In Which the Reverend Suffers Domestic Intranquility and Lord Cornwallis is outfoxed.
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
This was the only word to describe the mood that morning as the surviving Hessians laid down their arms. We had taken the place with scarcely a thought, achieved safety for the Army, and upon encountering Mrs. Daggett, we were assured that our friends had been liberated.
Upon a more personal matter, I had gloriously led the company of Marines in a heroic advance into the heart of the enemy, suffering my most honorable wound. I believed that this grievous hurt would render me hors de combat and I should be returned to Philadelphia for an honorable convalescence after such rigors as I had endured. I began planning the menu for my first meal at the City Tavern for when I was evacuated.
Alas, this was not to be. For there was Prince Leopold presiding over the scene with blasé authority or, most likely, dull incomprehension. With great dread, I heard him call for me. I hobbled over to him and winced when he proclaimed, “Weww, Zagwoba, this was a fine mowning’s wowk! A good stawt to a fwesh campaign and a wintew one at that! Wong mawches thwough the sweet and snow, poow wations – we shaww be gnawing on wat’s bones by the end of it, I think.”
“Ah, I am sorry I shall miss all that, Highness. Do write to me all about it.”
“Nonsense! It just wouldn’t be the same without the thwee bosom companions, myself, Yap, Zagwoba, and now the couwageous Webecca!”
“That’s four companions, Highness.”
“I’m a bosom companion now? How wonderful!” cried the Reverend’s daughter, as she clapped her hands.
Miss Longwynde had been in the fight, in the thick of things it would seem, at the Prince’s side throughout. By all accounts, she had proved most adept in the application of the tomahawk axe, a skill that, I am no doubt sure, served her well during afternoon teas with the ladies of the congregation.
The girl was obviously enamored of the Prince. This was an affliction I could hardly credit but for an earlier statement by Mrs. Daggett that the Reverend’s daughter “twas at the age of bein’ man-loonie. ‘Course tis but a stage and one which I went through without ill result.” I am sure that the Reverend would not take the widow’s recommendation as comfort.
The Prince reciprocated the girl’s love with that same vaguely-aware affection that he held for a pair of comfortable bedroom slippers.
Nevertheless, he suddenly leapt from his borrowed horse and cried, “Oh my bewoved!”
Miss Longwynde nearly swooned at this. She flung her arms wide, with her eyes closed and her lips puckered like a spawning salmon.
The Prince tossed her the reins and said, “Howd this, Webecca,” and ran through the orchard toward the locus where the noble Bucephalus and the hounds, Wilkes and Barre, were trotting free onto field.
A slight look of consternation crossed her face but, as a young lady’s infatuations are irrepressible, she ran after him and latched onto his arm. To her good fortune, the animals took to her, Wilkes and Barre no doubt intrigued by the gore that covered the well-used tomahawk on her belt.
“They wike you!” and the Prince looked upon her as if for the first time, with a vague realization that he might have something to occupy his evenings besides games of piquet.
One could almost hear the voilas thrumming in the heart of Miss Longewynde at such a look. She finally said, “Oh Leopold, you are so Wonderful and Brave! And Mr. Yap has told me that you are even a slayer of witches!”
“Not onwy that, I once ate a vampiwe!”
The confusion that this last statement of the Prince produced permitted a respite from the romantic scene and I felt duty bound to interrupt it, for the safety of the species if nothing else, “Highness, we should seek Reverend Longewynde.”
“Who might that be?”
“That would be the minister, the holy man, the Protestant bobo with whom we’ve been traveling these many weeks, fighting witches and the Devil. Remember?”
“Sowwy, doesn’t wing a beww.”
“He is the father of your young admirer here.”
“That can’t be, we don’t have any Indians in our party - Wait, Yap was an Indian once. Awthough he seems to have gotten bettew. I didn’t know he had a daughtew and he’s so young wooking!”
Fortunately, we encountered Sergeant Fenniman at this point, surrounded by several of the rifleman who were slapping him upon the back and congratulating him on avoiding the hangman’s noose.
Fennimen told us that they had suffered a recent encounter with the Pine Devil and the Reverend had been sorely hurt.
“It seems that Preacher sure is partial to getting his throat ripped upon by that flying critter.”
“Well, I suppose we all need hobbies. Where might we find him?”
