Restive Souls: First Chapters

An excerpt from the latest edits of Restive Souls

Restive Souls

And all the believers were together and had all things in common; and they would sell their property and possessions and share them with all, to the extent that anyone had need.

—    Acts 22:44-45

Part 1: Ye Old Seeds of Flame

Honeyman’s Tale (1776-77)


George Washington looked me over as if I was a broadened slab hanging at my butcher shop. His eyes scanned my feet, my legs, continuing to my head, then, for good measure, back down again.

George Washington as a young soldier
George Washington as a colonel in the Virginia Regiment during the French and Indian War.; Image public domain from a painting by Charles Willson Peale

“What’s this now?” he asked, looking at the letter I handed him, which he had studied just moments ago. His normally hooded eyes narrowed into slits as he squinted at me. I guessed that I had become a puzzle.

“A letter sir, from General Wolfe.”

“Yes yes, an odd conveyance this is, is it not?” He flipped it around as if looking for more. “And rather old.”

“I’m sorry sir?”

“This letter. You have kept it on your person all this time?”

“Indeed, sir.” For occasions such as this, I dared not say out loud.

“Hmmph. Well, be it not for me to challenge its legitimacy. You’re Irish, I suppose.”

“And Scottish too, if I may.”

Washington’s eyebrows arched up.

“You see, sir, I was born in Armagh, in Ireland, but of Scottish parents.”

Washington motioned for me to sit, and I did. He sat behind his wide desk and looked at me. “A weaver and a butcher and a cattleman. An interesting mix of tradecraft you have, Scott Irish.”

“I’m afraid that the life of the Irish under the crown requires it just so.”

“May I ask you what brought you into the service of bodyguard for General Wolfe?”

I told Washington of my Atlantic crossing onboard the English frigate Boyrie 18 years previously. A wicked storm whipped a shearing wind against the sails and needles of rain against my face as we approached coastal waters. As spindrift mocked visibility, a young, unsteady colonel was unsuccessfully negotiating a set of stairs on the deck I was guarding. We were not far from our destination off the banks of the great St. Lawrence. The colonel was quite drunk, but of course, I left that portion of the story out of the telling. “Not stairs, so much, sir,” I said to Washington, “as a poorly reinforced ladder leading to the quarterdeck, from which the colonel was descending. The rough seas tossed him nearly overboard, but I caught him, and he swore to me he’d never forget.”

“Saved him from the frothy jowls of our frigid Atlantic, did you?” smiled Washington.

“Aye, sir, the storm nearly had him,” I tried to say humbly, although in truth the minor intervention had led to a prestigious military career. I still remember the colonel’s blanketed eyes and heavy eyelids. His breath could have fueled a torch. I remain in surprise that he did, indeed, remember me not just in perpetuity, but even the next day.

“Him and many others,” said Washington. “But of course, one cannot become a bodyguard and remain so without warrant,” said Washington. “Favors returned or not. These are not positions for which mistakes can be endured, are they?”

“No, sir,” I agreed, concealing both grief and some history.

Washington nodded, then scooted back in his chair and placed his feet, protected by thick black boots covered with dried mud, upon his desk.

“I need a spy, Scott Irish,” he said, “and your previous service to the crown would serve us well for that.” I was beginning to think he thought of my name as Scott Irish. The name is Honeyman, I wanted to say. John Honeyman. I remained silent.

“I’ve had some background research done on you.”

“Indeed, sir?”

“Quite. And extensive, truth be told. And you’ll do. Would you like to hear my proposal?”

“Any proposal from your office shall turn into a task accomplished, sir, if you please.”

“Very good, Honeyman. Do you know of Griggstown?”

“I’m afraid I do not, sir.”

“Well you soon shall. You are married, no?”

“To a fine lass, the name of Mary.”

“And I trust that for the cause of the Colonies, you can still wear Tory clothes?”

A spy in Griggstown? Wherever that was. What an interesting scenario, I thought, this was becoming.

