Find the Night Room
Chapter 1. Moore County, North Carolina
Angus McDonald was muscular for his sixteen years. The boy was rather handsome with his motley freckled nose and a full head of wavy red hair. His stocky body and complexion was the mark of McDonald clan in the Isle of Skye.It was his grandmother, Flora McDonald who had gotten them kicked out of Scotland when she hid the bonny prince Charles in the base of her own castle, to prevent his being captured by the English soldiers. All that McDonald wanted to restore Stuart to the throne of England, but their loyalties got them in trouble. Angus was only six years old when the prince died in France and the clan was exiled. He could scarcely remember standing shivering in the great damp hall of the castle while his father told him to pack only his clothes. The punishing realization of sudden confiscation and poverty shattered the disposition of every McDonald in the province. The poor misplaced clan were forced aboard a vessel headed for the colonies. When it was near unto the shores of North Carolina, his grandfather petitioned the Royal Governor to grant land, a place to settle. The Governor granted several thousand acres in far off Moore County, the raw backwoods of Indian territory. The first several years in the colony were peaceful. But now, patriots were decrying independence from England. "I want no part on this," Duncan McDonald said, commiserating his own losses. "How can this little nation expect to win their freedom against so vast a force?"
One afternoon as Angus and his father worked in the field bailing hay, a patrol of American patriots approached on horseback. They wore three-cornered hats and long-coats trimmed with yellow braid and rifles were strapped across their backs. Soldiers were a familiar sight to the father of Angus. He could smell one a mile away. So now instinctively, he threw down his rake and did what he had always done, ran and hid in the woods. Angus continued raking his stack into one large pile. The soldiers approached the lone boy.
"We came to warn you that Major McLeod rides now into Moore County to recruit you highlanders. If you remain here, they will surely take you into their ranks. Where is your father?"
"Gone. My mother and sisters are at the house, sir. Can I offer a sip of water from the well?"
"Sure thing." The soldiers followed Angus to the well where he drew up a bucket of clear water. "What is your name?"
"Are you kin to General McDonald?" He asked, thinking of the redcoat army.
Angus nodded. "Probably."
"Which side to you take, boy?"
"Would you be obliged to tell us if you hath seen any redcoats in these parts?"
"None that I know of."
"Well you should be watching because we were told that the army is marching to Moores Bridge."
"When will your father return?"
Angus shrugged his shoulders. "Dunno."
"We could use another hand. You look strong. Why don't you join us and help prevent the redcoats from reaching the bridge?"
"Well, my father would whip me for it."
"Your father favors the General, does he?"
"Not that McDonald."
"Well then! We need a flag-bearer."
"How long would it take to whip the British?" Angus examined his dirty hands, then scratched his head. He was thinking of a cold February morning when the shovel wore blisters into them as he dug a trench wide enough to plant a bucket of potato eyes.
"Enlistment of three months is all we ask. That will get you back home for planting time."
Angus hated it that his father was hiding in the woods. The clan lost their Scottish home being on the wrong side of politics. The natural natural result was that his father did not wish to choose sides this time around. But the colonists having tasted freedom had decided to pluck themselves off the English tree. Angus felt that sense of freedom, the idea tickled his nostrils. All that he had ever heard talk of was how the British cheated Charles Stuart of the throne and double-crossed the McDonalds. He paused momentarily, then sauntered down the path to the farm house his father had built with his own hands. The soldiers waited while he went inside to speak to his mother.
"Duncan McDonald will whip you good!" She warned after he expressed an idea to go with the patriots.
"The British soldiers are coming after us again. We cannot hide from trouble. How often hath we run away from it to no avail? It chased us yet across the wilderness plain, even unto this house."
"Sounds as though you hath thought on it for awhile."
"Since I was eight years old. Pa can run, but I cannot."
"Wait for your pa to come out of the woods to decide."
"The British are almost to the bridge. They will come against us on our place if I do not go now!"
"Did ye put the load on your shoulders, my son?" He nodded. Resigned to his decision, she gave him Duncan McDonald's woollen long coat, a leather belt and his sharpened squirrel knife.
"Seems to me that I am obliged to go with ye, being as the redcoats ere in the neighborhood," he told the patrol. He was given to share riding a mule behind a tall, lanky boy.
"I am Hoke Campbell. My farm is over yonder ridge," the boy said pointing eastwardly.
Before reaching Moores Creek they met up with a militia of about one hundred men. Angus and Hoke were sworn to serve for three months and shown a target to practice shooting the bow.
"What ere we?" Angus asked. The answer came from Hoke.
"We ere militia."
"I thought I was gonna be a drummer."
"Can you shoot a bow and arrow?"
"I can shoot and skin rabbits," Angus bragged, showing the knife tucked inside his belt.
"Then I guess we be Indian fighters," Hoke said confidently.
"The redcoats use the Indians for their raids and plunderings up along the Delaware."
That night in camp Angus learned that they were waiting for news from General Caswell before moving on. The General was at Rockfish Creek on the Black River, a place he had won from the British. The plan was to cut off Colonel McDonald at Moores Creek and thus prevent him from raising a regiment from the badly needed Highlander families. But first, they would have to cross over a thirty foot plank bridge.
While General Caswell was still in the northern part of Carolina, he dispatched Colonel Lillington's regiment to ride ahead of the main army and obstruct the crossing. The word came, and the patriots marched towards the bridge. They were but a straggly regiment of farmers, but arrived in good time to dig trenches and construct a low earthen works under the bridge. Angus rolled up his sleeves and shovelled the trenches as good as any man. Like the potato beds, but deeper. His thoughts were of preventing General McDonald from reaching his farm and intimidating his father.
Two cannon were placed at the end of the bridge where it would fire a stream of volleys into the approaching British. With the trenches dug and the cannon in place, they were ready.
The sound of the cavalry breaking through the wood alerted the patriots. The horses made a lot of noise, neighing and hoofing over briars and broken branches. The first glimpse of the mounted redcoats galloping through the forest waving a flag from the highlands and assembling themselves into a parade on an open field was spectacular. No sprouting anemones nor daffodils at their feet could display so grand a color. The patriots, wearing their piece-meal farm clothes stood out from the trenches to watch as commanders wearing striking plumes in their hats and silver scabards around their waists circled the arena.
"Which one is Colonel McDonald?" Hoke asked plaintively.
"Dunno," Angus answered, scratching his head,"but there are at least two thousand highlanders on that ridge."
Their numbers were so small, they went unnoticed by the British who were preparing to cross the bridge. Colonel Lillington waited on the other side with two cannon. He did not give the order to fire until the bridge was filled with British infantry. Boom! A black cloud of smoke momentarily hid those in the trenches underneath the bridge.
"Fix bayonet!" The colonel shouted.
The sound of clashing bayonets frightened those in the ditch. Soldiers fell in on top of them. A battle cry echoed across the field and the cavalry came romping into the action but by the time they reached the bridge much of their infantry men lay dead before them. While muskets discharged around him, Angus loaded his bow and shot wildly into the confusion. They still had the advantage of black clouds of smoke hovering over the trenches. The drama of firing muskets, cannon and trumpets sounding the charge dominated the stage for several hours. Colonel McDonald, sitting astride his horse on the ridge, watched as his infantry was struck down. He could not not count the militia from the number of patriots charging from the woods. From a long distance the faint outline of another army approached. It was General Caswell. He signalled the other commanders by waving his sword into the air.
Chapter 2. The Battle of Sullivans Island, near Charleston June 28, 1776.
Sullivans Island was the largest slave port in America and guarded the entrance to the Charleston Harbor.
While the patriot militia fought their battle at Moores Creek, British Commodore Peter Parker was sailing from Boston into Cape Fear and then to Charleston where he planned an easy capture of the city. He had onboard the infamous commander Sir Henry Clinton. But John Rutledge, a member of the Continental Congress arrived ahead of him and began making preparations for its defense. He appointed the forty-six year old Colonel William Moultrie, former militiaman and Indian fighter to the task. It was Moultrie who saw Sullivans Island as the perfect place to build a makeshift log fort of spongy palmetto logs to deflect cannon balls. The sailing vessels of Parker would first have to cross a series of submerged sand banks about eight miles out to see and would be wholly visible to the city. As they did so, they observed the second South Carolina regiment constructing a fort with two inch planks nailed with wooden spikes for gun platforms and ramparts. Parker lowered several scout boats to observe possible landing points on nearby Long Island, just a few hundred yards from Sullivans Island. On June 8, most of the British fleet had crossed the Charleston bar and anchored in Five Fathom Hole. It was from here that Parker sent a proclamation to Colonel Moultrie to lay down his arms or face military action. With the fort only half built, Parker was confident that his warships would blast the fort into pieces.
Only the palmetto logs seawall was complete, filled with sand, and rising ten feet above the wooden platforms for the artillery. A hastily erected palisade of thick planks helped to guard the powder magazine and unfinished northern walls. 9 and 12 pounders and several English 18 pounders and French 26 pounders were rolled into place to dot the front and rear walls. All of this, awaiting the nine British man-o-war ships including the 50-gun flagship, Bristol.
On June 2nd, Major General Lee arrived in Charleston. In his ranks were the new recruits, Angus McDonald and Hoke Campbell. As soon as he arrived, he ordered fortifications built in the city proper, thinking that Fort Sullivan was too rundown to defend. However, he was overruled. The South Carolina garrison on the island now counted 425 men. Gunpowder was in short supply, and Lee, thinking that the fort had little hope of surviving the British guns, limited the amount of gunpowder in the magazines. The remaining powder would be used for his planned desperate defense of the city. The Indian fighter, Colonel Moultrie, disagreed, and planned a strong offensive. Perhaps it was the agitation of the two commanders which caused the men to throw themselves into the preparation. Angus and Hoke worked almost around the clock to build the northern wall. The flag on the ship of Commodore Peter Parker was always visible to them, as a reminder of its 50 guns.
"Are they pointed this way?" Angus asked.
"The 50 guns."
Hoke scratched his head. "Guess so."
"When do you think they will come against us?"
"Dunno. Maybe they are waiting for us to finish all this building, so they can blow it up."
Angus chuckled. "They want to fire off the cannons more than once then."
"Yes, that is it," Hoke answered, thinking of their own half-filled powder magazines. "Major General Lee knows it too."
The boys stopped laughing to consider some sobering thoughts. The flag ship was mounted with enough guns too shoot them out of the water, and they knew it.
Sir Henry Clinton planned an attack on the morning of the 28th . Indeed, he would blow this pitiful fort into the rushes and be well on his way to win the war against the patriots. He would blockade the port of Charleston and seize the city as a trophy. Meanwhile, on the island, Major General Lee consulted with the Indian fighter Colonel Moultrie. They did not agree on tactical maneuvers. Lee decided to post his 2nd South Carolina at the cannon while the guerrillas of Colonel Moultrie would scatter in the woods with their muskets and hatchets and prepare to ambush the British as they put foot on Sullivan soil. Angus and John were assigned powder magazine duty. They would have the daunting job of running buckets of powder to the guns under fire.
But Sir Clinton had made a grievous error when he landed some 2200 seasoned troops on Long Island. The plan was for the troops to cross the shallows during the heat of battle and take possession of Sullivan Island. But no one had troubled themselves to confirm the depth of Breach Inlet. When it was discovered that the low water was nowhere shallower than seven feet, Clinton was mortified. His only option was to transport his men across the passage by boat in a series of landings and assured the commodore that he would create a diversion. After several false starts, he sent his men into the inlet. Heavy fire poured down upon them and those who reached the island, found themselves stranded on the beach. Colonel Moultrie had ridden to the northern part of the island dukey that morning to inspect defenses. Opposite the Breach Inlet, Colonel Danger Thomson had 780 men dug in behind earthworks as well as two cannon and a commanding view of the beach. When Moultrie saw the number of the boats of the enemy in motion at the back of Long Island he turned quickly in the saddle and galloped fast back to the fort just as the ships of Parker loosed their mainsails. As he rode through the gate he called for the drummers to beat the long roll. Moultrie had 26 cannon at his disposal but only about 28 balls for each. Major General Lee stood ready at the guns.
The man o war of General Clinton with 14 guns came into full view and fired the leeward cannon. The
rumbling sound of the first cannon ball as it rolled across the sea and exploded in the shallows was deafening. A near miss. The 2nd prepared to fire its first volley. "Wait! The target is out of range," Lee said.
The vessel moved into position to fire a full volley. "Now!" Lee gave the signal to fire a simultaneous volley from the six cannon on the northern rampart. But the British needed to close in. When their cannonballs failed to penetrate the fort walls, the British fired from Long Island. The patriots took deliberate aim, and poured a relentless volley onto Long Island. Angus and John carried a stream of powder to the cannon, until their buckets were empty.
