100 Years On: America Slides Toward the Great War

 “He kept us out of war.”

-Woodrow Wilson Re-election Campaign Slogan, 1916

“The world must be made safe for democracy.”

-Woodrow Wilson to a special session of Congress, requesting a Declaration of War, April 2nd, 1917

One hundred years ago public opinion in the United States was nearing the culmination of a seismic shift. When the First World War broke out in 1914, popular opinion was overwhelmingly against American involvement in “Europe’s war.” Two years later, President Woodrow Wilson successfully campaigned for re-election based on his record of achievements, especially his maintenance of American neutrality. But less than six months after the election, Wilson was the leader of a united nation, asking for Congress to declare war. What happened in those few months?

What happened was that Germany made a number of strategic decisions that made war with the United States a near certainty. The year 1916 had been a costly one for Germany: its effort to bleed France to death at Verdun had proven futile, the months-long battle on the Somme had sapped away even more blood and treasure, and there had even been setbacks on the Eastern Front with Russia going on the offensive. While Germany was still strong, some of its allies were growing shaky, and the long-term strategic outlook was bleak. As long as France and Great Britain were being sustained by American loans, food, and war materials, it seemed unlikely that the balance would swing Germany’s way. In Berlin, a return to unrestricted submarine warfare seemed worth the risk: if Germany could starve Great Britain into submission it could win the war.

Sinking_of_the_Lusitania_London_Illus_News

Sinking of the Lusitania

So, what was ‘unrestricted submarine warfare? Simply put, it was what you probably think of when you hear the term “U-Boat:” it means submarine crews attacking merchant ships without warning. By the rules of maritime warfare, warships were supposed to warn merchant ships, and allow the crews to abandon ship, before sinking them. For a vessel as small and fragile as a submarine this was a risky proposition. If the merchant ship had a hidden deck gun, or if it could alert a nearby friendly warship, the tables would quickly turn on the German U-Boat crew. In 1915 the outrage caused by the sinking of the passenger ship Lusitania had caused the Germans to suspend unrestricted warfare. In 1917, the benefit seemed to outweigh the cost. Fully aware that the United States might declare war once its ships started sinking again, the Germans tried to minimize the effect of US entry with a very clumsy diplomatic maneuver: the Zimmerman Telegram.

Knowing that Mexico still resented its loss of territory to the United States resulting from their 1848 war, German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmerman sent a telegram to the Mexican government offering it American territory (from California east into Colorado) if it joined the war on the side of the Central Powers. British intelligence intercepted the telegram and was only too happy to pass it along to the Wilson Administration. This telegram, coupled with the sinking of several American merchant ships in March, 1917, turned the tide of public opinion.

Many Americans had been uncomfortable with Germany’s perceived atrocities, such as its invasion of Belgium, execution of civilians, bombardment of cultural sites, espionage and sabotage in America and Canada, incitement of labor riots in the United States, introduction of weaponized poison gas, and Zeppelin raids on London. With the rapid-fire events of January to March 1917, discomfort changed to outrage. On Main Street, USA, it seemed that in spite of America’s strict policy of neutrality (a neutrality Germany would dispute) Germany was deliberately picking a fight. And, so the thinking went, if the Germans wanted a fight, then by God they were going to get it.

National World War I Museum–Learning materials on America’s Entry into the War: https://www.theworldwar.org/us-enters-war

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Resources Big and Small: The Internet

“The Internet is like a magic eight ball of the 21st century. You can always get an answer there. It may not be true, but you can always get an answer.”

-Stephen King (http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/stephen-king-on-trump-20160609)

Stephen King is absolutely right! The internet is a wonderful resource for writers…you’ve just got to be careful out there!

Much of what you find on the internet these days is garbage. Anyone and everyone can say anything they want about anything they want. Imagine my surprise last week when I was researching a topic and Google pointed me towards a blog post by ME! (talk about an unreliable source!) A fun game you can play is to try to figure out where various website get there information; I find it fascinating how so many pages are simply copy/paste jobs. One user writes something, or copies something from a book or online resource, and then website after website copies the same information verbatim. There is no comment, no assessment, no analysis…just copy/paste. The same questionable material can be reproduced over and over like a virus. (hmmmm…this sounds like the premise for a sci-fi horror novel) When it comes to internet research, it is definitely USER BEWARE!

