William and Mr. Quince were taken out in the first boat, with what other men would fit, with the boat crew making several other trips before they finally returned to the ship for the last time, to join Mr. Ennis in his watch over their only escape from a colony that was only nominally in control of friendly forces now. William considered marching past Master Hedge’s workshop to let the old man know of his intent, but in the end he decided that was a rotten idea. There would be an undoubted scene, and he did not wish he men to see him arguing with his adoptive father. He always did everything in his power to keep his private life out of his life on the ship if he could, if nothing else because he suspected that his men would look at him as weak if he did let them in too much. They might well begin to mock him and his desperation for acceptance from the two men that he had called family when he had been growing up. They had always shown so much patience towards him, he could not imagine anything worse than being a disappointment, though he was not entirely certain how to act as society wished him to.
The sailors were not by any means military trained, and so while William imagined them a bold army, a force to be reckoned with, who were marching to do battle with the British, they were in truth more of a mob, each man in his canvas pants, and whatever color shirt he had decided he favored. Some of the men did not even have shoes, they were not needed on board the ship after all now that it was spring, and they allowed the calluses on the soles of their feet be planted firmly on the earth now, seeing now reason to change their appearance just because they were going ashore. Even Mr. Quince did not manage complete dignity, having chosen practicality over military splendor. He had chosen to wear only a loose jacket with a calico shirt underneath, and a pair of canvas pants, much like William wished that he could wear without disgracing himself.
The only map that William had of the area was a sea chart, and so he made the only choice he could about which route they would take. If the British had landed near Norwalk, then they simply had to march along the coast in the right direction until they hit Fairfield, which was as close as William felt comfortable getting to the British position, and then asking around until they discovered where the enemy had gone from there. It did not look far, only about eleven miles to walk. Of course he was thinking that before he remembered that his men were sailors, something that he was forced to recall quickly, as they all panted and huffed their way across the coastline towards their destination. All of them were in fine shape, well suited to climbing up and down masts and rigging, but walking for miles across land was a new thing for most of them, William included. That also did not include some other problems that William had failed to consider when he had plotted their course, which was that his sea charts failed to show obstacles on land. They were only about half way to their destination, with the line of seamen thinning to a ragged line according to how well they were able to walk on land, when William hit what was unmistakably, even to his untrained eye, a marsh. There was no chance that they were going to be able to find their way through that, they would have to go around it.
“A rest, ten minutes, men,” shouted William, and as each man came to where he was standing, they gratefully collapsed onto the ground. William was already feeling more gloomy than he had when they had set out, and from the look on his men’s faces they were feeling the same depression. He was now wishing that they had sailed directly from Bridgeport to Norwalk, even though it was such a short distance, and it would add to the danger of their ship being captured by the British. It was too late now though. William walked towards the swamp, hoping to at least manage to get a drink, and was disappointed in that even, one look at the water told him it was stagnant.
“Have some of mine, Captain,” said Mr. Quince, handing him a flask. William took a careful and cautious sip, unsure of what the flask actually held, and was relieved and disappointed all at the same time to find that it was water.
“Thank ya, Mr. Quince,” William said, handing the flask back. Around his men, he could see other flasks being handed around. He was willing to bet that at least a few of those flasks were not so innocent as the one that Mr. Quince had given him a sip of, but he was in no mood to criticize his men for this.
His men having collected their spirits, as well as having likely drank them, they once again set off across the countryside, now leaving the view of the ocean that they had enjoyed before this. They skirted the edge of the marsh, though it put them behind the schedule that William had half decided on in his mind. Not once did his men complain however, for which William was grateful. He was not certain he would have been so generous towards a captain if he was still nothing but a common officer before the mast. Instead his men seemed to find joy in singing any sea shanties that the second mate chose to sing. At first William was concerned that he was encouraging ambush through allowing his men to sing, but then he decided that it was well worth it in order to make the walk more pleasant.