"More, more," the Indian fighter ordered. "Keep em coming!"
"Colonel Moultrie, there is no more powder!" Angus cried.
As the men realized there was no more powder, the fort fell deafening silent. The Colonel sent into town for more powder. An hour passed. The men were yet alert, telling one another to mind the commodore. "Watch out for the guns!" They yelled. Major General Lee encouraged the troops by putting himself in full view of the British.
"Oh my God, the flag fell!" Angus said watching a ball split its staff. "Colonel, do not allow us fight without a flag!" Then he leaped through an embrasure and amidst a storm of splitting metal, retrieved the fallen standard. Then he ran back to the fort where he attached the flag to a sponge staff and planted it atop the ramparts. The powder arrived. Colonel concentrated his fire on the two 50-gun ships of Colooneo Parker. The Bristol took heavy punishment and in late afternoon a cannonball carried away her anchor chain, causing her to drift and expose her stem to the batteries of the fort. "Hit her now!" Moultrie yelled. They sent a blast which killed every man standing on the quarterdeck and left a blazing fire. The British officers begged Commodore Parker to leave the exposed deck, but he refused. The next volley fired into his backside and ripped off his pants. He sent a division of ships to flank the fort, but they ran aground on the shoals. The Actaeon collided with the Sphynx carrying away its bowsprit and damaging the rigging. The two vessels extricated themselves from the shoals after several hours but the Actaeon was stuck fast and the captain had to scuttle her. Then Sir Clinton attempted to transport his men across the inlet by boat but the eager men of Colonel Thomson greeted them with a withering hail of musket and cannon fire. It was hopeless. Clinton ordered his men back to Long Island and withdrew his troops. Commodore Parker had also had enough. Later I the evening he broke off the fight and sailed on the receding ebb tide, taking with him the former royal governor of South Carolina, Lord William Campbell. The patriots had only lost twelve men, with twenty five wounded.
"My compliments, sir. Well, I hath to say that you did the impossible," Major General Lee said, saluting Moultrie.
"Today, you sank two English man o war and sent the British running with their tail between their legs," Moultrie said to his cheering troops. "You fought like the Romans in the third century,"
"What doth he mean?" asked Hoke Campbell.
"I dunno, but we are brave," Angus said smiling.
In July word came of the declaration of independence having been signed for the colonists. They celebrated with fireworks and a keg of beer. Colonel Moultrie entertained by telling stories of Indians coming against him with knives and how he had cut into their scalps.
"Where is the fight?" Angus asked.
"Up there along the Saluda and Tugaloo Rivers."
Angus was more than impressed. No more did he want to be a flag boy. He decided to find that action for himself. After the celebration, the boring work began of constructing a long narrow rampart out into the harbor and digging earthen works around it. In August when the second term of Angus ended, he decided to find Colonel Andrew Pickens. He had heard that Pickens had an army of about 2000 men. So Angus and John said goodbye to their fellows at Sullivans Island and journeyed inward towards the Tugaloo. Word came to them as they neared the river that Pickens had suffered an ambush by the Cherokees and was saved by a last minute mounted charge of the militia. So now they were tightly entrenched along the banks of the river waiting for another sweep of the Cherokee. Angus and John took care not to be seen as they crawled on their bellies through a thicket of briars to reach the muddy bank.
"Colonel, there are two boys coming up on us!" Someone whispered.
Pickens squinted his eyes. "Give them each a musket and a horn of powder."
"I can show you how to use it," John said confidently.
"I already know. Me father showed me. He can hit a squirrel in the eye."
"He learned it in the woods when the British kept chasing after him cause the McDonalds hid the bonnie Prince Charles."
*quot I am gonna load now," John said, pouring gunpowder into the chamber. Then he dropped to his knees behind the lines. The boys stayed awake all night waiting for an attack. It came on the morning of August 10th just as the sun rose in a splendid array of streaming colors of pinks and yellows.
"There be something moving in the water," Angus said.
"Oh tis only a snake."
"No! I see white feathers," Angus said cocking his musket.
Word spread down the line. Several painted faces bobbled out of the water and lunged forward into the ranks stabbing wildly with their knives. Angus took his shot, and missed. Meanwhile a larger force from behind a clump of trees launched a stream off arrows across the river killing a number of men of Colonel Pickens. Some of them wore British jackets.
"Tis the British dressed up like Indians," Angus said, loading and firing. Pickens fired a cannon ball into the woods and the Cherokees scampered. With that fight won under their belts, the small patriot army proceeded towards the Indian village of Tamassy settled along the Oconee River and surrounded by a thick brake of cane. His orders were to prevent the British from enlisting more Cherokees and to destroy all of the villages in the South Carolina frontier. Sometimes they were ambushed and sometimes Pickens did the ambushing. Although this village appeared remotely settled, their skirmish on the Tugaloo doubtless included warriors from this village. Pickens wondered how many were nursing wounds and how many were out regrouping for war.
"Watch our backsides," he told a company of men, stationing them around the sugar cane. The answer came soon enough when he heard animal sounds and wild screaming as a tomahawk whizzed beside his ear. Part of that same war party launched a stream of arrows and brought down the first line and then ran towards them with open blades. "Fix bayonet!" He cried. They were in the heat of it now. The bare footed warriors lunged again and again with their knives, cutting deep the wounds and taking scalps. They were amazingly swift and could kill several men while running. They were losing. Pickens called for the cane brake to be set afire. The blaze caused a deafening cracking sound, like guns, and gave the illusion that backup troops had arrived. In the confusion, the Indians retreated into the woods and Pickens torched the village. The nervous heart of Angus beat wildly as the flames spit red and yellow daggers into the sky and enveloped the whole village, reducing it to ashes in a few minutes. He had never seen anything so magnificent. He loved the thrill and danger, and was glad that he chose to be an Indian fighter like Colonel Moultrie, now like Colonel Pickens. During the next several months he learned to handle the bow and arrow. So now he put aside the musket and waxed strong in his marksmanship. Because of his skill and small size, he was sent into the brush to spy on campsites.
Upon learning that Colonel Williamson was camped along the Coweecho River in North Carolina and needed Pickens to help him clear the gorge of Cherokees cutting off supplies to the white settlement of Franklin, the company broke camp. And always there was the nagging apprehension that the fleet of Commodore Parker was lying off Cape Fear. When they arrived at Black Hole, as the pass was called, the patriots of Colonel Williamson patriots had been ambushed and were under sniper attack from the natives shooting down arrows from the cavities of large boulders.
"They hath the advantage' our musket balls cannot reach them," Williamson complained.
Colonel Pickens surveyed the situation and then sent ten of his best bowmen climbing the backside of the mountain. The small agile body of Angus made the climb without much difficulty and signaled the others to follow him down into the sharp rocks of the gorge inside the cavity of a large boulder. From that perch they shot a steady stream of arrows and killed a goodly number of Cherokees. With this steady diversion in progress, Williamson moved his regulars into the gorge to climb the rocks and get near enough to fire with their rifles. All afternoon the two Indian fighters engineered the defeat of the redskins and when it was over had few casualties. During the next several months the armies camped on the Coweecho assuring safe passage through the gorge. The dusty hot August days passed into a chilly November. Soon a blanket of white snowy ice would cover the gorge and the little town of Franklin would be snowed in for the winter. The Indian fighters would have to move further on. In January, Angus and Hoke had finished their term, and considered their options.
"I want to go home to Moore County." Hoke said. "What about you?"
Angus thought long before he answered. "I cannot go. My father will beat me within an inch of his life when he learns that I am an Indian fighter. I am different now. That world is gone. I can never be a farmer again."
"Well I suppose my father will extract the same measures. Where shall we go then?"
"The real fighting is in New York, against the Iroquois."
Angus was correct. The campaign had been taken into the northern colonies of New York and Jersey. Lord Cornwallis had captured Fort Lee in New Jersey forcing the patriot commander General Nathaniel Greene to abandon his position. In January, General Washington defeated a British brigade at Princeton, driving them into Iroquois country.
"We are obliged to help whip the Iroquois!"
The boys set a course into the bitter cold and wintry country to find General Greene, confident that they could shot any game that got in their sights and avoid trouble. But not before they went into town and purchased two wool coats and pairs of boots with the mustering-out pay.
"Where will you be, sir?" Angus asked Colonel Pickett.
"Wherever the cause takes me, son."
By the winter of 1777 the armies were camped in the blizzard regions of Germantown and Valley Forge. Finding the Iroquois in New York was not going to be easy. The British General was detaching Hessians and Iroquois to attack the American militia and heading towards Oriskany. Angus and John aimed to find that militia and join up with it. They were on foot and traversing the deep mountainous snow was an unhappy event. Somehow they reached the frozen waterfall in Richmond, Georgetown just before a blizzard blew another thick bed of freezing ice and found refuge inside a barn. They had not shot much game on the long journey and were starving. As soon as Hoke bolted the doors, he noticed a milch cow chewing on some loose straw., probably not fed in days. Her tits were swollen and leaking.
"I favor some warm milk," he said drawing up a stool and squeezed from the sore tits two large containers of warm milk. Shivering, Angus ran his cold fingers over his thin ribs and rattled a cough. The skin around his eyes had a gray hue and cast daunting shadows across his hollowed cheeks. Suddenly he felt wheezy and fell limply to the ground.
"Angus! What is wrong? Get up!"
"I cannot," he said, beginning a long ugly coughing spell. "Oh mother," he whispered, "oh mother, how I need to see your loving face." Then he fainted.
Hoke tried frantically to revive him, first feeling of his pulse, then wiping his fevered forehead. After awhile, with Angus clumped up in a little ball, he decided to venture outside the barn for help. But the door was held fast by the wind, and as he struggled to break it open from the ice sickles, feared that the blizzard would carry them off. So he gave up. The night was very long. Hoke, all too aware that he must stay awake to care for Angus, could not sleep. He found an old horse saddle for the head od Angus and placed a thin ragged blanket smelling of manure over his crumpled body. Then he laid beside him and hugged his arms around the little boy, to try and warm him. Angus must be no more than sixteen years, he surmised, judging by his height, and the freckles on his nose. And of course he still had the physique of a boy. He compared the arm muscles of his nineteen years to Angus. Angus has not reached manhood whereas he was beginning to have the build of a man. Regardless, they were skinny hungry boys.
The wind seemed to subside at daylight, and somewhere in a hollowed distance John heard the eerie howling of a pack of wolves. Then his sensitive nose smelled burning wood. He cracked the ice off the door and pushing it open, sniffed the morning air. A thin trail of smoke came puffing out the chimney of a nearby house. Lord! There is a house! "I shall return," he told the waking Angus, "there is a house, Angus, a house." He ran towards it. A large hill of snow was stacked around it, but he dug with his hands until he reached the door.
"Please! Please! I have a sick boy!" He called out, while scooping snow from around the door, that it might open.
After awhile, it was free. A girl peeked outside. "Well where is the sick boy?"
"I will fetch him, he is in the barn. I will fetch him now."
She watched him as he made his way back to the barn and carry Angus in his arms across slippery ice , at times stumbling and taking deep gulping breaths of determination. By now, the parents of the girl were also observing the treacherous maneuver. As soon as he was inside, John dragged Angus in front of the fire.
"What is wrong with him?" The girl asked.
"Methinks pneumonia," Hoke answered while bending over the hearth to warm his hands over hot coals.
"What kind of talk is that?" She asked.
"We are Moore County boys," he said proudly.
"I am Horace Grubbs and this is Mrs. Grubbs," the man said. "Yours is a peculiar accent."
"Aye. Our parents brought us from Skye a few years back."
"Scotland. We are Scottish. That boy is Angus McDonald and I am Hoke Campbell."
"Well I never heard of such a name as Hoke Campbell!" The girl mimicked.
"Have you had a meal, boy?" Mrs. Grubbs asked.
"No, I cannot remember our last meal." The woman was kind. She prepared a bowl of chicken soap and encouraged Angus to eat.
"Thank you kindly, Mrs. Grubbs. I suppose the blizzard has kept you away from your barn. That is where we slept last night, and finding your cow wanting, milched two gallons from her. When the snow lets up, I will fetch it for you. And if you will oblige by allowing us to sleep inside tonight, I will also cut a mess of firewood."
The girl snickered. "What is your name, miss?" Angus asked from across the room. He nose was clogged up and his voice hoarse.
"Jenny," she answered proudly.
