Set against the backdrop of the unthinkable turmoil that accompanied the formation of America, Saratoga is the thrilling first installment in a series that will chronicle the birth of a nation and the stories of the men and women hopelessly caught in its wake.
It is May 1777 nearly a year after the British colonies in America have declared independence from the crown. The mammoth British military machine has been dispatched to stamp out this minor annoyance, but the American rebels have shown a surprisingly stubborn resistance to being put back in their place. The past year has seen skirmishes from Crown Point to Fort Ticonderoga.
Captain Jamie Skoyles is a career soldier in the British Army who has made a reputation of conspicuous gallantry for himself with his unswerving bravery and uncanny luck. He fights alongside unquestioning British patriots in the unfamiliar lands of America. As costly, bumbling mistakes begin to pile up, and the American rebels surge with confidence, Skoyles can't help but begin to mistrust the arrogant generals whom he serves.
Unable to pursue his love, a woman betrothed to a fellow officer, Skoyles must instead focus on staying alive and furthering the empire's cause in his own small corner of the war. As the two vast armies converge on Saratoga in what will prove the first large-scale test of the conflict, the American rebels gain momentum and British victory no longer seems certain. Captain Skoyles soon finds his loyalties severely tested as he imagines life after the war, which he intends to live in the new world, no matter which flag flies over it.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.53(w) x 8.18(h) x 0.86(d)|
About the Author
David Garland is the pseudonym for an award-winning crime fiction author of more than seventy books. A playwrite, actor, and historian with a lifelong interest in British and American history, Garland lives in England.
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A Novel of the American Revolution
By Garland, David
St. Martin's Griffin
Copyright © 2006
All right reserved.
Crown Point, October 1776
The musket ball hit him right in the middle of the forehead and burrowed into his brain. With a stifled cry, Private Samuel Farrar dropped straight to the ground, his body motionless, his hands still gripping his weapon, his grotesque third eye weeping blood. Nicholas Ottley was horrified.
"They've shot him," he gulped.
"Sam is dead. They've killed him."
"Come on, lad!"
Captain Jamie Skoyles dived instinctively for cover and tried to pull the young soldier behind him, but he was too late. A second shot was fired from the other side of the clearing and Ottley felt as if a hot poker had just been thrust into his stomach. Knocked back on his heels, he lost all control of his body and collapsed in a heap, tossing his Brown Bess musket into the bushes as he did so. Ottley clutched his wound and stared at Skoyles with utter disbelief.
"I've been hit, Captain," he said, his face contorted with pain.
"Sharpshooters. Hidden in the trees."
"Am I going to die?"
"Not if I can help it," said Skoyles, retrieving the fallen musket and checking that it was loaded. "Lie still until this is all over."
"I thought I'd besafe with you, sir."
There was a note of accusation in Private Ottley's voice and disenchantment in his eyes. He was blaming the officer for failing to protect him in the way that he had always done in the past. Ottley was a spindly, fresh-faced youth of seventeen summers who reminded Skoyles of himself at that age. For that reason, he had gone out of his way to help him adapt to the rigors of army life, teaching him to make the most of his lot and saving him from some of the ritual bullying that new recruits invariably suffered. All that now remained of Skoyles's patient instruction was a frightened boy, robbed of his dreams of military glory and doubled up in agony beside him.
One soldier dead, another disabled. Skoyles was on his own. The first thing he had to do was to assess the strength of the enemy. Two shots had been fired, but he sensed that the ambush might involve more men. To find out, he pretended to crawl out of his hiding place to collect the discarded musket from beside Private Farrar, who was lying several yards away. A third shot bit the ground less than a foot in front of him and sent a flurry of dust up into his face. Skoyles rolled quickly back out of sight, certain now that there were at least three of them because neither of the first two would have had time to reload his weapon and fire again.
Jamie Skoyles and his men were part of a patrol that had been combing the woods for enemy soldiers who had fled from the fort at Crown Point as the British army pushed south. Separated from the other members of the 24th Foot, the three redcoats had gone deeper and deeper into the woodland, unaware that they were about to walk into a trap. British uniforms were colorful targets. Two soldiers had already been hit. Distant gunfire confirmed that Skoyles and his companions were not the only ones who had met resistance. It was bad news. It meant that nobody from the main group would be able to come to their aid.