“We carried him up to Doc McCleane’s place. The Doc and Molly are tending to his hurts.”
So I conducted the Prince to the Doctor’s house. Rebecca accompanied us, attached to the person of the Prince as if troweled onto him by a master plasterer.
Just as I was about to remonstrate on the two youngsters to control themselves in the presence of her father, a strange feeling came over me and I could scarce control my own actions. Despite my wound, I bounded over the snow rushing to the site of relief from the travails and hurts I had endured.
I smelled food!
Excerpt from A Hussy’s Progress, the Autobiography of Moll Daggett
Chapter the Fourth
How I Become an Honest Woman, Continued
So after we had fed them Hessians a right dish of blue lead plumbs, I went to looking for the good Reverend and the rest of me friends, not knowing if the Devil had ottomized the lot of them.
As fortune had it, they had pulled a rum bite on the thing and got away clean. All that tis save the Reverend who got knocked again when he tried to give the creature a shrove bath in the frozen stream. This did him no good and his wounds, but recently begun to heal, were opened again. He had fell into a swoon and thus Zizzy had to carry him to Doctor McC’s house.
There they laid him upon a day bed in the library. I arrived just in time to aid the Doctor and we went to work upon heartily, with much cupping and bleeding and the occasional purgative. Thus with all this quacksalvering, the Reverend seemed to be recovering.
When once he twas settled, I said to him, “Ye know Reverend, even the Lord took the seventh day as a day of rest.”
“But Satan did not so neither shall I.”
Twas then I noticed a strange sound coming from the dining room, sort of like a pig what got into tinsmith’s trashheap. When I went to see what could be the cause, there I saw Major Zed with a legion of plates afore him, and taking in the grub like a well-handled pump takin in bilge water. It seems that the Hessians had used the house as their headquarters and they held a fine Christmas revel the night afore. All the remnants of that feast twere now hastily disappearing into the Major’s slush pit.
Between slurps and gulps, he let on that the Prince twould be along presently with someone the Reverend would be right glad to see.
Then in comes the diddle-pated royal and clinging to him twas little Rebecca, looking quite the dells and randified for the beetle-headed Leopold.
Twas a good thing that the Reverend had lost so much blood, for sure he looked like to shat fire at the sight of his little deary so familiar with the spongy-headed noble.
“Father?” she said somewhat sheepishly.
Afore the Reverend could say a word, up spoke the barnacle-brain, “This isn’t youw fathew! Yap is outside.”
Major Zed drew his palm o’er his face, “No highness, this is Miss Rebecca’s adoptive father, Reverend Longewynde. You know, he with whom we have been battling the forces of Hell?”
“Wongewynde? Wondgewynde? Sowwy, sounds a bit familiaw but I can’t quite pwace it.”
“Oh, dear Leopold. You shall have ever so much time to make his acquaintance. You are always welcome in our house. Perhaps when the Army goes into winter quarters, you could stay with us?”
Now, in my time, I have used my small medicinal skills to treat many a sufferer and these included those afflicted with apoplexy. Never have I seen such a case as what the Reverend entered now.
After much a deep-throated growl, he did seem to gather control of himself and asked, “Prince, how long have you been acquainted with my daughter?”
“Why just this evening and this morning but I feew wike I’ve known hew a wifetime - that’s how it goes when one is engaged in vewy hot wowk.”
The Reverend grabbed one of Doc McC’s lancets and tried to lunge at the clapdoodle but we restrained him, which we achieved only due to the Reverend’s weakened state.
“Don’t be upset, father. David and I and the Associators, they are militiamen from Philadelphia with whom we had joined, rescued him. Mr. Bozarth came and fetched us and told us that they were taking a General to be a prisoner in New York. So we lay in ambush along the road to rescue him, the General that is, not Mr. Bozarth who acted as our guide. Then along came the wagon but before we could do anything, dear Leopold had rescued himself and all the rest. He single-handedly dispatched a whole troop of dragoons. And in the fight today, he was amazing! And Brilliant! He’s the best General in our Army!
“God preserve the United States,” I mumbled.
“And he’s been a perfect gentleman. Absolutely perfect!”
Through clenched jaws, the Reverend eked out the question, “How came you to be with the militia.”