"We can make do the night in front of your fireplace, should you allow it."
After that the Grubbs discontinued their part of the conversation, going about the work inside the house.
Mr. Grubbs took a shovel to the snow in front of the door and his wife, washed dishes in a pan of dirty water. "Shall I fetch water?" Hoke asked.
"No, tis all froze up."
"We have not bathed our face in days," Jenny said giggling. Hoke took a good look at her. She was a lanky girl with a waistline so narrow that she twice tied her apron around it. Thick brown eyelashes curled around her soft eyes accentuating the full dimples in her cheeks. He supposed she was about his age. Then he noticed a freckle on the tip of her nose and observed it too long. She noticed. He blushed. "What are you doing so far from Moore County?" She asked.
"Looking for the Iroquois. Have you seen any?"
"Hmph!" She grunted disbelievingly.
"We are Indian fighters," he said.
With that piece of wisdom, Mr. Grubbs stopped his shoveling and confronted Hoke. "No sane body hunts Indians during
winter. And what for? They are no good except to take scalps for the British!& quot;
"Well it was not too long since we cleared some from Franklin pass, before the British got hold of them," Angus said defensively.
"We were with General Pickens," Hoke bragged.
Mrs. Grubbs paused to eyeball Hoke. "Well, I suppose the army is taking boys for men."
"Yes!" Angus said, casting a piercing look at the skeptical Jenny.
Jenny examined the bow Hoke had laid aside. She quit snickering Her disbelief was replaced with respect. "Where are you going from here?"
"To Oriskany, New York, to find General Washington to enlist us with the patriot militia. We heard that he recently won a battle near here, so we expect to find him soon."
It stopped snowing the next day and Hoke kept his word, sawing and cutting wood. After an hour or so, Jenny came outside to gather the frozen eggs in the hen house and sneaked a peep at him from the barn.
"Jenny is sweet on you," Angus said.
"I do prefer to stay here for the winter and get better acquainted," Hoke admitted. "If it is agreeable with you, we can work for the Grubbs until spring."
Angus smiled to himself. He did not relish another icy stiffening of his new woolen coat nor the prospect of getting lost in the snow. "I am agreeable."
By spring the two youngsters were demonstrating a familiar attachment, so much so that Jennie hinted an engagement and Mr. Grubbs asked his intentions.
Yet the embarrassed Hoke stayed focused on leaving the place with the first sign of spring. "Angus and me are needed in the war," he said firmly. "We can pierce the heart of an Indian whilst he runs and take his scalp too."
Grubbs was satisfied. All too soon the snow melted and the creek flowed. It was time to go. After Hoke cut his last stack of wood, Jenny followed him into the barn to further pursue the matter of his intentions. &wuot;Will you come back for me after the war?" She asked.
"Would you, should I give you a kiss?"
He blushed. Her presence made him nervous as she slithered up to him and embracing his shoulders pulled his face close to her. "Like this," she whispered, puckering her moist lips onto his mouth. It was his first kiss. He dared not move. She gently pulled his mouth closer and playfully teased him with her kisses.
"What do you say now?" She whispered into his ear, while kissing that also.
Suddenly he grabbed her waist and hugged her tight. The experience was so pleasant that he heard himself say, "I will come back for you."
The boys searched for the army following the path of every rumor. They heard that in January General Washington had defeated a British brigade near Princeton, New Jersey. After that, they figured that the British, needing more troops, went into Iroquois country to enlist more warriors. Despite their winter layover, nothing seemed to have occurred, so they found the patriot militia where predicted, near Oswego.
This was where they spent the summer, sharpening flints, tightening bows and training with the troops. In August, a column of British Iroquois viciously attacked the camp and cleverly pushed it into a retreat towards the British-occupied Fort Stanwix. The plan would have worked too had not the Indians and loyalists inside the fort deserted a few hours dukeier. When the remaining British detachment caught sight of the patriots, they fled.
Then, bad news came. General Washington was defeated at Brandywine. The war had moved into Pennsylvania. In September, Angus and Hoke were made part of a detachment which was sent to Paoli. It was here that they experienced another bitter defeat when the British caught them by surprise and massacred many Americans with their bayonets. Scarcely escaping with their lives, the boys were driven with the rag-tag militia into Germantown where they failed again to upset British positions. Angus and Hoke were despondent. Their enthusiasm waned, and the memory of winning began to be sucked from their bones. The thrill was only a vague memory , a numbness lost inside the head.
"I am fearfully lonely for Jenny," Hoke said pitifully. "I wish she were here to rub the pain from my neck and shoulders."
"Would you go to her if you could?"
" No. The respect that we gained there is lost."
"I suppose that we are heroes?"
"Yes," he said solemnly, shaking his head doubtfully, wondering if that were possible.
Another brutal winter . This one heaved deep piles of blinding white snow onto the mountains and into the valleys below. They made camp at a place called Valley Forge while General Washington took the main encampment of the Continental army into Morristown. The bedraggled patriots were courting defeat. They desperately needed troops, ships and supplies. Finally in February of 1778, France signed an agreement with General Washington to provide the needed troops and supplies. With the arrival of French ships, the British abandoned Philadelphia and moved their operations into New York. By June, Hoke and Angus found themselves in an open field near Monmouth, New Jersey facing the enemy with muskets and bayonets. Throughout the afternoon a scattered retreat began trickling into the woods with the boys lagging behind to deplete their quiver of arrows. They remained in the territory another year working their way towards the main encampment in Morristown where General Washington was laying plans to move the war to the south. The British had already taken Savannah and intended to siege Charleston. General Washington addressed the troops who had served with him at Valley Forge and crossed the Delaware River in an ice storm. Their faces were stone cold and their bodies weary from battle. Washington spoke for a long while, trying to convince the lot of them to continue the fight. They had won very few battles and now the energized British, fat and fed, had more ships. And they had Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton who scattered the American militia with the mere swoop of his hand. He did not have the arrogance of Sir Henry Clinton or Commodore Parker. He had something better. Determination. After his long delivery of words, General Washington pleaded for a new muster.
"the fleet of General Henry Clinton, his fleet of 90 troopships and 14 warships prepares to sail for Charleston. His force is more than 13,000 men. Word has come that he has been delayed in New York due to stormy seas. But the storms are passing, and he should be off the Carolina coast by February. Major General Lincoln defends the city. We cannot lose Charleston," he said passionately.
Angus blinked. His happy boyhood memories of the battle on Sullivans Island gave him a panoramic view of the fleet of Commodore Parker anchored in the harbor, expecting a quick victory. And then the blundering mistake of the Commodore when he landed his infantry on Long Island without first testing the shallows. How easy their victory seemed now. "I will sign the muster," he said suddenly. "That means we would be Continentals," Hoke whispered.
"You are just gonna forget about the massacre at Newtown?"
"Aye , spare me the torching of any more Indian villages. I simply want to fight the British head-on. I am a grown man now."
Hoke stared at him. Angus was no longer the boy. He had wide muscled shoulders and his lean skinny body towered near unto six feet. "Well, I suppose that you are too tall to disguise your movements, or to push through crevices."
"Do you care so much that we are Continentals?"
"No, there is no place else to go."
The next three years were a hapless pursuit of skirmishes in the bitter cold of the northern Indian villages and countryside to where the patriot generals had removed the battles awaiting the day that Admiral Sir Peter Parker would make another direct sea approach into Charleston. This time he convinced General Clinton to land his fleet some thirty miles south of the city and make an overland approach. On February 11, 1780, the troops of Clinton were deposited ashore on the southern tip of Johns Island where for two months they would plan to lay a siege on the city. It was a vital step. The British needed a southern stronghold. Hoke and Angus did not delude themselves into thinking that the British and that they would err again in a big way. The days of wearing the war like a fancy coat was over. Every soldier on both sides had gotten smarter just trying to stay alive. If anyone was a hero, it was the troops of General Washington who crossed the frozen Delaware River one night wrapped in rags and somehow defeated the enemy.
Hoke and Angus had signed up to defend Charleston. They were no longer the boys from Moore County. No one called them that any more. They were men grown to be nigh unto six feet tall who wore long coats braided on the shoulders with yellow threads, and three-corner hats, looking every bit the infantrymen. Instead of the quiver and bow, they carried rifles slung over their large muscular shoulders. Angus tied his wavy red hair with a thin ribbon to the nape of his neck. His thick eyelashes curled around his clear green eyes and accentuated a mouth of smiling white teeth. Hoke had a knotted head of sandy hair and his chest was covered in a thick bed of curls. They reached Charleston just hours before they were surrounded by the troops of General Clinton. They searched for the commander, but the assaulting forces threw them into the battle. They ran to the city wall and loaded and fired. Just as they had been skilled in the quiver and bow, both men were also expert sharpshooters. But it did not make any difference. For two weeks the British cannonaded from land and sea, destroying brick walls and wooden stockade fences until thick clouds of smoke covered their charges, one after another, into the town. Hoke and Angus were taken prisoners in the first riveting sweep and dispatched to a prison ship in the harbor where they were thrown into a dirty dark hole and clapped into chains. As they days passed, they were joined by many patriots, until the hole was crowded, sweaty and stinky. Every few days a taskmaster came crawling down the stairs and beat bloody whelps across their backs with his whip; a chore he seemed to enjoy. After awhile, as the beatings came in a daily regime and the prisoners suffered from fever and starvation, they lost track of time.
But one day, Angus heard someone whisper. "If ye ehre get loose, remember the night room."
"What? What is this?" Angus probed.
"Go to the battery and look for ye upper room of a warehouse what keeps a candle burning in the window all night."
"Is this truly real, what you are telling me?"
"Tis a message passed down through the ranks."
The suffering which followed was overwhelming. "I wonder how long we hath been here," he murmured. Hoke could not answer; he was boiling hot with the fever. "Hoke! Hoke! Ehre ye gonna die?" The sickly face of Hoke revealed a pale dusty complexion and hollowed out cheek bones. The whites of his eyes were yellow and stared blankly at Angus.
"He will be dead before morning," someone said.
Chapter 3. The Night Room.
Twas the impending death of his friend and the inevitable hopelessness and despair which caused Angus to act. That evening the taskmaster was careless. After administering a good beating to the prisoners, he left the ladder standing propped against the trap door. Angus wasted no time in climbing it and sliding out of the hole and onto the deck. For a moment, he paused to inhale a breath of fresh air and feel a whiffy breeze caress his skin. It awoke him to the prospect of his escape. He hid in the folds of a sail until 3 bells, then slithered across the deck and dropped lithely into the bustling waves spilling over the hull of the ship. For a moment, he wondered if the British came too far into the shallows like they had done before. The answer was no. Lucky for him the prison ship was anchored on the Ashley River near the swamp. He would have to swim between beaver traps and take his chance with alligators and snakes. Heck! A trifling chore for Moore County lads. But once he felt his body slide into the warm seaweed water, he paused before taking the swim. A spell of weakness overtook him. Short rattling breaths gasped from his lungs. He could not recall when he had last eaten. There was some satisfaction in realizing that he need not feel guilt because Hoke would have never made it. Perhaps it was this thought or the prospect of the night room which propelled him into action, but suddenly the breathing got louder as he flailed his thin arms across the waves and pointed his pitiful body towards shore.
The next thing that Angus remembered was scratching blood to the mosquito whelps on his arms and realizing that he had slept the night amidst some river brush thick with flies and mosquitoes. Part of his body was emerged under the white blooms of water lilies pads and as he lifted himself out of the river bed, spied a covey of ducks and geese ominously rising through a thin layer of fog. The lights of a lit two-storied brick manor house could be seen on the other side of the swamp and a vague outline of a dock stacked high with cotton bales. He took inventory of his ragged clothes and dirty skin. He would have to meander away from the area, finding his way to the battery, staying close to the river bank and out of sight until nightfall. Then he would search for the night room.
The Ashley River was his guide; a swampy course of beaver traps led to the harbor and the sight of the British fleet anchored far from shore. Several soldiers on watch sat sleepily on the dock, sipping a tankard of beer. Angus followed his nose through the unlit markets and a row of brick warehouses, watching for a light. There it was. A candle lit in the upper room of a warehouse. He approached the building cautiously, peering around corners, slow to climb the wooden stairs to the second floor. Finally, he knocked. The door opened. An older rather pudgy gentleman stood before him wearing a white wig. "Come inside. Step lively now, son," he whispered. Once inside the room, the gentleman latched the door and observed Angus. He poured water into a large china bowl from a pitcher which Angus recognized as the bathing ritual from a time long since passed, his childhood. "Wash up son," the gentleman said kindly, while he assembled a shirt and trousers, and a pair of clean gray stockings. "There is no need to worry. Your ordeal is over; you are safe here."
