Friday, August 29, 2014

First Shot (44)

7 of May 1775

My Dearest Wife Charlotte,

I know you must hate me more than anything on Earth, more than plague or pestilence or even the King and all his men. And I would not, nay I could not begin to bring myself to blame you, for I know what I have done has left a scar on your heart you will carry with you unto the grave, which, with the Gentle Lord's blessing, will be many score years away.
I write this in the lodging of a new acquaintance in a place in Connecticut it would be less than prudent for me to identify. I have joined a Provisional Regiment here that needs the services of an industrious and clever smith. My rifled musket has won the admiration of the men in this company, and our Battalion Commander has said he will arrange for a nearby forge to prepare one dozen barrels with my specifications to be fitted to new Charleville muskets for a Brigade shooting competition.
Under different circumstances, my dear beloved Charlotte, you would, I am most certain, be proud that you did take Willie Isaac Hosner as your loving wedded husband.
I can not say when this letter will be delivered to you, if circumstances should ever allow that it shall, and so I am writing it more to myself, to that part of me--my wounded heart--where you now live and where I will hold you dear so long as this heart shall beat and the smallest breath of my life remains to be extinguished.

It grieves me near as much as it brought pain to your Soul—this I know and this I implore you to believe—that our marriage seemed cursed in some unforeseen and unfathomable way to be barren of the fruit of which Holy Matrimony is intended by Our Mysterious Lord to bear. I confess with deepest humility my shortcomings in bringing comfort to you in this darkest and most helpless implication. If only you could know how much and how often I wished to open my heart and crush you in my embrace and weep with you and pray with you to the Almighty Giver and Taker that He should look upon us with pity and forgive us for what we might have done to deserve such an unHoly fate and to take away the curse that only He understands and can absolve in his Tender Mercy.
But you know, my fire-haired beauty of flashing Wilde Spirits, I dared not reveal to you such sentiments you most assuredly would take as weakness, instead, I closed them off from you with warrior's stoic shield that softness I feared would open me to your contempt and leave you the more inviting to predatory whims, both within and without your Sweet mercurial breast.
Oh, the agony, the despair that holds me in its grip of death to face unto Eternity the consequences of my terrible miscalculation, which has took from me forever the only Love I shall know. I knew my Doom had come the night before, when you had not returned from that day to join me in our Blessed Bed the Eve of what we know today has changed our lives in circumstances only Our Merciful God can now affect.
Sleep did not come the easier for me that you were absent, Dear Charlotte, fitful already as were my attempts at rest with rumors afoot from Boston of a night's march the King's Regulars had set to make against our people. I took some frail comfort from your word to me of your going to your sister and her family far afield from the road we expected the Regulars to be on toward Concord, their objective, as we had been informed by Mr. Revere. And that comfort turned to boiling lead in my stomach at our first muster on The Green after Mr. Revere and Mr. Dawes rode through at midnight with a warning for Mr. Hancock and Mr. Adams that the Regulars were on the march and for them to flee from Lexington immediately.
It was there on The Green, before Captain Parker had arrived, that Phineas Hunyman, carrying the musket I had fixed for him and wearing the same smirk as he always wore only this time his fat lips curled even more when he flicked his fox's eyes to the lace garter around his arm, swaggered up to me and said, Feeling brave tonight, Willie?
If the scoundrel said any more after that I did not hear it with all the blood rushing into my head and filling my ears with such a roar I could not have heard a cannon fire ten feet hence. My eyes became locked on the garter, which I knew to be Yours from Our Wedding Day because of the little pink hearts your sister had sewed all around it. At last I saw Hunyman that knew I was staring at his arm and then he turned and held his arm up and his lips moved and then the roar diminished in my ears and I heard him say he found it on the ground behind Buckman Tavern and wasn't it something dandy.
And then the world closed in around us and it was just him and me, and the roar was gone and the lead in my stomach too and I became as cold as winter ice except for my eyes which were pits of fire and I aimed them at him and the fire reached out to his face and his smirking mouth and I watched the curl then leave those fat lips and the spark of fear come into his eyes and I knew he knew I was ready to die right there and this made him afraid. And then I saw Captain Parker on The Green.
We were dismissed then, as our runners to the East had not returned and Capt. Parker had no orders for us but to tell us to remain within hearing of our drummer to call a muster at any minute. Many of us then on The Green drifted to Buckman Tavern to await the call, should it come, while I, feeling no spirit for company, walked home to the place I had thought of as ours. When I reached the edge of The Green I turned and looked across at the tavern because I knew it would be required of any men there with loaded muskets to discharge them before entering the building. This they did, about a dozen, raising their barrels at the trees and firing a volley that spit flame and a cloud of smoke that glowed in the moonlight as a large and powerful ghost. While entire clans of birds squawked and flapped terrified away into the safety of nearby woods I did recognize on the upraised arm of one of the men who fired his musket that garter of yours, the moonlit sheen of its snowy satin spearing my heart not from Cupid's bow, as once it had, but from that of the Prince of Darkness. I went home.