Lying flat on his stomach, Skoyles poked the musket through the bush and tried to ignore a twinge of guilt. Sam Farrar had been a veteran soldier, older than his captain, a man who had cheated death in combat a dozen times. His luck had finally run out. Farrar would be missed but not mourned. Nick Ottley was different. He was young, innocent, burning with the fire of youth, eager to do well, but untried in action. He had worshipped Captain Jamie Skoyles, willingly entrusting his life to him. Yet he had now been cut down by a solitary musket ball, a brave soldier turned into a whimpering animal. Skoyles felt responsible.
Survival was his priority. If he could pull through, there was an outside chance that Skoyles could help the wounded Ottley back to camp before he bled to death. But the odds were stacked against him. Armed with a musket, a pistol, and a sword, Skoyles was up against at least three men, each of whom had now had time to reload his weapon and decide on his next move. While they knew exactly where he was, Skoyles had no idea where they were concealed. They could come at him from any direction. One of them might even work his way around the clearing so that he could stalk Skoyles from behind.
"It hurts, Captain," Ottley gasped. "It hurts like hell."
"Be quiet, lad."
"I can't stop the blood."
"Hold still," snapped Skoyles. "I need to listen."
Scanning the trees on the other side of the clearing, Skoyles pricked up his ears when he heard the snap of a twig off to the right. Someone was on the move. He waited, watched, and eventually caught a glimpse of a body, creeping stealthily through the undergrowth. It was enough. In a flash, Skoyles raised the musket, took aim, and fired. A loud grunt and the sound of a body falling into the bushes told him that he had hit his target.
The momentary feeling of triumph gave way instantly to a sense of alarm as two figures suddenly emerged from the other side of the clearing and ran toward him with their weapons at the ready. They knew that Skoyles would have no time to reload his musket or to grab the one that lay beside Farrar. The decoy had been sent ahead to draw his fire. With the two men only twenty yards away, Skoyles pulled his pistol from his holster and leveled it but he had no chance to pull the trigger. One of the oncoming rebels discharged his musket and the ball went into Skoyles's right shoulder, forcing him to drop the pistol and stumble backward. A searing pain made his eyes mist over. There was another loud report as the second man fired, but the lead ball sailed past Skoyles's head and buried itself in the trunk of a tree.
Wielding their muskets by the barrels, the men surged even closer, intent on beating his brains out with brute force. Skoyles tried to draw his sword with his right hand but he set off an inferno in his shoulder. Only his left hand could save him. Using it to extract the weapon, he dodged the first man, then lifted his sword to parry a blow from the other's flailing musket. Skoyles ducked, feinted, then thrust home. The point of his blade sank deep into the man's chest before being pulled out with a practiced flick.
As one rebel collapsed to the ground, the other swung his musket hard and caught Skoyles across the back, making him lurch drunkenly forward and sending fresh tremors of agony through his shoulder. He spun round to face his attacker and was momentarily shocked. Looking at him properly for the first time, Skoyles saw that his adversary was even younger than Private Ottley, a scrawny lad, no more than fourteen or fifteen, with ragged clothes and bare feet. The boy's cheeks were pinched with hunger, but his eyes were alight at the thought of his prize. To kill a redcoat officer would earn him status and respect. Charging in again, he swung his musket with murderous power.
Skoyles ducked beneath it and jabbed with his sword, drawing a trickle of blood from the other's thigh. If he was old enough to kill, he decided, the boy was old enough to die. For his part, he would certainly not spare Skoyles. Coming at him with renewed energy, he tried to batter the wounded man into submission. All that Skoyles could do was to parry the blows with his sword as he retreated. Skoyles could feel his strength waning, his options closing down. The pain in his shoulder intensified. Blood was dribbling down his right arm. His vision was impaired. He could not hold out much longer.
When the musket was swung at him once more, he used his sword to deflect it and kicked out hard with his foot, catching the boy in the groin and making him howl with anger. With a slash of his blade, Skoyles sliced open his wrist and forced him to drop his weapon. Though writhing in agony, the boy was not finished yet. As Skoyles stood over him, panting for breath, the rebel soldier pulled a knife from his belt with his left hand and lunged at the redcoat in front of him. Skoyles stepped smartly out of reach so that his attacker was thrown off balance, then he put all of his remaining energy into one final thrust, impaling the boy on his sword point and watching the life drain out of him like water being poured from a jug. His victim made a futile attempt to spit his defiance before sinking to the ground.