"Do ye have food?" Angus asked.
"Only the crumbs on my supper plate."
"I shall gladly eat it, sir, and thank ye for it."
"We will converse when you are finished, or if you are too weary, you may sleep first. Should you fall asleep, I will go now and return tomorrow evening. But first, follow me to the door and secure the latch."
"Thank you, sir," Angus said, dragging himself to the door. After he finished his supper, he fell fast asleep on a small bed in the corner of the room and passed the night without incident. The next morning, he heard a noise a light knock on the door, and peeping outside saw a plate of biscuits and jelly on the ledge.
The gentleman returned the next evening. He introduced himself as Charles Drayton of Drayton Plantation.
Angus nodded, wondering if that was the plantation he saw on the river. "I am Angus McDonald from Moore County, sir."
"What is your rank, soldier?"
"Private in the Continental Army, I suppose. You see, my friend and I were reporting up for another three months when he encountered the siege and were captured just as the Redcoats took possession of the town."
"So you were on the prison ship in the Ashley swamp?"
Drayton nodded. That was his swamp. "Not long were you in the ship, eh?"
"Why do ye ask?"
"Well, I do not know. You see, I was put inside a dark hole, and there was no way of discerning day from night, except when the taskmaster comes and does his whipping. The days just seem to fade with time, and all that is left is the memories."
"My childhood, sir. I pondered a great deal upon the fact that my father hid in the woods that day when the patriots rode up. Afterwards. I never saw him again."
"What did you decide?"
"Well, I recalled that while fighting the battle of Moore Creek, when the British came down the road and met our regiment headon. We bloody beat them, sir. So, I surmised that they never caught up with him. After that, I was an Indian fighter and scout. For three years my friend and I fought the Iroquois Indians. I can remember their feathered headbands and war paint, but I can no longer remember the face of my father. Is that strange?"
"Many prisoners have found their way to this room and I was able to get them back to their homes, but you, Angus, I cannot help. Tis the occupation. But you can help me."
Angus raised his eye brows while Drayton spoke the truth. "It is as though God himself hath delivered as person of your skilled maneuvers you into my hands. Whenever possible, I smuggle rifles and stores to the continentals and militia. Lately, we hath not been able to squeeze past the blockade. I need an experienced soldier, like yourself, but you will have to reside here, and pretend to be a loyalist."
"Is that the role you assume, sir?"
"Yes. I can pass you off as a nephew. You sort of resemble the Draytons with your red hair and green eyes. The Drayton family seat is in Inverness, you know so many of my relatives still speak with the gaelic. Yes, I think that is believable that you could be a nephew. You will have the position of being my factor. That will give you unquestionable access to all of my affairs and good reason to oversee the inventories and to hide contraband. You will live inconspicuously inside my home, on Bay Street. But you must sleep here, in this room. The reason is to receive contraband, and any soldiers who find their way from the enemy lines, as you did. The job is dangerous. Will you do it?"
The following morning Angus dressed in a fashionable suit of clothes which Drayton left him, and took a brisk walk to Bay Street. He kept his eyes down and avoided the mulling crowd in the markets. He arrived at the home of Colonel Drayton in ready time for breakfast. He glanced upwards to a steep pitch roof and a set of dormer windows set in the attic. The house was an elegant three-storied edifice with white columned porches landscaped with floral bushes and a narrow wrought-iron gate leading to the rear gardens. Once inside the main hall, its high ceilings, columns and lavish appointments accentuated the Drayton wealth and influence. An oil painting of Colonel Drayton hung over large mantle at the far end of the room framed by two windows brandishing dark red velvet curtains tied with gold braids. He waited patiently. Eventually he was greeted by a short chubby woman with neatly coffered hair and a decorated fan. She was furiously fanning herself.
"How is your mother, Angus?" She asked.
Angus kept his eyes down as he spoke. "She is well, me thinks." His thoughts flashed to the vision of his mother standing in the doorway waving farewell as he went off to war.
"I meant your own mother," she whispered. "Yours is the thick brogue of the McDonalds from Skye. But I will not forget to call you Angus."
"And laddie, I am here for you, should you need me."
The household had been briefed. He was well received by the servants and the mother of Colonel Drayton. She led him to a table set with twelve china plates and tea cups. The household knew frequent guests, mostly old friends purported to be loyalists and occasionally ranking soldiers assigned to the British fleet. It was told him that once the celebrated Sir Henry Clinton had taken tea and crumpets at the austere Drayton table.
Colonel Drayton sat at the far end of the table. Angus was seated between Josh Smith and Lucas Fricks, two rather plainly dressed persons introduced to him as the overseers of the Drayton plantation. Their presence signaled Angus to acquaint himself into their affairs. Both of them cast a rather suspicious expression upon Angus. Neither seemed to appreciate their new master. In the forthcoming months Angus would frequently visit the plantation to learn as much as he could from them. There could be no surprises when he was ready to sneak through the blockade. Nevertheless, his snooping antagonized the overseers, and they avoided him. One afternoon as he approached a barn being stuffed with cotton bales, he overheard them laughing about him.
"He is nought a Drayton as far as I can see, with that ragged head of red hair and green eyes. No Drayton has green eyes that I know of."
"He is a country lad."
"What do ye know of me?" Angus said, stepping into the barn quite suddenly.
"Why master Clements," one of them said blushing. "We were just jesting."
"Answer my question. What do you know of me?"
"Why nothing, nothing at all. I suppose that is the jest, you do not appear to be one of the Drayton aristocrats."
"I am an expert marksman with the bow and arrow and am rather fond of me sword. Do ye understand me, laddie?"
Angus was a quick learner. He delved deeply into the Drayton affairs. By the end of the hot Charleston summer, he was more familiar with the operations of the plantation than Colonel Drayton. Josh and Lucas fell in line. They appreciated his plain truthful manner and forthright approach to issues and especially because he treated them as friends. Ultimately, they became his most trusted connections, so were chosen to accompany him on a sloop which would smuggle a long overdue shipment of rifles and muskets to Georgetown. Josh and Lucas had made it obvious that they were weary of the meddling British soldiers interfering in plantation work, preventing rice and cotton ships, and verbalizing their loyalties to the king. The idea of sneaking a shipment through the blockade was thrilling.
On evening in August, they shoved a weighted sloop out on the first tide while Angus unfurled the main mask and put it to catch a strong wind. The sloop was swept into the churning sea a far distance from the anchored British fleet. Once they left the harbor, the journey would involve several check points through the blockade which Angus had charted. During the journey he taught Josh and Lucas how to manage the sails while he steered the course northward towards the colony of Georgetown and into the channel which led to the James River. Mrs. Clements had arranged a long visit to one of her relatives along the river and had brought wagons and horses to transport the goods to Georgetown. When they found the dock, Angus had the appearance of a common man, a loosened craveat, soiled clothing and disheveled hair. He ran his fingers through his red hair and dusted off his vest. Mrs. Clements greeted him at the dock. She had a lantern in his hand and walked quickly, swinging the lantern.
"Angus," she said to Angus. "Bring your friends inside. A cold supper has been laid on the table."
While they ate their supper and explained the strangulation of Charleston, the workers of Mrs. Clements unloaded the cargo and replaced it with a variety of fruits and delicacies from Georgetown.
Sneaking back through the blockade was more difficult than anticipated. When the Drayton sloop reached the back waters of the Ashley River, a British 16-gunner awaited them in the shoals. As soon as it spotted the little sloop, it fired a near miss. Angus made a fast turn and dashed towards one of the coves.
"We wait here until dark, then slip beside her into the swamp," Angus told them. Josh and Lucas agreed; they knew every inch of deep water through the Drayton swamp and figured to row around it to the cotton loading dock. At dark the sloop caught a good wind which swung them into the harbor and past the British war ship.
"That is the inlet there," Josh pointed. The mast was lowered and they paddled slowly past the threatening vessel into the headwaters of the swamp. The light of the moon could not shine through the tall thatched pine trees and sprawling oaks, nor could it distinguish between hills of seawater infestations or the heads of alligators along the banks. Josh and Lucas poked the oars through murky creeks to the unused cotton dock.
"I cannot see ole nanny, but I knows she be there on yonder bank."
"This is gater territory. She should not bother us unless we get too close. If ere ye are here at this dock and do not see her, watch out!"
"Do you think ole nanny would mind if we sleep on top of the cotton bales till morn?"
"Well, let us take precaution and stack a wall around ourselves."
The next morning after sleeping in the swamp, Angus rode one of the plantation horses into town. No one noticed him; he wore an old hat over his hair and his ragged clothes lent the appearance of another farm hand. He was in a hurry to freshen himself and quickened his pace to the warehouse. Also, he was anxious to learn if a soldier had found his way to the night room. Of the months he would slept there, none had come. He stripped off his shirt and pouring a basin of water lathered himself all over with a bar of lye soap. His arms and legs were badly mosquito bitten and blood seeped from scratched areas. Then he laid on his cot and allowed the warm air to dry his skin. He napped for an unknown period of time. When he awoke, the muscles in his arms and legs were inordinately sore. He dressed in the clothes of a gentleman and commenced combing the tangles from his long red hair. A large clump of it was beset with briars. He cut it loose with scissors, then slicked it down around his ears with water. There were other issues. The sun had tanned his cheeks and neck. He tied the craveat so that it completely concealed his neck, but the cheeks were a conspicuous telltale sign of work. Nevertheless, he hurried. Colonel Drayton would be anxious to hear his report.
He arrived a time when the Colonel would be working alone in a room designated for plantation business.
As was his custom, he gave three short knocks. "Enter, sir," the Colonel shouted.
Colonel sat at a rectangular planked oak desk specific to the task of large stacks of paper, and thick accounting books. "How are you, dear boy?"
Angus was anxious to provide details, but the Colonel signaled for him not to speak until after he had secured the doors. "Now you can tell me about my sister. Is she well? Are my nephews alive?"
"There is no word of your nephews. Your sister is a wonderful woman; she was waiting for us when we docked at the appointed place. She fed us well and sent provisions for you, sir."
"Indeed! Indeed, sir!" He said clapping his hands. "You may retire to your room now. A suit of evening clothes hath been laid out. You must be convincing as my nephew this evening. The conversation will be politically repugnant to you, owing your circumstances. Say very little and keep a low profile. We are expecting the governor and his contemporaries; and the officers of the military occupation. There is a bit of starch powder in your room; brush it over your face to cover the sun blisters." Angus frowned. "Keep ye temper, laddie."
Angus attempted to powder the sun tanned skin, but failed to conceal the freckles on his nose and cheeks and instead left a pasty residue. He combed his long tangled hair. The sun had bleached strands of red into blonde, especially around his ears. No matter how fancy his costume, he still had the dreggy appearance of the Scots. It was his youth on his side, and his flashing good looks. In the evening he stood beside his uncle in the grand hall greeting the arriving guests. Not something he enjoyed particularly, but he had to settle their curiosity about his sudden presence in the home of the man he pretended to be his uncle. The Colonel explained it simply.
"My sister sent him to Drayton Hall to learn the business of factoring. Goodness knows, I need the dear boy during these trying times."
"Are you able to ship to London?" Someone asked.
"No sir," Angus answered, "not during the occupation."
"We are shipping our cotton to London. Angus has procured an auction house and the governor issued his permit," the Colonel said quickly. The solemn nods in the room confirmed the grueling process of political affairs.
Angus greeted a particularly lovely girl being escorted by an distinguishable gentleman with a square jaw and gray side burns. She was the daughter of a staunch loyalist whose social life had been cut off by the occupation. The local boys were members of the continental forces or prisoners of the British. All that remained in Charleston was an awkward supply of penniless British sailors. Although a rather startling number of British soldiers sought her favor, she was annoyed by their presence. The occupation denied her the possibility of selecting a proper suitor. Her face must have had a crust of wax on it, because little ridges broke off from the lips. Angus represented the possibility of a suitor, but she did not smile. Instead, she whisped a tiny ornamental fan to cover her lips, and stepped away from him. A silk cape was tied at the nape of her neck and flowed down beyond the length of her gown. The farthingale girdle under her wide skirt demanded a carefully executed turn, which she did artfully, lifting her dress in such a fashion that the tail of the silk cape flowed behind her. Angus watched her as she crossed the room and engaged the attention of a small group of neighbors. And whenever she moved to other areas of the house, his eyes followed her. He found himself moving about the room, following her trail.
