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

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Category: History - United States - Revolutionary Period (1775-1800); Social Science - Gender Studies; History - Women
Imprint: Vintage
Format: Trade Paperback
Pub Date: March 2005
Price: $17.95
Can. Price: $23.95
ISBN: 978-0-679-76185-3 (0-679-76185-3)
Pages: 432

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.

“Young has recovered [Sampson’s] life and given us a portrait of a woman with 'an extraordinary capacity for taking risks.’” —The Washington Post

“An excellent narrative. . . . Young is especially adept at explaining how Sampson pulled off her masquerade.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Young’s most daring book. . . . Young finds in [Sampson’s] sensational story an illumination of the norms that she struggled against by making herself extraordinary.” —The New Republic

“Engaging...it is a delight to follow Young's unraveling of Sampson's masquerade.” —The Boston Globe

“Meticulous detective work has enabled Al Young to separate fact from fiction and finally reveal the true story of Deborah Sampson, the fabled female revolutionary war soldier. A remarkable tale, engagingly written, this is surely the definitive biography.” —Mary Beth Norton, author of In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692

“Move over, Molly Pitcher! At last we have a solid, scholarly biography of the best documented woman soldier of the American War for Independence. Meticulous scholarship combined with an engaging literary style guarantee a warm welcome for Masquerade by everyone interested in the history of women in war.” —Linda Grant De Pauw, author of Battle Cries and Lullabies: Women in War from Prehistory to the Present

“Mesmerizing. Looking through Deborah Sampson's eyes, dressed in her clothes, dreaming her dreams, taking her risks—Alfred Young’s brilliant detective work and graceful writing transforms what we thought we knew about the American Revolution—and about its meanings for our own time.” —Linda K. Kerber, author of No Constitutional Right to be Ladies: Women and the Obligations of Citizenship

“In Masquerade, Alfred Young adds another tour de force to his remarkable career as an historical detective, piecing together virtually forgotten aspects of Revolutionary warfare. Young also provides fresh insights into the role of common people who made their own unique contributions to the American Revolution.” —Don Higginbotham, author of George Washington: Uniting a Nation

“After years shrouded by myth and history’s tendency to write women out, soldier Deborah Sampson Gannett is real again. I feel I’ve met her and shared war stories as we old soldiers are wont to do.” —Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught, USAF (Ret.), President, Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation

“This meticulous biography presents one of the classic examples of a woman in disguise serving in the nascent U.S. armed forces. A particularly prolific and gifted editor and scholar of the American Revolution, Young (The Shoemaker and the Tea Party) follows his subject as closely as possible given scanty evidence. . . . The result is two threads in one book: a biographical narrative and a detailed discourse on the methodology of researching the lives of people for whom sources are few.” —Publishers Weekly

Table of Contents

List of illustrations and maps
Prologue: “A lively comely young nymph. . . dressing in man’s apparal has been discovered”
1. Deborah
2. The Rebel
3. The Continental Army
4. The Light Infantryman
5. The General’s Waiter
6. A Gannett in Sharon
7. A Gannett on Tour
8. Public Woman
9. Private Woman
10. Genteel and Plebian
11. Lost and Found
Epilogue: The Seagull


Alfred F. Young is Emeritus Professor of History at Northern Illinois University and Senior Research Fellow at the Newberry Library in Chicago. In 2000, the Organization of American Historians honored him with its Distinguished Service Award. He is the author of The Shoemaker and the Tea Party, We the People (with others), The Democratic Republicans of New York, and has edited numerous other volumes.