Oh, Saints preserve us, she launched in a long rambling tale about Brother David and Mr. Paine’s pamphlet and running off to join the Philadelphia Associators since the Reverend had forbid he join the Lancaster militia. Sure, the harangue ‘twould a lasted past Pentecost had not the Reverend interrupted and asked, “Where is David now?”
“Why, he is still upon his duty. His is an ensign among our battalion.
Major Zed, having cleared all the tables and the pantry, decided now to intervene and at least draw off one source of the Reverend’s consternation, “My
Prince, perhaps we might go and fetch Ensign Longewynde. I am sure his father has much to discuss with him.”
“Is he Yap’s child too?”
There twas a pause, “…. Yes, Highness, yes he is. He’s also a red Indian whose real name is Hiawatha.”
"Weawwy? The things you weawn! Also, I’m feewing a bit peckish. Do you think we couwd stop for some corn?
“Oh, be my guest, Highness.”
As the two Ruritanians left, I too stepped out on the porch, so as to give the Reverend a chance to speak fatherly to his errant daughter. Just beyond the door, Fenniman sat upon the porch, sharing some corn liquor with a few other riflemen. As they saw the Prince approach the first privy in the yard next door, they asked, “Say, Gabriel, aint that there the General you be friends with?
Seeing the Prince emerge from the privy, stuffing a corncob into his mouth, Fenniman responded glumly, “Sorry, I never saw that feller in my life.”
Just then, the Prince stopped and he looked like a hound what had just got up
“Wongewynde! Of couwse! He’s the Bobo! And Webecca’s his daughter, the Indian owphan he wescued! I can be such a goose sometimes.”
“Yes, Highness. We all stand in marvel of your Anserinean proclivities.”
“Why thank you, Zagwoba!”
Then they sauntered down the street, the Prince completely forgetful of his offering to fetch young Master David to his father.
Afore long, I could hear the Reverend in high words with Miss Rebecca and so went in to soothe the man before he ruptured something. I shuffled her off to a room in the house that the Reverend insisted she be locked in.
I assured him that he should take comfort in knowing that a fool like the Prince could never have kept his scant wits about him long enough to gain purchase of his daughter’s doddle sack in so short a time. We had but to distract the Prince and he ‘twould soon forget all about Rebecca’s infatuation. I suggested we lay in a good store of shiny objects for to have Leopold play fetch with whene’er an amorous occasion suggested it self.
The Reverend’s wrath seemed somewhat assuaged by this but he still fretted about his son’s disobedience.
We were distracted from this reverie by a great booming voice that could be heard in the foyer.
“All right! Where’s that right Jessie of an Edinburgh sawbones. First time I am to his home and he too high and mighty to greet a colleague! Got his nose deep in them indecent French romance books he fancies so, I’ll wager!”
Zizzy then brought into the library a slight man in uniform. This gentleman he introduced as the good General Mercer. As I later learned, this worthy twas a familiar of both Doctor McC and the Reverend for Mercer had been a surgeon since his youth in Scotland, where he had fought for Bonnie Charlie Stuart, and had as well as soldiered in the last war against the French. He was also a member of the American Philosophical Society and so not at all unfamiliar with the matter upon which we were engaged.
Though slight and older than the Reverend, he twas a fine figure of a man with a full head of hair and a ready smile upon his lips.
Upon seeing the Reverend and the Doctor, the General’s eyes brightened e’en more, “A glorious, fine day, is it not? I’ve not seen a day like this since I was with Bonnie Charlie when he ran old Johnny Cope into the coals at Prestopans! And now to be reunited with my old friends! So what brings two pen-pushing book-worms such as yerselves to the middle of a campaign. Reverend, I thought ye gave up the army life some time ago?”
Doctor McC and the Reverend then acquainted Mercer with all that had transpired to us this month past and especially the danger that twas presented the Patriot cause now that the British had possession of moldy old Mother Leeds. They related how the traitorous Dalby had taken the corpse to the Academy at Princeton and there, by reviving her from her grave, gaining the opportunity to control the Devil.
Twas then the Reverend reached the crux of the matter, “Cold Iron, properly wrought, seems to have an effect on the creature. If we could fashion weapons from it, we may be able to injure the creature long enough to destroy the mother’s body and send the thing back to hell. Our problem is the finding of it and the manner in which it is rendered to a sacred purpose. I recall that you have made something of a study of the substance. Can you help us?”