But then something happened. He felt someone watching him! His eyes darted around the room and fell on a redcoat standing guard at the door. The redcoat starred directly into his eyes . His bushy eyebrows and slender face seemed familiar. The taunting blue eyes stared unmercifully. Then, like a haunting dream it all came back. Hoke! He was not dead. Hoke was a redcoat! The bushy eyebrows raised and dropped on an emotionless face. It was a greeting.
Later that evening as Angus walked along the battery, his Indian-fighter instincts warned him that he was being stalked. He did not wear a sword as so many gentleman of Charleston, but concealed a scalping knife under the cumber bun wrapped around his waste. His fingers prepared to grab the pduke handle if need be. The sharp blade had stripped many Indian scalps and souveniers tied on his belt. But now, somehow they were lost or he did not remember what happened to them after being chained and lashed by the redcoats. He stepped into the narrow cobblestone street of the slave market where it was dark and he could set his trap and just as he leaned inside the doorway of a store front, smelled the strange odor of sweat and cologne. But then the odor eluded him. He suspected that his stalker was playing cat and mouse. Angus moved stealthy against the far wall of one of the markets and crouched under a bench. He waited. Finally, someone stirred and he saw the shadowy figure of a man cross in front of him. He leapt from his crouching position and grabbing a redcoat, put the knife to this throat.
"What do you want?" He growled. "I shall skin ye alive if you hesitate to say."
"Angus, tis me, Hoke Campbell!"
The plea sounded genuine, but Angus did not loosen his grip. "Hoke Campbell is dead," he said bitterly.
"No, no, Angus, please listen. I know that you can scalp me better than any Iroquois, so I am not gonna move til you say so."
"What do you want?"
"I want to speak with you,please."
"You should know better than anyone that I do not trust redcoats."
"I can explain, but not here in the street, please, lest someone should overhear."
"All right," Angus said, removing the knife.
Hoke followed him to the Drayton warehouse, up the back stairs and into a dark room where he lit a candle and placed it in the window.
"So this here is the night room. Would ye know that I would find you here?"
The room was still filled with the heat of the day. Angus did not dare open a window. So he removed his vest ,unbuttoned his shirt, and rolled up his sleeves. "Now tell me your story."
"I signed the oath."
"I was very ill. They whipped me every day anyhow. All that kept me alive was thinking of Jennie and I longed to see her again. I guess I yearned for a woman, to marry her. Then one day a redcoat came and told us that we would get amnesty if we took the oath and joined the British army. He said that I could go home first, to see my sweetheart. That was what got me to sign. I wanted to see Jennie."
"So ye signed."
"Ye know me. I hate their guts. I would not sign, but they found my weak spot. Afterwards, they refused release me. They cleaned me up and dressed me in a uniform and gave me an assignment to guard the palace. At first, I had no conscience. I felt respectable, being one of the guards in the palace. Afterwards, I hated myself."
"Why did ye not come to the night room?"
"Because the governor and his friends spoke of military excursions in front of me, as though I were not there. I heard things that no patriot should know. Things I should pass on to General Washington. So I keep listening, and waiting. But why are you pretending to be a nephew of Colonel Drayton?"
"Because that night I escaped, he was the one waiting in the night room. He saved my life. Now I have the assignment of sleeping here, waiting to help others. But in the daylight, I am Angus McDonald, learning the factoring business and discovering who the patriots are in this city. It is complicated, but the Colonel trusts me and I shall not let him down. I just returned from smuggling firearms to the plantation of his sister in Georgetown."
"Can you smuggle me out? I figure to find the continentals if I can get past the lines."
His voice was soft and tearful, and he choked back tears as he spoke.
"Angus, ye know I would never sign the oath had you stayed on, but I had no chance after you left. Why, oh why did you not take me with you? I thought we promised to stick together, yet you left me to die."
"Oh my God, Hoke! Everyone said you were dying. Then an opportunity came; there was opportunity, although a slight chance, to escape. So I took it."
"You could not have gotten through, carrying me on ye back?"
"No. But I swear to protect you now!"
"All that I want is to get to the army and convey intelligence," Hoke said fervently. "And to help win this war! I am not finished, Angus!"
"Yes, of course, I will smuggle ye out, but not yet. We must wait for another shipment of contraband."
Hoke nodded. "'I am sorely relieved that this matter is cleared between us and that we are avowed patriots of the cause!" The men shook hands.
"Patriots!" Their voices chimed.
"A warning to ye, though, about the lady you found so fascinating this evening. Her name is Catherine Winship. She is the daughter of a member of the House of Burgesses, very powerful, loyalist, and a close and personal friend of George Manigault. She is a regular visitor to the palace. Guard your words carefully. She is not to be trusted."
That night Angus resolved in his heart to garner no risks on the life of his friend. Therefore, he would keep his lip closed and to work secretly to help him. He decided not to tell the Colonel about Hoke. At first light he returned to the Drayton house and ate a hearty breakfast of eggs, sausage and spoon biscuits. There was much to do today. He would visit the Drayton plantation and observe the cotton crop being baled. The Colonel had secured a promise from Sir Clinton that he could make a shipment to his London factoring house. He walked to the blacksmith shop and saddled the sorrel mare of Colonel Drayton. His experience during the war taught him a keen eye for horse flesh. He took the reins with his gloved hands and mounted, tipping his hat to several neighbors as the horse pranced along Church Street and took a turn towards the river route. He knew the path well along the Ashley until it met with the dank water streams of the swamp on Drayton land and the resting banks of the most aggressive alligators. All this from the night that he escaped from the prison ship. The paths shortened the journey of the roads and concealed his activities.
Lucas was wrestling with a bundle of baling wire and instructing some young bucks on how to wrap the cotton. A steady stream of sweat dripped down his face and cheeks onto his neck. His plump muscled arms were bare and flexing in the hot sun under the strain of lifting finished bales. He had a certain hardiness about him; a perennial worker of infinite strength and energy.
"Ah, Mr. Angus, ye come to inspect the cotton, have ye?"
Angus slipped off his horse and observed the operation. "When will the cotton be finished picking?"
"I figure in a day or so. Then the baling will use up the better part of a week."
Angus scratched his head. He knew that the Queen Mary was expected any day now and that the Colonel was anxious to get his bales on the dock, not trusting too strongly on the word of Sir Clinton. He removed a rather worn letter from his pocket. It was written in the fine hand of the Colonel and pressed with his seal. "This will introduce Mr. Angus McDonald. Please extend him full credit on my account. Colonel Drayton, Drayton Hall, Charleston, South Carolina."
"What is that letter?" Lucas asked peering over his shoulder. Angus was not offended. Lucas and Josh had proven themselves as trustworthy after their smuggling trip into Georgetown, so far as he was concerned.
"The Colonel gave me full purchasing power with his London creditors."
"Saves us trouble once we arrive."
Angus grinned. He was pleased that Lucas planned to accompany him on a voyage which smelled of danger and excitement.
"How about Josh?"
"Josh says there is trouble brewing, what with some of slaves already run away to the British army. These are frightful times, sir, someone must stay close to the place."
"Yes indeed," Angus nodded, remembering his beatings. The British were uncomfortably close.
The pilings of the Drayton dock were drilled deep in the river water of the Ashley and stretched a good piece from land and the view of the Drayton manor house, an easy rowing distance to the plantation attracted more than one vessel. The redcoats had a 16-gunner man o war anchored within full view and in the evening sounds of the watch crew were heard ashore.
A week passed before the Queen Mary secured her ropes to a dock stacked high with bales of cotton dukey one morning just as the sun was rising. Josh and Lucas stood on the dock, watching the vessel sail between the barrier islands and maneuver past the shallows, then drop its main mask. The supply vessel had accommodated Drayton Hall for many years, and the captain knew the river well. After it moored, Josh summoned a crew of workers to load cargo. It was a task which required several days. On the third day, Colonel Drayton and Angus arrived in a coach marked by the Drayton coat-of-arms.
"Now that we are alas safe at Drayton Hall and can speak freely, I hath further instructions. You will have a lady passenger onboard, one will require your protection as a gentleman. Lady Catherine Winship."
"The friend of the George Manigault," Angus snipped.
"I suspect more than that, for she hath powerful friends in London. Do not trust her, Angus."
"Why is the lady traveling and why does she do so on a supply ship?"
"She asked my permission. I could not refuse a friend of George Manigault. She is visiting the duke of Trenton, a very wealthy and influential person. Her departure during war time on a supply ship is highly suspicious so far as I am concerned. Tis something wrong about this. I can feel it in my bones."
Angus lifted a carpet bag out of the coach. He also had a small chest to be loaded. "I am still a man of few words," he assured the Colonel. "The lady is so snooty I doubt she will pass the time with me."
"The journey will be an opportunity to see the tailor. Take care that Lucas also hath the proper appearance. I want him at your side at all times. He can play the role of your secretariat."
The elegant coach of George Manigault was driven by two fast horses arrived later in the afternoon. He was sweating under his wig and wiping his forehead with a lace handkerchief and proceeded to escort the sultry Catherine Winship along the path to the Drayton dock. She wore a wide brimmed hat flourished with plumes and a think black veil which covered her face.
"The captain promised fair weather for sailing, my dear," George Manigault said while fanning himself, "and a cool breeze under his fat sails." Then he pressed his full lips to her outstretched gloved hand and while doing so, placed something inside her palm. "Correspond, my dear, upon your departure from the duke that I may herald your return to Charleston, and to me."
The evening before had been passed in a series of hushed arguments between herself and the George Manigault. She had grown up a proper young lady eager to marry into a wealthy Charleston family. For one reason or the other she could never be pleased. Now in her thirties, unmarried, and miserable in her circumstances, she caught the attention of the most influential person in the colony, the smug George Manigault. Under the watchful eye of his wife, he commenced a discreet courtship to win her favor. His first gift to her was a set of silver combs., a test to see if she would wear them in her hair and thus signal that she would be responsive to his attentions. She wore them in her hair it was at a breakfast given by Colonel Drayton. But Catherine waited several grueling months before playing her own hand. She had learned that he was a personal friend to the duke of Suffolk. He had spoken so often of the ostentatious wealth of the duke and the sad death of the countess, saying that the duke was miserably depressed at not finding another lady to wed. This news was received by Catherine as being an opportunity for herself as well. Sir Manigault, anxious for a mistress, found himself caught up in her argument that she was not safe during the occupation, and agreed to send her to the duke while he searched for the perfect house for a secreted love nest.
That last morning at the home of Colonel Drayton on Broughton Street his wife had flaunted the diamond broach. It was heart-shaped and bordered with white diamond chips but its centerpiece was a diamond carat. Too large, Catherine thought for a broach, that the glittering display was hypnotic. When the lady of George Manigault retired with the others into the small parlor, he pulled her aside. "I will fetch the broach," he said as final confirmation to their agreement, "but should the occupation last too many months, and my patience grow short, I will post a letter to the duke, asking him to see to your passage. Do you understand?"
"The broach will seal the agreement, should you offer it," she said.
"The captain promised fair sailing weather, my dear," George Manigault said while fanning himself, "and a cool breeze under his fat sails." Then he pressed his full lips to her outstretched gloved hand and while doing so, placed something inside her palm. " Please correspond, my dear, upon your departure from the duke that I may herald your return to Charleston, and to me."
She opened her palm. It was the diamond broach of his lady!
"Are you pleased, my dear?" He asked passionately, while stepping closer to her. His face was beaded with sweat and his chest heaved and rattled as he spoke. She could hear his deep gasps for air and feel his hot breath on his neck
"Yes," she whispered, "I understand perfectly."
Angus saluted the pouting George Manigault standing alone on the dock. Then the sailors began their task of loosening ropes and turning sails. while the afternoon tide pushed the Queen Mary into a sea which knew no landscape save blue skies and white fluffy clouds. The ballooning sails drove the vessel fast across choppy water. The leeward wind spun the red hair of Angus loose from its ribbon into a tangled wad which blew into his eyes while an unbuttoned vest flapped against his arms exposing a large scalping knife inside a leather pouch. His rugged appearance drew the attention of Catherine. She vaguely remembered him from the recent ball of George Manigault. He had been presented as a nephew of Colonel Drayton and rudely followed her around the room, not speaking, simply watching. She was suspicious then. His skin was noticeably powdered but the ruddy complexion still shone through. He was built more like a farmer than a gentleman and lacked the grace and dignity of the Drayton. The knife gave him away now. He was not what he portended to be. He caught her looking and bowed politely, and continued with the business of directing the cargo into the hole. "I wonder where she will sleep," he mumbled to himself, after having seen his own narrow birth.
