Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Devil in Jersey: Chapter XI

In Which the Devil Comes to Trenton and Major Zagloba Sheds His Blood for Liberty

Excerpt from A Hussy’s Progress, the Autobiography of Moll Daggett

Chapter the Fourth
How I Become an Honest Woman, Continued

As Christmas Day wore on, we noted that there were fewer guards about and them what were to keep watch did so singly and most perfunctorily. Ultimately, as the night passed, we were often left by ourselves for longer periods. After midnight, twas clear that the guard had not been to see us for o’er an hour time and we could hear snoring coming from the guardroom without.

We set to trying to free ourselves. Madame produced a lockpick from out a well-concealed pouch inside her gown. Now how she had done this twas beyond me for we had been well searched upon placement in our cells. I had to resort to a corset stay that I kept loosened for such a purpose, a trick I learned when I was a guest at His Majesty’s Newgate Hostelry.

E’en with these tools, it took us some time to obtain their opening, for they were stout clappers of iron. So to pass the time whilst we worked, I inquired of Meg Dalby how she came to marry such a hedge-pig as the Squire.

Now by her response, I could see she had been borne and bred a good woman for she must have been pining away to confess her falsehoods and conspirings. This she proceeded to do. At length.

After her father’s death, she, still an infant, had been taken by her mother’s brother, a wealthy shipping merchant, and raised in Philadelphia. On his deathbed, when she was sixteen, he related to her the full history of her father. Her aunt, fearing she would try some recklessness, took her to England. There Meg married the rector of a rich parish and bore him two children, a boy, and a girl. Her husband perished about six years ago and both her children were grown, her daughter having been married two years hence.

She had always dwelt upon resolving the murder of her parents and now finding herself free of attachment, resolved upon this action. From her uncle’s inheritance and that of her late husband, she had great wherewithal to pursue this justice. It twas, as Dalby suggested, having discovered the identity of the Leeds children through agents, she endeavored to entrap Dalby, ensuring his invitation to a function given by friends in Philadelphia and there, she thought, entranced him into marrying her, in hopes of discovering proof of the Leeds family iniquities.

Soon after the wedding, twas apparent that Dalby never had any affection for her but married for her money. This suited her well since she could persevere in her investigations. These, however, proved fruitless, Dalby being careful and the villagers reticent to speak of matters dealing with either Dalby or his mother. Only Old Bozarth showed any assistance and that mostly to warn her of impending doom.

Twas clear now that she had been played the fool by Dalby and his siblings, including the robber Scratch, whom she had hired as toughs, and this led to her undoing.

“One thing I must know,” asked I, “now, ye did not actually… attach yourself to Zagloba, a fine woman like yerself, did ye?”

“Certainly not! I used the same coquetry I applied Dalby to attempt to discern whether you were his allies or were otherwise sincere. I tried to warn you when once I saw you to be honest but likely to be outwitted. I fear my warnings were not clear enough.”

The Reverend now joined in, “You came to aid us in this last encounter. For this we are heartily grateful.”

“I’m afraid Reverend, with our fate so likely to meet Mr. Bozarth’s prophecy, I do wish I had not come to aid you yesterday.”

Just as the first light of dawn peeked through our narrow windows, we were finally able to open our chains. Then, from out another secret pocket, Madame produced a fine skeleton key that opened our cell door in a moment.

“Glory be!” I exclaimed, “Ye must tell me who yer seamstress tis!”

“I am sorry, Madame Daggett, but I fear the fashions of France are most unlikely to be available here in this wilderness. Yet.”

Once we twere free, she used her key to release the men from their cell. We stood congratulated ourselves when the door from the guard room opened and in popped the head of soldier in that high bishops hat with his greatcoat wrapped about him. Fennimen fell upon the intruder, pummeling him something fierce while the doctor kicked his legs out from under him. Then we all fell upon the Hessian and were thumping him pretty good when we heard a familiar voice exclaim, “It is me, Zizzendorf. Stop attacking upon me! I am here rescuing you.”

