The General
Chapter 1

Ben was unenthused about filling the new prescription for the widow Jenkins. She was a dour old sour-puss with a horrible wart over her left eye and many in the town thought her to be a witch. If it worked, he would never be complemented for his accuracy but if it failed he would surely be blamed as the culprit. It was a curse handed down to him because of the shocking lack of moderation on the part of his father to in his daily excess in imbibing spirits. At least, it seemed that way to him because he had done nothing to cause such disfavor with the Gods.

It had come as a shock to him to learn that his family's waning fortunes had necessitated his apprenticeship to the local apothecary instead of traveling to the College and that the secrets of the Roman and Greek cultures would remain a mystery to him. Not that he was all that inspired about book-learning, but he knew it would put him one-up on the other sons of distinguished families and insure his success in later life. Now all that had ground to a complete halt and he was mired in the drug dispensing business like a petty trader in people's needs.

When the old druggist died without heirs, it was just natural for Ben to take over the business and soon he had cornered the market on the dispensing of potions and cures in all parts of the booming community. Most people tended to like Ben because he was a constant optimist and was prone to making friends no matter what their social status or station in life. One of his sidelines was the brokerage of money for persons or businesses that had short-term cash flow difficulties. The interest derived from such transactions funded his import-export business that operated without either name or sanction from the nearby port.

Ben was quite the reader and the knowledge he gained from his reading far surpassed what he could have ever learned in school. By the time he was of age, he had already earned enough money to pay off his family debts and also pay the note on his mother's home in full. It put a smile on her face before she departed this world for her reward in the great unknown.

There was a lot of talk in the town about the unfairness of the taxes foisted on the folk by a distant monarch with absolutely no idea about the hardships of colonial life. The new colonies were decidedly raw and lacking in many of the social niceties of a European lifestyle but there were a certain atmosphere that smelled of freedom to most that more than compensated for the loss of the frills and pomp of Monarchy and Parliaments.

Because Ben was so well-liked, he was made the Lieutenant in charge of the village militia. While that sounded grand on the surface, the militia was comprised of two elderly males with service on the continent. Experience that they would rather forget entirely and not bring to the surface of their mind to be certain. In addition to this unwanted wealth of experience, there were a total of fourteen volunteers mostly in their teens who thought the idea of fighting the savages to be more exciting than fishing in the waters of the bay. They only had ten rifles between them and in fact only two of those were actual rifles like the ones the Pennsylvania boys all seemed to have from childhood. The remainder was the old world style blunderbusses that seemed better suited to making a lot of noise than actually hitting what they were aimed at.

The only news they received was from the news gazette in Boston that made a publication only three times each week with some literary inserts from some authors of various topics of interest. The shipping news was the most popular because it reported the sailings and landings of ships of interest to the local inhabitants who were much attuned to their success or failure in commerce or destination.

There had been rumors of late of new taxes to harass the common working folk of the colonies and Ben was keeping a watchful eye on the progress of such profit cutting mechanisms from the halls of government back in their land of birth that still ran the systems of governance in the New World. He was well aware that even the most innocuous of changes could spell the difference between financial success and ruin with the development of unintended consequences. Fortunately, there was little to report and life went on without much interference from abroad.

A German settler with a fat happy wife and ten small children took up residence in the village with a small printing press in their luggage and knowledge of typesetting that made the advent of a daily newspaper a much-needed boon to the population. Ben saw first-hand the power of the small printing press and vowed to make use of it whenever possible.

Two years earlier, Ben had run away from home to join the State led militia fighting in the seven years' war with the French and Indians. He had learned how to fight under the leadership of the woods trained frontiersmen and learned lessons in tactics that stood him well in later years. He was happy at home with his mother and other siblings but longed to return to the battle and answered that call yet again receiving a minor leg wound in the process.

Now that he was back in the village, he could turn his attentions to the business and try to undo the harm his thoughtless father had caused with his gambling and drinking to excess. It was a lesson that helped him escape the pattern of male disintegration that seemed to afflict the male population when afforded little excitement or diversion to occupy their life.

He noticed the piousness of a young girl called Margaret and soon claimed her as his spouse bringing her to bed and having a child before the first year of marriage was complete.

