by Jim Paw-Paw Wilson
Illustrated by Jock Dempsey
"We probably don't need guards yet, we are still a day away from Boston. But perhaps we had better set up a guard rotation, just to get in the habit. There are 16 of us, two from each wagon. Two men on guard from dark to light, two hours at a time. Robert, you write a fair hand, make out a list of everybody, put the names in alphabetic order, and we will start from the beginning of the roster. Do not use two men from the same wagon at the same time."
In an aside to Robert, I told him to include my name with the rest.
"I'd suggest we all get to sleep as soon as the roster is sorted out, for we will need our rest."
While Robert got all of the names listed, I asked, "Do we want separate fires for each wagon, or should we keep one community fire and all use it?"
All seemed to agree that one fire was easier than eight, and that since we had started with the fire at our wagon, we should continue that practice. I agreed, but asked that all collect some firewood, whenever possible, and we would keep a stock in each wagon. Not much in each wagon, but enough all together to make at least one nights fire, That way we would always have some dry wood. All agreed that was a good idea. I was somewhat surprised to find that not everyone had a musket. Three of the men did not. Fortunately, they were all in different wagons. I made a mental note to get muskets for them as soon as possible. If nothing else, I can get British Brown Bess's after a fight.
By then Robert had finished making the roster and read it to all of us. One of the men said that he didn't think the sergeant should stand guard. I looked at him and quietly said, "THIS sergeant stands guard like everyone else." That was the end of that!
Just as we were starting to break up our little meeting, the lieutenant colonel who had come to us before came to our fire. He asked if we had elected a sergeant and a couple of the men pointed to me. He again complimented us on the way we had set up our area, and taken care of the horses, and then asked if I would walk with him for a bit.
I said of course I would, and reaching into the wagon for my musket, checked that it was primed before walking away from the fire with him.
"Sergeant Dunagen, I'm glad to see that the men elected you as sergeant. Blacksmiths all seem to have level heads and most are good at planning. Tell me, have you thought about guards?"
When I told him that we had discussed it and had drawn up a roster of who would be on duty, he replied, "That's exactly what I meant. The teamsters have already arranged who is in charge and who is to do what. The wagon train is the first unit organized. I doubt ANY of the companies are that well organized. We need to see the colonel. He asked again at evening mess who the sergeants were. None of the companies had elected a first sergeant. You will probably want to appoint a corporal to help you, but that does not have to be done right away. By the by, I am Lieutenant Colonel Alsop. I'm the Colonel's Executive Officer and Adjutant. Fancy name for flunky, I think!" he said with a grin.
When we found the colonel he was sitting in front of his tent, on a small stool, writing on a piece of paper he was holding on a board across his knees. I stayed a step behind the lieutenant colonel and stood at attention while he told the colonel what the teamsters had accomplished.
The colonel looked at me and motioned for me to come closer, "Well done, Sergeant Dunegan! I see that I will not have to concern myself with the wagon train. I thank you for taking charge so capably. By tomorrow, I hope the companies are as well organized."
The colonel asked if it would be possible for the horses of the officers to be kept in the same area as the wagon horses. I saw no reason why that would not work, and said so. He said that he would have the company commanders each appoint a hostler so they could help care for the horses. Then he dismissed me to return to our wagons.
When I got back, the teamsters were all gathering hay from the hay stack. They said that one of the officers had told them that we were permitted to feed our animals with some of the hay and to use it for bedding if we wished. Robert had already carried a couple of arm loads out to the horses and one load to put under the wagon. I carried a couple more loads and we spread them out for our bedrolls. Taking our two candle lanterns from the wagon, we lit the candles at the fire, and hung them carefully under the wagon. We made sure to hang them so that they would not over heat the underside of the wagon, and that the ground was clear under them. I will make some hooks for that. Then we got our bedrolls and spread them out.
Robert told me, "I'm tired! It's been a long day. I think I'll just go on to bed."
I agreed that I was tired also, but I wanted to talk to the guards before I went to bed. He said to leave my candle lantern lit so I would be able to see what I was doing, and he gave me the guard roster. He had taken the time to note on the roster which wagon each guard was assigned to.
I looked for and found the first two guards, and got them aside to talk to them.
"While you are walking guard tonight, I'd suggest that you walk in opposite directions, just inside the fence line. And walk just inside the line of wagons as well, that way you can cover the whole area a little easier. It might be a good idea to keep the fire going all night. Don't keep a BIG fire going, but enough to make a place to stop for a warm up if it cools off toward morning. Take your reliefs with you when you make your last round, so they can see how you have got it arranged. I'll gather more wood for the fire before I go to bed."
