Sadie – A Revolutionary War Story
“More Redcoats, Papa!” Sadie warned. She watched as a flurry of dust billowed around the small group of soldiers riding into their yard.
Her father frowned at the news. “Well, go on then but watch yourself.”
Sadie moved quickly to her secret hiding place and crouched down in a space the size of a cupboard. She shut the little door and waited. She often wished that their inn was not right in the middle of British-controlled territory. Then one day she had overheard some important information while cleaning out this crawl space under the stairs. Her family had devised a way to spy on the soldiers and since she was the only one who fit in the tiny space, she did the eavesdropping.
For the most part the soldiers who came to the inn were civil for the British prided themselves on being gentlemen at all times. This, however, sounded like a rowdy bunch.
“Some food and be quick about it!” demanded an officer. “And a private dining room!”
Good. That meant she’d be able to overhear. She peeked through a knothole as the men entered the room. There were only half a dozen but they seemed to make enough noise for an entire regiment. They were jubilant and arrogant as they pulled out chairs and sat around the table.
Sadie’s fifteen year old cousin, Billy, arrived with a tray of pewter mugs filled with foaming ale. The men grabbed them up and swigged the ale eagerly. “Beef, boy! And potatoes! And hurry up about it!”
Billy left the room as someone else exclaimed, “what a rout! That’ll teach ‘em, the rebels!” That man didn’t sound like the average British soldier. He had the accent of a London commoner. And a meanness in his expression to match.
“And those Sharp Shooters—we got ‘em all or they would have been running off to warn Washington. We don’t want anybody to know we’re going to Red Haven in the morning!”
“Hush!” came a sharp command from the door.
The men suddenly were on their feet with a smart salute.
“Are you sure this room is secure? Talking of our plans in a public inn run by American colonists!”
“It’s a private room, sir, with doors of thick oak wood. No need to worry, sir.”
“All right then. Listen….” He slapped a rolled parchment on the table and opened it, placing candlesticks on each corner.
Although Sadie couldn’t see from her hiding place, she assumed it was a map.
“We ride to Red Haven in the morning. Then on to Grove City in two days. We’ll cut off Washington at the river. He’ll never expect it. We’ll take two thousand men and ambush him here….” He pointed to a spot on the map.
Sadie jumped at a knock on the big oak door. All the men jumped too and some grabbed up their muskets, but it was only Billy with two huge trays of food.
The map was quickly rolled up and whisked out of sight and the commander said quietly to his assistant, “this is marked. We don’t want it to get into the wrong hands. Make sure you keep it safe.”
Sadie waited for more information but the men were occupied with wolfing down their meal. She left the little cubbyhole and went to the kitchen to relate what she had heard. She hadn’t had time for all the information to register but now that she had a moment to think, her chest tightened. The Sharp Shooters. They were mountain men that had come down to do their part in the war effort. Her uncle was one of them.
“What is it!” asked Mother, seeing her stricken face.
“It’s Uncle Samuel! Those soldiers met up with the Sharp Shooters! And killed them all!”
There was shock on every face. Mother turned away. Uncle Samuel was her brother.
Papa recovered long enough to say, “What else? You’ve got other information?”
“They’re planning an ambush! Near Grove City. But we need the map. It’s all marked.”
“Billy…can you get the map?”
They all knew what an impossible thing Papa was asking. And Billy could be shot if he failed in the attempt.
But Billy answered promptly, “yes, sir.”
Papa laid a hand on his shoulder. “Be careful,”
They all had to put aside their grief for the moment. Sadie started back to her post but suddenly Papa looked out the back door.
“What is it?” asked Mother, seeing his expression of amazement.
“They didn’t get everyone! Look!”
There, at the edge of the woods was—Uncle Samuel!
The entire family stared as Uncle Samuel staggered toward the inn.
Then Mother came to her senses. “Quick! Stop him before the Redcoats see! He looks badly hurt. I’ll get bandages and water! Maybe you can get him to the barn and out of sight!”
They all hurried to their various errands. Papa ran out the back door to keep Uncle Samuel from walking straight into the enemy’s hands. Sadie sped back to her hiding place and looked through the knothole, praying madly that Billy would be successful.
Suddenly, several men caused a distraction. Soldiers she hadn’t seen before were bringing in two more who were wounded. Someone was bellowing, “help us! You care more about your stomachs then our hurt men!”
The commander jumped up in agreement. Billy entered the room just as most of the soldiers gathered round to help tend to the men’s wounds.
“Come on, give them something to eat! They’ll be all right but we need to get some food into them.”
In all the commotion, Billy whisked the rolled map under his jacket and headed out of the room. “I’ll get some stew and biscuit,” he offered loudly and Sadie grinned as he made his escape.
A few minutes later, she found Billy and Mother in the kitchen examining the map.
“There’s so much information,” said Billy. “We can’t possibly remember it all.”
“You’ve got to get it back. They’ll tear the inn apart looking for it—and maybe hurt somebody,” said Mother. “Just memorize what’s most important. Where the ambush will take place….”
