Why Can’t Brave Men Endure? marks Joseph Lee Boyle’s second book dedicated to resurrecting the identities of the heroes of the six-month encampment of the Continental Army at Valley Forge in 1777-1778. His previous volume, Fire, Cake, and Water, identifies the Connecticut soldiers who were among the 30,000 individuals whose names appear on the surviving monthly muster and payroll records for the beleaguered Valley Forge encampment. Boyle’s latest volume examines the New Jersey contingent.
Boyle’s Introduction sheds light on the role of the New Jersey infantry at Valley Forge from December 1777 until June of the following year. For example, we learn that only Spencer’s Regiment, which was part of Conway’s Brigade, was at Valley Forge for the entire encampment. Similarly, Boyle summarizes the movements of the First, Second, Third, and Fourth New Jersey Regiments between their home bases, Valley Forge, and Brandywine, Monmouth, and other points of contact with the British army. Like his earlier Connecticut volume, however, Why Can’t Brave Men Endure? is composed essentially of an alphabetical list of some 2,500 New Jersey soldiers abstracted from Revolutionary War muster and payrolls at the National Archives. Each patriot is identified by name, rank, date and term of enlistment or commission, names of regiment and company, and a variety of supporting details, such as date of furlough or discharge, when wounded, when and where promoted, etc. In support of the abstracts the author has prepared a detailed glossary of terms found in the rosters, an explanatory list of locations referred to in the entries, and a lengthy, up-to-date bibliography on the topic.
Why Can’t Brave Men Endure? is a significant contribution to our understanding of one of the most critical moments in the American past.