The smile had vanished from the General’s face as this narrative continued. Finally, he sighed deeply and said, “Tis evil, true evil that walks this earth.
“Aye, I have indeed over my life made a study of Cold Iron, the finding and the fashioning of it. Though you can find this metal in the ground of holy places, oft where the pagans had set their shrines, I have found the most efficacious Cold Iron may be obtained from metal taken from the falling stars. To that end, I have made a collection of some pounds of the stuff, collected by me over many years and at great expense. Nevertheless, it shall be yours to fight this great evil.
“But I shall have need of the aid of a trained alchemist in the rendering of it.”
“I have one with me,” responded the Reverend.
“Ye do travel prepared, Longewynde.”
The Reverend then presented Madame Frog-eater, “This is she, Madame de Bauffremont.”
“Ye do indeed come prepared! But, lady, I fear I heard ye called ‘Madame’?”
“I am afraid so, my General. My husband is presently in India serving our king.”
“Happy America that he is half a world away.”
“Oh, my General!” Madame fairly gushed but I found it not so strange, Mercer being the type as to inspire that in a woman, “I hope to hear that you yourself might be a bachelor?”
“Sorry, my lass, I regret to say that I have been married these many years and my Isabella is tavern-owner’s daughter. If I left her, who would keep me in whisky?”
There twas much laughter at this and the room seemed somehow brighter with the jolly Scotsman therein.
Finally, Mercer said, “Well, Samuel, ye must get yer lazy bones out of bed for we have much to do and it will take some time.”
“I fear we do not have time, Hugh,” returned the Reverend in his usual sour manner. “The Devil is already away to Princeton and Dalby has had possession of the Leeds body for near two days now.”
“Now, Samuel, to go at this rashly would be worse than delay. I think we shall have time enough. Ye said yerself that just having the body of the mother grants no special purchase upon the creature, that it merely acts as an attractive force. Until the mother is brought to some semblance of life, the thing remains a simple beast, formidable though it might be.
“As you well know, the re-animation of a corpse for anything more than to act as a mindless drudge is not an easy thing. Even with the powers that ye suggest Dalby and his associates possess, it will take some time and doing. After all, it took Our Lord three days to rise from the dead. I doubt if a common witch could better the Son of God.”
“That’s blasphemy, Hugh…but there is reason in what you say. What do you suggest?”
“Afore you go back hunting, which has left ye so much worse for the wear, we shall need to prepare, not just the Cold Iron but a means to get into Princeton. Even as we speak, the alarums are going out throughout West Jersey of our attack here. Princeton soon shall be crawling with the King’s men for that town is a central point in their defenses here. I shall inform Washington straight away and we shall see how to proceed.”
He took his leave but a very short time later, Washington himself came to the house, Mercer being a long time intimate of His Excellency and his word being the Gospel to the Great Commander.
So, a great host of Generals came trooping in. I marveled at how many there twere in such a small army but the stars were on occasion given out as a sort of booby prize it seemed, Leopold being the prime exemplar. There twas Washington himself, and Mercer together with Sullivan, and Greene. Lord Sterling too was present - sure another thing the army had in abundance twas Scotsmen. General Knox, the head of artillery who could give Major Zed a run at the money when it came to girth, also presented his expansive self. And of course, in came Leopold.
I could hear muffled cries of excitement from Rebecca’s locked bedroom when she heard his voice.
“Wevewand, I amd pwoud to say that I wemembew you now! You awe the deviw huntew with the weawwy pwetty daughtew!”
This last observation twas delivered with such lecherous inflection, that despite the august visitors, the Reverend could not help but make as if to wring the Prince’s neck and twould have succeeded had he not been barred by the mutual fatness of Knox and Major Zed what completely blocked the front of the library.
Before more hurley could ensue, Washington called all to order, whilst Mercer gave the Prince one of the Doctor’s indecent French novels as a distraction.
“General Mercer has explained to me the danger we face and I shall endeavor to render any assistance I can but my first duty is to the Army. I do believe both our objectives can be achieved. I had planned to retire across the Delaware and so take this army out of danger. Instead, your predicament may present an additional opportunity. Princeton is a strong magazine for the British. We can expect that General Cornwallis shall soon be gathering his forces there for a strike against us. We shall therefore hold this place, dare Cornwallis to come against us and offer him the opportunity, by destroying this army, to put an end to our cause. Cornwallis would never reject this. Therefore, we prompt him to come against us. We can fortify the heights across the Assunpink.”
