Disclaimer: The Yankee Doodle Society, Captain Yankee Doodle, and all recognizable fictional characters from the TV series "The Young Rebels" do not belong to me. The characters are borrowed for the purpose of entertaining fans of the show with no intention of copyrighting, publishing, or monetary gain. However, the story itself belongs to me and should not be copied, printed or posted elsewhere without the author's permission. This story is fiction. Any apparent relationship to real people (other than historical figures) is unintended and purely coincidental.
June 1778 – Monmouth, New Jersey
They stood back to back - two Generals of the Continental Army. The battle raged around them as they fought with their men.
When a stray ball came too close, one turned to the other and commented, 'Anthony, I felt the breeze from that one! How are you finding it?'
'Gilbert, shut up and fight!' came the answering growl.
Generals Lafayette and Wayne were taking part in one of the many skirmishes with the British army during the evacuation of Philadelphia. The battleground was a field beside Wemrock Brook, close to Monmouth. What was once a lush green field was now littered with the telltale signs of battle.
A British forward patrol commanded by Tarleton had ambushed a scouting party led by Wayne. Lafayette, hearing the disturbance from his camp, had immediately ridden to his colleague's assistance with a small force.
'Where's the Yankee Doodle Society when I need them?' Wayne asked.
'They are here!' Lafayette stated with a grin, 'It takes Henry a few minutes to set up his 'little' surprises.'
As if on cue, a small explosion detonated not ten feet from them. This was followed by many more.
Jeremy, Henry and Isak were throwing what appeared to be small pouches, but they were more dangerous than any other pouches Anthony Wayne had ever seen. As one hit the ground it exploded with a 'whoomph' and anyone in the vicinity where it was landed was thrown off their feet.
The three young patriots waved at Lafayette as he nodded acknowledgement of their handiwork.
Back in camp later that day Jeremy Larkin, known as 'Captain Yankee Doodle' to the Generals, was standing before his commanding officer in the latter's headquarters. General Wayne was seated with Lafayette facing the Yankee Doodle Society.
'Your intervention was timely, Jeremy. Thank you!' Anthony Wayne spoke first, 'I didn't think anything
would stop those damn redcoats.'
'Although Henry tries not to inflict too much harm on a person, his explosives are very handy, sir,' Jeremy
stated, 'sometimes he gets over zealous.'
'That is an understatement!' Lafayette murmured.
Wayne chuckled, 'I presume you have first hand knowledge of that?'
A nod from Lafayette was all the answer he received as the younger General turned his attention to Jeremy once again.
'Jeremy, I need you, Isak and Henry to carry the reports of General Wayne and myself to General Washington. I am not at all sure I could trust anyone else with them. They are to be handed to His Excellency personally. There has been too much correspondence intercepted of late.'
'What about General's Lee's report?'
'I have not seen it! Charles Lee is a law unto himself.'
'Sir, I will do my best. What is our cover?'
'You will travel north to Hopewell and visit the General at his headquarters then you will be merchants traveling to Chester from there. I suggest you spend a few days in Chester with your father.'
'And be berated for being the lazy, womanizing cad that I am?' Jeremy chuckled, 'Nay!'
'Jeremy, you have been away from home for over two weeks. Your father deserves some explanation. He probably thinks you are injured or possibly dead from a duel with some irate husband. I am making that an order, Captain!'
Jeremy sighed in resignation, 'Aye, sir, I will do as you say.'
'On your return journey you will travel to West Point. General Washington is planning to make our Headquarters there. I will expect you in three weeks.'
'Aye, sir, when do we leave?'
'The reports are ready and a wagon awaits you at the supply tent. God speed, Jeremy.'
Jeremy left the building and went in search of Henry and Isak. They welcomed the thought of some more action and immediately started preparations for their journey.
With the reports secreted in the wagon and false documents supplied by Lafayette in their pockets, the trio made good time in the two hours before dark. They chose a campsite close to Hopewell, aiming to visit General Washington the following morning.
The next morning they set forth, arriving in Hopewell within the hour. George Washington greeted them genially. Jeremy handed him the reports.
