Daily Archives: Friday, 21 February 2014

FFF 21: Washington on the Delaware

It wasn’t really like that, you know; Washington on the Delaware, I mean. First thing that doesn’t really come across is how cold it was that night. I should know; I was one of the watermen guiding the boats for the surprise attack, and it was cold. Offered up my own Durham boat for the cause, though, and it was worth it. (Lost one of my pinky fingers to frostbite, too, but that was because of a faulty glove and an overzealous poleman—that is, me—not because of the general or any commander underneath him.)

Poling across a river is one thing; doing it on ice with tons of men and weapons on board in the dead of night on Christmas Day is another. The Delaware River that night wasn’t taking any prisoners, either. If a man fell in, might as well have just shot him on the spot for all the good we could’ve done him. And every single man wore gloves, if ‘e had them; rags if ‘e didn’t. We may’ve been simple soldiers, but even we knew frostbite could lose us a limb or two… or our lives, if we weren’t careful.

I really wanted to be home with my wife that day, honestly. It was Christmas, after all, and I hadn’t seen her since signing up with the other men in Marblehead. After December 31st, though, I was a free man again, and I guess Washington wasn’t going to let us go without a final fight with the Tories.

But what’s with this flag? We didn’t have any flag like this that night; best I know, this flag came later. We had the Continental Colors, of course, along with all of our individual regiment’s flags. The light here’s all wrong, too; it was night, and this looks like day. Or, at least, not night. We had horses, like this here, but they rode out on ferries behind the Durhams. I think the canons and large weapons came over on the ferries, too, but I don’t remember seeing any. We must’ve brought them over, though, because we had ’em on the other side.

Don’t know anything about any Monroe, either, but I wasn’t in charge and I was only ever told anything on a “need to know” basis. Guess I just didn’t need to know.

The crossing was narrower, too, thank God. Washington never stepped foot on my Durham, but I saw him trying to keep his hat on in the driving rain in another boat several yards up. Always did wonder about his wooden teeth. If I’d had wooden or ivory teeth at that time, I’m sure I’d have clattered them out of my head into the water from the cold. Luckily for me, I only lost a finger and not an entire hand… or all my teeth.

Lost many of my brothers in arms in the battle that immediately followed that crossing, even though we had the upper hand at first on account of our little surprise for the Tories. God rest their souls; my brothers’ souls, I mean. The Tory souls can rot.

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This post is part of Flash Fiction February.

The Last King of the Jews

The Last King of the Jews coverThe Last King of the Jews
By Jean-Claude Lattès
Translated by William Rodarmor
Éditions Robert Laffont
14 January 2014

I know very little about Jewish history, so reading an entire book about Agrippa kind of out of the blue was certainly an experience. Most of what I do know centers around Jesus (because I was raised Christian) and World War II (in a “let’s never do that again” kind of way). I was worried that The Last King of the Jews would be reminiscent of Last King of Scotland, but thankfully, Agrippa was a “peace-loving, thoughtful, tolerant ruler” and therefore nothing at all like Idi Amin.

At the beginning of this biography, after a brief section which details the cast of characters (which I admit blurred together a bit for me), the author makes a number of notations. First, the story presented is a staged novel, complete with points of view, judgments, and the prejudices of the era. Second, and more importantly for me, there’s an appendix at the end that gives a very brief history of the Jews and Judea up to 43 BCE, definitely recommended reading for someone who knows as little Jewish history as I do.

In a case where I need to flip back and forth for end notes and appendices, as I did with The Last King of the Jews, I really prefer to have a hardcopy rather than the ebook version I was provided, if only for ease of use on my part, but that’s not a point against the biography itself, just the format. I don’t think that it’s being sold in print form (only as an ebook, as far as I’m aware), however, so take that into consideration when purchasing. To the publisher’s credit, the virtual copy I received was well-formatted, and I was able to move back and forth between sections with only basic difficulty.

After reading the survey of Jewish history, I still think that The Last King is at least an intermediary text rather than an introductory one. On every page, names I probably should’ve recognized (at least recognized in context) just flew by without sticking. I was able to get the feel for recurring characters, of course, but not in the sense that I could connect them to any actual historical personage outside the context of the story. (The one exception to this was that I was able to place Herod, the king who sent the three wise men to visit Jesus.)

It was like reading a historical novel, honestly, and if I hadn’t known it was actually a biography, I might’ve just taken the story as fiction. (See how much I don’t know about Jewish history? Sad, I know.) The Last King has so much information in it, however, that trying to absorb it all makes it a slow, albeit entertaining, read. I’ll have to return to Agrippa again in the future in order to take in more of the history, which was at times overwhelming the first read through.

DISCLAIMER: I received The Last King of the Jews free from Open Road Integrated Media for this review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.