It was only as the smoke from Fairfield that the men grew more quiet, even without William saying anything. Not one of them had any interest in ending their life on a prison hulk. William had expected to find the town in disarray, but he did not. Instead what he found was a militia captain in full control. The signs of it were apparent from the very moment that they entered the town, and there was a guard picket posted. They were allowed to pass, but with great reluctance. William had to assure multiple guards that they were of the Continental forces who had come to help. Even so, they were directed to go speak to the man who was currently in charge of the town’s defenses before they went any further. He had taken control of the inn, which was something that William could admire as a headquarters, since it would give food, shelter, and drink, to anyone who happened to be leading the army stationed there. William paused for a moment before approaching the man, but he felt he had to in the end. It was not as if it was possible to march into a militarily controlled town with a large group of armed men at your back, and not eventually have to explain oneself one way or another. William liked it better when the explanations were on his own terms. It sometimes at least, meant that they were more friendly. Leaving Mr. Quince in charge of the men, William straightened his clothing, which he now wished was his finest, and marched into the inn.
Since the town had been in such good order, William had expected that the inn would be as well. In this he had been wrong. The inn was chaos of the first order, full of men in what looked to be a fine attempt at military uniforms, and men who had not bothered, all shouting over one another as they tried to speak to one man, who was sitting at a table, and looking very tired. William had expected a man older than himself, but instead they were of about the same age. After watching for a moment, William could not help but wonder if that was because older men had been wise enough not to take the job. William studied the flow of the crowd like he might have studied the tides of the ocean, and then dove in. It was because of this preparation that while it looked as though it would take William a half hour at least to get the chance to talk to the man he wished to speak to, he was standing in front of the table that had become his desk in about five minutes, feeling very pleased with himself.
“Greetin’s Captain, my name is Captain William Boyd,” said William, looking into the sunken eyes of a man who had not slept in at least two days. He had had days like that himself, and so he recognized the signs.
“Captain of what?” asked the man at the desk, looking over his mismatched outfit, with less scorn than just confusion.
“The group of armed men outside of here, captain,” said William, unable to resist a touch of humor, and then he came back to the point. “And the privateer ship Beauty.”
“Which now sails on land, captain?” asked the captain of the militia, not to be outdone.
“Not a bit of it, captain,” admitted William, grinning. “But hearin’ as the British had invaded, and bein’ in these parts in any case, I thought it my duty ta help as I could.”
“What will the owners of your ship think of this decision, captain?” asked the militia, looking scornful for a moment. For that William was willing to forgive him. It was true that often the owners of the Privateering ships were penny pinching sorts who did not care so much for the cause as the profit. William was not complete exempt from this himself, but he was willing to ignore this detail for now, and act the loyal soldier.
“As I am both captain and owner, I am certain I’ll be forgiven, captain,” said William, still grinning. “Now what I’m wonderin’ is where it is that the British be headin’, as I’d like very much ta follow after them.”
“With how many men?” asked the captain of the militia, with some curiousity.
“A hundred,” admitted William, who knew it was a small force. Indeed, his force as a bit larger than that, but not by enough to make a large difference.
“And what would you do, other than get yourself and your men killed?” asked the militiaman, with some scepticism in his voice.
“I’d rather be pickin’ off some of the men with musket men than sittin’ safe in a town and doin’ nothin’,” said William, his voice firm, though he knew that the captain of the militia might take it as an insult.
“We are not doing nothing, captain,” said the militia man, his voice still calm and tired, “we are waiting.” William was impressed. Of late his experience with men who were not directly under his control had been full of fire and anger, and men getting angry at the drop of a hat, but this man was clearly not of that sort. It made him far more inclined to listen to the man rather than doing his own thing.
“Waitin’ for what, captain? I have no information other than the enemy has landed near here.”
“Waiting for the British forces to return, Captain Boyd. We had no news of their landing, and so they have been able to do as they please, which proved to be to destroy Danbury, where we kept many of our supplies. You’ll not be affected, but I assure you, my men feel the loss of the food and clothing, not to mention the powder and ball.” For a moment William considered suggesting that they send men to his ship and asking for some of his supplies from Mr. Ennis, but then he decided against it. Not only had it cost him dearly, but it was also likely to be the difference between life and death for him and his men later in a sea battle. In any case, he assured himself, it would be difficult for them to bring them back from his ship on time, and the messengers would stand in danger of being captured by the British, losing the powder and shot forever.
“Sa they are comin’ back this way?” asked William, trying to decide if he was understanding all of this correctly.
