It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

     Huddling beside the campfire with other freezing young men desperate for the warm touch of the fire's heat your mind begins to wander back to a warmer and safer place, your farm back home in the Philadelphia countryside. Why did you go get a damn fool idea about being a part of a revolution? Join or Die they said well it sure feels like you are dying now in this valley of death. The chaplain recites the familiar psalm 23 as one man you see but two seats next to you turn away to vomit his guts out. I wish I'd listened to Dad you think as you cough into the rags that you've been handed out to survive the cold. Little comfort they bring as you hear the chaplain finish his prayer falling upon deaf ears of men who just want to leave this bad dream. Your mind can almost replay that day like a theater performance; the day you left to join General Greene's militia on their 'heroic' march to Boston.

     "Son you don't understand this is the British Empire we are talking about which we are still loyal to by the way you swore an oath not to harm another remember!"/ "General Greene is a Quaker as well father and he proudly displays the colors of the continental army and I shall as well since I have already enlisted!" /"Do not forget who you are speaking to boy! Your enlistment is the signing of your own death warrant. Well, I won't be there to bury you son when you lie bayonetted on the ground wallowing in the blood of some God-forsaken battlefield. Do you not think of your family? We have a duty to each other. Let men fight their own battles it is not God's will for you to waste your life in some fool's errand of a rebellion!"/ Dad I am not wasting my life I am saving ours! The British will not stop at Boston! Their wrath will sweep down on us like a mighty gale and tear our foundations asunder. Liberty is within our grasp and it is my duty as an American to hold onto it."/ Fine! Forsake your family and faith! You won't be trumpeting the honeyed words of those bloody pamphleteers when you are starving to death or weary to the bone from watching your friends die all around you! Be off with you!"

     Your father shoved you roughly out the door in your continental army issue as you made your way from the only place you had known comfort from. You waved to your mom and sister as they tearfully waved goodbye. Your father shook his head in disappointment and closed the house door as you marched on to Boston full of vigor and a twinge of uncertainty. Three battles and nine months later ranging from the elation of Boston's liberation to the terrible defeats in New York, Washington had retreated to your home state of Pennsylvania. The violence and brutality of British regulars had shocked you and numbed you to an extent of the horrors of war. The cold of Valley Forge had jolted you back to the cruel reality of your circumstances. You leave the fire and turn towards the tents seeking isolation on your own.

     On your way back to the tents, you pass the doctors' tents and hear the groans of the dying as amputated limbs lay in a pile outside the tent. A dog grabs a severed, blackened hand and runs off with it presumably his best meal. It takes all of your willpower not to wretch at the smells and the sight of it. you hear your commanding officer Sargent Jackson announce to your unit that Washington is about to make an announcement. Surrender? Mother of God you hope that's what the General is announcing. "I don't think I can stay another day here," you think to yourself. You arrive at your tent to see your meager possessions lying there and think to yourself, "I bet the British have nice warm beds to sleep in while we suffer on."

     It is that thought that sparks an idea in your head.