“Plying your trade, Mr. Honeyman, trading with the foul men of the crown, building trust through your tradecraft?”

“Aye, sir, that I can do.”

“Your years in the crown’s military will serve you well in that regard. You shall settle in Somerset County with your good wife and good nature and will report to us occasionally. I do apologize if this seems less the adventure to you than the high seas or the front lines of Quebec, but I assure you that in time, your patience shall find its reward.”

“I am most humbly honored,” I said, bowing.

Bolo’s Notes

My name is Emmet Bolo. I am a historian by trade. Many of my history lessons derive from the souls of the dead. As such, I am honored to channel some of the most important figures from our nation’s history. Why the dead come to me with their stories I can’t say, but be assured that the tales they tell are true; nothing I have ever reported has been refuted by evidence.

As such, I don’t tell stories. I teach them.

Do you want to know why our nation became the world’s greatest power? Let me teach you through stories.

And so, we begin with the tale of John Honeyman.

Who in this nation’s formative years would have ever considered the possibility that the founding of a great nation would be hoisted by the shoulders of a reluctant double-dealing spy and his Haitian friend, two men who seemed destined as nothing more than historical interludes?

Such is the brief but epic tale of two minor characters who bring legend to the ancestral workings of one of history’s mightiest nations, and who became legends themselves.


Mary was a Covenanter like me. Our opposition to the crown was genuine. It is true that I provided some fine years of service to the crown, but that was a trajectory led not by loyalty to England but to the colonel I had saved on the deck of the Boyrie those years ago, to the man who became a general, a man steeped in bravery, a man I admired unwaveringly.

My first loyalty as a Covenanter was to the church of Scotland, which was no friend to the crown and its episcopal authority.

In those early years, I witnessed General Wolfe battle the French with steadfast courage. His accomplishments during the Siege of Louisbourg led to his forward change of rank. With his ascending fortune, so went mine. We were twins of character, with the only differences being he with ambition, me with no more longings than a fire stoking the coals in my belly for any adventure I could find.

General Wolfe met an unkind fate. I was an oarsman on a small boat navigating a channel of the St. Lawrence during one of the battles that would eventually drive the French out of Quebec. Ahead of us was Fort Levi under the purple dawn of morning. I gasped as a cannonball sheared the top off the head of the officer sitting next to the general in front of me. I don’t know what became of my manners toward the dead; perhaps it is war that allows for such savage response, but I exclaimed, as I looked at the poor lad’s remains dripping across my lap, “He had more brains than an ox,” to which the General, despite the kindness of his soul, laughed; he, too, apparently overtaken by the horror of the moment.

We set ashore, cannonball and musket blasts all around. We made haste for a tall embankment that had been constructed by a team under great fire before our arrival. The number of bodies strewn across our way informed me that the effort was a brave one, one not counted during the lives of the lost souls who had somehow stacked broken masonry fallen from prior fighting – just enough for us to cower under during the steady barrage. Reinforcements arrived quickly, so numbers gave us the confidence to move out, slogging through mud and bodies and blood, through thickets made from a forest pollarded and shorn by battle.

That was when my man was hit. I do not have a way to express the remorse I felt at that moment, my shame, even, as General Wolfe’s bodyguard. He took a musket blast directly to the chest. From where, to this day, I do not know. A pelting rain had begun to blow at a nearly horizontal angle. The visibility was poor.

I spent several years in a despondent state as a refugee from guilt, trying mightily to earn sufficient wages to tilt my chin upwards a smidgen, just enough to keep it from its desired place on my chest as I walked forlornly through the streets of towns that were learning how to govern and keep themselves a party to commerce whilst surrounded by folk who, at that time, I considered barbarians.

I made my way south. I wanted no quarter with people whom I truly thought were savage brutes, neither their trade nor their godless ways. They were unavoidable in the environs of Quebec and other portions of the northern colonies. I set for the grander settlements that had established a greater order over the wild men of the feathers and animal skins and bloody tomahawks.