“Wait!” Billy dashed into the outer room and grabbed a sheet of thick paper from Papa’s desk. He took up quill and ink and rushed back. Spreading the paper on a table, he started drawing.
Sadie paused. She always loved to watch him. He was a very good at drawing pictures and his father had been a mapmaker. Billy had often watched as a little boy and seemed to have a knack for it himself.
“Make sure it’s right,” warned Mother, “or we might as well not do it. Lives will be lost.”
But Billy’s strokes were quick and sure. He concentrated on the marked places and in less than five minutes, the paper was covered with important information.
“Go on!” urged Mother, “Before they discover it’s missing!”
He hurriedly rolled up the map and hid it under his jacket. Sadie had the tray of soup and biscuits ready. He grabbed it up.
She hurried back to her cubbyhole once again. She was just in time to see the room in an uproar.
One of the hurt men had fainted and the soldiers were trying to arouse him but worse than that, the commander and his assistant were in a panic.
“It was right here, sir!”
“You’ll pay for this!” the commander roared. “It was your responsibility!”
Sadie watched breathlessly as her cousin arrived on the scene.
“Stew here! “ Billy called cheerfully. “Oh, isn’t he well? Doesn’t he want his stew?”
But the man was coming around. The commander was distracted for a moment as they tried to get him breathing right and then started to feed him. Billy dropped the rolled map under the table and in a swift motion arranged the draping tablecloth so the end of the map could be seen.
“Anything else, sir?” he asked congenially.
“Just leave us!”
“Yes, sir. Whatever you say. But we’ve got some nice apple pie, sir.”
“Get out! No wait! Search him!”
“Here it is, sir,” came the assistant’s voice, quietly. “All’s well. It rolled under the table.”
“All right,” the commander relaxed. “You may go. No, wait! Bring some bandages and medicine. And all right, some of that apple pie.”
“We have no medicine but we have bandages aplenty, sir.”
Sadie grinned again. Billy wasn’t about to waste good medicine on a Redcoat. Not unless he was actually dying. They were good Christian people so of course they would save a dying man, Redcoat or not. But Billy wasn’t lying. The little medicine they did have was being used for Uncle Samuel as they spoke.
Finally, all together back in the kitchen, they made plans. Sadie had stayed for some time in the cubbyhole but no further information was forthcoming. Uncle Samuel was badly wounded, but patched up and resting in the haymow. He had news of his own about the ambush and a great passion to get on with delivering a message of warning to the troops. Unfortunately he was too weak to even climb the ladder let alone ride a horse. Papa had had to carry him up to his hiding place.
“I’ll ride at once to warn them,” Papa was saying. “Good work, Sadie. Go on up and clean the rooms now. We want to act as if all is normal and we’ve got other guests to attend to. You too, Billy. You’d do better as a map maker for our army rather than waiting on tables but maybe that will come later. Go on now. They’ll be suspicious with us all huddled in here.”
As Sadie climbed the wooden stairs to prepare the rooms, she wished she had said a better goodbye to her father. He was going on a dangerous mission. But upon entering a bedroom and glancing out the open window, she froze in horror.
Papa hadn’t gotten far. He’d managed to make it to the barn and get his horse saddled but as he brought it out and mounted, several Redcoats surrounded him. Sadie could hear the conversation from where she stood.
“Where do you think you’re going!”
“Just on an errand. I’m an innkeeper. I have business to attend to.”
“Not while we’re here,” the commander spoke up. “Nobody leaves. I don’t trust public inns.”
“Sir, I assure you….” Papa angrily looked him in the eye but as several rifles were suddenly cocked, he relented and dismounted.
“Inside. We’ll be on our way in the morning and then you can go about your errands.”
“Sir, we will not be held hostage in our own inn!”
“You’ll do what we tell you if you want to stay alive! It’s more than you traitors to the Crown deserve. You too, boy! Get inside!” For Billy had come out to see what was happening. “You’re not leaving either. You’ve been serving us.”
“I heard nothing!” retorted Billy, which was true.
“Your behavior is uncalled for, sir!” put in Papa, furiously. “This is a public inn where people may come and go as they please!”
“That may be but being cautious is how we’re going to win this war against you rebels. Now go! Bring us more food and have our beds ready.”
Sadie rushed downstairs, afraid for her father and cousin but now as they were shooed back into the kitchen by the soldiers, her mother pushed her down behind the apple barrel.
“You’re the one that will have to go,” whispered Mother, desperately. “You’re the only one of us they haven’t seen. But they mustn’t spot you.”
Sadie crouched motionless behind the barrel until the soldiers left the room. Unfortunately, the commander called several of his men to stand guard around the inn.
“He must suspect that we overheard something,” said Papa. He had the same idea as Mother. “Sadie, will you go?”
Sadie gulped. “I’ll try, Papa. But I don’t know the way. Where is the army?”
“Don’t worry about that. I’ll tell you where to go.”
