NEWS FROM MANY FRONTS
Watertown, December 1675
Jonathan had just heard that Nathaniel Davenport, who was serving on the jury at the Boston Court of Assistants, had agreed to take command of the fifth company in the Massachusetts Regiment for the Narragansett Campaign. He was conscripting Cambridge and Watertown men; he’d given notice to Jonathan and his brother.
“We’re not soldiers. We’re farmers. Even our Captain.” Jonathan sat at the boards with Mary, who had put the children to bed. “Sure, we’ve learned how to march, how to mind our superiors, how to shoot. But we aren’t fighting soldiers in England. We’re fighting Indians.”
“What do you mean?” Mary asked.
“Indians don’t fight like proper soldiers. They don’t line up and march out in the open. They skulk, behind trees, in the bushes. They hide in the stinking swamps. We can’t see them or hear them. A third of our men are trained pikemen, used to hold off assaults on horseback, not naked men on foot. Sometimes I think that being farmers, not real soldiers, is an advantage. We get it all wrong, but that’s why we survive.”
“Do you know anything about this Captain Davenport?”
“I hear he doesn’t use pikemen, but I don’t know if he employs Indians the way Captain Oliver did. That’s why I wanted to be in Oliver’s company. I think that fighting Indians we must to learn to think like them. Don’t know how we’re going to do that unless we fight beside them.”
“You make sense.”
“I think Captain Beers would be alive, and twenty of his men, if he’d learned to get along with the ‘savages’ he swore were Devils. He’d never use Indians in his company.”
“What does Will think?”
“Will’s a different category. He’s cavalry. They do the scouting. Now Captain Prentice, he is never without Indian scouts in his troop.”
“Is Thomas going with your company?”
“We’ll be together.”
“When will you leave?”
“Tomorrow. The Indians don’t fight in winter, but Major Winslow read the almanack. It’s predicting a warm winter, so he’s going to take advantage and attack the Indians while they’re in retreat. They won’t be prepared.”
The next morning, Mary fretted over the clothes that Jonathan wore into battle. In December, there was no telling when the weather would turn for the worse, and she’d woken from a dream in which the snow fell so thickly vision was cut off just feet ahead.
“Take your Monmouth.” Mary handed the cap and mittens bundled in a fur neckpiece to her husband. “Your hat will be of no use if the weather turns.”
“No need. Like I said, the almanack says the winter’s to be the mildest in decades. The Major knows it; that’s why we’re pushing our advantage. The Narragansetts have retreated, but we’ll route them.”
“That’s what you think. I have another sense.”
“You’re seeing visions?”
“But you can’t tell when or where? As usual?”
“I can only warn you as much as I know. Snow, deep snow. You would take the Almanack as truth before you trust me? Does the Almanack tell you when and where this fine weather falls?”
“You’ve made your point.” Grudgingly, he took the bundle and shoved it into his belt. “I don’t want you to worry.”
“Tell me again where you’re going. I need to know.” She clutched his arm, unwilling to let him join his brother Thomas, who waited at the door.
Jonathan sighed; he’d grown used to his wife’s needs over the years. Her acute sensory perception unsettled her. Only being able to match reality with her visions gave her any peace, and she wanted to know the whereabouts of all her immediate family. He began his recitation: “Will is riding Pilgrim with Captain Prentice, the cavalry division of the Massachusetts Regiment. That’s Major Appleton’s regiment. Thomas and I are riflemen in company five, under Captain Nathaniel Davenport. We all rendezvous at William Woodcock’s Garrison in Attleboro. We’ll be following the Old Bay Road there, and then we march south to meet the allied regiments at Seakonk.”
“Thank you. I must put words to what I see. Your brother’s waiting. You go now, before I—” Mary turned away, catching her lower lip in her teeth. She felt such fear for him it took her breath away.
“You’ll hear news from the front. We’re a thousand strong. We aren’t going to vanish in a swamp.”
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