Chapter 12

In a tent, across the river in New Jersey from New York Town, Lafayette sat on the opposite side of a small camp table from his aide, Sergeant Boggs. Jeremy, Isak and Henry were standing nearby preparing to leave for home. They had ridden with the young general to the camp of his new command as soon as they left Greene's headquarters. They found the two companies of infantrymen dressed in the new uniforms Lafayette had brought from France.

Lieutenant Grayson popped into the tent dressed in his new coat, breeches and boots, topped off with a helmet plumed in red and black feathers.

"My!" the sergeant exclaimed with wide eyes. "You look right dashing in that uniform, Lieutenant. I think the girls are going to notice you now despite your flaming red hair."

"Daniel," the lieutenant said, "why is it every time you pay someone a compliment it sounds like derision?"

The sergeant shrugged his shoulders as everyone chuckled.

"Careful, Sergeant Boggs," Lafayette said with a wink, "or we will hold you down and put a uniform on you." He turned to the lieutenant. "John, do you feel like an officer in that uniform?"

"Oh, yes, sir. Thank you, sir. Much more than in those rags I was wearing. The men are all quite happy as well and praising you for it."

"Then I am quite happy, too."

"May I do anything for you, sir?"

"No, that will be all for this evening, John. Thank you, again…for everything."

"Yes, sir." The lieutenant turned and ducked out of the tent.

"Jeremy, you and your friends should probably head back to Chester. I am sure you are missed. I would not want to be the cause of your true identities being discovered."

"Yes, sir. I suppose it is time to leave. Will we be seeing you again any time soon?"

Lafayette looked up surprised at the question. "I really do not know Jeremy. I do not think General Washington knows just yet where this war is headed. General Greene is traveling south to try to clean up the mess down there. Maybe he will let me go with him… but then again…he is more likely to punish me by making me spend the rest of the year playing diplomat to the local aristocracy and begging for the cause." The general sighed deeply. "I suppose someone has to do it."

The general stood. He walked to the young men and embraced each one. He stepped back and clasped his hands behind his back. "Thank you, Yankee Doodle Society. I am glad it was you three that followed me, though I am truly sorry to have caused you such concern and trouble. I cannot begin to put into words what it meant to me to see your bright faces at such a difficult time. You are good friends."

"It was no trouble, sir," Isak said. "I would follow you to the ends of the earth, as young Thomas Thackery of Albany said so well at the Stillwater Meetinghouse."

The general grinned and dropped his head.

Henry squeezed the general's arm. "Sir, you are our general, after all."

"Take care, sir," Jeremy said, "wherever this war takes you. You, too, Sergeant."

The boys saluted their general who saluted them back. They then ducked out of the tent, leaving Lafayette alone with Sergeant Boggs.

"You are free to go, Sergeant. I am just going to write some letters."

"Will one of those letters be the one you tell your wife about Arnold's treason?"

Lafayette grimaced. "Oui."

"Will you tell her of your little jaunt up to Ticonderoga?"

"Perhaps."

"Do you want to try it out on me first?"

Lafayette laughed. "I can not talk to you as I talk to my wife, Daniel."

The older man grinned. "I know. But you could tell me why you did it. You haven't said a word to anyone about why you felt the need to travel to Ticonderoga."

"Do you feel that I owe you an explanation?"

"No, sir. I just know from experience that it helps to talk about those things out in the open, so it doesn't eat at you from the inside out."

Lafayette sat down in a chair across from the sergeant and leaned back. "Daniel, I thank Providence for your experience every day. Do you think you would have stopped me if you had been in Tappan?"

The sergeant furrowed his forehead and peered hard into his general's eyes. "I would have tried, sir, but you know I can only give advice. I cannot order you about."

"You would have gone straight to General Washington and told him that his boy was misbehaving."

"Sir, I would not be that thoughtless of you or General Washington. If I were concerned for your safety, I would have followed you myself. The way I heard it, you didn't need me or anyone else. Colonel Seth Warren of the Green Mountain Boys told me you laid him flat on the ground. He couldn't believe such a skinny boy did that to him."