Later, as evening approached, Sadie was ready. Papa had given her careful instructions and all the supplies she would need. She hugged Mother, who held her tightly. Billy gave her a big bear hug and a grin of encouragement, then she was off.
“God be with you,” Mama whispered.
Papa had loosened the pegs of two boards in the kitchen wall. Sadie winced at the squeak as she pushed the boards up and wiggled through the opening. She stayed in the shadows until darkness fell completely.
Just around the corner, Papa was trying to distract the soldier who was guarding the door by engaging him in conversation. Sadie dropped to the ground and crawled slowly and quietly on hands and knees through the thick, high grass of the meadow in back of the house. Her bundled-up cloak, along with a burlap sack holding the map and some food, bounced on her shoulders. She scrambled down the hill and only then did she dare look back. The soldier guarding the back door stood straight and unmoving, his gun ready. Papa was still there, chatting in a friendly way, but it didn’t seem to be working. Only when she reached the shadows of a small patch of trees did she feel safe.
A stream flowed off into the distance and their rowboat was tied to a small dock. After glancing back at the inn one more time, she climbed into the rowboat and settled herself on the narrow board halfway across. She got the oars in the oarlocks with some difficulty. It would be hard rowing. Billy often teased her that she wasn’t really big enough to handle the oars yet and he had to do all the work.
As she shoved off, she was relieved that a row of bushes hid her from view within seconds. She stayed close to the bank for some time, then decided it was safe to venture out into the middle of the stream. There the current picked her up and she floated downstream rapidly. Tired already, she rested her arms. It was a warm, sultry evening and she wiped the sweat from her brow.
As she passed darkened farmhouses and quiet towns, Sadie was watchful. There were always British scouts out and about these days and the road above the creek was highly traveled by Tories. They would be suspicious of a young girl, alone in a rowboat. The woods concealed her though, and in the few open spots she managed to slip through undetected. Apart from the gentle swish of the water, the calls of whippoorwills and an occasional screech of an owl were the only sounds she heard. If she hadn’t been on such a crucial errand, Sadie would have relaxed and enjoyed the unusual pleasure of being out on the water on a summer night.
She wondered what would come but whatever it was, she knew that God was with her.
Sadie floated downstream for several hours before the current changed and she was obliged to take up her oars again. The going was slower now and by the time she reached Red Haven, she was very tired. It was close to dawn and time to make a decision. She was to go to the house of Mr. Henry Reed, her father’s friend. Should she go under cover of darkness or should she wait. Perhaps it would be better to blend in with the people doing early morning errands. She also knew that she needed to get to shore for not far from here, the creek would flow into the bay.
“You must get ashore before that,” her father had warned. “The currents will whisk you out to deeper water before you know it.”
There was yet another problem. The moon had come out and the trees had thinned and there were always scouts guarding the road into town. Even though it was a Tory town, the enemy was cautious. She could see the two scouts now, high up the embankment, dark silhouettes against the bright moon. They had only to look down toward the stream and they would see her.
“Lord, help me,” she breathed. “Don’t let them look….”
She didn’t dare even dip her oars for fear they would hear. As she drifted toward the inlet, she realized that a mist was rising from the water and as she moved on, it became deeper and whiter. It was very humid and she was down in a bit of a hollow. The fog was perfect for hiding her.
She took a chance and quietly took a few strokes with her oars. She couldn’t see the bay, but she knew it was near. She must get to shore. A moment later, she was safe in the shallows near the bank. She grabbed at a slender tree and tied her boat.
Sadie felt very sheltered here, under cover of darkness and mist, but she knew she had to move on. Upon seeing the soldiers, she had decided that she wanted to find Mr. Reed’s house under cover of darkness and get inside as soon as possible. Sadie gathered her things and stepped out onto the bank. Being a sultry, damp morning, the sweat trickled down her face. She drew the rope that was attached to her bundle over her head so that it hung at her side and she was free to climb the bank. Grasping at small trees and branches, she approached the top with muddy shoes and bedraggled dress. She did her best to smooth her clothes and hair, then ventured out onto the street.
Sadie shrank back into the shadows for a moment as a guard passed on the other side of the road.
Finally she took a deep breath and emerged, slipping past quiet shops and houses. The only problem with trying to find Mr. Reed’s house by night was that she couldn’t see the street signs. She squinted up in the darkness, trying to follow her father’s directions, but soon found herself down by the wharf! How had she ended up here?
The outline of two British warships rose high in the moonlight and many small boats lined the dock. There was much more activity here as men were already loading barges or heading out in fishing boats. Lantern light streamed from a number of shops and she again slunk into the shadows.
As she watched the comings and goings of the shadowy figures, intent on their errands, she breathed, help me, Lord God, I’m lost! Guide me….
Sometime later, just as she was noticing with panic that the sky over the bay was lightening to a pale pink, a Negro woman approached. She was striding along purposefully with a large basket. Something about the woman seemed to draw Sadie and she made her decision.
“Pardon me….” She stepped out from the shadows. “Would you help me, please?”