'Do you not have General Lee's report as well?' the great man asked.
'Nay, sir,' Jeremy replied, 'We have not seen General Lee. Generals Lafayette and Wayne have not had any orders from him for the last two days.'
Washington frowned, then read the reports. His expression was thunderous when he finished.
'Jeremy, you obey orders and go home for a few days. I will go to Monmouth!'
The young rebels started for Chester a short time later as General Washington prepared his troops for the short march to Monmouth.
It was an uneventful trip home for the trio and they arrived in Chester early on the third day, having only minimal sleep. They were weary when they parted at the smithy an hour later.
Jeremy reluctantly let his steps take him toward his home.
He turned at the sound of Elizabeth's voice.
'Good morning, Mistress Coates', he greeted her airily.
She ran to hug him then asked in a whisper, 'Have you been with the General?'
At his nod, she continued, 'Your father has asked me if I knew of your whereabouts.'
'And what did you tell him?'
'That you were probably with some wench,' she giggled.
'I did not know where you were, but I guessed the General had something to do with it. I told your father you had a portrait to finish in Allentown.'
'Thank you, Elizabeth.'
As he spoke he saw her uncle approaching out of the corner of his eye and stepped away from her. She followed his gaze and groaned audibly as her uncle bellowed.
'Elizabeth! Jeremy Larkin, how many times have I told you to stay away from my niece?'
Jeremy grimaced and winked at her.
'I have to go, Jeremy. Later – at the smithy?'
'I'll be there.'
As she reluctantly followed her uncle to the waiting carriage Jeremy continued his unenthusiastic walk home.
'Jeremy! Where have you been?' Samuel Larkin greeted the son he had not sighted for almost two weeks.
'In Allentown, Father. I had to complete the portrait I was working on.'
'And here I am thinking you injured or worse from a duel with some other lothario,' his father sighed, 'Why did you not tell someone?'
'Elizabeth knew. You were out of town when I received Master Anthony's message.'
Quickly compromising Jeremy used General Wayne's name. It was not an actual lie, but a stretching of the truth.
Mayor Larkin frowned, 'I haven't heard that name in Allentown before.'
'He is staying with friends there for a few months.'
Shaking his head the Mayor looked his son up and down.
'And you get that grubby painting a portrait?'
'I had a run in with a British patrol on the way home. They tried to make me give up my horse.'
'So you got into a fight?'
'Only with one of them. I rode as fast as I could away from them after that.'
'Jeremy, what am I to do with you?'
Jeremy hung his head, thinking of the shock his father would receive when he revealed his true activities after the war.
'Go and clean up,' his father ordered, 'then join me for luncheon.'
Jeremy bolted upstairs as if all the devils of Hell were after him.
A messenger arrived at the smithy the following afternoon demanding to speak to Jeremy. He was just a lad, maybe sixteen, swarthily built, with dark hair and unusual green-grey eyes. Isak told him to wait while he found Jeremy. He returned with Jeremy in tow only minutes later.
Jeremy eyed the young boy up and down.
'Who are you?'
At Jeremy's nod the stranger continued, 'I come from a friend. This message is for you.'
He handed over a folded paper – no seal, no identification – and a package of letters.
Jeremy read the contents and frowned - 'Take this to General Lafayette immediately.'
'Where did you get this?'
'Master Anthony asked me to deliver it.'
Jeremy was puzzled.
'I don't know any Master Anthony.'
'The message is clear, is it not?'
'Aye, and there's only one person who would send me this, but there is no seal.'
'He was in a hurry.'
'Go back to Master Anthony and tell him I will do as he asks.'
The boy ran to his horse and rode out of town toward Philadelphia.
Jeremy turned to Isak.
'Something is wrong.'
'What do you mean?'
'I don't know. Just a hunch. Who is this Master Anthony? I invented that name yesterday when my father asked where I had been. Someone has been spying on me in my own home!'
Isak's brows rose.
'So? Are you going to see General Lafayette?'
'I'll take these to the General tonight.'