That said the internet can connect people in new and exciting ways. My favorite recent example: I was doing research on Hudson River navigation in the 1700s, and trying to learn more about the bateau, the “eighteen wheeler / Pullman car” of Eighteenth Century North America. After running into a few brick walls, I stumbled upon a website called The Big Row (http://www.thebigrow.com/), which catalogues the adventures of reenactors who put bateaux through their paces every year. Not only did I learn a great deal, but I also established contact with the websites creator/bateau captain, Dave Manthey! Dave’s insights were invaluable to me in understanding the people and craft of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers, thus adding authenticity to my work in progress, A Constant Thunder. Persistence and creativity in searching can pay off handsomely!

Then there is the little trick of knowing the resources available. A few days ago I was writing a scene in which Gideon Hawke is an officer of the guard; it is nighttime, and being a good officer he ventures out to check on his sentries. At his first stop he is challenged! The sentry tells him to halt, and challenges him with the “parole” word. “Wait,” I asked myself, “What would be a good parole word?” I considered making something up, but then I remembered that the National Archives, in cooperation with the University of Virginia Press, have digitized a tremendous number of primary source documents from the Founding Fathers. The Continental Army’s daily General Order contained the parole and countersign, so a simple Bing search (sorry, Google, you didn’t find the document I needed) for “General Orders April 18, 1777” brought me to General Washington’s General Orders for the 18th of April, 1777. Boom! When Private George Houseman directs Lieutenant Hawke to advance and be recognized, his challenge doesn’t just sound authentic, it REALLY IS AUTHENTIC! It is the actual challenge used in the American camp at Morristown in 1777. (https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-09-02-0180 ; and in case you are wondering, the parole was “Georgia” and the Countersign was “Samptown.”) How’s that for research?

Thirty years ago it would have required a prodigious effort for an author living in the Midwest to gather the kind of information I just discussed. Now it is a few keystrokes and clicks away. I am deeply indebted to folks like Dave Manthey, and the folks behind the keyboards at the University of Virginia Press—by doing valuable work and sharing it online, they are making the internet a useful tool, not just a “Wretched hive of scum and villainy.” I am still very wary of information I find out on the net, but it is definitely worth sorted through the garbage to find the gems.

A Nest of Hornets on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Nest-Hornets-Gideon-Hawke/dp/1539953599/

 

Robert Krenzel Author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RobertKrenzelAuthor

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A Constant Thunder: Time

Time. That’s the killer!

If I could plug a USB cable into my head, I could probably download A Constant Thunder in its entirety. Unfortunately that is not how it works! (Actually, I’m pretty glad it doesn’t work that way. Who knows what weirdness might spill out of my head!)

In my mind’s eye I can see pretty much all of Gideon Hawke #4. The march north from New Jersey, the water journey up the Hudson, Gideon’s first encounter with his native American enemies (OK, I wrote that part already), the skirmishing in the primeval forests, the savage fighting at Freeman’s Farm and Bemis Heights, etc. But it is so hard to scrape together the time to commit it all to digits! And all the while, my self-imposed deadline races closer and closer.

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking / Racing around to come up behind you again.*

I know that somehow it will get done. It always does.

I am incredibly excited about this novel, even more so than the first three. Maybe it is because of how the Saratoga Battlefield spoke to me—unlike Boston, the Raritan Crossing, Trenton, or Princeton it has not been developed. Certainly it has changed dramatically in nearly 240 years, but at Saratoga you can peer out from behind a tree and almost see the red coats and gleaming muskets emerging from the Great Ravine. I so want to get this novel written!

Besides that, I have another problem: A Constant Thunder is jostling for room in my head with Gideon Hawke #5 and #6! Yes, in large part I already have them roughly outlined in my head, and I have some brilliant ideas for individual scenes. I have more research to do for each, but before long they will be ready for USB download as well! So much writing to do! So little time! Will I get it all done?

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time / Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines*

No. I will not fail. I will bring these novels to life! If nothing else I owe to the characters who live in my head, and to my small but wonderful group of loyal readers!

