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Book Excerpt from Peter's War

Book Excerpt from Peter’s War
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Peters War
Photo/Art by Heath Robbins
When historian and constitutional scholar Joyce Lee Malcolm first discovered a 1765 bill of sale for a 19-month-old slave boy, she put it aside, says Tim Clark, who reviews Malcolm’s book, Peter’s War: A New England Slave Boy and the American Revolution in the July/august 2009 Yankee Magazine. But Malcolm pursued Peter’s story and, though not a word of his was ever found written down, she chronicles his march into America’s history from Bunker Hill to Saratoga to Yorktown.

From Peter’s War (Yale University Press; $28):
Peter was enrolled in Captain Samuel Farrar’s company, Colonel Jonathan Reed’s regiment. Farrar was a Lincoln man and had served as a lieutenant in William Smith’s minuteman company. On September 29 Farrar reported to Lincoln’s Colonel Eleazer Brooks that the fourteen men in his company were ready for their assignment.

Their company was officially detached from Brooks’s command and, like the Lincoln men already in arms, were sent to reinforce General Gate’s army “at the Northward.” It would mean a march of nearly two hundred miles.

Peter was once again with men he had served with before and had known all his life, including Joshua Brooks, Jupiter’s owner, now the company’s sergeant, and Joseph Mason, Jr., its corporal. After months of comfort in a snug house with regular meals, he was immediately faced with the familiar hardships of life in the American military — exhaustion, huger, discomfort, and a mixture of fear and excitement.

Still, for a boy unhappy at home, it was a relief to be among men who accepted and valued him. And he might get a chance to see his father. As they converged on New York State they joined fifty-two other militia units rushing to reinforce the Continentals in a great confrontation that would, had they but known it, be the turning point in the war.

Read more: Review by Tim Clark

Tim Clark


Tim Clark


Tim Clark has been writing for Yankee Magazine and The Old Farmer's Almanac since 1975. Subjects of his many Yankee profiles have included filmmaker Ken Burns, historian Barbara Tuchman, pediatrician and political activist Dr. Benjamin Spock, and World War II General James Gavin. Tim left his job as Managing Editor in 1999 to teach English at ConVal High School in Peterborough, N.H. for 13 years, but since retiring from that demanding and rewarding profession in 2012, he has continued to contribute articles and book reviews. Tim lives in Dublin, N.H., two miles from the offices of Yankee Publishing, and serves as Town Moderator, a post previously occupied by Rob Sagendorph, the founder of Yankee Magazine.
Updated Thursday, June 18th, 2009

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