“If they would like to reach their fleet, Captain Boyd,” said the militia captain, this time it was his turn to grin, the smile making him look his proper age for a moment, rather than the haggard man that William had seen when he walked into the room. William found himself imagining the man at one of the social functions that he was sometimes invited to by Steven, the man would likely be at home in such a place, most militia officers were gentlemen. Here on the battlefield however, William realized for once he was the man’s equal, something that he had never considered before, not even when he introduced himself as Captain. It made him smile back at the officer, true joy etching his face rather than his normal sarcastic sneer.
“Ya would make them pay dear for ya supplies, captain?” he asked, though he thought he already knew the answer.
“That I would, Captain Boyd,” said the man, smiling back. There was an eagerness to him that made William willing to believe that the man would indeed prove himself on the battlefield, if he had not already.
“Then my men are at your service, captain,” said William, making up his mind. “They are well trained, and well armed, and we’ll da what we might ta show ya a good fight.” He stuck out his hand and the captain of the militia shook it with enthusiasm. If nothing else it would add to his chances of making it back to his ship with all of his limbs and still breathing. Even with skirmishing tactics like he had planned to use, of the sort he had learned as a pirate, leading his handful of men into battle would have cost him dearly. It was still likely to, but maybe less with other targets running around and distracting the British. It was that part of his brain that William was always ashamed of, and yet he was always thankful to it as well, since it had kept him alive for so long, despite everything he had faced. His captain from back when he had sailed on a pirate ship had treated him as a son, but even he had said he thought that William would die a violent death at a young age. Indeed this prediction had been one that William had worn as a badge of honor, and he had tried to live up to it, but at the same time, he had the knowledge that Matthew would look at it as an undoing of everything he had done since he had picked William bodily out of a tavern and carried him home.
“I will review your men later, Captain Boyd,” said the militia officer, nodding. “I have much to take care of, but I appreciate your aid.” William knew that their meeting was over with this, and he could not blame the officer for keeping it brief. Already there were voices clamoring for attention behind them. Indeed, William did not believe they had stopped through his entire conversation, though he had been too engrossed to realize it.
As William stepped out into the sunshine again, he found that his men had all sat down wherever they wanted in the middle of the city square, where they had become the center of much attention and curiosity from passerbys. Several of them were already asleep, stretched out on the cobbles, little caring who might be watching or might see them in such a state. After all, each and every one of the men slept on the deck when they could, out of the stuffy hold, and so sleeping outside was not strange, and they were accustomed to communal sleeping in the forecastle so having strangers walking past them was also not something that bothered them. Mr. Quince jumped up once he saw William walk from the inn, though it took him likely longer than it would have taken the very attentive Mr. Ennis. It was only then that William realized they had no plan at all for where they were going to camp, or for that matter how they were going to camp. As the captain however, it was his role to find out such things, and having led his men off of the ship and onto land, where they had no business at all, he was damned if he admitted to them that he had no idea at all. He might have suggested that they find a nearby woods to camp in for shelter, but none of his men were the sort to be pleased by that and he felt as though he owed them more than that. No, he was going to have to find them a building to sleep in.
Leaving his men to continue happily sunning themselves with no duties, which was not a normal state of affairs for them, William found himself wandering the town in search of someone who had a barn that was not already being occupied by militia forces. Even more difficult was finding someone with a barn who was willing to accept having a group of sailors no one knew sleeping in their barn. William wished that he could dismiss their fears as irrational, but he could not. Most of contact that people on land had with sailors was when they came ashore to celebrate being no longer under ship discipline, and that made the rowdy. Though he had no intention of allowing his men from ship’s discipline while they were in the village, there was no way for the towns people to know this. He had to pay for it dearly, but finally William was able find a farmer a rather long distance from the main troops, who for a price was willing to put the sailors up in their barn provided they did not touch any of the animals and provided all of their own food. William promised the farmer that if any damage came to any of his animals because of his men he would pay for them, and they were allowed to take residence, though his men were not thrilled with the idea that they were going to have to march again across land. This time it was William who initiated the singing, though it made the militia men and towns people stare at him and his men as they marched along. William did have to admit there was something strange about walking on dry land and singing about sailing from port, but it seemed to make his men happier, so he was willing to accept the strange looks.