"He made me mad calling me a 'skinny boy'."

Sergeant Boggs chuckled. "Well, I hope I never make you that mad, sir."

Lafayette narrowed his eyes and peered at his sergeant. "Daniel, if you met Seth, the mountain man, that tells me you were following me."

"Only as far as West Point. I was concerned when you did not return to camp as planned. Are you avoiding my question, sir?"

The general sighed and dipped his chin down to his chest. "It was Ticonderoga and General Arnold."

"What was, sir?"

"I was at a dinner party when I was not yet eighteen, serving in the French Grenadiers at Metz. The Duke of Gloucester was there. King Georges' brother. He told of the gallant Americans who had stormed and took Ticonderoga from the British and dragged off the cannon to Boston. He talked of the boldness of Benedict Arnold in vivid prose. I could just imagine the man sitting tall and proud on his horse ready for the next adventure. I had to meet that man."

"That is what set you off to come to America?"

Lafayette nodded. "It was the seed. I am sure you think me young and impressionable."

"No, sir. Everyone was proud of Arnold for that day and for what he did at Saratoga. Why, old grandpa Gates would be sitting in a British prison right now. All those brave lads that were fighting for him would be dying in stinking prison ships, if it hadn't been for Arnold snatching victory from defeat at Saratoga."

"I wish he had never raised a hand for this cause."

"I know, sir. The treason is unthinkable, but you know Arnold was never given the credit or support he deserved for his efforts at Ticonderoga, or in Canada or Saratoga. Even Washington couldn't understand the pettiness of congress towards Arnold. It made Arnold bitter. Perhaps that led him down the wrong path out of anger."

"I am sure it did, Sergeant. But is treason ever justifiable?"

"No. It is not. It is only the explanation for Arnold's treason. His actions have erased all the good he did in support of this cause. He will forever be remembered as a traitor to his country. The lowest of men."

"There are people in my country including Rochambeau that thought me a traitor for coming here against my King's orders."

"Sir! They should know better now. If not, they will when it is all over. The French have joined this cause now. You have led them to it."

Lafayette looked at his faithful sergeant and couldn't keep the tears from falling from his eyes. "Daniel, I wish you had been with me. I felt so insufferably alone though I was surrounded by people, even friends." The general leaned forward, crossed his arms on the table and dropped his head on his arms. Sergeant Boggs laid a gentle hand on the general's arm and waited in silence.

The general said without looking up, "I have led King Louis to this cause, but I may have led him and his country to their ruin, because of my love for America and George Washington."

"Sir, that kind of pessimism is so unlike you. We will most assuredly win with France on our side."

"It is not the winning or the losing, Daniel. What we are involved in here will not stop here. How do you explain that to a King that believes himself appointed by God?"

"I don't know, sir. But I have faith in you and believe you will be equal to it when the time comes."

Lafayette lifted his head and laughed through his tears. "Mon Dieu! Now you sound like my wife!"

The sergeant grinned and shrugged his shoulders.

Lafayette rubbed his eyes to wipe away the tears. "I apologize for losing my composure. I know that makes you Americans uncomfortable. General Washington has told me so."

"My only discomfort is in not being able to help you, sir. I can tell you this -- General Arnold's actions have caused you to question your own purpose and loyalties, to doubt yourself, which angers me to the bone. If I ever get my hands on the man…." The sergeant drew his hand across his throat to indicate his intentions. "Sir, you will survive this and put it behind you."

"Sergeant, there was one thing I learned today, which might have made it all worthwhile."

"What's that?"

"I may have come here in search of youthful adventure and glory, but I have acquired a responsibility towards many like yourself -- Jeremy, Henry and Isak, all those men out there, and the countless citizens of this great new nation living, dead and not yet born. I promise you I will never betray your trust or run away from this cause."

The sergeant smiled. "I know, sir."

The End