Sullivan spoke up, “But General Washington, Cornwallis can bring eight or nine thousand against us and we have little more than three thousand. Even with the best positions, we can never hope to defeat him.”
“We do not need to defeat him, only delay. Goad him on against us, so that his army lumbers against us for the sure kill. We harry him and harry him until he reaches this place but only as the sun sets. His exhausted men will need rest before assaulting our formidable line. Then during the night, we shall steal away, on back roads, and sweep down upon the skeleton garrison at Princeton. We shall gain the supplies while the Reverend here deals with his …problem.”
There twas much palavering o’er this plan but in the end Washington’s word twas law. As the meeting broke up, the Reverend asked to speak with Washington alone. Being a good housemaid, I retired only far enough that I could still hear what transpired between them.
“Your Excellency, I have but one request. In the coming fight, order my son to stay behind the lines.”
“Reverend, I am not one to preach, I am a simple farmer. I do not doubt that your request is motivated solely by love for your children. But how would it be if your father came to me and requested that I keep you from pursuing this demon? Your son has come to this army from a sense of duty, to fight tyranny. These are times when no one is safe, when our hopes for a better future rest not upon what refuge we might obtain but upon the sacrifices that we are willing to endure. To this, many of us, your son included, have pledged, as our Declaration says, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor. Each of us must make that decision for ourselves.”
After Washington left, the Reverend twas most silent and deep in thought for while. Finally, Master David came, no thanks to the blank-nobbed Prince. The Reverend had me release Rebecca from her room and the three closeted themselves in the library for some time, behind closed doors. What transpired betwixt them there I know not but twas a quiet thing. When all was done, they showed the sign of tears and twere embracings which is a thing the Reverend is not in the habit of bestowing.
“Mrs. Daggett, when the time comes, Master David shall return to his regiment. Miss Rebecca shall accompany me to Princeton…she has the way of her people about her and I think shall be of great assistance.”
Then the Reverend turned to his son and said, “In the battles to come, stay close to Prince Leopold. He has a most ungodly ability to avoid misfortune.”
With that, Master David took his leave. After he had gone, I said to Zizzy, “Ye know it seems ta me that whilst the Prince is Fortune’s Favorite, those about him take the worst of the lumps.”
“Why do you think I am not to be near the Prince in the combats we have having been. It reminds of when I was in the Prussian Army, at the Battle of Kolin, there was cuirassier named von Feltzer who…”
Sweet Jesu spare us, the man then went into a harangue about some lucky Cabbage-eater for nigh onto twenty minutes. A good thing I learned how to sleep on me feet for I had a fine nap all the while.
For the next week, all be hustle and burley. Washington’s army went and dug in on the ridge to the south of Pink-Ass Creek whilst Mercer and the Madame went to work in the Doctor’s experimentationing room.
During the time, many of the Continentals left for home, their enlistments expiring. Those that remained did so on account of a bonus that Washington paid out from his own pocket. In addition, many militia came over from Pennsylvania and the Jerseymen were stirring after the victory at Trenton. Twas said that as the Cornwallis tried to gather the scattered garrisons, they were harried from one end of the province to tother. Meg Dalby and Gloomy Bozarth proved especially adept at bringing word of this and scouting the vicinity about generally, the former no doubt due to the time she spent in fruitless search for the Leeds tomb and the latter because the British could scarce believe that anyone so sulky could summon the enthusiasm to be a spy.
Upon New Years Day, Madame announced that they had completed their preparation and had rendered up a dozen or so Cold Iron bullets as well as a dagger and axe blade. With this, we prepared to fight the might of Hell.
The next day word finally came that Cornwallis had gathered the scattered army and was coming upon our scarce four thousand with o’er nine thousand men. ‘Twould be less than a day’s hard march for him but one that we intended to make much harder.
A strong brigade was to be sent out to delay the redcoats. This work needed a commander of spirit and dash but also judgment. What it got twas incompetent Fermoy and doltish Prince Leopold. Still twas a good body of men, Hand’s rifles with Fennimen along, the Marines, some light infantry, and the Associators including young David. These would take position a few miles up the road and draw back slowly as the lobsterbacks came on.
