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.
This post is part of Flash Fiction February.