A few years before meeting General Washington in 1775, I settled in Philadelphia. There, I mustered the desire to send my grief to the gallows. I met Mary Henry, an Irish lass from Coleraine near Londonderry. Her hair was a red fireball of tightly wound interlocking waves, her face lit by dozens of charming light red spots. She was what you would describe as a full woman, neither tall nor short, eloquent despite a shortened education, her lips a smoldering thin curvature of pink that curled a smile finely upwards into sets of three narrow dimples on each end. Her green eyes were lucent. Whenever I looked into them, they seemed to offer an opportunity to explore a side of human nature I was unaccustomed to.

When I courted her, she began to bestow upon me the most profane compliments, such that I dare not repeat, but the tamest. “You have the person of a gladiator,” she said to me in her Irish tongue, one thicker than even mine, as we danced closely after a long night amongst folk who were drunkenly blind to our physical indiscretions.

She whispered into my ear such alarming words that I laughed as she pressed her hips against mine, forcing me to say with wild abandon, “I have no choice now but to ask for your hand in marriage.” As I said that, she kissed me wildly on the lips, sending me into a vision of a thousand children scattering about, their knees collecting splinters from heavily worn floorboards made rugged by their rambunctiousness.

After our wedding, we moved ourselves and our few belongings to Somerset, where our lust for each other nearly drove us into poverty. After beginning a nest of those rambunctious children, I eventually found my way out of Mary’s bed into the streets of Griggstown per General Washington’s request, into the hands of British merchants and Indians looking to steal their way into my trade. This seemed suitable considering my assignment.

Griggstown was a colonial town. I was to play the part of a Tory, but quietly against the whisperings of a chosen few that Washington trusted to my determinations.

There was one particularly mischievous fellow. He was not descended from the local tribes but instead had found his way into the northern reaches of the continent by way of New Orleans from the slave islands south of Florida. His name was Guillaume Diderot.

He called himself a cimarron. He told tall tales of his escape as a slave from those southern islands, where he claimed to have learned many skills and several languages. He certainly spoke English well enough, with an interesting accent I would be challenged to precisely describe. One might sense it as French, but there was a lingering, unfamiliar cadence to its shortened affect.

Diderot was a thin reed of a man with skin the color one might expect when encountering the offspring of a local Indian and an African slave. He always wore an elongated red kerchief that stretched beyond the back of his head and held braids of hair that fell nearly to the shoulder.

He bore two loop rings in each ear. The rings hung from wide wooden coin-like objects trapped within a shocking, gaping hole bored into each earlobe. It was an appalling site at first glance. My first thought was that perhaps a demon from Beelzebub had alighted into my stall, which I filled each morning with salted meats and blankets crafted the European way.

The streets of Griggstown, both, I hasten to add, were busy with merchants like me. There was a blacksmith noisily grinding at a storefront just behind me, a haberdashery and tailor at another storefront, and a medicine filler from London whose mixtures were suspect, according to local conversation. His shop across the dirty street from where I set up my stall was a masoned box of filth.

There were only two other storefronts in the settlement. One of those was occupied by a lawman who could never be found. The other was occupied by a cooper making casks and barrels. Other stalls were occupied by two other weavers, one other butcher, a cobbler, and Guillaume Diderot, a purveyor of everything, it seemed. Indians occasionally visited for fur trading, but I bore no interest in them.

When Diderot first visited my stall, I tried to ignore him, but he was insistent in his countenance. “An impressive display,” he said to me when I finally turned away from my work with a sigh.

“Yes, it requires considerable upkeep,” I replied in a way I hoped he’d understand as a busy protestation against engagement.

Blanceurpéen, you have not sold a thing since you dropped your first cask of salt pork into the back of your stall,” he laughed. “What’s to clean up, huh? I think maybe you simply do not like a cimarrone like me, non?”

This was when I noticed his ghastly earrings. I wished to fall to my knees and query the Lord on who sent this demon, but instead, I put my hands on the counter of my stall and leaned forward. “Tis a constant effort to keep the flies and such away,” I said.