With this, we desisted, after I put a couple of good last kicks in, that is.

A bit worse for the wear, he told us what had befallen him. For a day and a half he had been back in the army. He knew how to act the dutiful soldier, impressing his sergeants and officers, all the while expressing gratitude at escaping the gallows. As new man to the regiment, he had been placed upon guard duty in the town for Christmas Day. His post twas upon the door of Colonel Rall’s headquarters, which as luck would have, twas Doctor McC’s house. The Colonel and his officers were in a fine state of revelry for the holiday so Zizzy convinced tother guards that they could snatch some sleep whilst he stood the watch.

For one thing that Zizzy had discovered was that the troops in Trenton were worn down by many an alarum and Rall being a worrisome cove much prone to calling an all-night stand-to for the least provocation. So, when the storm came up and the officers all off to enjoy Christmas revels, the soldiers took the opportunity to enjoy some much deprived rest.

Whilst upon his solitary post, a rider approached Zizzy. The man twas a Loyalist come to report that an attack was to be launched at dawn. Zizzy thanked the man and took the message from him, saying he twould inform the Colonel at once. As soon as the rider was out of sight, Zizzy tore the message to shreds and, using his familiarity with the Doctor’s house, placed blocks upon the doors at each entrance. He then came to rescue us. And his reward for his labors was naught but a good cuffing.

We then went into the guardroom and there knocked about the single sleeping guard and obtained muskets and cartouches for all of us from the weapons racks. Then the Reverend placed all the remaining powder and cartridges in a pile in the corner and set a powder trail. Upon leaving the barracks, we likewise blocked the doors but not afore the powder train had been set alight.

As we were about to depart, I wondered aloud at the supposed dawn attack for twas well after that hour.

My curiosity was answered when the first cannon balls began to fall into the town.

Excerpt from The Truest Son of Liberty, Being an Account of My Life Spent in Defense of the Rights of Man in the American, French, Polish, and Ruritanian Revolutions by Valeri Zagloba

As the soldiery began to disembark upon the New Jersey side, I informed them that General Radziwill had important intelligence for General Washington. Within the hour, General Washington himself had crossed and we were taken to him, where he was in consultation with several of his generals.

As before, Washington showed much deference and solicitude to the Prince but upon hearing that we were just from Trenton, questioned us in detail about the conditions in the town. In this Yap was able to render every detail as if his mind were a chamois clothe and the intelligence lint that had adhered thereto. The general was most pleased when told that no fortification had been raised and that the town was not prepared for the sudden attack.

Washington set out the final details of the assault. Two columns would surround the town. General de Fermoy’s brigade would lead the attack on the left while Sullivan advanced along the river road upon the right. The center would drive directly into the town, lead by General Mercer’s brigade. If all went well, the converging forces would bag the entire garrison in short order.

The Prince was most eager to join in the attack, believing, surprisingly, with some justification that he was free from his parole due to the ill handling he had from Colonel Mayhood. General Washington was gratified by his enthusiasm and acceded to the request, assigning him to accompany de Fermoy.

The Prince fairly raced to the small farmhouse that served de Fermoy as a headquarters. It was clear that whatever haste affected General Washington had not infected de Fermoy. The officer was a French soldier of fortune of Irish descent who proved most convivial in his manner. He sat by the fire taking his ease. Once introduced, he proved his sagacity and offered us a share of his very fine wine. Having endured such travails and the end not in sight, I heartily acceded. The Prince, showing himself the clotheaded imbecile he was, disdained the offer, saying that we should be seeing to the troops and be on the march.

This view was shared by Colonel Hand of the Pennsylvania Rifles who reported that his men were most anxious to come to grips with the Hessians, especially that they had now learned that Fennimen, who was apparently most popular among the riflemen, had been condemned to hang.

