The Secret Soldier: The Story of Deborah Sampson

by Ann McGovern

Paperback, 1990




Scholastic Paperbacks (1990), Edition: 1st Edition Trade Paperback, 64 pages


A brief biography of the woman who disguised herself as a man and joined the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.


(23 ratings; 4.2)

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McGovern, Ann. (1990). The secret soldier: the story of Deborah Sampson. New York: Scholastic, Inc.

This biography tells the story of the life of Deborah Sampson, who in 1782 at 22 years old joined the Continental Army disguised as a man. This book tells her story in a narrative, relating the facts
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of her life, as well as day-to-day events and her thoughts and feelings about her life and the momentous events occurring around her. The book starts when her mother, a widow, has to leave her with her adult cousin because she can’t care for her five children. It continues with Sampson’s childhood years as an indentured servant. It then moves on to her work in dull jobs and the decision she makes to disguise herself as a man and join the Continental Army so she can see adventure. She lives and fights alongside the men of the army for 17 months, and she is wounded. She is later honorably discharged and reveals her secret. The book then tells of her life as a wife and mother who, still craving adventure, goes on the lecture circuit to speak of her experiences.

This simplified biography will appeal to 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders. With its simple, easy-to-read language and illustrations that highlight the text, it gives young readers an opportunity to learn about a unique person who accomplished an amazing feat. The story is told from a third person omniscient point of view and relates the facts of Sampson’s life accurately. The narrator also relates Sampson’s thoughts and feelings. While this works to bring the reader closer to Sampson, it’s a problem unless these thoughts and feelings were recorded in one of Sampson’s journals or in Sampson’s letters. There is no bibliography, so this can’t be checked. However, McGovern makes several references to things Sampson wrote in her journal and quotes an entry. This gives the biography some credibility and at the same time makes Sampson seem real to young readers. As McGovern tells it, Sampson’s story is compelling. McGovern presents Sampson as a multidimensional person. She shows her to be a dutiful worker who hated the dullness of being trapped in a position with no hope of seeing adventure. She shows how Sampson dug a musket ball out of her own leg to avoid having to disrobe in front of a doctor and reveal her secret. Also, McGovern tells about Sampson speaking of the horrors of war in her lectures. This is a simplified biography so Sampson’s life is simplified; yet McGovern does a good job of presenting a well-rounded person who can be seen by children both as an example of all the people who fought and were affected by the Revolutionary War, and as a example of a woman being brave and successful in combat, something that has long been seen as a man’s field.
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Physical description

7.75 inches


0590430521 / 9780590430524
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