The woman stopped short and looked her up and down. She seemed a bit surprised apparently that a white girl would address her so. But Sadie’s father didn’t own slaves and Sadie had been taught to treat all adults with respect.
Finally the woman spoke cautiously. “What is it you need, miss?”
“Would you know where Mr. Henry Reed lives?”
The woman stared down at her for a long moment.
When she finally spoke, she said, “Well, I guess I know what side you’re on.”
Sadie tensed, ready to run. This was a town full of Tories. She should have just gone back now that it was almost light and checked the street signs. But the woman moved closer and whispered, “I wouldn’t be saying that name so loud. Come along. Quick, now.”
It was all right. She breathed a prayer of thanksgiving.
The woman walked swiftly back the way Sadie had come. Sadie was glad they were moving quickly for it was growing lighter every minute; the pale grayish pink clouds were turning rosy red and a golden beam of sun was brightening the horizon. But Sadie was pleasantly surprised to find that she’d only gone a couple of streets out of her way.
“It’s across the square there. Don’t go to the front door. Best slip into the alley. His house is on the left. Go quick now.”
“Thank you. Thank you very much.”
The woman nodded and disappeared into the dim shadows.
Sadie didn’t like the idea of going out into the open square in the middle of town but she heard footsteps and realized that the guard was coming back. Knowing she had very little time, she moved into action. Emerging from the shadows, she ran across the square and entered the alley just before the soldier turned the corner.
Leaning back against the wall of the house as he passed, she tried to catch her breath.
Finally she started across the narrow alley to the door on the left when suddenly a door beside her swung open. A woman stepped out, took a great breath of warm summer air, as if glad to be alive on such a beautiful day. Then she turned and jumped, startled, as she looked straight at Sadie.
“What are you doing, child?”
Sadie was speechless. She must be a Tory. She was dressed in a deep blue morning dress of exquisite material that spoke of wealth. Many Tories seemed to be growing more and more wealthy these days while the colonists were being robbed of their livestock and property.
“Answer me, child. Who are you and what are you doing in my alley?”
Sadie finally spoke. “I need to see your neighbor, Mr. Reed, ma’am,” she said, taking a step toward the far door.
The woman looked even more startled. “Come in here — quick!” She drew closer and grasped Sadie’s arm.
Sadie tried to pull away and the woman murmured urgently. “Henry Reed isn’t there. He’s been arrested.”
Instantly, Sadie stopped struggling and followed the woman down a flight of stairs and into her house. They entered a spacious kitchen. A large black woman turned from the fire, holding a spoon aloft. She looked at Sadie curiously as the door was firmly shut.
“Mr. Reed’s been captured?” Sadie asked in dismay.
“Yes. The Redcoats commandeered his house. There’s a Tory family living there now.”
“If you’d done gone asking after Master Reed, they’d have hauled you off to the Redcoats to be questioned,” put in the black woman.
“But what shall I do! I have a message. My father says Mr. Reed knows where General Washington is camped and I have a ma—”
“Don’t tell us! The less we know, the better. But maybe my husband can help.”
Just then a richly dressed man appeared at a doorway.
“Oh, Edward! This girl wants Henry Reed. She needs someone to take a message to the camp.”
The man stared down at Sadie, thoughtfully.
“Can you help me, sir?”
He shook his head. “They know we’re loyal colonists. I wouldn’t get far without being followed. But I know someone who can help you. A farmer outside of town knows where the troops are camped. There’s a shopkeeper that goes out there every day to get fruit and vegetables. Wait here. I’ll see if he’s gone yet.”
“Thank you, sir,” Sadie sank into a chair in relief.
The black woman spooned porridge into a bowl and set it before her. The white lady took her sack and placed a loaf of fresh bread into it. By the time Sadie had finished her breakfast, the man was back.
“He’ll be here in a moment. He’ll come to the alley. You’ll have to hide. Everyone knows all the children around here. They’d know you’re a stranger and ask questions. Especially with you carrying a cloak on such a warm morning. To say nothing of the knapsack.”
“If you please, sir, I need my knapsack. I’ve got an important ma—”
He held up his hand, “don’t tell us. If we’re caught helping you, we can’t tell what we don’t know.”
A few minutes later, a wagon stopped outside the door.
“Quick now,” said the man.
He escorted her out the door and a burly, red haired man with a jolly smile looked her over. “So this is my passenger, is it? You’re so small that we can hide you very nicely. Those Lobsterbacks search my wagon both coming and going.”
Sadie looked at the wagon which at this point was only filled with empty baskets, crates, and folded burlap bags. There didn’t seem to be any place to hide.
At her quizzical look, he laughed and looking about cautiously, he pressed a secret spring. The entire floor of the wagon lifted up, revealing a space beneath. He quickly pushed the boards back down. “But that’s not the best part. I don’t often get anyone little enough to put in my other hiding place. I usually just use it for secret documents and weapons and such.” He grinned at the look on Edward’s face. “All right, all right, I know I talk too much. But you worry too much.”
