We joined the rest of the Maryland troops on the far right of Washington's line. They fed us in as replacements on a hill top beside some hard men from Delaware, and we waited in a well-dug trench for the Germans and British to attack us. We did not have to wait long for despite the light artillery behind us, they came in disciplined ranks and we shot them down. Then they came again, those huge Germans in the tall hats, and we shot them down once more. They were brave and stupid men.
Then some fool of an officer got us up from our ditch, had us clamp on our bayonets, and led us down the hill. I affixed a spike bayonet and kept my big knife on my belt and followed along, trying to stay behind one of the faster moving men. At the base of the hill we knelt, fired at the clouds of powder smoke and then they retreated. I stayed right there in a shattered orchard, hurt and then suddenly unconscious.
I remember feeling a hit on my left thigh, like a blow with a cudgel, but after that, almost nothing. I awoke on a lumpy bed with a fine looking, dark-haired woman sitting beside me. I put my hand to her waist and she jumped and yelled, "He's awake."
The woman's name was Hope and she had two young daughters, Felicity and Faith who were about twelve and ten. They had found me on the battlefield after the British and Hessians pushed the Americans from the top of that hill and forced Washington's army into another retreat. The woman and her girls had been out stripping the dead when one of them discovered that I still breathed. They hauled me to their hovel in a hand-drawn cart along with the boots and belts, tobacco and jackets they retrieved from the dead Americans. The enemy had evidently already taken care of their casualties by then.
I examined myself quickly and found I was wearing only my hunting shirt and a tightly-wrapped splint on my left wrist. My head and thigh were bandaged, blood-soaked and aching, and I could not see from my right eye for some reason. It felt puffy, swollen and sore. My more valuable equipment all seemed present but numb. In general, I felt very weak, confused and hungry.
Hope brought me some soup and explained what had happened while she ladled it in. She said that the battle at what she called Chatterton's Hill had taken place three days before and that I had been lying in her bed, feverish and moaning, for two days and nights. She explained that I had a nasty head wound just above the right eye and another in my thigh where the ball had gone all the way through the back of my leg. I held up my bound wrist, and she said that she thought it was broken but was not sure. It sure was an ugly color and hurt like sin, but I could wiggle my fingers.
I thanked her for her care and her soup and went back to sleep. I now know the date, it was late October of 1776. Time meant almost nothing in those turbulent days.
I awoke about sunset feeling a good bit better and made my way out to the privy, limping on my injured leg. Once relieved, I stumbled back to bed and had some more soup. The girls sat on the other side of the room, big-eyed, and watched me until I became self-conscious of my bare legs and big feet. I guess I was not aware that my member was hanging out where they could see it from time to time until Hope came and pulled the blanket over my lap and smiled at me.
"Where are the Redcoats?" I asked her.
She shook her head.
"We have any weapons?" I asked.
She produced my heavy belt with its blade bayonet and cartridge pouch and a very fine horse pistol along with a powder horn and some balls that obviously fit the thing. I did not ask where they came from but tested the weapon, tightened the flint and loaded the piece. I put it under the bed and felt a good bit safer for some reason with my broad knife beside me and a loaded gun nearby.
The next day, while the girls were out doing their chores, Hope came and sat beside me. She put her hand on my blanket-covered belly and smiled.
"How you feelin'?" she asked.
"Better," I said, touching my forehead. "Think we ought to look at this?"
She untied the bandage, and I found that my other eye still worked but was open barely a slit. I touched the scab at my eyebrow and asked, "How does it look?"
She nodded and smiled. "I seen worse. Looks like you lost a hunk of eyebrow, maybe a bit a'bone. I ain't had a man in some time," she said, touching my brow lightly. "I got the itch for some swiving."
"Doubt I could do you much good," I said, covering her exploring hand and putting a kiss in her palm.
"Let's see," she said, pulling back the blanket. I lay back and let her explore my privates with her fingers, feeling no reaction, no flow of blood or twitch of nerves. She brought a basin to the bedside and washed my member and ballocks gently and persistently. That felt good, very good indeed, and the sun-warmed water brought some faint feeling to my groin. She smiled and kissed me gently. "We'll try again tomorrow," she said. "You lost a lot of blood out there."
"Momma! Momma, come quick," a girlish, out-of-breath voice proclaimed. Tiny Faith ran into the cabin, yelling, "A Redcoat's got Licity!"
Hope jumped to her feet just as a big, smiling grenadier appeared in the doorway, set down his musket and made for her, hands stretched out like claws. He brushed the child aside. "'Ere's a full-growed one," he growled, and then he saw me. "Who the bloody fuck's that?" he demanded, Hope's shoulder in his hand and ten-year-old Faith plastered to the far wall with fear. From the outside came a girl's calls for help and then just undulating screams.
I found the pistol with my right hand and snaked it up under my blanket without taking my eyes from the man. I had left it cocked.
"He's wounded," Hope said as the big soldier stepped toward me, eyes narrowed.
I shot him low in the stomach without uncovering the gun. The flash scorched the blanket, and the soldier dropped to his knees, yelled and grabbed his belly as blood spurted between his fingers. He looked both angry and frightened. I had aimed higher and wondered about my eyesight.
I jumped out of bed, took up his musket and checked the pan. It was primed so I guessed it was loaded. I ran into the stubbly field where a grenadier was holding Felicty down with her dress over her face, and another was getting ready to rape her. I knelt and shot him in the upper body. He spun away with a cry, and the man holding the girl in the dirt rose with his weapon in his hands.