The Fiery Cross

Author: P Hana

Page 145

   

He bore my examination tranquilly, eyelids half-lowered against the growing light. His hair had come loose while he slept and feathered over his shoulders, its ruddy waves framing a face strongly marked by both humor and passion—but which possessed a paradoxical and most remarkable capacity for stillness.

“No,” I said at last, and set my chin down again with a contented sigh. “It’s still you.”

He gave a small grunt of amusement, but lay still. I could hear one of the cooks stumbling round nearby, cursing as he tripped over a wagon-tongue. The camp was still in the process of assembling; a few of the companies—those with a high proportion of ex-soldiers among their officers and men—were tidy and organized. A good many were not, and tipsy tents and strewn equipment sprawled across the meadow in a quasi-military hodgepodge.

A drum began to beat, to no apparent effect. The army continued to snooze.

“Do you think the Governor is going to be able to do anything with these troops?” I asked dubiously.

The local avatar of the army appeared to have gone back to sleep as well. At my question, though, the long auburn lashes lifted in lazy response.

“Oh, aye. Tryon’s a soldier. He kens well enough what to do—at least to start. It’s no so verra difficult to make men march in column and dig latrines, ken. To make them fight is another thing.”

“Can he do that?”

The chest under my chin lifted in a deep sigh.

“Maybe so. Maybe no. The question is—will he have to?”

That was the question, all right. Rumors had flown round us like autumn leaves in a gale, all the way from Fraser’s Ridge. The Regulators had ten thousand men, who were marching in a body upon New Bern. General Gage was sailing from New York with a regiment of official troops to subdue the Colony. The Orange County militia had rioted and killed their officers. Half the Wake County men had deserted. Hermon Husband had been arrested and spirited onto a ship, to be taken to London for trial on charges of treason. Hillsborough had been taken by the Regulators, who were preparing to fire the town and put Edmund Fanning and all his associates to the sword. I did hope that one wasn’t true—or if it was, that Hubert Sherston was not one of Fanning’s intimates.

Sorting through the mass of hearsay, supposition, and sheer wild invention, the only fact of which we could be sure appeared to be that Governor Tryon was en route to join the militia. After which, we would just see, I supposed.

Jamie’s free hand rested on my back, his thumb idly stroking the edge of my shoulder blade. With his usual capacity for mental discipline, he appeared to have dismissed the uncertainty of the military prospects completely from his mind, and was thinking of something else entirely.

“Do ye ever think—” he began, and then broke off.

“Think what?” I bent and kissed his chest, arching my back to encourage him to rub it, which he did.

“Well . . . I’m no so sure I can explain, but it’s struck me that now I have lived longer than my father did—which is not something I expected to happen,” he added, with faint wryness. “It’s only . . . well, it seems odd, is all. I only wondered, did ye ever think of that, yourself—having lost your mother young, I mean?”

“Yes.” My face was buried in his chest, my voice muffled in the folds of his shirt. “I used to—when I was younger. Like going on a journey without a map.”

His hand on my back paused for a moment.

“Aye, that’s it.” He sounded a little surprised. “I kent more or less what it would be like to be a man of thirty, or of forty—but now what?” His chest moved briefly, with a small noise that might have been a mixture of amusement and puzzlement.

“You invent yourself,” I said softly, to the shadows inside the hair that had fallen over my face. “You look at other women—or men; you try on their lives for size. You take what you can use, and you look inside yourself for what you can’t find elsewhere. And always . . . always . . . you wonder if you’re doing it right.”

His hand was warm and heavy on my back. He felt the tears that ran unexpectedly from the corners of my eyes to dampen his shirt, and his other hand came up to touch my head and smooth my hair.

“Aye, that’s it,” he said again, very softly.

The camp was beginning to stir outside, with clangings and thumps, and the hoarse sound of sleep-rough voices. Overhead, the grasshopper began to chirp, the sound like someone scratching a nail on a copper pot.

“This is a morning my father never saw,” Jamie said, still so softly that I heard it as much through the walls of his chest, as with my ears. “The world and each day in it is a gift, mo chridhe—no matter what tomorrow may be.”

I sighed deeply and turned my head, to rest my cheek against his chest. He reached over gently and wiped my nose with a fold of his shirt.

“And as for taking stock,” he added practically, “I’ve all my teeth, none of my parts are missing, and my c*ck still stands up by itself in the morning. It could be worse.”

59

MILITARY ENGINES

Journal of the Expedition against the Insurgents

Kept by William Tryon, Governor

Thursday, May 2nd

The Craven and Carteret Detachments marched out of New Bern with the two Field Pieces, Six Swivel Guns mounted on Carriages, Sixteen Waggons, & four Carts, loaded with Baggage, Ammunition and as much provisions as would supply the several Detachments that were to join them on their Route to Col. Bryan’s, the place of General Rendezvous.

The Governor left New Bern the 27th of April, and arrived at Col. Bryan’s the 1st of May. Today the Troops from the two Districts joined.

Friday, 3d. of May, Union Camp

The Governor Reviewed at 12 O’Clock the Detachments in the Meadow at Smiths Ferry on the West Side of Neuse River.

