The American war of independence is entering a new phase. Gone are the days when the British forces could assume an easy victory followed by a heroic return to their homeland. The rebels have established themselves as a scrappy and resilient bunch who will not roll over for the highly trained but incompetently led redcoats.
After a sound defeat and humiliating surrender at Saratoga, Captain Jamie Skoyles and the rest of the surviving members of his British regiment are sequestered in Cambridge, prisoners of war living under the watchful gaze of the rebel army. Frustration is mounting due to both their mistreatment at rebel hands and the indignity of their thrashing on the battlefield. What's more, Skoyles remains a man divided; while he's been loyal to the crown for decades, his allegiance is increasingly pulled in the direction of the courageous and steadfast American forces and their noble cause.
Though he's bound by the accords signed upon the surrender to remain with his men and await shipment back to London, a restless Skoyles escapes and makes his way as a double-agent toward Valley Forge, where the rebel commander General George Washington puts his trust in him. As Skoyles skillfully plays both sides against each other, he is soon faced with a tremendous choice: Will he fulfill his mission and bring down the rebel leader, perhaps turning momentum toward his British countrymen? Or will Skoyles allow his rebel sympathies to control his actions, and squander Britain's best chance to bring the rebellion to its knees?
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.78(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
DAVID GARLAND is a British historian, playwright, and novelist with a special interest in the American Revolution, an interest that was inspired by his studies at Oxford University and that has continued during regular visits to the States over the past thirty years.
Read an Excerpt
Cambridge, Massachussetts, November 1777
Skoyles was angry. Within days of arrival, he had reached his decision. He simply refused to remain a prisoner of war. When he first confided in his friend, however, all that he got in response was wide-eyed disbelief.
"Escape?" cried Caffrey.
"Because it's our duty as British soldiers."
"Our duty is to abide by the terms of the convention negotiated by General Burgoyne, and I'm happy to do that. We may have been defeated but we weren't humiliated by an unconditional surrender."
"All surrenders are humiliating," said Skoyles.
"Think of the concessions."
"Not to me," said Tom Caffrey firmly. "As soon as transports arrive, we can wave goodbye to America and sail home to the safety of our own country. I call that good fortune."
"I call it shameful."
"Don't you want to go back to England?"
"No, Tom," Skoyles asserted. "This is my home now."
They were standing outside one of the barracks on Prospect Hill where the British soldiers were quartered. Captain Jamie Skoyles and Sergeant Tom Caffrey of the 24th Foot were part of the bedraggled and dispirited army that had trudged two hundred miles from Saratoga to Cambridge with their tails between their legs. As they struggled through the Green Mountains, enduring biting winds and frequent rain, they had had ample time to reflect on the disgrace of being part of an elite force that had invaded from Canada, only to be humbled on the battlefield by a makeshift army of American rebels. Skoyles felt that disgrace more keenly than most. It rankled.
"I joined the army to fight," he insisted.
"There'll be other battles, Jamie."
"Not if we get shipped back to England. Under the terms of the convention, we're forbidden to take part in this conflict anymore."
"I can live with that."
"Well, I'll not do so."
Caffrey gave a shrug. "You have no choice."
"Yes, I do. I can get out of here."
"Easier said than done."
"I'll manage. The question is, will you come with me?"
Tom Caffrey heaved a sigh. A sturdy man in his forties, he had a broken nose, set in a craggy face, that gave him a kind of raffish charm. Caffrey was the son of a Devon butcher, but he had somehow ended up as a surgeon's mate in the British army. The hideous sights and nameless tragedies that he encountered had, miraculously, not deprived him of his natural affability. He and Skoyles had been friends for several years, but that friendship had never been put under threat before. It was different now. Loyalty was at stake.
Caffrey licked his lips before speaking.
"I'm not sure that I can, Jamie," he said at length.
"We've been through hell in this campaign. We need a rest."
"How can you rest when you're being held prisoner?"
"We're not exactly under lock and key."
"That's beside the point, Tom."
"No, it isn't," Caffrey argued. "Instead of rotting in chains, we have some freedom of movement. As an officer, you could have even more license. You could have had parole and found accommodations in the town. Officers are even allowed to wear sidearms. Why on earth did you volunteer to stay with us?"
"I prefer it here," said Skoyles bluntly.
"Well, we're very pleased to have you."