The berth of Catherine was horribly uncomfortable. Her first several nights were passed rolling across a hard surface which bruised her arms. There was no bolster to rest her neck and preserve the teased hair style.
The wig that she packed was miserably hot for a July voyage but after a week out to sea, she fell into the routine of pinning her black hair around the ears. The veil which shielded her from the sun also proved to stalemate her breath against the cloth. She took to walking the deck after dark.
As for Angus he spent his mornings with Lucas taking inventory of the cargo but it was the nature of the return voyage which worried him. He was to purchase several cases of munitions; muskets and rifles to be smuggled to the army in Georgetown. Perhaps he would not have worried had he known that the letter in his pocket would introduce him into a world of wealth and influence never imagined by the likes of a Moore County boy. To avoid blistering his skin and more freckles, he stayed below with the cargo until the evening, when he also took his routine of walking the deck at a fair pace from Catherine, with Lucas following.
Thus far, the voyage was uneventful; a cooling westward wind steered the vessel on a steady course across the Atlantic. What they did not suspect was that the captain was speeding against the impaling wind of an approaching storm heading north from the tropics. The season of hurricanes was just over the horizon. It began with a gentle stream of warm rain, soothing to the skin; a relief from stifling heat. Then the choppy sea tilted the ship starboard and Catherine fell and slide across a watery deck. She screamed. Angus caught her before she could slide again . She smelled his sweaty body and felt the strength of his muscled arms as he carried her to safe footing.
"Best to go below deck," he said. "We are in for a hefty blow."
"How do you know this?"
His green eyes stared at the panoramic view of the darkening sky at a far distance and the graying clouds overheard. The same as when he and his dad saw storm clouds gathering and the rain as it streaked across the vast sky and poured into the open fields of Moore county. He took a deep breath of the cooling breeze into his lungs. "Just do."
"Who are you?" She asked suddenly.
"Angus McDonald, nephew of Colonel Drayton."
"You are not from Charleston."
"No, Georgetown," he said simply. "Colonel Drayton and the George Manigault asked me to watch after you on this voyage and for the several months I am to be in London waiting for a return voyage. I will escort you to your cabin now, if you are mindful to go."
She was amused at his awkward politeness. The journey had mounted a refreshing perspective; she would not be bored.
That evening the storm became progressive worst. For hours heavy rains washed across the deck and the ship rolled into the deep heaving waves. Catherine was discomfited by nausea and vomiting and began to cry. Angus knocked on the door, then entering, found her clinging to her birth. He cleaned the mess despite the rolling ship. Then he poured a half pitcher of water into a bowl and washed her face and hands.
She was apparently some ten to fifteen years older than he, but her china doll skin and long eye lashes were infinitely appealing. She was in the bloom of womanhood and vulnerable now, as he toweled her face dry. He resisted a sudden urge to lean over and kiss her full red lips.
"Who are you, Miss Catherine?" He asked softly, still close to her face.
He wanted to know if she was having an affair with the George Manigault as it appeared to him. "You asked me that question. If I am to protect you, I should know something about your background."
"Actually, I was born in Charleston. My father is one of the rebel planters suffering under the occupation."
"But you are not a rebel."
Her body stiffened defensively and her snooty voice spoke. "Why should I be? I hath my society of friends. Why do you ask?"
"You will feel better now," he said, not answering.
"You are always obnoxiously certain of yourself," she complained. "Do you ever suffer?"
He chuckled. "Aye, but there is nought room for me own discomforts, with ye to me charge."
The storm abated the next morning and routine continued on the ship. The sailors were making repairs, recoiling ropes, sewing masks, swabbing decks. Lucas and Angus rolled up their sleeves and mopped the water which had been drawn into the hole before it soaked the cotton bales. It was a grueling but necessary task if the Colonel were to realize a profit. The new chore of protecting the cotton caused him to wear the same unbuttoned shirt and dirty trousers each day with the familiar scalping knife hanging loose from his belt. He did not see Catherine until the middle of the week when she felt well enough to resume her evening walk around the deck. If it were not for his red hair, he would have gone unrecognized by her. She stared at him uneasily.
"Are you well, Miss Catherine?" He asked politely.
"Yes, tis to your credit, sir. I will praise you to the George Manigault, should I ever see him again."
"Then you are not returning to Charleston?"
"Not if I can help it," she quipped irritated that she had told him one of her secrets. Thoughts whirled around inside her head, going past the present into the future. What if Angus were to tell Colonel Drayton and then the Colonel tell it to the George Manigault? "That is to say that I will not be returning with you, but on a later voyage, when the British no longer occupy the city."
"Your secret is safe with me," he said winking. Then, an after thought. "I can understand your irritation, considering your discomfort thus far. But soon you will soon be reposing in the plush home of the duke whilst I await the opportunity of a vessel at the Raleigh Inn. Should you have further need of me, you may send a message to my rooms."
"Your man is signaling you," she said, pointing to Lucas.
He rushed towards the waving Lucas. "What is it?"
"That woman is dangerous. I warned you not to get too close. What did you tell her?"
"Nothing save of our lodgings in London."
The Queen Mary weighed anchor in Gravesend and before requiting to the Raleigh Inn, Angus made arrangements for the cargo to be delivered to the London Company. Then, following the instructions of the colonel, he and Lucas attended the local tailor to be fitted in a suit of clothes befitting the role they were to play in London. Angus was dressed in the latest fashion of an aristocrat, while Lucas wore the stylish top coat of a secretariat with a small monacle on his nose. They were also measured for a suit of evening clothes.
Angus began to understand the decoy when he met Percy Quincey, the factoring agent of the colonel, a gentleman descended from titles and wealth, the de Quincey who came to England with William the Conqueror. A subject which he frequently mentioned. Quincey was well-connected. He was the factor of the noble class as well as the gentry but did not easily accept a client into his sphere of influence and financial wizardry. It was the notable Drayton lineage and his phenomenal memory of once having visited the great Medieval house that caused him to accept. The challenge for Angus was to persuade him to acquire a cargo of rifles and muskets for the American revolution, and a captain that would risk his reputation on the high seas. Quincey was not impressed with Angus or his secretariat. They were simply colonists embroiled in a war against his majesty. Angus surmised that it was going to take some time to gain his trust. In the months which followed, he discovered the weakness of Quincey who appreciated a good profit almost as much as he did class and family background. Still, he did not budge until the letter came from Catherine Winship. The envelope contained the wax seal of the duke.
"What does she want?" Lucas asked.
"It appears that the lady wants me to attend a party."
"She writes that she needs me. The message is brief."
"For such a fancy occasion, we will have to visit the tailor."
"I think I shall consult master Percy Quincey on that score, to impress upon him our sense of importance."
Quincey was infinitely impressed. So much so that he insisted on accompanying Angus to the shop of the tailor. He had a quest, to instruct in the tailor in the details of proper fashion. Quincey was an aging short man who wore a short gray peruke which concealed his bald head, but he stepped lively and carried a cane. For Angus he selected the fashionable madigan wig with the queue to conceal the strands of tangled red hair and give him a more subdued appearance. Quincey searched through bolts of brocade cloth for a fancy blue design to match a gray striped collared waist coat and breeches. Then he selected a pair of gray stockings and a pale pink silk garter to tie at the knees. His cloak would be lined in Chinese silk and the collar would sewed with a narrow border of gold braid. For Lucas, he selected the peruke and a plain attire. At the fitting, Angus took a long sideways glance at himself in the mirror. This aristocratic appearance was unfamiliar, but he did not say so in front of Quincey.
Angus and Lucas stood in the columned shadows of the manor house. The last vestiges of an elusive January sun was streaming through the trees and streaking across the leaves of rows of lush green boxwood surrounding the portico. And like the waning sun, the freckles and blemishes had faded from the face of Angus and his appearance was such that he was born an aristocrat. The solar was crowded with heads of long curly wigs and the wide farthingale skirts. Angus and Lucas felt oddly out of place as they waited their turn to pass into the ballroom and be announced. Finally his name echoed throughout the room.
"Master Angus McDonald from Charleston, and his secretariat."
He mimicked the slight bow of the gentlemen who proceeded him and waited for the duke to acknowledge his presence. The duke squinted and looked squarely into his eyes. "Ah, you are the relative of the Drayton family who went to the colonies?"
"Yes, my lord."
The duke sniffed while his discerning eyes rolled over his clothing. He knew full well that he was a friend of Catherine. Many of the old families who left England had done so because family fortune no longer supported their titles and the estates were sold. Especially those who were not the eldest sons.
Such was the case of the Drayton ancestral home which had flourished for generations. Colonel Drayton of Charleston was not an eldest son nor heir of Drayton Castle.
"I presume that we are winning the war in the colonies?" He asked abruptly.
"When I left, Charleston was occupied by Sir Henry Clinton and Commodore Parker."
"England is fast to put down the rebellion in its colonies, eh?"
"Yes, your lordship, they have taken many rebel prisoners."
Angus proceeded through an arched doorway which led into the ballroom. The walls were decorated with silk oil cloth and life-size frames of the ancient family of the duke. Crystal chandeliers with hundreds of glowing candles hung from a ceiling decorated in ornate designs of gold leaf designs bordered by fleur de lis. That same gold leaf design was carved into chair legs and arms. He heard a spinet playing but could not see where it was. The ladies fashions were distracting; he took care not to touch the wide skirts as he passed through the crowd. Lucas followed close behind. He wondered why Catherine invited him, now even more. Somewhere in the back of his mind he had the idea that she would have maneuvered herself to the prominent position of accompanying the duke as he greeted his guests. His eyes searched for her. When he saw her alas, she was almost unrecognizable in her high coiffured jeweled wig and long flowing pleated skirts. Her silken bodice was sewn in tiny diamonds, but it was the glittering diamond in the center of the brooch which caught his eye. She stood near a terrace doorway conspicuously fluttering a fan across her eyes. No one seemed to be speaking to her. As he drew near to her he sensed that her mood was unsettling.
"Catherine?" He said, moving next to her, expecting her to present her gloved hand to his lips. When she did not, he grinned and said sarcastically. "All of this is yours now?"
"Hush!" She whispered under her fan.
"Albeit the duke was polite to me."
She cringed. The duke was not as old as she had supposed, nor was he mourning over the loss of his countess. He was keenly observant and screwd . But mostly to her downfall was the fact that the George Manigault wrote him a letter requesting that he protect his maitresse during the occupation. The duke treated her with caution, a reserved politeness. She moved through a cold airy doorway door onto a wide boarded portico lit with coach lanterns on each post and took him down the steps onto a brick terraced boxwood garden. They were alone.
"The duke hath a letter from the George Manigault telling him General Morgan had defeated Colonel Tarleton at Cowpens and the patriots have retaken Augusta."
Angus was pleased. "Where are the redcoats now?"
"They are at Ninety Six."
"I need to get home as soon as possible," he said thinking of the pending munitions acquisition and how to get it to through the lines.
" The wife of Sir Manigault wife is ill and he begs for me to return. The duke is weary of my presence. He prepares now to put me aboard the Prince of Wales bound for the colonies. The ship is anchored at Gravesend."
"What is that to me?" He said disgustedly, grabbing her arms and shaking her. "If you want to return to that fat loyalist pig, do so!"
"Angus. Angus, please listen," she pleaded while prying herself loose from his grip. "I hath relatives in Augusta. You can take me there! But no matter what happens, you must not let him put me on the Prince of Wales. My trunk is packed to go, but my carpet bag is here," She said taking a bag from the bushes. "I am ready to go with you tonight whilst the duke celebrates and before he discovers it."
Angus snapped his fingers. Lucas stepped from the shadows. "Is there a passage through the garden?" He asked.
Their escape was made good to the Raleigh Inn where rooms were prepared for Catherine. Early the next morning, Angus went to the London Company to arrange for passage.
"I know a captain who will take the risk, but you must guarantee a generous payment irrespective of delivery. He will have the right to put you ashore, should circumstances warrant it."
Quincey added some notations to the contract for Angus to sign. "The captain will want to know the nature of your cargo."
"Four cases of munitions."
"Rumors have it that Sir Clinton has all but won the war in the colonies. There was a battle last summer at a place called Camden in the Carolinas, then at Kings Mountain. It left the patriots without any army, except for the roving volunteers. And then there is the "Swamp Fox", a brutal leader with a handful of followers who creeps like a tiger in the woods and mountains, striking his blows."
Angus smiled to himself. He and Hoke had served with the "Swamp Fox" at various intervals. "And Thomas Sumter," he said proudly, "who is called the South Carolina Gamecock" because of his tenacity. As long as these men live, the British cannot easily win." He wanted to tell him of his first-hand adventures, but restrained himself from spilling his guts to a someone who would never comprehend.