“Wait!” The cimarron ran off before I was given a chance to say anything further.

He returned with a large cup of black pepper. “You dump this on top of your barrels, non? No more chasing flies, mon frère.”

“Pepper? Where did you find such copious amounts of pepper?” I asked incredulously. “I have searched all of Somerset County for pepper.”

He extended his hand. “Guillaume Diderot, at your service.” I reluctantly took it. For he had pepper.

“John Honeyman,” I said. “What do you want for the pepper?”

“Ah, non. That is a gift.” He smiled widely. “A welcoming to this small part of the world, non?”

Oui,” said I. “Merci,” I bowed.

“Ah, a man of dignity. You should visit the wildlands of Florida, mon frère. A bow like that might undo your head.”

He then began to tell me some of his adventures.

Diderot had escaped a sugar plantation in Saint-Domingue, the French portion of Hispaniola where he had been enslaved. The work was arduous to such an extent that to describe it would humble the cruelest London prison warden.

I had little regard or interest in the work or lives of slaves until this moment. There were many slaves in the northern colonies, this I knew. Many coastland counties of New Hampshire were so populated with Africans that slaves outnumbered Europeans. The counties surrounding Somerset were also teeming with them.

Bolo’s Notes

Most Europeans of the late 18th century, when not using derogatory terms, referred to Afrikers as Africans. The term Afriker, used to distinguish people of African heritage living in the Americas, did not gain widespread use until the early 19th century, primarily, at first, in the Carolina Union.

Still, I had experienced little chance to encounter slaves or slavers. I was myself a workingman — a cattleman, a butcher, a weaver, not in any particular order, only in the order that suited me during any one moment. I had some dexterity in my skill set, but I was not wealthy. I therefore could not contemplate the purchase of a slave. As Diderot spoke, it became upon me that I could not consider such a venture were it to chance upon me.

Diderot had escaped the tortured fields of the sprawling sugar plantation to Cap-Français, a thriving city on the north of Hispaniola Island. There, he met a man named Jean-Baptiste Chavannes, a highly educated gen de couleur who directed Diderot to a covert education camp in Cap-Français. Diderot’s highly refined intelligence suggested to me that the camp was successful. His language skills in English and French were more capable than mine. Diderot stayed at the camp for some time, learning, he insisted, as much as any fine European university education could offer.

One day, the camp’s leader, a Saint-Domingue woman named Françoise Alain, was scavenging for supplies when she was accosted by several members of gendarmes representing northern gens de couleur plantation owners.

Mon frère,” Diderot said to me, “these gens de couleur, they were the worst of all people in Saint-Domingue. Some, such as Chavannes, they agitated for abolition, non? But then we had those bloody gendarmes. Should they not have known better? You see, the gens de couleur were people born of French slave owners and their slave concubines. They considered themselves quite superior to the slave with pure African blood. Alas, one never knew what they might do. They may help you, non? Or they may assault you and extinguish a hundred dreams. That is what they did, my friend. They took poor Françoise to parish authorities, where she was hammered to death in a public spectacle.” He shook his head at this and wiped his mouth, looking at me with wide eyes. “They extinguished a hundred dreams. That was her number of students.”

“Hammered?” I asked. “As in, with a hammer?”

Oui, what else?”

“Good God, and a woman.”

“A woman, and a woman of great culture, empathy, and understanding.”

“And then what brought you here?”

“Ah, not here. To Florida, where I navigated through city streets full of the demonic overlords from España.” Diderot leaned toward me and whispered, “Do you know, Monsieur Honeyman, that the devils from France appear as true angels when standing astride the demons from España?” He nodded his head forcefully.

He described the horrors of Spanish slavers in Florida with such gruesome detail that I found myself leaning against the counter of my stall praying that I would not wretch before my storyteller’s eyes. He also described an interesting people he called Seminole. “These were my people, mon frère, in many ways. You see, I too was descended from a First Settler and a slave, but of course I had to win my freedom through escape. I do believe something treasured happens when the blending of a people occurs. These Seminole, ah, a beautiful people. A mixture of freed slaves from your Eastern Coasts, or sometimes from the slave islands, and the First Settlers of this land.”

