Saturday, March 12, 2016

Find the Night Room

Find the Night Room, a Revolutionary War Tale by Jeannette Holland Austin

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Chapter 48

The following afternoon Angus accompanied Colonel Drayton in his coach painted with the Drayton arms.
The town was as he’d 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 his mind’s eye he could still see the armed soldiers strutting the streets in their red coats, guarding the harbor and buildings and Sir Clinton’s attitude of arrogance as he ate from the colonel’s table. It was satisfying to think of them now scurrying about to escape punishment. He crossed the street and walked to the battery. Catherine’s aunts house 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 her aunt’s home, 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’d 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 Mrs. Manigault’s diamond broach pinned to her dress.

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,“ he said gently. “I will build a home for you.”

Knowing that he was penniless and 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’d 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’d never before owned land would open to the plow and to vast communities dotting the landscape.

The End

"Ashley Loche", the sequel

Chapter 47

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 are given land grants for our service in the war. I want to speak with you about swapping mine for that parcel at the head waters of Boggy Creek.”

Colonel Drayton was overwhelmed. “Don’t you want to come inside and have supper first?”

They laughed. Angus’ eyes 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 aunt’s home on Church Street.”

“What about Lord Manigault?”

“His name was published on a traitor’s list. 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 will build my house here 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.”

“A gentleman’s plantation,” Duncan whispered.

“I will file the deeds at the courthouse tomorrow.”


Chapter 46

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 Colonel Drayton ‘s leisurely mornings stalking the woods for game before the British came and ruined everybody’s 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.”

Chapter 45

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, Hoke’s face was solemnly spent. He dismounted his horse, then turning rather anxiously to Angus handed him the reins.

“Here’s the colonel’s mare. 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’s nothing to do but to go back home to Charleston.”

“I pray ye find the McDonald’s well,” 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 don’t suppose they will be giving back what they took, all the hens and cows? The British stripped this place right after ye ran off.”

“No, but we are a free country. We are free of the British.”

McDonald paused for a moment and scratched his head. “What did it cost? Everyone in Moore county is devastated. Didn’t ye see it, when ye came through? And what come of it for you?”

“Lucas and I will get our own land . Land grants in the Carolinas. ”

“Well, your sisters are married off, and there is just me now.”

“And ma?”

He pointed to a grave enclosed by an iron fence. “She died last year. This land was too hard for her.”

Angus walked toward the grave and staring down at it, said. “We can make a better life now. There’s land near Charleston that is so black that it crumples in your hand.”

What’s it good for?” He asked, scratching his head.

“Rice paddies all along the marsh and river banks of the Ashley River. I want to build a plantation on that river. Come with us and help us make a new life for ourselves.”

Duncan McDonald grunted. It meant that he agreed.

Chapter 44

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 General Washington’s charging cavalry 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 43

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 Cornwallis’ rear guard . But Lord Cornwallis anticipated Lafayette’s idea 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 General Greene’s back. 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.