De Fermoy said somewhat condescendingly, ”My boy, if you had any experience in war, you would know that haste does not improve the outcome of an endeavor.”

“Genewaw, I wiww have you know that I have know waw since I was a chiwd. Why, I am the vewy modew of a modewn Majow Genewal!”

After much high words, the doltly Prince and rude frontiersman left us in a high dudgeon and took it upon themselves to ready the troops for the march. Several times word was sent for us to order the men on the march. De Fermoy again showing an appreciation for the finer aspects of campaigning, declined such precipitous behavior. Then Yap was sent and proved most persuasive in rousing us to the march.

As I went out into the cold once more, I observed the Brigade formed upon the road. It consisted of the Pennsylvania Militia to which our rescuers belonged along with the riflemen and a battalion of marines who due to the blockade had nothing better to attend and so were bound for the slaughter.

Then, I was treated to the harangue that the Prince decided to bestow on the troops ere we marched.

He sat upon a borrowed horse and shouted, “As Mistew Paine has wwitten, ‘These awe the times that twy men's souws. The summew sowdiew and the sunshine patwiot wiww, in this cwisis, shwink from the sewvice of theiw countwy; but he that stands by it now, desewves the wove and thanks of man and woman…’”

I drew my palm across my face and turned to Miss Longewynde, “You gave him a copy of that pamphlet didn’t you?

“Yes,” she replied with a pleasant smile, “I think what Mr. Paine wrote is wonderful, and dear Leopold recites it just as wonderfully.”

“We few, we happy few, we band of bwothews…”

“Well…Wait, did you call him ‘dear Leopold’? You’ve only known him an hour or so and most of that was in a raging blizzard.”

“Surely the warmth of his heart can temper the worst tempest.”

“You are talking about Prince Leopold, the idiot up there, yes?”

“It’s his simplicity that I admire most, for one born so highly.”

“Well he has certainly has an over-abundance of simpleness, I will grant you that.”

The one bright thought was the amusement that was promised when the Reverend Longewynde found his adopted daughter enamored with the Fool.

“We wiww fight them in the forest, we wiww fight them in swamps, we wiww fight them in the stweets. We wiww nevew surrendew. We wiww never thwow up!”

“That’s ‘give up,’ you quince-headed buffoon.”

Amazingly, this absurd speech caused a glow of enthusiasm among the men who cheered themselves violently. The Prince called out, “On to Twenton!” and the men of brigade moved off with a great spring in their steps

As we marched along, I found that Miss Longewynde had attached herself to me, asking an endless torrent of questions about the Prince and prating on about how wonderful he was. Then I noticed that a couple of the militiamen who marched near us, nodding in agreement that he twas far better than the drunken incompetent de Fermoy. This last gave me considerable pause but before I could inquire further, Bozarth, sensing my troubled thoughts, said starkly, “De Fermoy’s a fool and coward. We’re doomed.”

I was greatly troubled by the thought of going in battle led by an incompetent until I had the far worse thought that my fate in the coming encounter now depended upon the Prince’s leadership.

Daylight was full upon us when we approached the first outpost of the garrison. This was a small farmstead on the outskirts of town. A brigade’s advance could be hardly be hidden and I saw that the company of green-jacketed jagers were rushing to defend the place.

To the left, Yap and Hand’s riflemen were approaching in open order across the frozen fields. They came to a stone wall and lined up upon it, intending to direct their fire upon the Hessian light troops.

Then, the Prince suddenly galloped forward a few strides towards the Hessian line, drew his saber shouting, “Victowy ow Death!”

“Oh it will be death, no doubt about it.” said Bozarth.

“Stop saying that!” I cried

The Prince charged into the mass of the jagers. Shots plucked at his coat and hat but none seemed to touch him. Then he leapt off his horse and fairly floated over their line. I could see his saber point rise and fall in the midst of the crowd.

The rifleman fired a great fusillade into the cabin and the rear of the Hessian line. The militia then let out a ferocious roar and pitched into the brawl, taking me along with them.