“Savages?” I looked around, frightened, as if I might be soon impaled by one of their accursed arrows as I spoke.

Non, non, non, my friend. First Settlers, they are traders first. You see this here in the north, non?”

I shook my head. “I, well, I can’t say. I have had little reason to barter with such folk.”

Diderot looked at me as if I had announced that I was a ghost. Then he waved his hand at my stall. “This does explain why your only visitors have wings and six legs, does it not, Monsieur Honeyman?”

I looked around. There wasn’t an Indian to be seen among the few people milling about other stalls. I was not missing their business since there were none. I shrugged.

“Ah, no matter. Tomorrow, you shall meet Jacob Longfish. You will like him. You will see. May I sample a bit of your salt beef or pork?”

I retrieved some beef for him. He nibbled on it. “Outstanding, mon frère. Jacob Longfish will happily establish a trading business with you.”

I came to know Diderot well. My initial presumptions regarding his character had not been generous, but I grew fond of the man and became an admirer of his panache, as well as what I perceived as a legitimacy to his air. His descriptions regarding the nature of slavery appalled me. In my ignorance, I had perhaps perceived the slaver’s relationship with the slave as akin to a landowner’s relationship with his servant. It was nothing of the sort. After Diderot’s abysmal reports, I concluded that slavers were universally evil descendants of the same sectors of God’s universe that gave birth to the worst of human history.

When I met Jacob Longfish, my pre-ordained opinion was again pleasantly corrected. He was very nearly a man of the cloth, so imbued was he with the Christian faith, which he told me was acquired during his frequent bouts with the French not a hundred miles further north, where he met some success trading with an English settlement.

He was a Mohawk who lived among his kind in the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, which had allied itself with the British during the wars between Britain and France. This alliance was now extended to the current troubles in the Colonies. When I first met him, he wore traditional Iroquois clothing. The deerskin cap he wore was wrapped around his head and covered with three eagle feathers and an insignia representing the Mohawk nation. He was a slightly built man with a nose like a beak and a grim smile even when he seemed happy, which was frequent.

Bolo’s Notes

Jacob Longfish is also known to historians by his Mohawk name Kentsio’shon a’kserakwé:kon

Griggstown had become a difficult venture for Longfish because it was a rebel stronghold whose residents held incendiary views toward the Mohawks. Longfish evaded the problem easily enough by feigning Algonquin lineage, as Algonquins were aligned with the French. Few colonial settlers could discern the difference.

Diderot, Longfish, and I began to drink tea every morning before our respective stall duties. Longfish risked a stall location despite the potential for discovery regarding his tribal affiliation. When I observed Diderot and Longfish engaged with one another, I realized that Diderot, rather than mercantilism, was the attraction for Longfish.

Our morning drinks were always the same — a strong tea concoction created by Longfish that provided a welcome boost to my morning that far outshone any coffee or English teas. The concoction seemed to keep me awake long after I needed it, and when I arrived home to Mary in the evening, instead of collapsing exhausted from my workday, I was still full of enough energy to potentially sire several more rambunctious children.

One morning we three men were gathered along a tree line just outside the settlement, enjoying Longfish’s hot brew, when Diderot presented some alarming news about General Washington. “He is said to be on the run, mon frère. He has lost New York to the British and he is making his way across this very province as we speak, his troops in disarray.”

I assumed he was seeking a reaction from me, as I had never explained my loyalties, either those assigned by General Washington or otherwise. These loyalties I found troublingly in flux, given rumored promises that the British were offering full emancipation to slaves in return for their efforts against the rebels. In the course of knowing my two new darker-skinned friends, I had quickly become a committed abolitionist and a sympathizer to the original continental settlers who inhabited the forests. In the case of these original settlers, I had confused a non-European lifestyle with savagery.