Jeremy handed the papers to the blacksmith.
'Put these in a safe place until I leave.'
Isak nodded and proceeded to do just that as Jeremy left the smithy.
Jeremy returned to the smithy as dusk fell where Isak had a horse ready for him to leave immediately.
'If I don't return in three days, come looking for me.'
'You think this could mean trouble?' the blacksmith asked.
'My brain is working overtime. There is no such person as Mr. Anthony. And Lafayette specifically ordered us to stay in Chester for a while.'
'Something could have happened.'
'Maybe, but why send a stranger to me? I have never seen that messenger among Lafayette's men.'
'Be careful, Jeremy. It could be a British trap.'
'Nay, I have the strangest feeling this is something bigger.'
Isak looked concerned as Jeremy mounted his horse and slipped the package inside his shirt.
'Just be alert! If you don't return, Henry and I will follow you.'
Jeremy waved as he left the smithy.
Under cover of darkness Jeremy rode out of Chester, hoping Lafayette was still camped near Monmouth. He really did not fancy a ride to West Point.
He skirted the towns and camped for a night near Trenton before riding towards Lafayette's camp. While staying on the main roads, he did travel through the thickly wooded areas occasionally. He was only two miles south of Monmouth when a patrol of Americans accosted him.
'Who are you and what is your business?' the Lieutenant leading the group demanded of him.
Jeremy didn't know any of the men and thought that strange.
'I wish to see General Lafayette, Sergeant,' he stated.
'Well, too bad the General ain't seein' anyone right now.'
'What do you mean?'
'Just what I said! We have orders to take anyone to General Lee.'
'Take me to him, then.'
The sergeant turned to one of his men.
Jeremy didn't have time to react. He was surrounded by the men then dragged from his horse. They searched him thoroughly, taking his gun and the papers he carried, handing them to the officer.
'Boys, it seems we have a traitor in our midst! Tie him to his horse!' the sergeant growled as he glanced at the package.
'A traitor??' Jeremy was shocked, 'I am not a traitor! General Lafayette will vouch for me.'
'Tie him up and gag him to shut him up!' came the order.
Jeremy was helpless, being sorely outnumbered. He was bound and gagged and thrown back on his horse then led toward Monmouth. As they rode he was thinking that it was fortunate for him the Sergeant hadn't searched in his boots and found what little coins he carried.
Jeremy was taken to the camp and pulled off his horse before being led to the small farmhouse which served as Lafayette's headquarters. He was shoved along ahead of his captors to a small room set up as an office. Seated at the table was General Lee, who knew him.
'What is this intrusion?' the General demanded of the sergeant.
'We found him coming this way, sir. He had this on him and said he was coming to see Lafayette.'
Charles Lee's eyebrows rose as he took the package.
'And who may you be, young sir?' he asked of Jeremy.
'I am Jeremy Larkin of Chester, sir.'
Jeremy didn't react when Lee refused to acknowledge him and the General frowned.
Lee turned to the sergeant and ordered, 'Bring General Lafayette to me.'
The sergeant left the room returning only minutes later followed by Lafayette.
General Lee saluted the younger man and asked, 'Do you know this man?'
Lafayette stared at Jeremy before answering, 'Mais non. I do not!'
Jeremy sensed something was very wrong. This man may have looked like General Lafayette, but his manner and character were not the same. He couldn't put a finger on it, but he was sure this was not Lafayette.
'General Lafayette, you know me, sir! I am Jeremy Larkin of Chester.'
Jeremy thought he was dreaming – a bad dream at that! Lafayette professing not to know him? It was too preposterous for words!
'I am sorry, I do not know you. Where did you come by these papers, Jeremy Larkin?'
Did Lafayette have amnesia? Had he been hit on the head lately? Jeremy pondered the possibility before he answered.
'A courier arrived in Chester two days ago and handed them to me. I was told to bring them to you.'
'A likely story! These papers were stolen from my tent two days ago! You could not have had them delivered at that time!'