He turned back to Sadie and continued on about the special features of his wagon. “If they were to find that hiding place, they wouldn’t bother looking further but see this?”
He pressed another lever and suddenly the driver’s seat lifted, revealing a second crawl space. “In you go, lass.”
Sadie saw there were a lot more people out and about by now. No one seemed to be watching them but she still moved quickly. She smiled at the two women. They were blocking the end of the alley quite efficiently what with their skirts billowing in the summer breeze. Then she nodded up at Edward who was waiting to help her in. “Thank you. All of you.”
The man gave her a boost and she laid down in the secret hiding place, her cloak and knapsack in her arms in front of her. The opening closed and she was very glad she wasn’t afraid of small spaces.
“Off we go,” murmured the man above her as they moved out.
Sure enough, they were stopped at the entrance to town. The soldiers seemed to be making a good deal of noise and show about throwing the crates and baskets about and not bothering to put them back. The storekeeper had to do that himself. But the soldiers didn’t find either hiding place and soon they were on their way again.
“It’ll be a while now,” came the voice above her. “But we’re safe for the moment.”
As they jostled and rattled down the dirt road, Sadie had a feeling she’d be black and blue by the time they reached their destination. The large farm horse seemed to be taking his time, too.
Finally the man’s voice came again. “Not long now.” Then suddenly, he came to an abrupt stop. “Who goes there!”
Sadie panicked. What could it be now! And would she be discovered?
Sadie was taken completely by surprise when the wagon stopped so abruptly. If there had been room to tumble about, she would have done so. As it was, she bumped up and down violently and struck her shoulder.
“Sorry, lass.” Then at the next words, she knew he wasn’t talking to her any longer. “What are you doing here?”
Sadie relaxed. The storekeeper obviously knew the person that had caused him to stop so suddenly.
A new voice came from somewhere nearby. “I wanted to warn you not to come to the farm if you have—any secrets. The Redcoats have taken the farmhouse for their headquarters.”
She heard the storekeeper jump to the ground and a second later, the seat rose above her.
“Ah, I see you have a big secret.”
Sadie emerged from her cramped position.
”This lass needs someone to take a message to the general. She went to Henry Reed’s but of course he’s gone.”
A patch of woods bordered the road. The man’s head and upper body was sticking up from behind the brush. He was tall and very thin and looked a bit like a scarecrow perched on a stick.
“Can you help me, sir?”
The man shook his head. “I’m sorry, child. I have to get back to my wife and the young ‘uns. The Redcoats will hurt them in order to find out where I’ve gone.” He turned back to his friend. “I only came to warn you. You can still come for vegetables. Just don’t come on war business for a while.”
“But what shall I do?” Sadie was starting to panic again. “I must get someone to take this ma—”
”Don’t tell us,” said the men, together.
“Don’t worry, child, you can go yourself.”
That didn’t seem like a good solution to Sadie. Go herself?
But the man was speaking to the storekeeper, again. “I’ll give her directions. And the colt is out in the far field. They took all my other livestock but I got him hidden before they saw him.” He turned back to Sadie. “Do you ride, child?”
“When you get there, tell them to keep the colt. I’d rather have him in our army then having some British officer riding him. He’s fast but very gentle. And I want you to take this, too.”
He emerged from the forest and handed over his musket, powder horn, and bullet pouch. “Do you know how to shoot?”
“Yes, sir. My father taught me but — I’ve never shot at anyone — only at targets.”
“Well, it’s all loaded and at least you’ll be able to get one off if you get into trouble. Then the colt can get you out of there. Like I said, he’s very fast.”
Sadie took the musket with some reluctance but drew the strap over her shoulder along with her other supplies.
“Leave that with the army, too. They need all the weapons they can get. The Redcoats will just find it and take it away if I keep it. I must go. They’re probably looking for me already.” He gave her careful directions and finished with, “God be with you, miss. I’ll be praying for your mission, whatever it is.”
“Thank you, sir. And I’ll be praying for all of you here.” She realized that there was quite a network of loyal colonists right in the midst of this Tory town.
He nodded and disappeared into the forest.
The storekeeper told Sadie to join him up on the driver’s seat. Sadie was glad not to be going back into that cramped little space. He pulled off the main road and they started across a bumpy field, staying close to the row of trees.
When they finally reached the end of the farmer’s property, Sadie saw the “far field” that the farmer had been talking about. There stood a magnificent young horse. He was nearly full-grown, bronze colored, and apparently very friendly for he trotted over to greet them.
“He’s a nice one,” said the storekeeper. “Too bad to lose him. And look, a saddle. Fred must have thought he might need him quick sometime.”
Sadie took in the sight of the saddle hanging on the fence post. She couldn’t believe it. This would make it so much easier than riding bareback, especially with all the things she was carrying.
The man saddled and bridled the horse and boosted her up. “Do you remember where to go?”
She recited the directions to him, and he nodded approvingly. Finally he gave her that jolly smile again. “You’re a brave lassie. God be with you.”