Since his business interests were successful, Ben invested some of his own money into re-arming the militia and soon had a viable fighting force trained in the tactics of the frontiersmen and carrying rifles that were accurate at great distances in the hands of well-trained men. The State militia took note of his effectiveness and thrift and promoted him to the rank of Captain and assigned him to defense of the local area.

The sounds of war drums were beating on the Mohawk but wise men heard the gathering storm heading their way from the halls of Whitehall. Some of the new taxes and the new decrees seemed aimed at nipping any thought of rebellion in the bud and the folk in all colonies were much incensed at the paternalistic treatment by "old worlders" with little knowledge or liking of the colonized lands.

Because of his extensive experience with matters of commerce and trade, Ben was in a unique position because he could see the inevitability of eventual war with the mother country and he knew the colonies were geographically placed in an advantageous position to persevere. He had perused the maps and the locations of military stores and targets and had come to the conclusion that in order to win a war of Revolution it would be necessary to create a delaying diversion to prevent the troops of the regular Army from crushing the rebellion before it even began. His strategy hinged on a campaign into the other British possession of Canada to threaten the British flank and siphon off troops and supplies to defend their prize possession. The citizens of Canada were of a different ilk than the normal colonist because they prized their British roots to a much higher degree than the Independence-minded Americans.

Ben saw Quebec as the tactical prize in a quick raid to distract the British from maneuvering down the Hudson and splitting the colonies in two. The old fortress was well-defended but Ben sensed a certain lack of motivation on the part of the Canadians and decided it was worth the effort to wrest it away from British rule. In the coming battle, he discovered that the back-biting and opportunistic American command was far more dangerous than the enemy on the battlefield. He was not the sort of man that held store in political games and liked to move right to his target and defeat his enemy without devious strategy. It hurt him in this first main campaign and it hurt him again later when he commanded far larger forces and had much more sway with the powers to be.

The years that Ben had spent learning the trade of military combat were considered a waste of time by most of the village folk because they failed to accept the approaching storm. There were many others who saw the conflict in the offing and made decisions that would commit them to the cause at risk of financial ruin, family conflict and even loss of their very lives. Young Ben was pragmatic enough to see that his skills would be invaluable in the coming struggle and he was not hesitant to promote his standing with influential citizens devoted to that end. He saw his promotion to a Captain of Militia as a first step down the path to glory. It was time for him to leave his ailing wife and children in the care of close relatives and move in that direction without delay.

He was able to judge the logistics of the potential troop movements by the invading British forces because of his involvement with the transportation routes and lines of commerce and communication both inside and outside the thirteen original colonies. He knew instinctively that the key crisis points would be in the defenseless coastal communities which would be at the mercy of the British sea power. However, he saw this as only the first opening moves in a longer war of attrition that would eventually favor the colonies with their interior lines of communication and familiarity with difficult terrain.

Ben realized that the mindset of the British regulars considered the colonists as amateurs playing at something they knew nothing about and they would dispatch them with the same efficiency they employed in countless wars on the continent and other foreign places.

He considered this sense of over-confidence to be an exploitable weakness that would ultimately be the British Army's cause for defeat as they ventured into the interior wilderness of the colonial territories.

An area with which he had much experience was the mighty Hudson River stretching from the falls of Niagara and the Canadian territory all the way down to the prize of the former Dutch colony now renamed New York City. This city was undoubtedly the primary commercial port of the American colonies and had even more influence than Boston itself.

He suspected the British would most likely plan their strategy around a strike from their "Safe Haven" of Canada down the Hudson River and into the bustling port of New York. He had no doubt that the ground forces would eventually make their way from Boston down the coastline into New York to insure its inevitable defeat and capture. Ben knew there was no way to prevent this from happening because of the disparity of forces but he also understood that the primary objective would be to fight a delaying action that would enable the colonial forces to muster their men and their arms to chip away at the regulars with a long drawn out war that would break their spirit and lead to their discouragement and despair.

His plan was to eliminate the concept of a "Safe Haven" and strike right into the heart of the enemy in Quebec forcing the British to divert forces to Canada to protect their flank and their vital business interests.

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