About Spies and Deserters —
A Novel of the American Revolution
by Martin R. Ganzglass (Somalia 1966–68)
SPIES AND DESERTERS FOLLOWS eighteen-year-old Will Stoner, a Lieutenant in General Henry Knox’s artillery regiment, and his friend, Private Adam Cooper, an African American in the Marblehead Mariners, from the bleak, disease ridden camp at Valley Forge through the cauldron of the summer heat of the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse, to the bloody, vicious guerrilla war between Whig and Tory militias and irregulars in southern New Jersey. By drawing on diaries, original letters, military orders and broadsheets, Spies and Deserters creates an accurate picture of the everyday lives of ordinary soldiers, merchants and farmers, women, Whigs, Loyalists and Hessians, all caught up in the revolution.
Spies and Deserters is my fourth novel about the American Revolution published by Peace Corps Writers. Like the others in the series, Cannons for the Cause, Tories and Patriots, and Blood Upon the Snow, it is thoroughly researched. Each of them contains End Notes with quotations from original sources as well as interpretations of events by well-known historians. There is also an extensive bibliography. It is my way of giving the reader a good story and access to sources to expand their knowledge of our history.
Spies and Deserters continues my exploration of the theme of “invisible diversity,” a phrase used to describe the role of blacks, women, Native Americans, and even homosexuals in the American Revolution. They were all present during our War for Independence. Their roles simply have not been taught in our schools or acknowledged in most history books.
For example, probably the most iconic painting of the Revolution is “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” by Emmanuel Leutze. Washington stands boldly near the prow and in front of his right knee is an African American in uniform. He was there before our eyes through all of our schooling and yet very few teachers explained who he was and the part blacks played in the American Revolution. There were more than five hundred free black soldiers, serving in mostly integrated units, at Valley Forge. Through my novels and the characters in them, I seek to tell their history, as well as that of women who were spies and nurses, and the Oneida who served with Lafayette at a battle outside Philadelphia.
The more I read about the American Revolution, the more I realize we are prisoners of our myths. Valley Forge is embedded in our collective memory as sacred ground, a place of severe deprivation and ragged soldiers freezing and starving to death. But most Americans have no knowledge that ordinary soldiers had the company of their spouses. In addition, there were the usual camp followers, women who “followed the drum,” did the laundry and other such chores and were deemed to be of loose morals. There were at least four hundred women at Valley Forge. Heaven forbid that we should teach students that there were immoral women at the sacred site of Valley Forge. Or that the soldiers gambled, cursed and avoided Sabbath services.
I believe if we are to understand our history, we need to adhere to the truth as much as possible, and not some mythical, heroic story of absolute purity of character, steadfast morals and noble deeds. I write because I believe that historical fiction, thoroughly researched and sourced, can reach more readers and thus expose them to the truth of our history, and eventually the lessons to be learned.
These novels obviously have nothing to do with my Peace Corps experience in Somalia from 1966 to 1968. Indeed, I have written The Orange Tree,”which explores the relationship between an elderly Jewish woman with dementia and a Somali health care assistant, as well as what it means to be a Moslem in post 9/11 America. I have also written Somalia – Short Fiction, a series of short stories with Somali themes. Those books whetted my appetite for writing and I am grateful that, through Peace Corps Writers, I can pursue my passion for American history and write historical fiction unrelated to Peace Corps. I am still a Peace Corps voice, just in a different genre, not usually found on the Peace Corps Writers website.
Spies and Deserters: A Novel of the American Revolution
by Martin R. Ganzglass (Somalia 1966–68)
Peace Corps Writers
April 26, 2017
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