Bruised and bleeding, Skoyles needed a few minutes to recover. A cry of desperation from Ottley reminded him that someone was wounded more seriously than he was. He staggered across to inspect the injured private. Ottley was in a bad state. Weak from loss of blood, he could do little more than groan pitifully. He had never realized how much torment a musket ball could inflict. Using only his left hand, Skoyles removed Ottley's canvas knapsack and undid the strap. Inside the knapsack, he found a shirt, three pairs of white yarn stockings, and two pairs of linen socks. Bundling them together, he used them to stanch the bleeding from the other's stomach.
"Press them against the wound," he advised.
He left Ottley and went across to Private Farrar. Inside the other soldier's knapsack were items that could used as emergency bandages for Skoyles's own wound. Unbuttoning his coat, he thrust a handful of stockings and socks up to his injured shoulder. He did not wish to leave any weapons for foraging rebels to find so he gathered up all the muskets and hid them quickly in the bushes, intending to recover them when he returned with a burial detail. Armed with his sword and pistol, he came back to Ottley. To leave him there would be to expose him to the risk of being caught by the enemy or, worse still, of being attacked by some of the predatory animals that inhabited the woods. Yet Skoyles had no strength to carry Private Ottley to safety. When he tried to lift him, the pounding in his right shoulder was unbearable.
"Sorry, lad," he said. "We'll have to do this the hard way."
Grabbing him by the collar, Skoyles began to drag him slowly across the grass with his left hand. Ottley did not protest. He pressed the bundle of clothing against his stomach, gritted his teeth and prayed. They had gone almost a mile before Skoyles passed out.
"Take a swig of this, Jamie," Tom Caffrey suggested, offering him a bottle of rum. "It's going to hurt."
"Where am I?"
"Not far from the camp. One of the Indians found you."
Skoyles had opened his eyes to look up at the reassuring face of his closest friend, Sergeant Tom Caffrey, an assistant surgeon with the regiment. The wounded officer lay on the ground where he had fallen. Caffrey had stripped him to the waist so that he could get at the wound to extract the musket ball, exposing a slim, muscular body that bore the scars of earlier battles. Brain still swimming, Skoyles recalled how he had come to be in that part of the wood.
"Where's Ottley?" he asked.
"Forget about him."
"See to him first, Tom. I can wait."
"The boy is way past my help," said Caffrey sadly. "There was so much damage to his innards that no surgeon in the world could have recovered him. Besides, I got here too late. He was already dead, Jamie."
"They've taken him back to camp for burial."
"I let the poor lad down."
Burning with remorse, Skoyles was also furious with himself for having unwittingly led Farrar and Ottley into an ambush. Both of the soldiers had paid for the mistake with their lives. Killing three rebels did not atone for the deaths of his men. Skoyles was chastened. His attempt to get Ottley to a place where he could receive medical attention had been doomed from the start. During the latter part of the exhausting journey, Skoyles had probably been dragging a corpse.
"Tell me what happened, Jamie," said Caffrey. "It will give you something to think about while I'm hunting for that piece of lead you've got lodged inside you." He held a bottle to Skoyles's lips. "Only drink this first. You'll need it."
Skoyles took a long sip of rum and let it course through him. It helped to steel him against what lay ahead. With his eyes closed, he told his friend what had befallen them in the wood. Caffrey, meanwhile, cleaned away the dried blood so that he could ease open the wound and search for the musket ball with his probe. Skoyles felt as if he had been shot all over again, and he winced, but he made no complaint. He simply raised his voice to tell his tale with more deliberation.
Caffrey worked quickly but carefully. He was a solid man in his forties with broad shoulders, a barrel chest, and thick arms. His face had a ruddy complexion, a broken nose, and the kind of pleasant ugliness that women somehow found disarming. The son of a Devon butcher, he had unaccountably ended up as an army surgeon. The irony of the situation never ceased to amuse him.