“I trust that what I say here stays here.” I looked at both men. They nodded. “I am Irish. If I could claim this fine land for Ireland, ‘tis what I would do. Alas, wee Ireland is not a naval power, and shall not be. I am therefore the wicket of the larger door that opens before me. Whether that door is opened by Haudenosaunee or Britain, or a new nation carved out of these current troubles, matters not a whit to me, so long as I can continue my tradecraft.”

Longfish nodded at that, along with his square deerskin hat, its three feathers seemingly moving in different directions as he did so. He said, “I claim this land for the Haudenosaunee, but it is a broken claim, as this land is lost. Whether under the feet of colonial rebels or the British crown, it shall remain under the unfortunate direction of the people of bloodless skin.”

Oui,” agreed Diderot, lifting his cup into the air and drinking. “Then I propose we bind our loyalties to one another, friends.”

“I shall drink fondly to that,” I said. Longfish concurred, and the three of us clinked our cups together.


The next day I was greeted at my stall by a tall Algonquin, as Diderot later informed me, who passed a parchment bound with a gilded seal shaped like a star that read, “Com.-in-chief”. After I dismissed the Algonquin, Diderot skittered to my stall. “Shall I follow him, monsieur?” I shook my head as I carefully opened the parchment. I was being summoned to General Washington’s confines at Summerseat, across the Delaware from Trenton, which was falling into the hands of the crown.

Like many in this New Jersey province, I was a man torn between two purposes. There was my distaste for the crown, but in recent weeks I had grown an even greater distaste for slavery. Most Griggstown citizens were firmly in the rebel camp, but many maintained a romantic notion of their British roots. There was little interest in the subject of slavery for anyone but the most avowed political activists, who generally seemed opposed unless they had mercantile interests that could directly benefit from unpaid hands.

Monsieur Diderot,” I said formally to him, even though by now, as our relationship grew, I was most often calling him anything but, “What do you think of this British promise to free the slaves? Is it the ruse I suspect it to be?”

“Ah, yes, my friend, isn’t that the question of our ages? We must presume so, must we not? But there are movements afoot, Monsieur Honeyman,” he said, returning the favor of formality. “I mustn’t say of what these are, for to tell you endangers your person and your fine family. Alors, you seem capable of putting yourself in enough danger of your own accord, non?”

Oui,” I smiled. “But why even trust me with that little information? I am holding here in my hands a letter from the Colonial Commander in Chief himself. You put yourself at great risk comporting yourself in any way with the likes of me.”

“The likes of you? Monsieur Honeyman, I believe I know your person better than you. I shall tell you with confidence that you will listen to your General Washington and do precisely the opposite of his next request.” He shook his head. “This is not a command from one friend to another, or a demand, or any such thing. This is a prediction that I know to be true as well as I know that the blossoms hanging from the cherry trees of Mount Vernon will be blackened by the flames of war.”

I smiled at that. “Well, I am fairly certain I have no idea what plans he has of me.”

“But plans of some kind. This we know. A sealed parchment from the Colonial Commander sent behind enemy lines. Yes, there are plans. Of that we are certain. Your General is a man of risk-taking aptitude.”

“A quality which seems to be in the blood of every general,” I said, thinking of my friend Wolfe. “And our Algonquin friend, who risked each hair on his head to deliver this,” I added, waving the parchment.

“Curious the general could not find a Haudenosaunee to traitor his cause for a princely sum,” said Diderot.

“Washington is a master sleuth in the arts of espionage. He plays the game well. I suspect he simply could not find someone trustworthy.”

“Someone like yourself, non?” If sarcasm could be defined in tone, surely this was it.

“I have not said I intend to betray the General.” I knew there was little Diderot could do to impede any assignment General Washington had in mind short of killing me, but I didn’t believe he would make such an attempt.

“Of course not.” Diderot walked back to his stall, seemingly knowing more of my plans than me.

I had never shared with Diderot that Washington was providing a healthy stipend for my activities here in Griggstown, but I suspected he knew. The quiet of my stall said as much. Diderot was a clever man, aware of the most infinitesimal details surrounding his presence.

