The Adventures Of A Revolutionary Soldier/Preface
I have somewhere read of a Limner, who, when he had daubed a representation of some animal, was always compelled, for the information of the observer, to write under it what he intended it to represent: as, 'this is a goose,' 'this is a dog,' &c. So, many books, and mine in particular, amongst the rest, would perhaps be quite unintelligible as to the drift of them, unless the reader was informed beforehand what the author intended.
I shall, therefore, by way of preface, inform the reader that my intention is to give a succinct account of some of my adventures, dangers and sufferings during my several campaigns in the revolutionary army. My readers, (who, by the by, will, I hope, none of them be beyond the pale of my own neighbourhood,) must not expect any great transactions to be exhibited to their notice, "No alpine wonders thunder through my tale," but they are here, once for all, requested to bear it in mind, that they are not the achievements of an officer of high grade which they are perusing, but the common transactions of one of the lowest in station in an army, a private soldier.
Should the reader chance to ask himself this question, (and I think it very natural for him to do so,) how could any man of common sense ever spend his precious time in writing such a rhapsody of nonsense?—to satisfy his inquiring mind, I would inform him, that, as the adage says, "every crow thinks her own young the whitest," so every private soldier in an army thinks his particular services as essential to carry on the war he is engaged in, as the services of the most influential general; and why not? what could officers do without such men? Nothing at all. Alexander never could have conquered the world without private soldiers.
But, says the reader, this is low, the author gives us nothing but everyday occurrences; I could tell as good a story myself. Very true, Mr. Reader, every one can tell what he has done in his lifetime, but every one has not been a soldier, and consequently can know but little or nothing of the sufferings and fatigues incident to an army. All know everyday occurrences, but few know the hardships of the "tented field." I wish to have a better opinion of my readers, whoever they may be, than even to think that any of them would wish me to stretch the truth to furnish them with wonders that I never saw, or acts and deeds I never performed. I can give them no more than I have to give, and if they are dissatisfied after all, I must say I am sorry for them and myself too; for them, that they expect more than I can do, and myself, that I am so unlucky as not to have it in my power to please them.
But after all I have said, the real cause of my ever undertaking to rake up circumstances and actions that have so long rested in my own mind, and to spread them upon paper, was this:—my friends, and especially my juvenile friends have often urged me so to do; to oblige such, I undertook it, hoping it might save me often the trouble of verbally relating them.
The critical grammarian may find enough to feed his spleen upon, if he peruses the following pages; but I can inform him beforehand, I do not regard his sneers; if I cannot write grammatically, I can think, talk and feel like other men. Besides, if the common readers can understand it, it is all I desire; and to give them an idea, though but a faint one, of what the army suffered that gained and secured our independence, is all I wish. I never studied grammar an hour in my life, when I ought to have been doing that, I was forced to be studying the rules and articles of war.
As to punctuation, my narrative is in the same predicament as it is in respect to the other parts of grammar. I never learned the rules of punctuation any farther than just to assist in fixing a comma to the British depredations in the State of New-York; a semicolon in New-Jersey; a colon in Pennsylvania, and a final period in Virginia;—a note of interrogation, why we were made to suffer so much in so good and just a cause; and a note of admiration to all the world, that an army voluntarily engaged to serve their country, when starved, and naked, and suffering every thing short of death, (and thousands even that,) should be able to persevere through an eight years war, and come off conquerors at last!
But lest I should make my preface longer than my story, I will here bring it to a close.