Saturday, the 4th of May

The Whole marched to Johnston Court House. Nine Miles.

Sunday, 5th of May

Marched to Major Theophilus Hunter’s in Wake County. Thirteen Miles.

Monday, 6th of May

The Army halted, and the Governor reviewed the Wake Regiment at a Genl. Muster. Mr. Hinton Colonel of the Regiment acquainted the Governor that he had got but Twenty two Men of the Company he had received Orders to raise, owing to a Disaffection among the Inhabitants of the County.

The Governor observing a General Discontent in the Wake Regiment as he passed along the Front Rank of the Battalion, seeing that not more than one Man in five had Arms, & finding that upon his calling on them to turn out as Volunteers in the Service, they refused to obey, ordered the Army to surround the Battalion; which being effected he directed three of his Colonels to draft out Forty of the most Sightly & Most active Men, which Manouvre caused no small Panic in the Regiment, consisting at the Time of about four Hundred Men.

During the drafting the Officers of the Army were active in persuading the men to enlist, and in less than two Hours completed the Wake Company to Fifty Men. Night coming on the Wake Regiment was dismissed, much ashamed both of their Disgrace, & their own Conduct which occasioned it. The Army returned to Camp.

Wednesday, the 8th of May

Col. Hinton’s Detachment was left behind, with a View to prevent the disaffected in that County from forming into a Body, and joining the Regulators in the adjacent Counties.

This Morning a Detachment marched to the dwelling House of Turner Tomlinson, a Notorious Regulator, and brought him prisoner to Camp, where he was closely confined. He confess’d he was a Regulator, but would make no discoveries.

The Army marched, & incamped near Booth’s, on New Hope Creek.

Friday, the 10th of May

Halted, ordered the Waggons to be refitted, Horses to be shod, and every thing put in Repair. Reviewed in Hillsborough two Companies of the Orange Militia.

The Prisoner Tomlinson made his escape this Evening, from the Quarter Guard. Detachments set after him, but without Success.

Sunday, the 12th of May

Marched, and forded Haw River, and encamped on the West Side of the Banks. It was expected the Regulators would have opposed the passages of the Royalists over this River, as it was their Intent, but not suspecting that the Army would move out of Hillsborough till after Monday, they were by this Sudden Movement of the Army defeated in that part of their plan.

Received this Day flying Reports that General Waddell was forced by the Regulators, with the Troops under his Command to repass the Yadkin River.

Divine Service, with Sermon, performed by the Revd. Mr. McCartny. Text: “If You have no Sword Sell your Garment & Buy One.”

This Day Twenty Gentlemen Volunteers joined the Army, chiefly from Granville & Bute Counties. They were formed into a Troop of Light Horse under the Command of Major MacDonald. A Regulator taken by the flanking parties laying in ambush with his Gun. The Commissary took out of his House part of a Hogshead of Rum lodged there for the Use of the Regulators. Also some Hogs which were to be accounted to His Family.

Monday, the 13th of May

Marched to O’Neal. At 12 O’Clock an Express rider arrived from General Waddell, with a Verbal Message, the Express not daring to take a Letter for fear of its being intercepted. The Purport of which Message was that on Thursday Evening the 9th Instant the Regulators to the Number of two Thousand surrounded his Camp, and in the most daring & insolent Manner required the General to retreat with the Troops over the Yadkin River, of which he was then within two Miles. He refused to comply, insisting he had the Governor’s Orders to proceed. This made them more insolent, and with many Indian shouts they endeavoured to intimidate his Men.

The General finding his Men not exceeding three Hundred, and generally unwilling to engage; and many of his Sentries going over to the Regulators, was reduced to comply with their requisition, & early the next Morning repassed the Yadkin River, with his Cannon and Baggage; the Regulators agreeing to disperse and return to their several Habitations.

A Council of War was held immediately to deliberate on the Subject of the Intelligence brought by the Express, composed of the Honorable John Rutherford, Lewis DeRosset, Robert Palmer, & Sam Cornell, of His Majesty’s Council, and the Colonels & Field Officers of the Army, Wherein it was resolved that the Army should change their Route, get into the Road at Captain Holt’s that leads from Hillsborough to Salisbury, pass the little and great Alamance Rivers with all possible Expedition, & march without Loss of Time to join General Waddell; accordingly the Army got under March, and before Night encamped on the West Side of little Alamance, a strong Detachment being sent forward to take possession of the West Banks of Great Alamance, to prevent the Enemy’s Parties from occupying that strong Post.

This evening received Intelligence that the Regulators were sending Scouts through all their Settlements, and assembling on Sandy Creek, near Hunter’s.

Marched and joined the Detachment on the West Banks of Great Alamance where a strong Camp was chosen. Here the Army halted till more provisions could be brought from Hillsborough, for which purpose several Waggons now emptied and sent from Camp to Hillsborough

Intelligence being brought this Evening into Camp that the Rebels intended to attack the camp in the Night, the Necessary preparations were made for an Engagement, and one third of the Army ordered to remain under Arms all Night, & the Remainder to lay down near their Arms. No Alarm given.

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