"No need for that, Sergeant Will," one of the guards said, "we've already gathered a good bit for my wagon, and we can use from that. If we run low, we can always gather a bit more while we patrol."
Reminding them to pass their instructions on to the next pair of guards and to tell them to pass them along, I said good night and went back to the wagon.
Sitting on my bed roll, I pulled my boots off and wedged them upside down between the frame and the wagon body so nothing could crawl inside them and they would stay dry. Noticing that Robert was already sound asleep, I picked his boots up and did the same thing with them.
Blowing out my candle, with a grateful sigh I stretched out on my bed roll and pulled the comforter over me. I was tired and had thought I would go right to sleep. But suddenly my mind was full of thoughts of home.
I had not thought much about home during the day. Even when just driving the wagon, there had been enough to think about that my mind was distracted. Now that the day was through, I could think of nothing BUT home. I remembered the feel of Dorothea in my arms, the sorrow on her face, and her tear filled green eyes. The sound of her whispered "I love you." filled my ears, and my eyes filled with tears
It took me a while to go to sleep.
This morning I awoke to the sounds of the regiment starting to move around. It was early, the sun wasn't in the sky yet but the first gray light of dawn was beginning to show on the eastern horizon. Robert was also moving around, and one of the guards was building up the fire.
Robert asked, "Where are my boots?"
I pointed to where I had hung them up and mentioned that I remembered Master John telling me about finding a snake in one of his boots during the French and Indian war. Robert thanked me for thinking of it and moving his boots. While we were talking, I got my own boots down, shook them out and put them on.
Crawling out from under the wagon, I pulled my bedroll out and shook the hay off of it. Then I hung it over the side of the wagon to air out. Taking a piece of toweling from my trunk, and a bar of Mistress Prudence's homemade soap, I made my way to the stream. The water was so cold that it didn't take me long to wash! Returning to the wagon, I hung my towel with my bed roll to dry, and went to the fire.
There was water boiling in one of the pots, and I asked "Who's water is this?"
"Yours if you want, Will." replied one of the teamsters. "We set that pot for everyone. There's more water in that bucket, just take what you want and fill the pot back up." Getting my tankard from the wagon, I put a little tea in the bottom from the small packet that I had carried with me and filled it with water.
Then refilling the pot, I put it back to the fire. Taking my first sip from my cup I commented. "I sure do miss some honey with my tea!"
Robert teasingly asked, "Could Dorothea get in the cup?"
"Dorothea?" asked one of the other teamsters. "What is this?"
"Did you not know that our good sergeant managed to get himself betrothed before we left? And to the master smith's daughter, no less!"
"Then we'll have to take care that he goes home in one piece!" another of the teamsters laughed.
"True," commented another teamster, "and we'll have to keep the "ladies" in Boston, away from him as well!"
I fear me that I have not heard the last of this! But it is good natured, and not malicious, so I cannot say much about it, but must return it in kind.
Going back to our wagon, I rolled my towel and bedroll. Stowing them in the wagon, I made sure everything was properly stored. Calling to Robert, I asked him to pass me the candle lanterns from under the wagon. After he did that, he rolled his own bed roll and handed it to me.
By then some of the teamsters were starting to hitch their teams, so Robert and I caught up our pair. Leading them back to the wagon, we soon had them hitched. Then I stowed the forge, making sure that the fire was out. I picked up the anvil from its stump, and put both anvil and stump away. I should have done all of that last night. Checking around the camp site, I gathered the pieces of the cook set from the campfire and loaded them in the wagon. Gathering the other teamsters around me at the fire, I asked if anyone had any questions, complaints or suggestions. The lead teamster from Company A suggested that if we did not have a fence corner to camp in, that we might want to consider putting the wagons in a circle and keeping the horses inside. All agreed that should work well, so we planned to do things that way if necessary.
Lieutenant Colonel Alsop had come near while we were talking, but had motioned for me to not break up the meeting. When we finished, I asked, "Sir, do you have anything to add?"
He responded, "Nothing at all, sergeant. Except to extend the commander's and my compliments on the attitude of all of the teamsters. He noticed that you were breaking camp and getting ready for the road. Most of the companies have not even finished breakfast!" Having said that, he returned to the headquarter's area.
Since we had time to spare, one of the teamsters from Company B got a large teapot from his wagon, and we all made another cup of tea. Well, most of us made tea, one of the teamsters got a coffee pot from his wagon and made coffee instead. I didn't think I'd care much for the coffee that they made, it looked strong enough to float a horseshoe!
While we waited for the troops to get ready for the road, several of us stood in a group, talking--wondering exactly what tomorrow--and the future would bring.Continued in chapter 7