All was tumult for the next few moments. Suddenly, a huge jager, well over four feet in height, ran towards me, swinging viciously at me with a hanger sword.

I have never considered myself a duelist, being more inclined to the sins of the gourmand and voluptuary rather than the fire-eater, but I was able to parry the blow. The force of that blow however was directed towards my boot and I felt the steel slicing my smallest toe from my foot. I collapsed from this profound loss.

Soon I recovered enough to realize that the fight at the house was over. Numerous Hessians lie dead about us and all the others were taken.

Comforting hands were wrapping my wounds. I noticed that the Prince hovered over me. He stared down at the blood flowing from my foot and, most disturbingly, a wolfish hungry look had come over his face.

Hoping to distract him from a dark reverie, I said, “I fear my Prince that the battle is over for me.”

This seemed to revive him, “You onwy wost youw pinkie toe! Get up, my deaw owd wazy-bones! You must shawe in the gwowy we shaww have this day! Mawines, beaw this hewo with you to the attack!”

“You’re a bloody loonie,” I grumbled. But it was to no avail, a large party of Marines grasped me and lifted me up upon their shoulders, crying that they would follow the Prince to the very gates of hell.

“Merciful Lord, spare me from fools, princes, and Marines!” I cried.

Thus, the Prince led his forces, myself included, over the fields to surround the town.

Except of Letter to Lieutenant Jonathan Longwynde from the Reverend Samuel Longewynde

As the first cannons balls began to ricochet across the streets, we ran northward, hoping to gain the safety of Washington’s army.

Molly Dagget led the way, plucking a sword from a fallen Hessian, shouting that she would “Split those fine cabbabge-eatin’ gentlemen who twould have hung us!”

Around us, the Hessians tumbled from their billets and seemed to take no notice of us as they tried to form against the attacking Americans. The powder we had set in the barracks guardroom exploded, firing the building, and adding to the confusion.

We had gone but a short way, when I heard the ominous sound of a heavy weight crashing upon the roof just across the street.

It was the Devil of the Pine Barrens, lured no doubt by the track of his mother’s corpse, and this only a casual stop as it journeyed upon the pursuit.

Then, it leapt down into the street, perhaps retaining some memory of our earlier encounter or perhaps recognizing me as a true enemy.

Just as it lit upon the snow-covered road, a light artillery limber caromed around a corner. The gun crew were drawn up short before the monster and they immediately fled, leaving the gun and limber in the midst of the street.

The demon leapt over this easily and advanced towards us. Knowing the creature’s invulnerability, we endeavored to escape, hoping to find some refuge. Mrs. Dagget attempted to enter a large stone house but the creature spit a blast of its flaming breath toward the building which then was put alight. This scattered our party and I did not see Mrs. Dagget again for some time.

What saved us at that moment was the advance of a full regiment of Hessian grenadiers that, having formed up, came up the street in tight formation.

Seeing the abomination, they halted and prepared to fire. Many gaining a clear sight of the beast, broke ranks and slipped away. A ragged volley did nothing but attract the devil to them. It flew over and pitched into the soldiers, breathing fire and hacking with its claws. A good dozen soldiers were cut down in an instant.

This gave us the opportunity to reach the abandoned gun. We quickly turned it about to face the demon. Fenniman, having some knowledge of artillery, directed our preparation of the shot. He fired the gun and the ball struck the creature full in the back. The force knocked it from its feet but otherwise did no damage.

In the meantime, the Doctor noticed that Madame de Bauffremont’s wagon was near the freshly built gallows outside the barracks. He had seen the British place our entire armament in it when we had been arrested. Using his spring-heels, he leapt upon the wagon, shearing through the cloth top-covering. In a moment, he appeared again and, with each bounce, tossed us various items of our equipage to us.

I called for him to send me my bag that contained the cold iron and holy water. This he did so upon his next bounce.