“And with you, sir.”
She turned the horse and rode away as he headed in the opposite direction.
Sadie couldn’t believe she was doing this but there was no other way and God had been with her this far. He wouldn’t forsake her now.
Even so, she was a bit nervous since it was necessary to use the main road for a short distance. She soon found the gnarled old tree and the huge boulder that had been given her as landmarks, however, and she entered the forest on a nearly invisible trail. It widened presently and was covered in nice soft dirt and pine needles. She was able to let her horse canter for a bit. He seemed to love being out on such a fine morning and was well trained, obeying her every nudging immediately. Hours later, though, she began to wonder if she had taken a wrong turn. She had stopped a few times to rest her horse and eat a bite but it was past noon. She thought she should be nearing the camp by now. Unfortunately no one had thought to tell her how far it actually was.
“Am I lost? Did I miss my way back there?” She comforted herself a little that at least she was still on a trail. It must lead somewhere.
Red Wind, the name she had given the horse since no one had thought to tell her that either, seemed to understand her moods and whinnied back at her. How Billy would tease her if he knew she’d named a horse for just a few hours’ ride. But the colt was a blazing red and fast as the wind. At one point, she had come out into a field and let him run as fast as he wished and she was astounded at his speed. Plus, Red Wind sounded like an Indian name and that intrigued her. Uncle Samuel said the Indians could be savage and cruel at times, but they knew the land and they understood horses and how to take care of them.
Of course Billy would never even know she had named the horse for she must leave him with the army. She shuddered at the thought that the colt might be injured or even killed in battle. “But you’ll do your duty won’t you, just like all of us.”
Even so she was grateful for the wonderful surprise she’d been given. She couldn’t help thinking of the verses in the Scriptures that Pa had read not long ago about these creatures that God had created. She’d always loved horses but this one was exceptional….“Thank you, Lord God, for letting me ride this beautiful animal.”
The colt whinnied as if he understood — and liked her very much, too.
“I just wish you knew the way….”
At that moment, she caught a glimpse of movement. It wasn’t an animal for the color was—blue. A blue shirt! Then it disappeared. The person had melted into the forest.
Sadie moved forward cautiously and the trail suddenly widened. She came out into an open area on her left. A meadow stretched as far as she could see. She examined the terrain ahead carefully, her horse slowing obediently at her touch. Sadie raised her musket into position with one hand.
There he was! It was a boy, about Billy’s age. Unlike Billy, however, he was scrawny, with unkempt hair. Even from a distance, she could see a bit of a wild look about him. Apparently, he thought he was hidden. He crouched in the shadows as the line of trees curved up ahead. What should she do?
As Sadie considered for a moment, the boy disappeared into the woods. He must have thought he was out of earshot for she heard him call, “Pa! Pa!”
She hesitated too long wondering if she should turn back or cross the meadow. It was unfortunate that they were directly in her way and she couldn’t get on with her mission.
“I see her! Stop right there, girl!”
The new voice rang out much closer. A man on horseback emerged from the forest about halfway between the point that the boy had disappeared and where she had stopped. He looked a good deal like his son but a mean look in his eyes frightened her. He was dressed in dirty buckskin and held a revolver. The boy re-emerged from the shadows and joined his father.
“Who do you think she is?”
“How do I know? But she’s gonna tell us. You’ve got a lot of gear for a girl out for a ride. ‘Sides, there’s nothin’ out here — no houses, no farms. Where ya headed?”
Sadie didn’t reply. What was she going to do now?
The words of the farmer came back to her. You can at least get off one good shot and then he can get you out of there. As I said, he’s very fast….
But the man had a revolver pointed at her and she held her musket in one hand, not even cocked. He’d shoot her before she could get her shot off. But would he shoot a girl. That cruel look in his eye didn’t give her much confidence.
“What’s the matter, girl, can’t ya talk? Whatcha doing out here?”
“Come on, Pa, let’s see what she’s got in the bag. Maybe she’s looking for the camp, like we are—”
The man slapped him across the face so hard that the boy fell down in the bushes. “Shut ya mouth. What are ya, a fool?”
The boy got up calmly, as if used to such treatment. “Sorry, Pa. But can I look in her bag, can I? Maybe she’s got money or important papers or something.”
“Yeah. Get the bag.”
“And can I have the horse, Pa?”
For a split second, Sadie had felt sorry for the boy. But at the greedy gleam in his eyes, she set her lips with determination. Why did they think she’d let them overcome her so easily. She was holding a gun, after all.
“Easy, boy,” she whispered to her horse. Then suddenly she held on tightly with her knees and whipped the gun up with both hands, cocking it. Before they realized what was happening, she blasted a shot toward them.
She didn’t really want to hit them and perhaps that made the shot go wild. Or maybe she just hadn’t practiced enough. Whatever, the bullet struck a branch in the tree overhead. The boy jumped and gave a yell, then leaped away as the heavy limb fell and nearly hit him on the head. It landed on the ground in front of him.