So…enough blogging. Pink Floyd and I need to get back to writing historical fiction. Until next week!

Robert Krenzel Author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RobertKrenzelAuthor

Gideon Hawke Novels Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GideonHawkeNovels/

* Props to Roger Waters for the lyrics from Time: Poetry at its finest.

Where Armies Go, the Pox Follows: Smallpox in the American Revolution

The Number 1 killer of soldiers and civilians during the American Revolution was smallpox.

Now that this disease has been eradicated the name “Smallpox” no longer invokes the terror it once did. During the American Revolution however, 90% of deaths in the Continental Army were due to disease, and the two strains of Variola smallpox virus were the most brutal of these afflictions. Smallpox was also the target of the first military inoculation campaign in history.

Smallpox is a highly contagious disease characterized first by a rash and then by raised, fluid-filled blisters over the entire body. The mortality rate could be up to 35%. Over 60% of survivors suffered from scarring, and some might experience blindness, arthritis, or even limb deformation. This disease plagued humanity since at least the time of Ancient Egypt, and by the 1700s it was killing hundreds of thousands of Europeans annually. Having had no prior exposure to the disease, and thus no immunity, smallpox devastated Native American tribes when Europeans infected them (sometimes deliberately).

During the Siege of Boston in 1775-1776 a smallpox outbreak struck the British garrison in Boston, and threatened to cross the siege lines to infect the American forces. Because of its prevalence in Europe and relative scarcity in the Americas, the British troop population, was less susceptible to the disease than the Americans. A significant percentage of British troops had either survived the disease or been inoculated (exposed to a less deadly strain), and were thus immune. Far fewer colonists had any prior exposure to smallpox, thus they were highly susceptible to infection. The Continental Army was lucky outside Boston, but the pox made its full fury felt among the American troops sent to invade Quebec in 1775. During the Siege of Quebec the British intentionally released numerous sick Canadian civilians, who subsequently infected the besieging Americans. This outbreak seriously weakened the attackers, contributing to the expedition’s ultimate failure. It also served as a loud and clear warning to the Commander-in-Chief, General George Washington.

During a trip to Barbados as a young man, Washington had contracted and survived smallpox, so he was keenly aware of the disease’s effects. He was also aware of the risks of inoculation: not only would inoculated troops be sickened, but some would die. There was also the potential that inoculated troops could actually spread the disease, causing an outbreak. Fear of inoculation was so great that in 1776 the Continental Congress forbade military surgeons from so treating the troops, but in February of 1777 Washington made the momentous decision to inoculate the 75% of the Continental Army who had not previously been exposed to the disease. Currently serving troops would receive the jab, as would new recruits, who would not join their units until healthy and immune. All of this was done in the greatest secrecy; had the British discovered that large numbers of American troops were sick due to inoculation, they might have attacked, dealing Washington’s Army a fatal blow.

In spite of the risks, Washington’s inoculation program, the first in military history, was a complete success. Subsequent to 1777, at no point were the British able to benefit from the ravages of smallpox in American units. In fact, the few smallpox outbreaks that did occur were very localized, and had minimal impact on Continental Army operations. The British and their Hessian allies were not defeated until 1781, but by combining cutting edge medical technology with a daring command decision, Washington won a decisive victory over smallpox in 1777.

Gideon Hawke and Ruth Munroe will witness firsthand the ravages of smallpox in the forthcoming Gideon Hawke #4: A Constant Thunder.

Library of Congress article on George Washington and Smallpox inoculation: https://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/GW&smallpoxinoculation.html

Mount Vernon article on Smallpox, including an informative video: http://www.mountvernon.org/digital-encyclopedia/article/smallpox/

Robert Krenzel Author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RobertKrenzelAuthor

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The Forage War: Spanktown

On February 23rd, 1777 the British and Americans fought one of the largest battles of the Forage War at Spanktown, near modern-day Rahway, NJ.

Increasingly frustrated by American attacks on their foraging parties, the British command unleashed Lieutenant Colonel Charles Mahwood, the aggressive British commander who very nearly won the day at Princeton. With four British infantry regiments, plus a battalion each of light infantry and grenadiers, Mahwood was well-equipped to challenge any American Continental or Militia units that stood in his way.