"We lost our way, Jamie," he said, probing gently until he made contact with the ball. "Both of us. We betrayed our birthright. Your father was a doctor, saving lives, whereas you get paid to take them. I come from a family of butchers, yet I spend all my time treating the effects of butchery--for what else are British soldiers except sides of beef, ready for the slab?" He twisted the instrument then pulled it gently toward him. "Got the little bugger!" he declared, holding the blood-covered musket ball on the palm of his hand. "You were very lucky. It missed the bone."
"I don't feel lucky, Tom."
"No, it must have hurt like hell." He cleaned the wound again so that he could stitch it up. "What you need now is a long rest."
"No," said Skoyles, trying to sit up, "I've got to lead a burial detail back to the place where it happened."
"Lie still," said Caffrey, pushing him gently down again with a hand on his chest. "I need to do some embroidery on you. And don't worry about Sam Farrar. The Indian scouts will find him easily enough. All they have to do is to follow the trail of blood that Nick Ottley left behind."
"I have to show them where I hid those muskets."
"All in good time, Jamie."
Skoyles recoiled slightly as the needle penetrated his skin, but he made no sound. Now that the musket ball was out, he was ready to bear any pain. What he was not prepared for was the shock that awaited him.
"You'll have plenty of time for this shoulder to heal," said the other with his soft West Country burr. "The fighting is over for this year."
"What do you mean?"
"General Carleton has decided to turn back."
"The devil he has!" exclaimed Skoyles, stung by the news. "Have we come all this way to let the rebels off the hook? It's lunacy, Tom!"
"Then they're bloody stupid orders. Why, in the bowels of Christ, must we retreat when we're only fifteen miles from Fort Ticonderoga? Take that and we destroy their northern army."
"Only after a long siege and that would take us into winter."
"Not if we strike hard enough."
"There are twelve thousand men in Ticonderoga, Jamie. They could hold out for months. By that time, we'll all have frozen to death."
"There are reports of a large garrison," argued Skoyles. "But I don't believe a word of them. They're devised to frighten us off. And even if there were that number at the fort, what state would they be in?"
"A better one than you at this moment."
"No, Tom. They'll be like those three ragamuffins I killed this afternoon--human scarecrows without a decent uniform or a pair of good boots among them. They looked as if they hadn't eaten for a month." With an effort of will, Skoyles sat up, glad that his friend had finished his sutures. "For heaven's sake, we have them on the run. Doesn't our commander appreciate that?"
"General Carleton is a cautious man."
"This is not caution--it's fucking madness!"
"Calm down, Jamie," said Caffrey.
But Skoyles was seething. "We chase the rebels out of Canada," he said with passion. "We build a fleet so that we can pursue them down Lake Champlain. We demolish their makeshift navy, and when we reach Crown Point, we discover that they've burned the fort and taken to their heels." He pointed with his left hand. "You saw those corpses that we found littering the ground. They were riddled with smallpox. The garrison was so anxious to escape that they didn't even bother to bury their dead. The rebels are there for the taking, Tom. What else does General Carleton need?"
"Strike now or we lose a golden opportunity."
"I agree with you, Jamie," said the other, wiping the blood off his probe and needle before putting them away with his other instruments, "but, for some strange reason, I wasn't consulted on the matter."
"General Burgoyne would have been consulted, and so would General Phillips. Neither of them would want to give up when victory was within our grasp."
"They were overruled, Jamie. We head north tomorrow."
Skoyles was rocked. "All of us?"
"Every man jack."
"We give Crown Point back to the rebels?"
"So it seems."
"Then why bother to take it from them in the first place?" Anger had dulled the pain in his shoulder and roused his spirit. "Whoever controls Crown Point has mastery of the lake. At the very least, we should leave a garrison here."
"It would take too many men to rebuild the fort."
"The rebels will rebuild it. As soon as we move out, they'll occupy it again and strengthen its defenses. Christ Almighty!" said Skoyles in exasperation. "We're supposed to be at war with the bastards. We should hold on to every inch of land that we take from them."
"Not with the winter coming, Jamie. It can be very harsh." Caffrey stood up and gave a shrug. "General Carleton has made the decision. We pull out tomorrow and withdraw to St. John's."
"Shit!" cried Skoyles.
The word summed up his day perfectly.
Copyright 2005 by David Garland. All rights reserved.
Excerpted from Saratoga
by Garland, David
Copyright © 2006 by Garland, David.
Excerpted by permission.
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