Caffrey was speaking on behalf of the rank and file. Three officers per regiment were assigned to stay in the barracks with the men, and Jamie Skoyles was the only one who did so willingly. Having risen from the ranks himself, he never felt entirely comfortable among his fellow officers, some of whom still treated him as a plebeian who had wandered mistakenly among patricians. Skoyles was ready to share the privations of his men and they appreciated him for that. They knew that the tall, lean, rock-hard, fearless soldier, now in his thirties, had earned his promotion on merit. Most officers bought their commissions. Skoyles had won his by conspicuous gallantry in the field.
"Will you turn your back on us now?" asked Caffrey.
"I hate being held against my will."
"And don't tell me that it could be worse," said Skoyles vehemently. "Look at the barracks they've given usthey're nothing but henhouses. They're cold, dirty, and they stink to high heaven. Most of the officers fare no better. Seven or eight of them are crammed into tiny rooms. General Burgoyne himself is stuck in a filthy tavern and forced to share a bed with General Phillips."
Caffrey laughed. "Gentleman Johnny won't like that. General Phillips is a poor substitute for Mrs. Mallard. What man would want to sleep with an artillery officer instead of a mistress?"
"Forget her. Lucinda Mallard belongs in the past. The point is that conditions here are unbearable. Everyone is suffering. What happened to the promise to treat us with honor?"
"Take that up with our captors."
"General Burgoyne has already done soto no avail. When they can't even find decent accommodations for our commander, what hope is there for the rest of us? Remember where we are, Tom," said Skoyles with a sweeping gesture of his arm. "This is the very heart of the rebellion. The people here detest us, and with good cause. They know how much damage British soldiers did here. They'll never forget that the Charleston peninsula was set ablaze. No wonder they're not rushing forward to offer us hospitality."
"Count your blessings, Jamie."
"I didn't know that I had any."
"Well, I do," said Caffrey soulfully, "and I'm grateful for them. We're still alive, whereas several hundred of those who marched with us are not. We came through with only a few scratchesI lost count of the number of arms and legs that I had to amputate after a battle. We've soldiers who were blinded, crippled, or disfigured, young men hideously changed from the way God made them. You and I escaped any real injury, Jamie. If that's not a blessing, then what is?"
"Peace of mind."
"You won't find that in the army."
"I would if we'd been on the winning side."
"But we're not. We lost."
"That's why I have to escape from here, Tom. Come with me."
Caffrey fell silent. Torn between competing demands, he did not know which one to choose. After all that they had been through together, parting from Skoyles seemed like an act of betrayal, and that preyed on the sergeant's conscience. At the same time, he was weary of battle, and the prospect of returning home was a very seductive one, especially as another person was involved. Caffrey agonized for some time before committing himself.
"It's Polly," he admitted.
"What about her?"
"I promised to marry her when we got back to England."
"You could still do that," Skoyles reasoned. "The wedding will just have to come later rather than sooner."
"Polly is expecting to sail home when the transports arrive."
Polly Bragg was the wife of a British corporal who had died in action the previous year. She had become not merely Caffrey's lover; she was his nurse, his cook, his washerwoman, and his trusted friend. Adversity had brought them even closer together. He could not imagine a life without her. After staying at his side through the horrors of war, Polly deserved to be taken far away from danger.
"I'm sorry, Jamie," said Caffrey, biting his lip. "I stay here."
"Trapped in these foul barracks, eating dreadful food?"
"It's only a for a limited time."
"Escape with me," Skoyles urged.
Caffrey shook his head. "I'd have to leave Polly here," he said, "and I could never do that. It would be so unfair."
"Then bring her."
"Bring her," Skoyles repeated. "I intend to bring Elizabeth."
Elizabeth Rainham pulled her shawl around her to keep out the cold. Glad to escape the discomfort of the house where they were staying, she was enjoying a morning stroll through the woods with Friederike von Riedesel. During her time in America, all of Elizabeth's expectations had been dashed to pieces. She had braved the voyage in order to be with the man to whom she was betrothed, Major Harry Featherstone of the 24th Foot. However, his behavior toward her had been so intolerable that she had broken off the engagement, provoking him into an assault on her. But for the timely intervention of Jamie Skoyles, someone she had once loved would have raped her. The memory of the incident could still make her blood run cold.
"Let's turn back," Friederike suggested.
"As you wish."
"I miss the children."
"Where did your maids take them?"
"To feed the ducks at the farm."
"At least, they get some amusement here," said Elizabeth, turning around. "I do admire your daughters. All three of them look so small and fragile, yet they seem full of life. You must be very proud of them."
Friederike smiled sweetly. "We are, Miss Rainham. We are."
Elizabeth was deeply grateful to her. In the wake of the shocking and unanticipated defeat of the British army, Friederike had taken the attractive young Englishwoman under her wing. On the journey to Cambridge, she had allowed Elizabeth to travel in her little carriage, and when she was billeted in a house in the country, Friederike even invited her to share their mean lodging. Cooped up in a noisome attic, they slept on beds of straw while the servants made do with the floor.
