Masquerade by Alfred F. Young
The Life and Times of Deborah Sampson, Continental Soldier

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The remarkable story of the woman who fought in the American Revolution as Robert Shurtliff–and got away with it.

Serving for seventeen months during the period between the British surrender at Yorktown and the signing of the final treaty, a time when peace was far from secure, Deborah Sampson accomplished her deception by becoming an outstanding soldier. Alfred Young shows us why she did it and exactly how she carried it off. He meticulously 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 patrols and small-party encounters, 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–Mrs. Benjamin Gannett–and mother on a hardscrabble farm in southeastern Massachusetts, her collaboration with Herman Mann on the book that made her a celebrity and sent her on a pathbreaking yearlong lecture tour through New England and New York in 1802—03, and her relentless and partially successful quest for veterans’ benefits. He looks, too, at how Americans have dealt with Sampson in public memory and have appropriated her for a number of causes over the past two hundred years.

Throughout we are aware of the historian as detective, as Young carefully sifts through layers of fact and fiction to reveal a fascinating, complex, and unusual woman who lived in an era that both opened opportunities to and imposed limitations on women.

About Alfred F. Young

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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.
Published February 10, 2004 by Knopf. 417 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Political & Social Sciences, War, History. Non-fiction

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Sampson wasn’t the first woman to try to pass as a man to gain entry into the Continental Army, but she was the most successful, writes Young (History Emeritus/Northern Illinois Univ.;

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Publishers Weekly

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Young, a senior research fellow at the Newberry Library in Chicago, set out to check every previously recorded "fact" about Sampson and questions most of them, discussing his research at considerable length.

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Entertainment Weekly

Picture Mulan in a tricornered hat and you get Deborah Sampson, who posed as a male soldier during the Revolutionary War for nearly two years before being discovered.

Feb 27 2004 | Read Full Review of Masquerade: The Life and Time...

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