It seemed to William that he had hardly managed to bunk his men in the straw of the barn in the company of a very confused couple of cows and a very angry rooster William was concerned something indeed might happen to, when the Captain of the militia rode up the farm, in the company of a couple of attendants. The captain jumped from the saddle, but his aids remained out in the farm yard, speaking to the farmer, who it seemed was a well known man in these parts, and friendly with the officers. William had to wonder if it was a coincidence that he and his men had been given room in the barn on this particular farm, or if favors had been called in by the militia, especially considering the ease with which they had been found, even though he had not left a message for the militia captain where they might be found. The captain of the militia might well seem as though he was overwhelmed, but William had to remind himself that it was not necessarily the case. For one thing, with less people shouting at him, the militia captain seemed far more in control of everything, and as he walked into the barn, his attitude of command did not escape William, though he was not to be outdone as he stood to greet the man.
“Captain,” William said, bowing slightly. Then he smiled, realizing something. “I am afraid that I did not think to ask ya name, sir,” he added. The militia captain looked at him in surprise, and then smiled as well.
“Indeed, Captain Boyd, you introduced yourself to me, but I seem not to have returned the favor. It was a rudeness born of preoccupation, I assure you. I am captain Tenney, at your service,” he added, giving William a bow in return.
“I took na offense, Captain Tenney,” William assured him. “This war is madness, and all the rules general on a meeting seem to have gone by the side.” For one thing, William did not generally introduce himself to military gentlemen, not that he would dare say that aloud, lest the man take offense. Instead he turned to Mr. Quince.
“Mr. Quince, I would be obliged if ya would join us,” William said, and Mr. Quince bounded to his feet, undoubtedly with as much acting as Captain Tenney was showing, refusing to look tired, even though he was certainly ready to sway on his feet, or simply fall asleep on them. Still, if William was going to ask it of himself, he was certainly not going to ask less of his second mate. He treated his officers and men well because he treated himself well, but that did not mean that he did not also push himself, and he would push his men in turn. It was true that in a day they had been forced to walk a good deal on land when they were not used to it, and they had started out not expecting it either, but William was not going to allow a land officer to show him up, not even a land officer he suspected he would be friends with.
“Aye, Captain Boyd?” asked Mr. Quince coming to his side.
“Captain Tenney, I’d like it if ya met my second mate. My first mate is lookin’ after the ship with some others of my men, sa Mr. Quince is my second in command for now.”
“Your ship is around here somewhere, Captain Boyd? I should be concerned of it being taken by the British fleet. I am certain that I mentioned it to you,” added the militia captain, his voice becoming slightly doubtful. William kept the unperturbed face, though he did know that there was a chance. It was small enough of a chance that he was going to worry more about his chances than the chances of Mr. Ennis.
“We sailed inta Bridgeport, Captain Tenney, sa I reckon we are well enough away ta protect the ship. Mr. Ennis alsa has the orders ta sail if he sees the enemy approachin’, what with most of our fighten men on shore.”
“These are your men, Captain Boyd?” asked the militia captain, looking about himself with an expressionless face, so William could not be certain what he was thinking.
“They are, Captain Tenney, and well able they are ta fight. I realize they haven’t the military splendor of the men ya have under your command, but they have killed as many British I reckon, and seen as many battles.”
“That would not be hard, I imagine, Captain Boyd,” said the militia commander, his smile going wiry. “Many of my men have seen no combat at all, and though drills are fine, they do little in an actual field of battle as I know all too well. I welcome your men, hardened by combat as they are, more than it is likely you may imagine. I came because I would place under your command my more hardened me, that you might do the most damage.”
“Haven’t they have their own commanders, Captain?” asked William, shocked. It was a large amount of trust for a man who had just met him. Few people who knew him for years would trust him so well, except his adopted family.
“Not as such, Captain Boyd,” admitted the Militia captain. “They are men who were scattered from proper unites, or whose unites took so much damage that there is no unite properly any longer. As it is, they are scattered in amongst my green troops, where they do little good. Most of my men can just about charge, but the men who can fight I would have attacking the enemy flank, where they might do us some good.”
“While ya command the men who can charge, Captain,” said William, looking the man in his eye to try to gather if he actually understood the implication of doing such a thing. He was offering William a risky post, that was true, but it was less risk than what Captain Tenney was taking for himself. It was true that the only way green troops were seasoned were in battle but William liked it better when the mixture was well combined so that the seasoned men could make up for the shortcomings of the weaker and more frightened men. It was even worse, because what the man was offering WIlliam extra men to do just what William had intended to do anyway, and without William ever telling him what his plans were.