"I am not trying to discourage you, sir, but three or four cases will not win your war." He lifted his peruke and scratched his head. "Well, the family of Colonel Drayton is well connected in the isles and you are a friend of the duke. I am not sympathetic, howbeit think of myself as a screwd businessman so cannot let this moment pass without telling you that I can acquire more firearms, and swords, should you wish to bear the additional cost."
Angus was exuberant. Excitement rushed through his veins; he was primed and ready to help win the war.
"There is one additional fact that you should know. Lord Cornwallis has landed in the Virginia colony, so tell your captain. The ship is at Gravesend, a dutch vessel but she flies the colors of the queen."
The rumors of France entering the war had come true. Charlestonians had prayed since the beginning of the occupation for their ships to come and break the blockade. It was February of 1781. They had been waiting in London for nine months for this good news. However, all that General Nathaniel Greene had accomplished since taking command of the southern forces was to initiate hit-and-run tactics. Apparently his continentals were fighting around Ninety Six. All that he could think of was getting munitions to those troops. Oh, where was Hoke? He required his guerrilla skills to pass through the lines.
Chapter 4. End of War
The following afternoon the entourage stood on the dock at Gravesend. Catherine Winship, with her one satchel stuffed with a change of clothes and toilerities. Angus and Lucas and two trucks of new London fashions. Quincey had delivered on his word. Three cases of bullets, rifles, muskets and one of bows and arrows waited be carried onboard. Quincy added a selection of Medeira wine for the Colonel, and two barrels of English beer for the plantation of the Colonel. Angus examined one of the small containers, and upon opening it discovered quivers, arrows and bows. He and Lucas would pass the voyage in the belly of the ship stringing all the bows and sharpening flints. He told Lucas all about his adventures in the militia and escapades with the indians. And especially Sullivan Island and the arrogant maneuver of Colonel Parker when he put his troops ashore without first testing the depth of the shallows. The stories were incredible, except that Lucas watched his skilled fingers string the bows and observed the practice shots afterwards. He drew chalk targets on posts, the hull, and anywhere that distance was a factor. He never missed a target. Too, Lucas had seen him kill an alligator with his scalping knife, then carve it up and bury it. He knew him well enough to take him at his word.
"I shall go with ye," he said. "Even if the Colonel says nought, yet will I sneak away and help get these guns to the continentals."
Angus laughed loudly. It was the most fun since they beat Commodore Parker on Sullivans Island. A long time ago, the brutal reality of British domination wiping it all away. Perhaps it was some past dream or never happened and he was hallucinating. But telling his story to Lucas somehow made it real again and refreshed his spirit in the fun of his first win. A time when life seemed so easy and he and Hoke rushed to get into the thick of battle. His boyhood exuberance was gone and he hated the British. Now he was weary from the unpleasantries and all that he could think of was his underground maneuvers with the colonel.
February winds were favorable for the voyage, delivering the dutch vessel into the easy March breeze of the Ashley. But not before avoiding the fleet of Lord Cornwallis as it sailed along the Virginia coast into Yorktown. They passed easily along the Ashley from the back side of the harbor into the headwaters of the Drayton swamp and went unseen to the Drayton dock. The captain, anxious to make good his escape, ordered the cargo unloaded and as soon as it was piled on the dock, slipped away in the dark of night while Lucas made ready the Drayton manor house for Catherine Winship. She had been ill most of the voyage suffering with stomach cramps, nausea and fever. He brought her thin shivering body struggling to walk over the wooden planks of the dock and through a layered path of matted leaves and underbrush to the front steps of the manor house. He swooped her up into his arms just as she fainted, thus preventing her from collapsing onto the ground . He took her upstairs. She was not wearing a girdle and his fingers dug deep into her boney flesh and as he did so she spat out a laborious coughing spell. He placed her carefully on the fine bed of Mrs. Drayton spread across with a quilt sewn with little squares and bordered in lace. He opened the chest at the foot of the bed and finding a stack of quilts, piled them high over Catherine.
Her face was pale gray and her body appeared thinner than usual. The experience of the voyage left her anxious and under nourished. "Are you all right, Miss Winship?" He asked kindly.
"Go and wake the mid-wife to bring a warming pan and to care for Miss Winship," he told Lucas.
"What do we do now?" She asked in a coughing jag.
"I shall travel on horseback to Charleston and fetch the physician of the Colonel."
"You will not leave me, Angus?"
"I said that I shall go now to fetch the physician."
"No, what I meant to say is that you promised to take me to Augusta?" She asked pitifully, trying to lift herself up, but failing slumped back onto the bed. Her eyes were wet with tears.
She aroused a great sympathy in him and sitting beside her, lifted her shivering body and hugged her. "No, no," he said, while rubbing her cold hands and arms, "I will not forget you, Catherine."
The following afternoon the entourage stood on the dock at Gravesend. Catherine Winship, with her one satchel stuffed with a change of clothes and toilerities. Angus and Lucas and two trucks of new London fashions. Quincey had delivered on his word. Three cases of bullets, rifles, muskets and one of bows and arrows waited be carried onboard. Quincy added a selection of Medeira wine for the Colonel, and two barrels of English beer for the Colonelís plantation hands. Angus examined one of the small containers, and upon opening it discovered quivers, arrows and bows. He and Lucas would spend the voyage in the belly of the ship stringing all the bows and sharpening flints. He told Lucas all about his adventures in the militia and escapades with the indians. And especially Sullivan Island and the arrogant maneuver of Colonel Parker when he put his troops ashore without first testing the depth of the shallows. The stories were incredible, except that Lucas watched his skilled fingers string the bows and observed the practice shots afterwards. He drew chalk targets on posts, the hull, and anywhere that distance was a factor. He never missed a target. Too, Lucas had seen him kill an alligator with his scalping knife, then carve it up and bury it. He knew him well enough to take him at his word.
"There is no way I shall not go with ye," he reminded. "Even if the Colonel says nought, yet will I sneak away and help get these guns to the continentals."
Angus laughed loudly. It was the most fun he had experienced since they beat Commodore Parker on Sullivans Island. A long time ago, the brutal reality of British domination wiping it all away. Perhaps it was some past dream or never happened and he was hallucinating. But telling his story to Lucas somehow made it real again and refreshed his spirit in the fun of his first win. A time when life seemed so easy and he and Hoke rushed to get into the thick of battle. His boyhood exuberance was gone and he hated the British. Now he was weary from the unpleasantries and all that he could think of was his underground maneuvers with the colonel.
February winds were favorable for the voyage, delivering the dutch vessel into the easy March breeze of the Ashley. But not before avoiding the fleet of Lord Cornwallis fleet as it sailed along the Virginia coast into Yorktown. They passed easily along the Ashley from the back side of the harbor into the headwaters of the Drayton swamp and went unseen to the Drayton dock. The captain, anxious to make good his escape, ordered the cargo unloaded and as soon as it was piled on the dock, slipped away in the dark of night while Lucas made ready the Drayton manor house for Catherine Winship. She had been ill most of the voyage suffering with stomach cramps, nausea and fever. He brought her thin shivering body struggling to walk over the wooden planks of the dock and through a layered path of matted leaves and underbrush to the front steps of the manor house. He swooped her up into his arms just as she fainted, thus preventing her from collapsing onto the ground . He took her upstairs. She was not wearing a girdle and his fingers dug deep into her boney flesh and as he did so she spat out a laborious coughing spell. He placed her carefully onto the fine bed of Mrs. Drayton spread across with a quilt sewn with little squares and bordered in lace. He opened the chest at the foot of the bed and finding a stack of quilts, piled them high onto Catherine.
"The cargo goes under the house," Lucas said coming into the room. For the first time in weeks, he observed Catherine. Her face was pale gray and her body appeared thinner than usual. The experience of the voyage left her anxious and under nourished. "Are you all right, Miss Winship?" He asked kindly.
"Go fetch a woman to bring a warming pan and to care for Miss Winship," he told Lucas.
"What do we do now?" She asked in a coughing jag.
"I will return to Charleston and fetch the physician of the Colonel."
"Please do not forget me, Angus?"
She aroused a great sympathy in him and sitting beside her, lifted her shivering body and hugged her. "No, no," he said, while rubbing her cold hands and arms.
When Angus and Hoke arrived at the plantation, the physician had finished his visit.
"What ails Miss Winship?" Angus asked.
"The pneumonia. She is fragile, very fragile."
"What can cure her?"
"Bed rest. I left instructions that Miss Winship is confined to her bed for a month or two, longer if she is still under-nourished."
Angus dropped his eyes, thinking that he did not have to worry over taking her to Augusta at such a critical moment in history. Her illness would enable him to catch up to the war. But he had to tell her this. She was sleeping easily when he entered her bedroom. Her face had been scrubbed and a wash rag was cooling her brow. One of the personal maids of Mrs. Drayton sat nearby.
"Has she eaten?" He asked.
"She had chicken broth this mornin. Wat the doctor ordered."
He sat on the bed beside her and touching her face and neck, said. "She is still quite flushed."
The maid brought another wet cloth While Angus replaced the wash rag, she awoke. "Angus, Angus, I am ready to go now," she said.
"I know," he said kindly. "But there is no rush."
"What about Sir Manigault? Did you see him? Does he know that I am here?"
"No he does not, nor shall he! I promise you, Catherine, that secret is well kept with the Drayton family. You are safe here until I return."
"You are going to Virginia to fight against Lord Cornwallis," she said in a deep resonating sigh. "I heard Mrs. Drayton say so."
"Yes," he admitted. "There can be no further delay. We must dispatch the munitions to the patriots at once. &wuot;
" So. it is true that you are a patriot."
"I am just a lad from Moore County."
I heard Mrs. Drayton say that you may not return from Yorktown."
He removed the bow from his left shoulder and an arrow from the quiver to demonstrate his skill. "I am a skilled Indian fighter," he said proudly, flexing the bow towards the ceiling. "My bow can shoot off a batch of arrows before the redcoats can reload their muskets. I shall return and keep my promise. In the meanwhile, ye are safe here at Drayton Manor."
She started a coughing jag and he gave her a sip of water.
Then he remembered the ruby ring that the tailor had added to his costume for the birthday of the duke and pulling it off his little finger slipped it onto her finger. "Let this ring remind you that my promise is true. Should I fail for any reason to keep it, this ring will be yours to keep."
By mid-morning Lucas and Hoke had loaded a farm wagon with the three containers and covered them with old feed bags. Then they hitched two of the finest Drayton horses to the wagon, and one horseman to follow. A cool March wind stirred up a mess of crumpled leaves and blew them across the yard. Then Lucas grabbed the reins with his gloved hands and grunted "Git up." Angus sat beside him, and Lucas rode the rear horse. Just as the wagon reached the bend in the road, Angus glanced back at Drayton Manor for the last time and watched a thin cloud of black smoke rising from the chimney of the bedroom of Catherine.
"Do you ever think of Jennie?" Angus asked.
"No," Hoke answered. "Twas so long past."
"She was pretty," Angus said.
"How is it that ye remember her looks?"
"I do not forget much. Have ye figured what ye will do after the war ends?"
"Yes, I had a long while to dwell on the matter whilst doing nothing but guarding people for the redcoats. My idea is to go back home to Moore County and build up the farm of me father. Do ye know ye coarse?"
"I fancy Charleston. The Colonel has some river bottom land that is as black as soot. Not like the reddish clay of Moore County. I would like to own that land and plant rice. They say that rice is king."
To avoid the redcoats on the dirt roads and open pastures, Hoke took a turn and followed an old ominous Indian trail leading into the South Carolina hills. The signs along the trails were easily recognizable to the seasoned Indian fighters and they knew which tribes fought for redcoats. As they left the hills , they learned from some warriors that the patriots had not penetrated the British lines at Ninety Six and that the straggly regiment of General Greene turned back towards Eutaw Springs. The warriors described them as a poor lot of men in need of weapons, struggling to push a large iron canon through the brush.
Meanwhile another desperate struggle occurred in Virginia on a farm called Green Spring near James Towne. Lord Cornwallis had been maneuvering around Williamsburg but he had orders to go to Portsmouth. So on July 4th he left Williamsburg for Jamestown planning to cross the James River. But General Marquis Lafayette was on his tail and seeing the crossing attempted to stage an attack on the rear guard of Cornwallis. But Lord Cornwallis anticipated Lafayette and laid an elaborate trap for him.