Twas the Reverend who asked to add to this force, seeking part of the dragoons of the Philadelphia City Troop to go afore Fermoy’s troops to create e’en more havoc and by this doing so to permit him to gain close to Princeton. As endorsement, he offered they be guided by the famous Black Meg and shown the work by one of Great Frederick’s cavalrymen. There’ll be no living with the onion-eyed puttock now, thought I when I realized it twas to Zizzy that the Reverend referred. Still, I must admit that Zizzy cut a fine figure on horseback and I found meself imagining how he must have appeared in tight hussar’s breeches.
Perhaps with this on me mind, I refused to be left behind. Zizzy seemed of late to be fair sniffing around the soon-to-be-widowed Mrs. Dalby and I had to be sure to keep me options open and available.
Just afore we rode out, Mercer came to the Reverend to wish him well and to offer him a fine stone charm, an amulet carved all about with thick Scotch knots. He said to the Reverend, “This last has been the charm of my family, passed down through the ages since the Mercers were painting themselves blue I’d reckon. It has been my own good luck, through all the wars in which I fought, since the ’45 through nine years against the French and Indians and now against the Crown. Ye shall need all the aid that ye can gainst this creature and more gainst its mother.”
The Reverend took it with a silent look of thanks and we were off.
We went up the road ten miles or so till we caught site of a small village straddling
the road that showed the obvious signs of holding a British garrison. Bozarth pointed to it and said twas called ‘Maidenhead.’
“Tis sure queer for a maidenhead to be intact after having a battalion of troopers in it!” exclaimed I.
“Not another word, Mrs. Daggett!” scolded the Reverend, “With the business we are about, we dare not risk such casual ribaldry!”
We took concealment in a wood nearby. Soon enough we could hear and then see a great column of troops coming down the road. First twere some red-coated dragoons who we let pass by. Some light bobs followed, not much on their guard nor pushing out flankers this far from Trenton. Sure, Bozarth knew his business for he hid us well in the wood until the main body was marching past.
We sprung out then, blazing away with carbines and with a quick huzzah, gave them a taste of steel for their morning walk. We cut down a small number and then twere off running to the next hiding place.
We served them thus two times more and the confusion we wrought twas far more than our numbers should have permitted, with us suffering but few lost. After a few miles more, we passed through Fermoy’s troops marching up to place the next and far larger ambuscade.
Zizzy reported to Fermoy that Cornwallis twas approaching. The Frenchman gained a queer look on his face, vomited, then turned his horse about and ran off back toward Trenton.
Leopold fumed, “Oh that is quite enough!” The dolt then proceeded to order the troops into position, Hand’s riflemen, including Fenniman, into some trees and rocks to the left of the road and some light infantry behind a stone wall on the right. He drew up the Associators across the road itself somewhat back from tother troops but visible to the enemy. Then he ordered the Marines to conceal themselves on the flank of the Associators to waylay the redcoats when they came to engage the militia. He then ordered that the tall trees lining the road be readied to fall upon his command.
We sat amazed not only at the wisdom of his dispositions but also that his orders were delivered with utmost clarity. The Doctor said, “Prince, I am amazed, your speech is unimpaired?”
“This is a real battle, Doctor, and I am in command. I do not have time for my speech impediment today!”
Madame spoke quietly to this, “I have seen the likes in France. We use the term “idiot savant.”
Twas then that the Reverend and his daughter took their leave and turned towards Princeton, saying that the British were attending solely upon their march and the coming fight so he would be able to reach Princeton clandestine now. Madame and the Doctor said they would also go with him, the two not being used to a brawl like this twould serve better in the struggle supernatural soon to come.
Madame was gracious as she left, “Madame Daggett, I bid you adieu and bon chance. Until we meet again in Princeton or in Hell. Either way, it shall be a fine dance, n’es pas?”
She might have been a frog-eating strumpet but I’ll grant she did have style.
The Prince directed the dragoons to the rear to act as reserve and to cover the eventual retreat. As we went, I noted the Marines crouched in a ditch by the side of the road, and some distance behind, I saw a familiar round belly sticking out teither side of a stout oak.
“Major Zed,” I shouted, “What do ye do back there?”
“Why I am leading this body of men, my dear.”
“And how are ye going to do that from way back there?”
“Mrs. Daggett, I’ll have you know that if these men are heavily engaged this day, I shall behind them every step of the way.”
