Case 2

Many novels written about the Revolutionary War were written for young adults, especially males, and portray the War as a time not merely of political discord, but one of valor and virtue. These stories are often tales of heroic journeys taken by individuals who either joined the War or assisted those who did. Following the format of heroic journeys, most novels begin the war in media res, clearly as a way to imitate the epic struggles of mythical heroes.

Although the target audience is primarily children, these novels follow the tradition of a literary genre, the American historical romance. The historical romance is a type of story set in a period of historical significance that follows the struggles of a hero who is not necessarily super-human, but has some talents that set him (or her) apart. Historical romances usually include a love story; however, love is not essential to the genre. The historical romance has been made ­famous in America by writers such as James Fennimore Cooper, who wrote The Last of the Mohicans, which was about the French and Indian War, and Stephen Crane, who wrote The Red Badge of Courage, which dealt with the Civil War.

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The heroes are predominately males who see the war as an opportunity to become men of valor in order to prove themselves either for family, love, and/or to their country. For example, the narrator in Patriot and Tory joins the war to prove himself as a patriot to his love interest Dorothy. The Secret Mission of Valley Forge tells the story of a 15-year old boy named Jeff who is at first underestimated, but rises to the occasion to help the patriots navigate through South Jersey. The war affects all social classes. In A Princeton Boy in the Revolution, a student, inspired by the passion of his professor for the war, decides to quit school to join the patriots. Direct combat, however, is not the only way for the protagonist in these novels to help with the war. In Morgan the Jersey Spy, two young boys who are eager to join the war, but are unable to do so because of their ages, assist Morgan, an undercover spy for the patriots. In addition, since these novels deal with history, historical figures appear in the texts like George Washington in Victory Drums.

As with many epics and narratives of heroism, novels about the Revolutionary War follow a tradition for the glorification of valor and duty in times of conflict, yet the authors of these works recall that in this time of honor and patriotism, New Jersey had an essential part.

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Ellis, Edward S. Patriot and Tory. Boston: Dana Estes & Co., 1904.

This story, written in the first person, tells the story of the narrator caught in the bitter division of the country between the Patriots and the Tories. He is in love with a woman named Dorothy, whose father is a patriot. In order to prove himself, he joins the war against the British.

Bell, Kensil. Secret Mission for Valley Forge. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1955.

Jeff, a 15-year old boy, joins the war, but is underestimated by his superiors because of his age. When General Wayne needs someone who can navigate through the wilderness of South Jersey, Jeff’s expertise becomes vital. Each chapter opens with excerpts of letters from actual revolutionaries from the war.

Otis, James. Morgan, The Jersey Spy. New York: A. L. Burt & Co., 1898.

Two boys named Guy Peyton and Louis Poindexter urge their ­fathers to let them join the war so that they can become men; however, their fathers feel they are too young. One day they meet a man wearing a redcoat named Morgan, who turns out to be a spy from New Jersey sent by George Washington. Although the boys are unable to join the war, their assistance to Morgan will make an impact.

Tomlinson, Paul G. A Princeton Boy In the Revolution. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1922.

This story, opening after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, tells the story of three Princeton students who were inspired by their professor to join the war.

Betz, Eva K. Victory Drums. Paterson, NJ: St. Anthony Guild Press, 1966.

John Pierson and two of his friends fight through to the end of Revolutionary War, engaging in such famous battles as Monmouth, and meeting such famous figures as Anthony Wayne and George Washington.