“Most of my men would not understand what it was you wished to have done, and would need constant orders, which I doubt you would desire in the middle of a battle when you are trying to surprise the enemy,” said the captain of the militia, as if that was the end of the matter. “They are used to me, and so it is best for me to lead them to their first battle. Nor will we be alone. I am acting under the orders of General Wooster, though we are irregular militia, it is our duty to obey his orders all the same. As you do not fall under his orders, I would ask that you do as you know to be best. I doubt those scars came to you by accident, and if you have lived so long with them, you are a man I would have by my side.”
“Is General Wooster alone?” asked William, his stomach sinking. To have the British invade and only one General in response would have boded poorly for their fledgling nation. If that was indeed the case than William was going to go look for a new nation to serve that was likely to live longer. The militia captain shook his head however.
“There are three generals in all, I take my orders from General Wooster. You take your orders from no man however, and though it might be called into question that I would place troops in your hands, I am doing what I think best.”
“Ya da not care for your orders?” asked William.
“I cannot say,” said the militia captain, which was an evasion if William had ever heard, and it made up his mind for him.
“Na, I’ll not take your men,” he said, his voice firm. It was only now that he realized they had dropped the honorifics, and that on being introduced Mr. Quince had faded to where he would not interrupt them. “It’ll tarnish ya name if ya give me the troops that I ought not ta have, not bein’ a government officer. Na man respects a privateer.”
“I see,” said the militia captain, actually looking rather affronted, as if he had caught himself going too far, too late. William was not going to allow the conversation to end with that however.
“Rather da I place myself and my men under ya command. Better for us ta join ya force and aid ya all in makin’ it back ta this rather lovely bit of coast I’d say, than ta have ya chargin’ with men who only know how ta charge, and not ta fight. We can mix in with the men ya have and we will fight like blazes ‘til the British run, and after that if ya’ll allow it.”
“It would do more good if you would act on your own,” pointed out Captain Tenney, staring at him.
“It might well da good, but it would tarnish ya name beyond all ya would believe,” said William, his voice firm. “In any case, we just met, and I don’t care for men ta take such trust in me just because of my scars. Ya see me fight, then if we meet again in battle ya can take such confidence in me.”
“You are a strange man, Captain,” said the militia captain, to whom William could have said the same. There was a difference however, William knew himself to be strange by the standards of a gentleman and a military officer, because he was not a gentleman, and he was a reformed pirate so he did not think like they did. Instead William could smell the scent of a desperate man who had received orders he did not care for but could not go against. William wondered if it was not out of spite that the man had offered him the troops. William suspected that Captain Tenney imagined himself and his men were being used as cannon fodder, without being asked first if they were alright with that, which was bad manners on the part of their commander. Especially since most men would agree to it if they were asked to be, and even be enthusiastic about it. They had to prove that they were not cowards then, and it was the thing which ballads were made of, which made it seem heroic rather than suicidal. Instead however, it was clear that Captain Tenney felt his life was being stupidly gambled, and William meant to see if he could do something to change that fate.
“Is there ought else ta speak of, Captain?” asked William, trying to prevent the militia man from changing his mind on the subject. “If ya will tell me where we are ta ga, and when, I shall obey. That is all there is ta be said. Best not ta speak of ought else that ya said ta me this evening.”
“If you are certain, Captain Boyd,” said Captain Tenney, looking resigned and tired again. William had not realized just what an escape from his orders the captain had apparently thought of him before, until he now sagged. “I’ll see you and your men assembled in the two center at five in the morning tomorrow. We must march before dawn if we are to charge them as you would have it.”
“What part of the army is it that we are targetin’?” asked William. For them have to get up so early they were clearly trying to change position, for all that Captain Tenney had said before that they were simply waiting for the enemy to come to them.
“The rearguard,” said Captain Tenney, going to turn away. “Where all brave been attack. They are returning to their ships victorious, so we will nip at their heels.” William was amazingly alright with this announcement, though he did not allow the captain to see it since he doubted he would understand. The man seemed the honorable sort who looked to prevent things from happening, who protected. William had to agree that that was a fine thing, he admired it, but he was also a firm believer in revenge. It might not have been the most christian of things, but then WIlliam had never really considered himself to be a christian, so that was just fine. William was a firm believer that you should always make your enemy pay so badly that not only will he never attack you again, but others will also take notice and fear you. In William’s book that was fair war indeed.