The Secret Soldier
The Story of Deborah Sampson
Author: Ann McGovern
Illustrator: Harold Goodwin
Series: Scholastic Biography
Grade Level Equivalent:
Guided Reading Level:
Autobiography and Biography, Historical Fiction, Series
American Revolutionary War, Women's History and Experience, Historic Figures, Colonial and Revolutionary America
In the late 1700s, there aren’t many choices for a young girl without a family. Fatherless Deborah Sampson has been sent away from home because her mother is too poor and sick to take care of her, and so for ten years Deborah works as a servant for Deacon Thomas and his family. She is too busy to go to school (not that schooling is considered very important for girls anyway), and she certainly cannot learn a trade - that sort of thing is also reserved for men only. At 18 years old, Deborah longs for a life of travel and adventure, and since this is forbidden most females, the ingenious Deborah gets the bright idea to enlist in the Continental army — disguised as a man!
Prolific author of many history books for children, Ann McGovern’s true story of this daring young woman will keep readers on the edges of their seats as they wonder when and if Deborah, now "Robert Shurtliff," will be discovered. Suspense mounts as Deborah keeps her identity a secret during long, difficult marches and bloody raids against the Tories. Her courage makes her a favorite among her fellow soldiers and even her commanding general takes special notice of her. Not until Deborah is wounded after a year and a half of service, does anyone suspect that there is something amiss with this brave and friendly soldier boy.
In the end, Deborah’s secret is revealed, and she is discharged from service with an excellent record. She goes on to marry a farmer and bear children, and after becoming a school teacher, decides to travel the country giving talks about her amazing experience as a male soldier during the Revolutionary War. Use this story as a personal, unique supplement to lessons about this critical time in American history.