Happening upon a small American foraging party covered by a brigade of New Jersey Continentals on a nearby hilltop, Mahwood deployed his troops for battle. He launched a grenadier company on a wide flanking movement, preparatory to a massed bayonet assault. The British moved confidently, prepared to overcome American resistance with cold steel. Then the Americans sprang the trap.

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Possible deployments at Spanktown, from A Nest of Hornets

The New Jersey units were bait. Hiding in ambush was a Pennsylvania Brigade including Colonel Edward Hand’s 1st Pennsylvania (formerly called both Thompson’s Rifle Battalion and the First Continental Regiment). The grenadier company unwittingly marched across the front of the hidden Pennsylvanians, who sprang from concealment and fired a volley which annihilated the flanking force. Both the New Jersey and Pennsylvania brigades now maneuvered aggressively against Mahwood’s remaining troops who, outnumbered and outflanked, fell back. The light infantry and grenadier battalions fought a brief rearguard action as the infantry regiments withdrew. Lieutenant Colonel Mahwood must be credited with escaping with most of his force intact, but the retreat soon turned into a route.

 

The British were not only driven from the field with significant losses, but the Americans pursued them all the way to the British stronghold in the Amboys. It must have been an agonizing defeat for the British hero of Princeton. More importantly, it foretold the successes of a Continental Army that, in eight months’ time, would bring General John Burgoyne to heel at Saratoga.

You can experience the Battle of Spanktown from a participant’s point of view in the novel A Nest of Hornets.

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Revolutionary Strategy: The Hudson River

The Saratoga Campaign was a disaster for the British. It was such a resounding success for their American adversaries that it overshadowed the British occupation of Philadelphia in persuading France to enter the war on the American side. With the benefit of hindsight, one might wonder what brought a British Army to a remote stretch of woods north of Albany, where it would be forced to march into captivity. Well, simply put, the Saratoga Campaign may have been the closest the British came to a winning military strategy.

albanyIn the 1700s there was no highway system in the United States, and all-season roads were a rarity. The fastest and most efficient way to move people and goods was often by water. Commerce flowed up and down rivers, and ferries traversed the larger rivers to connect what road networks existed on either side. The British rightly considered the New England states to be the birthplace of the Revolution, and the theory was that if they could isolate New England from the rest of the rebellious former colonies, they might be able to concentrate their forces and stamp out the rebellion piecemeal. At the very least, establishing a cordon around New England might have forced George Washington into attacking to break the cordon. Given superior British discipline, firepower, and potentially numbers, such a battle might well have led to the destruction of Washington’s main force; in that event American capitulation would likely have been merely a matter of time.

Given those considerations, when viewing a map from across the Atlantic, the Lake Champlain-Lake George-Hudson River Corridor looked like an inviting invasion route. It had in fact historically been the quickest route for travel between Canada and New York. It seemed reasonable that an army of several thousand people should be able to attack southward down the corridor and link up at Albany with a force coming northward from New York. This would put in British hands the key ferries across the Hudson and open up communications between New York and Canada. New England would be isolated from the rest of the states, and George Washington would be between the proverbial rock and hard place.

Fortunately for the Americans, what looked easy from London was much harder in practice. The British could move supplies and troops by water, but they could not simply sail all the way to Albany. They had to fight their way overland to clear American troops from the river’s banks. The American’s however, pursued a Fabian strategy of falling back in the face of superior numbers, destroying bridges, felling trees across roads, and even inundating roadways as they went. They also proved adept at slipping around the main British force and attacking British lines of communication. Plagued by poor roads, too few wagons and draft animals, and rebel interdiction, Burgoyne found that every time he advanced a few miles, he had to pause for weeks to amass supplies. All the while, more and more American forces were massing between him and his objective of Albany.

Hudson emplacement

The Great Redoubt at the Saratoga Battlefield, overlooking the Hudson River.