“Pa! She shot at me! She’s just a girl. You gonna let her get away with that?”
But Sadie had grabbed the reins and whirled. Red Wind took off across the meadow.
“Go, boy! Go!” Red Wind didn’t need to be told. He galloped across the field so fast that she lay nearly flat against his neck. She had whipped the strap of the gun back over her shoulder just in time. The musket and the burlap bag bounced against her.
She took a glimpse back. The man was after her but Red Wind was losing him easily. Where should she go? And where was the trail? It had seemed to end at the meadow. Lord God, show me the way!
She hadn’t been able to see the far side of the field but now she could. She was coming up quickly on another line of trees and brush. She slowed her horse and entered the wooded area where she found a mass of tangled roots and ancient trees. She couldn’t pick her way through that. She headed off a different way that was easier and came out into another cleared area. There was no grass here, just dirt and rock as far as the eye could see. Brown hills rippled away off into the distance. She urged her horse on.
Sadie glanced back. The man had followed her through the patch of forest but had stopped at the edge of the trees. He looked like he was slapping his hat against his leg in frustration. Then he re-entered the woods.
Was he giving up?
She was tempted to head back but thought the man might be watching from undercover. She allowed Red Wind to keep running in the direction of the far off hills and finally stopped behind a large boulder. But she needed to get back to the trail. How far out of her way had she come and would they be waiting for her if she went back?
Sadie slipped off her horse and let him rest. He was breathing hard and sweat glistened on his neck but he didn’t seem overly winded or exhausted. He had stamina, that was for sure. The horse neighed and tossed his head at her. She went to him and ran her fingers through his mane.
“You were magnificent.” He nuzzled her joyfully and soon started cropping at some dry grass.
“Come on,” she said presently,” we need to be on our way. And we’ll find some water and decent grass.”
He complied eagerly and they headed back. She walked him at first but he seemed to want to trot so she let him out a bit. She laughed as he tossed his head some more, as if disappointed at not being allowed to go faster. His long run hadn’t tired him at all.
She led him back to the patch of woods, watching carefully all the way. But there was no sign of life other than a few woodland animals. When they emerged from the wooded area, she crossed the meadow, then dismounted again and let the horse graze a while on the good green grass there. Relieved that no one seemed to be about, she reloaded her musket, ate some bread, then remounted and skirted the edge of the meadow. She finally entered the at the spot where she had been traveling previously. Soon, to her great relief, she came upon the trail. A tiny stream bubbled along cheerfully.
“Thank you, Lord God,” she said aloud, “and thank you for the water.”
Red Wing immediately drank his fill. Sadie knelt down and drank herself, keeping hold of her musket. Finally she filled her canteen.
“All right, boy. We’ve wasted a lot of time. I wonder who they were. What were they doing out here in the middle of nowhere?” She knew that a lot of cruel, greedy people sold rum and guns to the Indians, not that there were many Indians right in this area. Most had moved on with the coming of the townspeople. But wicked men also tried to get information to sell to the enemy. They were willing to do anything for money. She remembered the words the boy had let slip. Perhaps they were looking for Washington’s camp, too, hoping to get a reward from the British for information on the whereabouts of the American army.
As they started on, she watched carefully all about her but apparently the two had given it up and gone on their way.
It was getting late, probably mid-afternoon, according to the position of the sun. If the Redcoats had left the inn at first light, and had progressed according to plan, they would be picking up their two thousand troops and be on the move tomorrow. She had to find General Washington before the Redcoats drew the noose around him.
Oh, she couldn’t believe the adults had left this all up to her! Worn out from a night without sleep and the latest frightening set back, fears and doubts assailed her. Where were the troops! God are you still here with me? How silly, of course He was.
Papa always said she had a good sense of direction. She was glad of that now or she could have gotten hopelessly lost in her escape from that evil man and his son. But was it good enough or had she missed her way sometime before that?
A voice suddenly rang out. “Stop! Who goes there!”
Sadie reined in Red Wind and raised the musket that had been lying in the crook of her arm, cocking it much quicker this time. Again, she hung on to her horse with her knees and swung around on the stranger.
But the soldier who appeared, with his own rifle raised, was wearing blue. It was one of their own soldiers. She nearly fell off her horse in relief. She had found the camp.
“Sir! I have a message for the general. It’s very important. There’s to be an ambush.”
Presently Sadie was entering a large tent, suddenly shy at the prospect of meeting General Washington. Inside was a large table covered with maps and documents. The officers who stood around gazed at her with interest. The scout who had found her, smiled encouragingly as did another man, who was sitting at the end of the table. That man rose and came forward.
“I hear you’ve been on quite a trip,” the general said. “Please…sit and tell us more. And let’s see this map of yours.”
Upon inspection of the map and more discussion, one of the generals looked straight at her. “Young lady, if you hadn’t reached us in time, all would be lost!”
