sailed away from New York City, and a few weeks after the last of the Continental Army at West Point had been disbanded, the New York Gazette published the first report of the successful masquerade in the American army of a women who had taken the name "Robert Shurtliff." (Prologue)
When either of the sexes reverses its its common sphere of action," her memoirist Herman Mann wrote in 1797, "our curiosity is excited to know the cause and event." (chapter 1)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679761853, Paperback)

In Masquerade, Alfred F. Young scrapes through layers of fiction and myth to uncover the story of Deborah Sampson, a Massachusetts woman who passed as a man and fought as a soldier for seventeen months toward the end of the American Revolution.

Deborah Sampson was not the only woman to pose as a male and fight in the war, but she was certainly one of the most successful and celebrated. She managed to fight in combat and earn the respect of her officers and peers, and in later years she toured the country lecturing about her experiences and was partially successful in obtaining veterans’ benefits. Her full story, however, was buried underneath exaggeration and myth (some of which she may have created herself), becoming another sort of masquerade. Young takes the reader with him through his painstaking efforts to reveal the real Deborah Sampson in a work of history that is as spellbinding as the best detective fiction.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:43 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The story of the woman who fought in the American Revolution passing as a man. Serving for seventeen months, she accomplished her deception by becoming an outstanding soldier. Young shows us why and how she carried it off. He reconstructs her early life as an indentured servant; her young adulthood as a weaver, teacher, and religious rebel; and her military career in the light infantry--consisting of dangerous duty that demanded constant vigilance--followed by service as an orderly to a general at West Point. Young also examines her postwar life as a wife and mother on a hardscrabble farm in Massachusetts, her collaboration on the book that made her a celebrity and sent her on a yearlong lecture tour through New England and New York in 1802-03, and her relentless and partially successful quest for veterans' benefits.--From publisher description.… (more)

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