In spite of all that, the British Hudson Campaign might still have succeeded, but the nail in the coffin for the British strategy was poor strategic management. Lord Germain, the British Secretary of State for America, was a notorious micromanager, attempting to dictate military strategy from across the Atlantic via letters that took weeks if not months to reach their recipients. In the case of overall strategy for 1777 however, Germain committed the cardinal strategic sin of not setting a unified strategy for the North American theater. He directed Burgoyne to reach Albany and then operate under command of General Howe, the British land force commander for North America, but Germain failed to direct Howe to attack up the Hudson to link up with Burgoyne. Howe pursued his own strategy of capturing Philadelphia, leaving only a defensive force, with restrictive guidance, in New York. This force, under Clinton, did attack up the Hudson, but was not powerful enough to get through to Albany and then fight through the forces opposing Burgoyne. So, ultimately, Burgoyne’s hopes of breaking through were dashed at Bemis Heights.

The British would never again come so close to restoring Crown rule in their erstwhile colonies.

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Clash of Cultures: The Wilderness War

Up to this point in the Gideon Hawke Series I have explored the fighting between Americans and British, Americans and Germans, and Patriots and Loyalists. I have even delved into the seedy underworld of espionage. Now, as I work on Gideon Hawke #4, A Constant Thunder, I have for the first time crossed the threshold into cross-cultural warfare: Americans versus Native Americans.

 

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Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea): Mohawk leader

When British General John Burgoyne launched his campaign from Canada down the Hudson, a wave of Native Americans moved in advance of his army. While Burgoyne made some efforts to put constraints on these warriors, his limitations ran contrary to the fundamental reasons why Native Americans went to war, because the Native American concept of warfare was very different from the European model. Operating in small bands under a “democratically” recognized leader, these men joined the campaign both for profit and to prove their worth as warriors. They valued individual valor, and unit discipline was an alien concept. Furthermore, many aspects of their culture, such as the taking of scalps, or the abduction or torture of captives, were abhorrent to Americans, as was their tendency to appear out of the wilds and descend upon isolated families or towns. That said, from our distant perspective it is easy to see that many tribes could in many ways be considered “progressive;” while they might be intolerant of outsiders, among their own people they were remarkably tolerant, and women had a prominent role in governance and strategy. Their brutality in warfare and the underlying values of Native American culture were so alien to the culture of transplanted Europeans that their motivations were rarely understood except in the context of their being considered “savages.”

 

This explains why the specter of Native American attack spread panic across the northern States, but also galvanized resistance to Burgoyne’s invasion. As a result, substantial militia and Continental forces moved to reinforce the American forces in the Hudson Valley. One of the units which marched north to challenge Burgoyne and his Indians, and had a tremendous impact on the outcome of the campaign, was Morgan’s Rifle Corps.

One of the Rifle Corp’s first tasks when it arrived in the Albany area was to take to the wilds of the Hudson Valley and defeat the bands of Native Americans and Loyalists who still dominated “No Man’s Land.” At that point, in the wake of the American successes at the Battle of Bennington and Oriskany (the latter arguably an American defeat, but one which caused heavy losses to the tribesmen), Native Americans were beginning to abandon Burgoyne, but were still very active. Thus the Rifle Corps soon found itself in numerous small but vicious encounters with Native Americans; this was a clash of cultures as much as a clash of arms. Many if not most of Morgan’s men had experience in Native American warfare, so they knew what they were getting into. They knew that their foe was at home in this strange, wild environment, and that the fighting would be bitter, close, and to the death.

As I write A Constant Thunder, this is the type of warfare in which Gideon Hawke has found himself. It will challenge his sense of right and wrong. It will test his endurance. It will force him to compromise on his ideals. He will have to quickly learn the ways of his enemies and beat them at their own game. If he succeeds it will be quite an accomplishment, but it will only be a preamble. Death, and an alien world, may lurk in the woods, but destiny awaits at Freeman’s Farm and Bemis Heights.

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For Want of a Nail: Did Bad British Logistics Lose America for the Crown?

It is a cliché in the military that amateurs talk about tactics and professionals talk about logistics, but behind many clichés lay hard truths. While there are several reasons the British lost the American War of Independence, poor logistics may have doomed them from the start.

In some respects the British war in the Americas was a masterpiece of strategic logistics. Within 15 months of “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World” the British Empire had assembled the largest land and naval expeditionary force in history and projected it across the Atlantic Ocean. But at the local level, that force quickly ran into trouble.