General Washington smiled calmly. “But she has. Once again the Almighty has protected us.” He turned to Sadie. “I’m afraid my men would have been too weak to fight if there had been an attack right now but we can slip away and the British won’t know what’s become of us. Thank you, Sadie. And this map is quite good. With a little training, that cousin of yours could be one of our mapmakers. We need all we can get, especially for the territory north and west of here. Perhaps I’ll stop at your inn someday and see if he’s interested.”
Sadie bobbed a curtsey. “I’m sure he’d like nothing better. And you’d always be welcome at our inn, sir. I’m afraid it wouldn’t be safe right now, though, since we’re in the middle of enemy territory.”
“Quite right but I might send someone.”
Sadie nodded happily.
“But now, we must be on our way. And you must get to safety.”
The troops had already been alerted and were packing up. Presently, a woman entered the tent. Sadie knew that there were several women among the troops. Some were nurses, some merely wives who didn’t want to be left behind when their husbands enlisted. They washed and cooked and sometimes even fought.
“Abby, take this girl on to the next town. You can catch a stage there. We know she can travel very well on her own,” he smiled over at Sadie, “but it would cause suspicion. If her family is still under siege, take her on to another town until it’s safe.”
An attendant handed the woman some money for the trip and Sadie took her leave of the men.
“Good bye Sadie. Perhaps we will meet again. Godspeed”
“God be with you as well, sir.”
The worst part by far was saying good bye to Red Wind.
“Be safe,” she whispered as Abby waited patiently some distance away. Impulsively she threw her arms around the blazing red neck and the thick mane fell over her face.
She finally let go and marched away. What was wrong with her anyway? Tears streaming down her face? She’d known the horse—what, half a day?
But the sound of his whinny made her sure that he would miss her too. She turned to take a last glimpse at him and found him rearing and straining, much to the chagrin of two soldiers who were trying to hold him. He was trying to follow her!
She ran back. “Shhh, Red Wind. It’s all right. Stay with them and fight for us. And I’ll never forget you. Be good now.” She turned to the soldiers. “This is so strange. I haven’t had any trouble with him the whole trip.”
“He sure seems to have taken to you, miss. You go now. We’ll take care of him. Don’t you worry.”
“Thank you, sir.” She gave the colt one last pat and left. This time, he stayed quiet, as if understanding what she had told him.
Sadie and the woman left the camp and started walking through the woods. Abby told her it wasn’t far to the next town and sure enough, soon they were emerging from the forest. A half mile further on, they came into town where they only had a short wait to get a stage going their way.
Sadie was surprised at how fast the trip went. It was so much different in a stagecoach with six horses on a real road than by rowboat and horseback. As she saw the inn from a distance, she swallowed hard. She wondered if her family was safe.
Soon, the driver pulled to a stop in the inn yard.
“You stay here,” said Abby, “I’ll go in and find out what’s happening. If the soldiers are still here, we’ll just go on….”
But Sadie’s father was running across the yard. He had seen her.
“It’s all right! They’re gone!”
Sadie jumped out and hugged him. “I had to go all the way myself!” she exclaimed.
Abby climbed down. She wanted to get a room for the night as well as to hear the whole story of what had gone on at the inn. Billy came running out and Sadie excitedly started telling her cousin how his mapmaking skills had been appreciated.
“The soldiers stayed a lot longer than I thought they would,” said Papa. “It’s probably just as well. It’ll give our own troops more time to move on.”
Papa had to help the driver change horses but soon he joined them inside where Mother was hovering over Sadie and chatting with Abby.
“I was just going after you,” her father said. “I thought you might be rowing back and going against the current would be hard.”
“Oh Papa, I forgot about the rowboat!”
“It’s all right. I’ll go down and get it tomorrow. If it’s gone, it’s no matter. Well done, Sadie!”
“She was very brave,” declared Abby.
“There’s lots of brave people in Red Haven. I promised we’d pray for them,” Sadie remembered. “I don’t even know their names—except for Fred and Edward.”
Uncle Samuel was there, as well. He’d been brought from the barn and was sitting in a chair at the table, bandaged and weary, but alive.
“We could use you in the Sharpshooters,” he grinned after hearing her story.
Then he sobered. They knew he was thinking about his friends. “I meant to go back,’ he told her. “I think some survived but when the British left I had to get help myself before I could do anything to help them. I could hardly drag myself here. We’re going tomorrow and see if any of them are still alive.”
“You will not!” scolded Mother. “You can hardly sit up! You should be in bed now.”
“I’ll go in the morning,” Papa told him.
It was clear to everyone that Uncle Samuel couldn’t have sat a horse or walked any distance at all but he was certainly willing to try. “To get back to what I was saying, Sadie — all that practice paid off.”
“But I missed. And I still don’t want to shoot anyone.”
He patted her hand. “I know. Nobody does. Sometimes it’s all right to miss.”
A while later, as Sadie was being served a sumptuous supper by Billy and everyone chattered around her, she reflected how it seemed much more than just a day since she had been gone. And she couldn’t help gazing out the window to the deep, blazing sunset over the woods and thinking of a horse the same color…and somehow knowing that she would see him again.