Major Zed might be a gore-bellied glutton, a blowhard, and a poltroon, but no one could call him a fool.
We stood with the dragoons on a slight rise back from the road and so had as clear a view of the fight as if we were in the front rank at a Jockey Club race.
Thus, twas about midday, we heard the first of Cornwallis men coming down the road.
As before, the redcoat dragoons led the way. These, seeing the militia in their way and eager to come to grips with their tormentors, leapt into a charge.
Ordinarily, this twould have been enough to send the militia into a rabbit chase but Leopold was with them and instead of running, they served the cavalry a course of several volleys. In a moment, the few who retained their horses were bolting to the rear.
Now, Cornwallis twas no fool. The next up were the light bobs, thrown out in skirmish order on either side of the road. The first few of these were shot down by the riflemen and our own lights but soon enough numbers began to tell and our boys pulled back but a pace or two.
Whilst this occurred, several battalions of regulars had formed into lines across the road and pushed forward against the militia. As the first of these came within pistol shot, as planned, a great tree fell behind them. Whilst they suffered in disorder from this, the militia fired a few more volleys into them and off the regulars ran.
The next battalion came on and used the fallen tree as a rampart and fired a volley into the militia. Even the charm of the taggle-headed Prince could not keep these in line and they bolted away, leaving Leopold and Master David standing in the middle of the road by themselves.
Proving yet again how temporary his wisdom had been, Leopold kicked Bucephalus into a charge and the hounds came yapping after. Master David stared for a moment and then jumped into the ditch where hid the Marines, no doubt thinking that one more disobedience of his father hardly mattered now.
Now I should ne’er have believed this had I not seen it with me own peepers but Leopold fairly soared along the road and his great steed leapt over the downed tree and into the midst of the redcoats behind it. They must have fired a hundred balls at him if they shot one but nair a scratch came to him or his animals. Then he twas amongst them with much slashing and hacking and biting from both his animals and himself. In a wee bit, the redcoats broke here too, running for their lives. Then another tree fell in the road blocking their path. For Hand’s rifleman had had the better of things gainst the green-coated Hessians and were working on the flanks of this battalion. A right slaughter ensued with the redcoats caught betwixt the marksmen and the blood-thirsty Prince until those that were not slain had run off as best they could.
There followed a moment’s peace and we could see that the King’s men twere shaking themselves out into formal battle array. This twould take some time to accomplish but already their big guns twere being run out and heavy shot began to play into the road and the woods.
With a show of reluctance, Leopold ordered a retreat. Colonel Hand told off a company of riflemen under Fenniman to head north direct to Princeton to aid our friends already there.
We thus fell back, the Marines covering the retreat and occasionally Hand’s riflemen making a stand here and there, always dropping a couple or more of the redcoats as what got too close. Even the Associators would stand for a bit as long as they had cover and no nonsense about charging the enemy.
Betimes, some of the lobsterbacked light bobs got ahead of our flanks and twas the duty of the dragoons to chase them back. I found this to be good sport for even the best infantryman cannot singly stand against a horseman, or in my case, a horse woman, especially when she knows how to breath flaming rum punch in their faces. Which is not to boast of being an equestrian for I never did see the attraction to the beasts that Russian Catherine is said to have had but I can ride a pony as sure as any girl raised in Connacht, especially when riding pinion.
We finally got back to Trenton near to sunset, as twas planned. By this point, despite our best efforts, we twere hard pressed by the British whose blood was well up by now. There twas some confusion as we crossed the single bridge o’er the Pink-ass Creek but General Washington twas there himself making sure there twas no panic.
When the General saw Leopold cross, he congratulated the boy on the excellence of his command this day but then his face darkened when he noticed stains down the front of the Prince’s coat, “That is blood on you, Prince, are you wounded?”
“No, it’s just something I ate.”
The first British lights got a snootful of lead when they came too close to the bridge and were soon run off. Then the Hessians tried twice to retrieve the honor their comrades lost here a week afore but to no avail. Finally, the British themselves tried to cross but soon left a lobster-colored carpet at the crossing.
With it being full dark and the night turning to a freeze, the British drew off a bit, no doubt promising that the morrow twould bring the reckoning to yon damnable rebels.
Twas then that Washington said, “Now we shall all go to Princeton.