First and foremost, British military logistics were not centralized. The British Treasury Department was responsible for supplying food and forage. The Navy Board was responsible for oceanic transportation, and the Ordnance Board has responsibility for supplying artillery and munitions. The position of Quartermaster General had responsibility for logistics oversight for the Army, but also served as a Chief of Staff, so his focus was not entirely on logistical problems. To make matters worse, the Army’s Commissary Department was notoriously corrupt. In this time period it was expected that Army Commissaries, who were civilians, would profit from their service; in fact it was not uncommon, perhaps even expected, that people would fleece the government whenever possible. Efforts by suppliers to cut corners, compounded by official corruption, combined with a harsh trans-Atlantic voyage, meant that much if not most of the food shipped to the Americas from Great Britain was lost or spoiled en route. This forced the British Army in North America to forage.

Once the British cleared American forces from Long Island and Manhattan and penetrated the rich farmlands of New Jersey, it was hoped that the bounty from New Jersey and occupied New York would solve British food supply problems. Washington’s daring raid on Trenton proved the folly of dispersing garrisons across New Jersey, and the newly-emboldened Jersey Militia and Continental Army made life nearly unbearable for the British and their Hessian allies. Foraging expeditions turned into running battles, and the British were forced to commit larger and larger forces to efforts to simply seize stock of flour. To make matters worse, depredations committed by British and Hessian troops while foraging provided excellent fodder for American propaganda, and convinced many Americans to get off the fence and support the patriot cause.

The scarcity of supplies of all kind, and the primitive conditions prevalent in North America, forced General John Burgoyne into one of the greatest British disasters of the war: his surrender at Saratoga. In his plan to attack out of Canada and down the Hudson Valley, Burgoyne had envisioned enlisting thousands of horses and wagons which simply never materialized. His campaign of 1777 was marked by fits and starts: he would surge forward and win a tactical victory, and then halt for weeks to lick his wounds and gather supplies while his American foes gathered forces, destroyed roads, and prepared defenses. Burgoyne lost 10% of his force in the Battle of Bennington, which was essentially a foraging expedition gone disastrously wrong. By the time he drew near to objective at Albany, his force was weakened and depleted, and he was faced with a very strong American position manned by patriots who knew their foe was on the ropes. After his surrender at Saratoga his men marched into captivity in tattered clothes, while the French court was convinced it was time to join the American cause.

Arguably the only way the British could have won the war was by cutting loose from their logistics base and pursuing Washington’s Army in a war of maneuver and forcing it into a decisive battle. In this case the superior British training, discipline, and firepower might have won the day, but the British Army was simply not equipped to sustain itself away from rivers and ports. Such a daring move risked the British main force itself being isolated and withering on the vine, just as Burgoyne’s force had done.

surrenderIn the final act of the War, General Cornwallis dashed across Virginia in an example of what a British force could accomplish if it cut loose from its logistical tail. Unfortunately for Cornwallis, the French Navy for once achieved local superiority over the Royal Navy, and Cornwallis found himself with his back to the York River. He was forced to slaughter his horses to preserve his very limited stocks of food, and his troops were weakened by the effects of malaria. With no relief in sight, a dwindling force, and a growing American-French force pounding his defenses, Cornwallis was forced to surrender, and the Crown was forced to the negotiating table.

The British Army in the Americas suffered from numerous challenges during the American Revolution. But throughout the war, from the generals unable to pursue a winning strategy to the privates with grumbling stomachs, logistical problems would be a constant reminder of the challenges of fighting an implacable foe far, far from home.

You can learn more about the fight for American Independence in the Gideon Hawke Series.

Robert Krenzel Author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RobertKrenzelAuthor

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This Lady Has Lost Her Way

A short story, or “Drabble” I wrote last week. I hope you enjoy it!

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By Robert Krenzel

This Lady has lost her way.

She is an immigrant: a French girl, originally.

She welcomed others, lighting the way to a better life.

She watched, twice, with pride as the boys sailed off to rescue her homeland. She counted them back; too many never returned.

She wept as she watched the towers burn and fall. They were immigrants, like her. How could they?