I applied a portion of that stipend to purchase the use of a horse to make use of a skill I had learned during the war with the French. I would ride quickly to a place called Summerseat, using roads delineated by Washington on a second parchment map that arrived hours later, brought to my wife’s hands by a small boy, she said, not ten years old.

“He was a scruffy lad, I say,” she said. “Full of dust and such turmoil in his eyes for a wee young lad. I felt for the boy, I did.”

“Shall I search for the missing foodstuffs you gave him while enraptured with your empathy, my dear, or shall you just declare them out now for me and save me the trouble?” I kissed her lovely forehead, my lips dodging wild red curls.

She smiled. “A small baked loaf ‘tis all, Mr. Honeyman.”

“Well that’s a fine thing then,” I said, and it was.

I made a decision that at the time seemed inconsequential aside from the routine risk of discovery that I had already become accustomed to. I decided to bring Diderot.

In one sense I was discovering within myself a sense of loyalty toward those I admired. It became that my frame of political reference was driven much more by that loyalty than toward polity. Whether the world is crumbling around you, or whether good fortune has coalesced, neither matter, I reckoned, more than with whom you surrounded yourself as such events transpired. The mischievous Diderot seemed honorable to his core, but there was more to the man that I was eager to understand. A long ride together was likely to provide it.

Besides, he had experience with hard travel. A reliable companion seemed like a good course of action.

He was a good horseman, as it turned out. There were only two treacherous ravines near the summits of each of two small hillocks during the daylong ride. We drove the horses hard, often at a two-beat pace, with occasional gallops to honor General Washington’s request for haste.

It was by now early December. The Delaware would be a wretched force if General Washington’s promised bridge was not in service.

Hessians, the German mercenary forces employed by the crown to enact enhanced orders of viciousness without the crown’s formal signature, had not yet taken firm positions around Trenton. Nevertheless, if by chance General Washington’s assurances regarding a horse-worthy bridge were mistaken, my mission was doomed. I was glad to have Diderot as my riding companion, even though he would need to ride with stealth during our approach to Summerseat.

There was no bridge.

Upon my first view of the mighty Delaware, as we dismounted for a closer look, I was able to understand why. The waterway was an angry river of icy surges sweeping and swelling against its shores. It was far too wide for a bridge to be quickly constructed under the duress of military maneuver.

Diderot pointed to a break in the tree line along the shore. “Boats,” he said.

“Several,” I nodded, cold fog pushing out of my mouth as I spoke. General Washington’s clear deception was not at the forefront of my mind. Men were milling about. Colonial rebels, of that I had no doubt.

Before we could proceed with a plan, I heard branches breaking behind me. I felt as if I had fallen to ambush. A man appeared out of the woodlands into the break of trees where Diderot and I were standing, pointing a musket as several more men followed behind.

“What say you?” said the man with the musket. He wore a disheveled long coat. His face, darkened by the need for a shave, was nearly hidden by streaks of long greasy hair.

“We are cattlers who have strayed some,” I said. “The river has taken us by surprise, as we had not expected it for several miles forward.” I nodded in the direction of the loud rushing coil of water.

“Cattle rustlers no doubt,” said the rebel disdainfully. He rammed the back end of his musket into my gut, which I seized with both hands as I fell to my knees in pain. When he nodded to the boats, his men pulled me up by my elbows and dragged me toward the water. I looked behind for Diderot, but he was miraculously gone, along with his horse, as if consumed by the forest. Two men seemed to be giving chase.

They brought me to a boat, pushed me so that the bones of my lower legs smacked against its side, and I tumbled into it. “How many have you stolen?” the man with the musket asked as his men pushed out into the water.

My clouded eyes tried to search for Diderot, but the two men who had run for him returned without him.

“Penalties for stealing cattle are not to be trifled with, Tory. If the Commander himself had not ordered your live capture, I would kill you here.”

“The Commander said nothing about a good knock about,” said one of the men on the boat, and with that, all went dark.