Oh, I want so much for you to believe me. When I reached the door of the house we both had prayed in to be blessed with children of our own to raise there, I prayed aloud with forgiveness in my heart for you to be on the other side of that door waiting for me. I swear now to Almighty God I would have knelt down before you in abject humility and sorrow beseeching your forgiveness for my failure to provide you with the life you deserved to have. Oh, of this I want with all my heart that you believe. But you were not there.
The house that I entered then was not ours. It was cold and empty and strange to me. I sat on the bare floor and wept. I had not the heart to enter our room and I must have slept there on the floor because what I remember next was William Diamond's drum off in the distance abeating the muster call and I jumped up and grabbed my musket and was out the door before you could say Jack Robinson.
I started to run but my limbs were stiff from sleeping on the floor and I feared an injury would keep me from being with my company at our time of greatest peril. It was not yet daylight but I saw fingers of pink and peach light through the trees to the East reach into the sky where many stars atwinkled. A bright moon looked down above me and a fair breeze kept away the fog from the road as the drumming pulled me along it toward The Green. I felt my heart abeating with the drum and soon my stiffness went away and I could run.
Near halfway I was joined by Angus McMurray who came out from the dark woods where he and Annie and their two young'uns lived. By now the whole sky was lit along the Earth's edge and we heard the chirping birds begin their morning songs. More drums there were then, and shouts of men as we drew near and could see the ghostly shapes of the Buckman and the Meeting House and the other buildings around The Green. And then we heard that terrible sound, the one that struck lightning into my stomach and which I hear each night wherever I try to sleep, the HUzza HUzza HUzza cry of battle of the King's Regulars and we knew the time had come.
By the far wall on the West corner of The Green my heart stopped at the moment when my eyes beheld a long line of red stretched across The Green and the silver flashing bayonets in front of them and I saw they were moving in a rush and they were making the HUzza HUzza HUzza and then I saw my company. They were coming toward me away from the Regulars and were spreading out and I heard Captain Parker holler at them to DISPERSE and this is what they were doing.
I looked around for Angus McMurray but he was gone off somewhere so I moved along the wall to the South to get a better sight of what was before me. And I was against the stones on the South wall then when I saw what made my heart stop beating and I heard that same roar in my head as before. It was You I saw across The Green against the wall in front of the Buckman and I knew you saw me too as your green eyes flashed toward me like the stars that were now gone from the sky. And I saw the yellow dandelions blink up from the grass all over The Green and I thought how nice 'twould be to pick some and carry them across to you.
And then I saw that Scoundrel, that Phineas Hunyman still awearing Your garter on his arm and with his mouth bent in that wolf look and I saw that he saw me too. And then I saw him put his arm around you and you look up at him with a look that split my heart in two. And then I raised my musket and put the aim on him and pulled its hammer back and then all I could see was that wolf look and I saw nothing else and heard nothing more except the HUzza HUzza HUzza getting louder but farther away as the roar in my head took command of my hearing.
And then I saw the dark red splash where his head had been and I saw it all over you.
And then I dreamt of thunder and cries and drums and the thunder went on and on. And then we were in the woods and Mr. Revere sat on a trunk of leather and talked to me while I heard the terrible sounds of battle still agoing and Mr. Revere said I should go and not come back and that they would try me not for murder because it was Our duty as Patriots to tell the World it was a Regular that fired the shot that would be heard across the land.
And then Mr. Revere took me back through the woods to a small clearing where a saddled horse was tied. He took a piece of cloth and a pen from a leather pouch that was slung over his shoulder and he wrote something and gave me the cloth. He told me to take the horse and ride to Connecticut and to show the cloth to a man there who he knew, and that I must never return to Lexington. And this I have done.
I hope Our Loving and Merciful God has kept You safe my Beloved Charlotte and that You can see fit in Your Heart to some day forgive me for what I have done. I miss You terribly much and I will miss You and Love You with the last breath and heartbeat in this wretched body.
Your Loving Willie

2 comments:

  1. Wonderful! Riveting, funny, well-wrought writing, Matt!

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    1. HIgh praise from you, Nonnie. I'm flattered and grateful.

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