She grew angry and suspicious.

Lately she has lost her way. The light has gone dark. She no longer welcomes the wretched refuse.

Only for a time. Maybe just for a few years. Maybe just four.

     
Bio:
Bob Krenzel writes historical fiction in his spare time. A 24-year Army veteran, he served in the Balkans, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

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Character Interview: Kate Scott

January 1777; Chatham, NJ. After my interview with Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Scott of the New Jersey Militia, I had the opportunity to speak with his wife, Kate, who also appears in the novel A Nest of Hornets. Here are my questions and her responses:

Robert Krenzel: Mrs. Scott, please tell us a little about your background.

Kate Scott: Please, Dear, call me Kate. What should I say? I am from New York City. I was born there in 1753, as Katherine Vogels. I was quite happy there until my family moved to that little backwater in New Jersey called New Brunswick. I made the best of it, I suppose, but there was so little for an ambitious young girl to do! Fortunately we were not so far as to preclude occasional visits to New York for culture and shopping.

RK: You are not happy here in New Jersey?

KS: I am happiest where there is society and culture. Frankly, I would prefer London or Paris, but if we must be on this Continent, I would prefer New York; or perhaps Boston or Philadelphia. And while New Brunswick was bad, this place we are in now is just beastly! We might as well all be wearing animal skins and dancing around a fire.

RK: As you implied you currently reside in Chatham, but used to be in New Brunswick. As I understand it from your husband enemy troops are now quartered in your New Brunswick estate, and you all fled for your lives. Can you tell me more about that?

KS: Fortunes of war, I suppose. I would certainly not say I fled for my life, though. I think Daniel would have preferred to fight to the death in our front door; I don’t know how well it would have gone for me under those circumstances, so I persuaded him to remove us somewhere away from the fighting. In retrospect, perhaps I should have let him fight it out.

RK: Your husband indicated you have a happy marriage. You must feel very fortunate.

KS: [with raised eyebrows] Oh, of course. What lady would not consider herself blessed to be married to such a man?

RK: He is something of a hero, is he not?

KS: I suppose so. He is certainly committed to his cause.

RK: He has a reputation for ferocity; is there a hidden side of him at home that his troops would be surprised to see?

KS: [smiling enigmatically] At home he is like a puppy in my lap.

RK: How did you meet?

KS: My father arranged it. Daniel came from a well-to-do family with reasonable connections. It was a good match.

RK: You recently had a chance to meet a young Continental officer named Lieutenant Gideon Hawke, who is of interest to my readers. What can you tell us about him?

KS: He is such a delightful young man! He is very eager to please, which I like in men, and very handsome. He seems a bit naïve in social settings, but I have no doubt he is a fearsome on the battlefield as his reputation would suggest.

RK: Have you noted any tension between him and your husband?

KS: There is tension between everyone and my husband. I think dear Gideon is very idealistic. My husband is more pragmatic. I can see how that would lead to the occasional difference of opinion, don’t you?

RK: Quite; especially in a time like this when politics and war have torn families apart. Having been through so much, what words of wisdom would you offer to young ladies in these trying times?

KS: The same advice I offer all young ladies: “Marry a handsome man and you marry trouble.” Those are words to live by.

RK: Yes…well…I was referring to the war. Are you saying that in spite of the war everything revolves around marriage?

KS: What I am saying…and please don’t take me for a hopeless romantic…is that I am a practical woman. I would say that whom she marries is very important for determining how comfortable a young lady will be, and how many options she will have available, especially in times such as these.

RK: I see. The current war has been hard on New Jersey and its population; are you hopeful for the future?

KS: I am absolutely certain I will find a way to manage.

RK: What do you think it will take to heal the wounds left by this war?

KS: I suppose each person will have to find her own way. I will certainly find mine.

RK: Do you think America will win its independence?

KS: I have no idea. The war is not a particular concern of mine, aside from how it affects me directly. I can’t say I care one way or another about the cause.

RK: Kate, thank you very much for your time. This has been truly…informative.

KS: [Placing a hand on my arm] It has been delightful!

You can learn more about Kate Scott in Gideon Hawke #3, A Nest of Hornets!

A Nest of Hornets on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01NBI511Q/