Lafayette called upon General Wayne, known as Mad Anthony Wayne, to lead the advance force across the river, however was ambushed near the plantation, but not quite caught in the trap. He was leading a bold bayonet charge against the overwhelming numbers of the redcoats when he realized the trap and called a retreat.
Angus and Hoke were insensed with rage when they heard that it was Mad Anthony who barely escaped being slaughtered by Lord Cornwallis. They decided to cross into Virginia instead of following the back of General Greene. It was a good decision because the main thrust of the British army was in the Chesapeake bay area. Lord Cornwall was a formidable foe. He arrived in America in 1776 and was solely responsible for launching the highly touted southern campaign. For four years he had beaten the patriots and was a sore spot in their craw. But Angus and Hoke remembered him because while he was second in command under Sir Henry Clinton, he was lavishly entertained by Colonel Drayton and was one of a number of smug aristocrats whom they carefully avoided. Now they jumped at the opportunity to meet him on the battlefield.
And they would not come empty handed. When at long last they found the camp of General Wayne, they rode through the middle of it expelling a loud rebel yell. Lucas stopped the wagon under a tree and commenced unloading munitions and distributing them to the soldiers. It was an exciting moment. They figured they not only brought badly needed ammunition, but themselves also. When the three cases were emptied and the team unhitched from the wagon, the fine well-trained Drayton horse flesh waited to be of service. From now on, they would ride with Generals Lafayette and Wayne.
Two months passed and word came that General Greene was defeated at Eutaw Springs. Meanwhile, Lord Cornwallis encountered the French fleet and was driven from the Chesapeake bay into the Yorktown harbor. This time the trap came from the promised French fleet who blockaded the harbor. He put ashore his vast army of redcoats. This was good news. It meant that the British were trapped.
It was thrilling to observe the white sails of the French fleet peaking above the horizon and joggling in a heaving sea of lashing waves pushing the ships closer and closer into the harbor weaving a tight blockade around the British. Lord Cornwallis, Sir Clinton and Admiral Parker were all caught off guard. They had confidently landed at Yorktown expecting to finish the Americans in one full swoop. Instead they found themselves surrounded on land and sea. During the last several months before that Angus, Hoke and Lucas had seen little action and had been used as scouts in the region. But if they missed anything, it was all made up during the final blows of Yorktown when they had the honor of riding the fine Drayton mares alongside the charging cavalry of General Washington into the heat of the battle. Angus was the first to leap from his horse and lash against the swords with his scalping knife while Hoke shot his bow and Lucas fired with his musket. The threesome remained together until evening time when the truce was called. It was a memorable victory they would later laugh about , remembering the details, even the expression of embarrassed shock on the face of Lord Cornwallis as he turned away from it to go inside a nearby farm house.
The surrender occurred on October 19th. Lord Cornwallis was so ashamed that he sent one of his staff officers with his sword to General Washington.
Chapter 5. Returning Home.
The big oaks in Moore county were dropping their red and orange leaves into a pack of thick mulch around the roots. The fields of yellowing grass were seen for miles and miles. All that was left to harvest this time of year was the potato crop and a few pumpkins. Some farmers were plowing under clumps of red clay to plant a mess of turnip greens and collards which would last until the first frost. They went about their business as usual, not realizing that the war had ended. That news came to them from three lone horsemen wearing ragged long coats and carrying rifles and bows over their shoulders. When they arrived at the turn in the road to the Campbell farm, the expression on the face of Hoke was solemnly spent. He dismounted his horse, then turning rather anxiously to Angus handed him the reins.
"Here is the mare of the colonel. I am returning her in as fine a condition as he lent."
Angus did not answer. There was a lump in his throat. The adventure was ending; he did not wish to part ways . Lucas learned forward and shook his hand vigorously. "It is all over now," he said. "I suppose there is nothing to do save go back home to Charleston."
"I pray ye find the McDonald family in good health," Hoke said tipping his hat to Angus as he turned his back and walked the dirt road.
Angus kicked his mare gently in the belly. "Git up!" He was trying to remember what his father looked like. All that he recalled was a narrow set of shoulders bobbing up and down as he ran into the woods to avoid being captured by the soldiers. It had been five years. Five long years. As they approached the farm, he saw him near the road, digging in the dirt.
"Is that ye, me boy?" He asked as he dropped some potatoes into a basket.
"Yes, pa", Angus said, sitting high up on the horse, staring down at the narrow shoulders and aging body moving methodically slow in its work. "This is Lucas."
McDonald got off his knees and standing to his feet struggled to lift the basket of potatoes with both hands. "All we got for supper is potatoes and greens."
"Which way is the house? I forgot."
"Just follow me."
Angus and Lucas dismounted and followed on foot. "Pa, did ye know that the war is over?"
"I recken they will nought be giving back what they took from us, all the hens and cows? The British stripped this place after ye ran off."
"No, but since we are a free country, they will not do it again."
McDonald paused for a moment and scratched his head. "What did it cost? Everyone in Moore county is devastated. Did ye nought see it, when ye came through? And what good come of it for you?"
"Lucas and I will get bounty land to farm in Georgia."
"Your sisters are married off, and there is just me now."
He pointed to a grave enclosed by an iron fence. "She died last year. The war and the land killed her."
Angus walked toward the grave and staring down at it, said: " We can do better now, pa. There is good land in Georgia."
Duncan McDonald grunted. It meant that he disagreed.
The journey to the South Carolina coast took several weeks longer than anticipated. An early autumn rain drenched them on the Carolina road and they had to stop and make camp. Duncan pulled his three cornered hat around his ears and commenced a long coughing spell in front of a pit fire. Periodically he leaned forward and spat a blob of mucus on the ground.
It was mid November when they found the road to Charleston. The rain had stopped and a blue sky was peeping through the clouds. As they drew near to the Drayton plantation, some geese were honking and fluttering their feathers in a pond while an excited a covey of mallards lifted their wings and flew in perfect formation overhead. It reminded Lucas of the leisurely mornings while Colonel Drayton stalked the woods for game before the British came and ruined pleasure. A cool wind blew a steady stream of prickly needles from the tall Caroline pines and the smell of bark filled their nostrils.
"This is Drayton land," Lucas said breathing deeply. Duncan noted the mild climate. "It does not get cold here until after Thanksgiving. In the meanwhile, the gentlemen take their pleasure in hunting deer and wild turkey for the Thanksgiving meal."
"Will the family be on the plantation this time of year?"Angus asked, thinking of Catherine still in the house.
"Certainly. They always spend the winter at Drayton Manor."
It was almost dark when they crossed several ponds and the boggy swamp. Just ahead was a dirt path leading to the house. It was lined with magnificent live oaks and crooked branches of thick gray moss.
At the end of the path a large manor house with four wide chimneys arose out of the shadows. Their spirits were lifted at the sight of candelabras lighting the whole house. Lucas took the mares to the barn while Angus went around to the back of the house and told one of the servants to fetch the colonel. When he came outside, his eyes were sparking and a smile was on his lips. He hurried to shake their hands.
"This is Duncan McDonald," Angus said. "He left his farm in Moore county to help me build a rice plantation."
"And I be with them, sir," Lucas said, convinced that Lucas could accomplish the task.
"We were given land grants for our service during the war. I want to speak with you about swapping mine for that parcel of yours at the head waters of Boggy Creek."
Colonel Drayton was overwhelmed. "Come inside and have supper first?"
They laughed. The eys of Angus searched the house for Catherine.
"She is not here. As soon as Governor Rutledge returned to Charleston, she had no need to go to Augusta. She went to her the home of her aunt on Church Street."
"What about Lord Manigault?"
"His name was published on a list of traitors. Before all of his household goods were confiscated, he managed to get some of it on his sloop and sail to his plantation in Barbadoes. Some of the others went into Florida."
The next morning they ride to the head waters of Boggy Creek. It was as Angus had remembered it, a rolling hill overlooking the Ashley River and the lower stretch of it lying in low tide waters, perfect for rice paddies. "I shall build my home here on this plot, and a dock in the deep waters of the Ashley," Angus told the colonel. "And I want a view of the river as it delivers its supply vessels to "Isle of Skye". Will that name suit you, pa?"
Duncan nodded, thinking that it was a fitting memory of his homeland.
"I know the cypress to build the dock," Lucas said cheerfully.
"There is about two hundred acres here," the colonel said. "Angus, I want to give it to you in payment for your services to me these past three years. And Lucas, I owe you for all of your work and wish to give you the two hundred acres adjoining. Also, I will lend my laborers."
"The plantation of a gentleman," Duncan whispered.
"I will file the deeds at the courthouse tomorrow."
The following afternoon Angus accompanied Colonel Drayton in his coach painted with the Drayton arms.
The town was as he had left it, a beautifully serene village with cobblestone streets and brick sidewalks, untouched by war because the British had used its resources during occupation. In the eye of his mind he could still see the armed soldiers strutting the streets in their red coats, guarding the harbor and buildings and the arrogant attitude of Sir Clinton as he ate at the table of the colonel. It was satisfying to think of his scurrying about to escape punishment. He crossed the street and walked to the battery. The house of the aunt of Catherine was a charming two story cement edifice with tall windows and green shutters. The yard was fenced with black wrought iron . He climbed several cement steps and standing on a narrow columned porch tapped his knuckles on the front door. A demure maid showed him into a small morning room where Catharine sat at a desk writing her letters. As soon as she saw Angus, she stopped writing and carefully placed her quill in the inkwell. For a moment she studied him. He seemed taller, more slender, and his broad shoulders seemed to dominate his appearance. He wore a gray brocaded vest tailored for him in London and a green stickpin which matched his eyes. He had the fashionable long sideburns and his golden red hair was slicked back and tied with a bow.
"You do not seem surprised to see me," he said.
"So you hath returned to keep our bargain no less."
"I am here."
"Well, my circumstances are changed and I hath no further need of you," she said.
Catherine was well-settled in the home of her aunt, an heir of her estate. The old limitations of finding a suitable husband were removed with the war over and the old families were returning to Charleston. Her new friends did not have the memory of her scandalous affair with the British traitor Sir Manigault. As far as she was concerned all that was whisked away by the war. Also, the fool that she had made of herself with the duke was but a bitter memory. Her social life was promising. By any standard of the times she was considered an old maid, but she was of the old school, the old Charleston aristocracy accustomed to being spoiled and pampered. And in her mind she was part of that world. Oddly enough she still wore the diamond broach of Mrs. Manigault.
She lifted her long skirts and walked across the room to where Angus stood. Her intention was to examine him more carefully and confirm his status as the under class. He was more handsome than she remembered with his neatly combed red hair and eager green eyes. The lad in him had disappeared, but his scrubbed face and the tender expression in his eyes gave him away. He was in love with her.
"I hath land, that is all that matters," he said gently. "I will build a home for you."
Aware of his penniless state not believing his claim to land, she removed his ruby ring from her finger and pressed it firmly into the palm of his hand. "You will need this ring. It will fetch a several pounds sterling."
"Aye, this ring concludes our bargain. Ye will not go with me then?"
"You are from Moore County," she said haughtily, tilting her nose slightly above him.
"I am not good enough for you, Catharine?"
She did not answer. He was agitated.
"You know, Catherine," he said with a slight drawl, "Me friends warned me to stay away from you, said that you were dangerous. Aye, but ye are in no way dangerous, just a mite foolish."
Then leaving her standing in the parlor, he walked out onto the porch and took a deep breath of American freedom. The sound of the hoofs of the Drayton mares clopping along the cobblestone street caused him to turn his eyes in that direction. The venerable Drayton coach carrying the colonel stopped in front of the house. The colonel had a smile on his lips and was flapping a deed out of the window for Angus to see.
Angus boarded the coach and taking the deed in hand slowly read it while the coached clopped towards the battery.
Tomorrow was thanksgiving and Colonel Drayton was sticking his head out of the window and nviting friends to an early breakfast at the plantation, then a fox hunt and a delicious feast in the evening. Angus, Lucas and Duncan would ride the familiar roan mares from the stable in the hunt. And Colonel Drayton, rid of his loyalist friends, would proudly lead the hunt, wearing his fashionable red coat and long boots. The old aristocrat who had led the way to freedom would share this tradition with his friends.
Lucas was a landowner, an American, one of the new class of gentlemen planters who would build a prosperous economy of rice plantations along the Carolina coast. Their shipments would reach far into New England and abroad. His future prospects looked good. Yes, there would be a few persons like Catharine who would cling to the old ways, but that generation would soon drift into the shadowy past and be forgotten. And the land grants issued to soldiers who had never before owned land would open to the plow and to vast communities dotting the landscape.
"Ashley Loche", the sequel