It was a far cry from the privileged life to which Friederike, a German baroness, was accustomed. Her husband was Major General Frederick von Riedesel, commander of the regiments from Hesse-Hanau and Brunswick that were part of the British force. Unlike himanother reason for Elizabeth's gratitudethe delicate baroness with a porcelain beauty spoke good English.
"I forgot to ask after General Burgoyne," said Friederike.
"He is not well, I fear."
"Is he sick?"
"It's not a physical illness," Elizabeth explained. "When I saw him yesterday, he was morose and distractedso different from the General Burgoyne I know. Our defeat has played on his mind."
"It is the same with my husband. His pride was wounded."
"It's more than a case of wounded pride with our commander. He was always so forceful and decisive before. Now, his spirits are very low. His attention wanders. I don't think that he heard half of what I said."
"Did you complain about the way we are being kept?"
"I did," said Elizabeth, "and he was very sympathetic. The general is disgusted with the accommodations we've all been given, and by the terrible shortage of food and firewood. He's written a strong letter of protest to General Gates, and is even prepared to advance money of his own so that the army is properly housed and fed."
"General Burgoyne is a kind man."
"And generous to a fault. Because my father served with him, he's been a friend of our family for years. Wherever he's held command, the troops revere him. It pains me to see him so hurt and dejected."
"Have you told him about Major Featherstone?" Friederike inquired.
A long pause. "No, I haven't."
"Perhaps the major has confessed to General Burgoyne."
"He'd be too ashamed to do that," said Elizabeth briskly. "Harry would never admit that he's lost me."
"But he has."
"Oh, yesfor good!"
"You sound very certain about that."
"I am, believe me."
Getting to know Friederike von Riedesel had given her a female friend in whom she could confide, and Elizabeth had told her much of what had happened to her since joining the British force in Montreal. Her maid, Nan, was also aware of the various setbacks, and her support could be taken for granted. What the diminutive baroness could offer was the compassion and understanding of a married woman. As an outsider, Friederike's sympathy carried more weight. Elizabeth was very fond of her but she also envied her. Though she had entered into an arranged marriage with a man who was years older, the baroness was patently happy. When she and her husband were together, they were so delighted in each other's company that it was clearly a love match. Elizabeth's own love match with Major Featherstone had proved to be a mirage.
"Are you looking forward to going home?" asked Friederike.
"If we ever get there."
"There is no doubt about it, surely?"
"General Burgoyne thinks that there may be," said Elizabeth, face puckered with anxiety. "Since the Americans have already broken some terms of the convention, he's afraid that they will renege on the commitment to send us back to England. If they repatriate us, all that would happen is that one army will be dispatched to replace another."
Friederike was worried. "They will keep us here?"
"It's a possibility. General Burgoyne obtained some important concessions for us, and that will not please Congress. They may feel that the terms of the convention were too benevolent, and will look for an excuse to disregard it completely."
"That's dreadful! Have they no decency?"
"They want to win this war."
Friederike was alarmed. When she brought her family to America, she was convinced that she would be accompanying a victorious army that swept all before it. Instead, she had watched a large force of professional soldiers being cruelly whittled down by death, disease, and desertion until it was a shadow of its former glory. At Bennington, over nine hundred German troops had been lost in a single engagement. In the two battles near Saratoga, some British regiments had been more or less wiped out. Friederike had been confronted by the ugly realities of warfare. They had nauseated her. All that she could think about was taking her husband and children back home.
"This is terrible news, Miss Rainham," she said.
"Let us pray that it never happens."
"They do not show us any respect. It is the same with the people at the house where we stay. They treat us as interlopers, not as guests. The wife is the worst. Whenever we sit down to eat, she combs her children's hair all over our food. It is a revolting habit."
"I told her so," said Elizabeth. "She replied that it was her home and that we were there on sufferance."
Friederike bridled. "That woman is an ogre."
"Her husband is not as bad as her."
"They are poor hosts, Miss Rainham. I cannot wait to leave them."
"We are bound to be allowed home eventually."
"But when will that be?"
Elizabeth was about to reply when she caught sight of a uniform among the trees ahead. Her heart lifted at once. Only one man would come looking for her from the town, and that was Jamie Skoyles. She quickened her step instinctively. Short and dainty, Friederike von Riedesel struggled to keep up with her.
"Wait for me," she called. "What's the hurry?"
Copyright © 2006 by David Garland. All rights reserved.