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Don’t tread on me
“I had never heard of George until I saw your article,” says Joseph M. Bauman of Utah. His new e-book Don’t Tread on Me (2012) brings to life eight veterans of the American Revolution who lived into the era of photography. A former journalist, Bauman’s account of Fishley’s life is the most detailed ever written.
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Bauman first became interested in “dags” of veterans of the Revolution in 1977, but only began collecting in earnest when he came into a small inheritance a few years ago. He purchased the only other known original photo of Fishley from a dealer in 2005 for $1,500 “after a lot of dithering,” he says. He has spent from $350 to $3,000 for a single image in his very rare collection. Bauman collects only “camera-originals,” not copies.
“I've been fascinated with the Revolution almost all my life, and I'm an old fellow,” Bauman says. (He is 66.) “When I was a boy our family lived near Stanton, Delaware, and we liked to play Revolutionary soldiers.”
As a reporter for the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, Bauman had access to the enormous genealogical library of the Mormon Church which he calls “the greatest in the world.” This gave him access to rare family histories, county records, and microfilm of military documents. He also dug deeply into the ever-expanding Internet services like Ancestry.com with pension records and early newspapers. And he purchased microfilm copies of New Hampshire newspapers to flesh out Fishley’s story.
Bauman’s lively account of the eight veterans in his private collection is homage to the common man. These were largely ordinary but highly patriotic men who, stirred by the drums of war, served under harsh conditions for small pay. Private Fishley and his companions were often marched through impossible terrain without even shoes or shirts. Bauman’s account brings the reader onto the battlefield. The author then tracks their long lives as many descended into poverty. Don’t Tread on Me is a labor of love, seven years in the making. It is a unique intimate view of these all-but-forgotten soldiers and sailors. And it is a perspective almost never seen in traditional history books that focus, instead, on the same famous leaders.
“My research process was simply to dig out every scrap of information I could and see how they fit together,” Bauman says. “These fellows were all celebrities, at least in their home towns by the time they were old, because they were the last of what I consider the truly greatest generation.”
Bauman elected to create an e-book after contacting a number of traditional print publishers. Don’t Tread on Me is available as a download on Kindle at Amazon.com and on the Nook on BN.com for $2.99.
“I'm disgusted with the high-handedness of the literary establishment and prefer to go the independent route, regardless of whether I sell a lot of books,” Bauman says. “It's satisfying that somebody is reading it, and nobody would be if I kept pounding my head on that particular brick wall.”
“When you look at these eight men together, they give an impression of the young country going off vigorously in all sorts of directions,” he says. “They are an important part of the American story.”
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