As the beast arose and turned, we struggled to reload the piece with another round, Fenniman directing us. I placed six of my cold iron shot atop the cannonball. We fired the piece just as it seemed to be drawing breathe for more fire. The load of cold iron grapeshot and iron ball struck the chest of the demon directly. I could see that the cold iron balls had sliced into the creature’s chest. The force of the ball knocked the thing over yet again. As it was on the banks of the Assunpink, the blast knocked it directly into the Creek, smashing through the ice.

Excerpt from A Hussy’s Progress, the Autobiography of Moll Daggett

Chapter the Fourth
How I Become an Honest Woman, Continued

After the Devil fired the house in which I sought refuge, I lost sight of the rest of our party due to the smoke. I heard cheering up the street that seemed to be approaching. Thinking I might find aid for my friends, I ran up the street toward the sound of the tumult.

I approached a house that I recognized as Doctor McC’s. Just as I neared it, the door was forced open from the inside and out ran several officers, dripping in gold lace. They headed to the east side of town, following a flood of the more common soldiery. One of them, a squat ugly old dodderer halted in the middle of the street when he saw me approaching with a sword. He drew himself up with a sneer and called out something in that damn Dutch. The manner in which he did it so reminded of Zizzy at his worst that I could not control myself, I fell upon him with me blade. He turned and swiped at me with his sword. Now, I twas use to close work in boarding parties and he seemed sluggish and slow, as if still befuddled by drink. I ducked under his cutter and drove my sword well and truly into his gullet. He croaked a bit and fell into the arms of a couple of other officers who had come up behind him. They drew him off and I let them go, knowing the old cove, being gut-splayed, was a dead man sooner or later.

A sudden, there was a great crowd of American soldiers coming between the houses on the west side of the street, blasting away at the running Hessians. A couple pointed their boomers at me so I shouted, “Piss on the British!”

I suppose seeing me in the midst of the shambles convinced them of me bona fides and they cheered as I called on them to continue their charge, “Come ye, milk-livered rantallions, what wait ye for? The cabbage-eaters be on the run!”

The next street over, a fearsome fight was going on, a Hessian Regiment twas formed up on the broadway with a small gun supporting. Fire from the American guns plowed into the street and knocked many of them down. Then down the tother end of the street came a regiment of Continentals in round hats. They seemed to dragging a great weight with them and I soon recognized it for Major Zed. He was borne along, calling out either a battle cry or a scream of panic.

The Hessians were shot down by the volleys and those that weren’t broke and ran, heading ever eastward to a small orchard on the edge of the town.

We ran after them and I could see more of the Americans emerging from every part of town joining us in the pursuit.

The surviving Hessians were forming up in the midst of the orchard, hard soldiers ready to make a hard final stand. Then, of a sudden, shots began striking them in the rear.

For the first time in weeks, I twas glad to hear the tidings of “View Hawwoo!” For there was a great troop of militia and riflemen in hunting shirts with the Prince at their head, cutting into the rear of the Hessians like piss through a drunkard.

There was the old man I had skewered being held up by an aide, he appeared to have been shot as well.

The Prince twas there calling out for them to surrender or be killed,

They chose to surrender.

Trenton had fallen.

Except of Letter to Lieutenant Jonathan Longwynde from the Reverend Samuel Longewynde

I knew the creature had been wounded but not grievously. Still the ice and water, so contrary an element to its own infernal nature, would surely hinder his actions.

Zizzendorf was at my side, having discarded his Hessian coat. He handed me several vials of holy water

I went to the side of the creek at the spot into which the creature had fallen. I poured all of the holy water into the stream, intoning prayers to make the water of the creek into a vehicle for sanctification.

In the midst of my efforts, I heard a great cracking sound and the ice nearby burst open, the devil flying upward.

The force of this knocked me from my feet. As I lay prostrate on the ground, I saw the devil flying over the town, away to the northeast. Towards Princeton and its mother…

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