'Sir, I speak the truth!' Jeremy couldn't understand the General's reluctance to acknowledge him, 'Those papers were handed to me in Chester on Monday afternoon.'
The General stood and faced him.
'Jeremy Larkin, if indeed that is your name, I hereby place you under arrest for treason.'
'Treason? What do you mean – treason? I am no traitor!'
He couldn't believe what he was hearing – Lafayette denouncing him as a traitor! Lafayette placing him under arrest! And Lee just sitting back and letting it happen!
He struggled against his bonds, but to no avail. He was still struggling as the soldiers dragged him from the room to a small hut away from the centre of the camp. He was untied then thrown in roughly to land heavily on the earthen floor. He heard the door slam behind him seconds later.
Jeremy got to his feet and studied his surroundings. The hut was no more than ten feet by ten feet. There was a pallet of straw on the earth floor and the only light that penetrated the murky interior came through the cracks in the door. Maybe, just maybe – No, the door was solid despite its appearance of neglect. He wondered how long he would be kept here, hoping Isak and Henry would not ride into the trap when they came searching for him.
Jeremy sat for what seemed hours pondering his fate. He still could not fully comprehend what had happened. Lafayette had denounced him as a traitor! He still did not believe that meeting with Lee and Lafayette had taken place. And for Charles Lee to –sit back and let it happen…! He was still pondering his predicament hours later. Why had Lafayette done such a thing? What had occurred in the last week that had caused him to lose Lafayette's trust?
If only he could get word to Isak and Henry! They would be able to find the real Lafayette, and prove this man was an impostor, if indeed he was. He had recognised none of the men in the camp except General Charles Lee. Something was afoot, but he didn't know what.
Daylight was fading when someone approached the hut. The door was flung open and a young soldier entered with some food. Jeremy knew the boy. He was one of Lafayette's staunchest followers, a member of the General's life guard.
'Ned! Ned Taylor! What are you doing here?'
'Jeremy! I didn't know they had you here! You are no traitor! Why did not you tell them who you are?'
'I cannot take the risk, Ned. Did the General receive a blow to the head at Monmouth?'
'Nay, I was by his side most of the time. 'Tis as if some Frenchman who looks like the General has taken over the camp.'
Ned came closer then whispered, 'Jeremy, I cannot help you now but, later in the night, I will leave the door off the latch.'
'What of you? Will you stay?'
'I'll wait for you east of camp with horses.'
'Ned, if you help me and get caught ….' Jeremy left the rest unsaid.
''Tis a risk I take, Captain.'
Jeremy heard a movement outside and signaled for Ned to go. He heard rather than saw the door close, hoping the latch didn't catch fully.
Ned walked nonchalantly to where the horses were corralled. The sentry on duty knew him so he wasn't challenged. He exchanged pleasantries with the guard.
'I want to go for a ride, John. Is it all right if I take one of the horses?'
'Ned, you know the orders! No one is to leave camp unless on patrol.'
'John, you are as loyal to General Lafayette as am I. You know the Captain?'
John looked puzzled before querying, 'Yankee Doodle, you mean?' in a whisper.
Ned nodded and whispered, 'They have him prisoner. If he cannot escape and find the General, we will not be able to live with ourselves.'
John Norris looked bewildered
'The Captain has been captured?'
'I just told you that! Now, will you help me or not?'
'Do what you can to help. If anyone asks, I did not see you.'
Ned was leading the horses away from the camp when a guard challenged him.
'Where are you taking those horses, Private? Dismount!'
Ned had to improvise fast! He dismounted then grinned.
'I'm meeting a wench and taking her riding through the woods.'
'Riding?' the sentry laughed, 'Private, you may ride the wench, but not the horse,' was the ribald reply, 'Get your hands up!'
'Hands up? Why?'
'I'm taking you to the Lieutenant. You know the General's orders - that no-one leaves the camp.'
Ned knew he could not allow himself to be taken. He pushed the guard, forcing him off balance, mounted his horse and fled into the darkening woods. He heard a shot, then no more!
Jeremy was about to try the door when it was flung open. A soldier carried something over his shoulder and threw it into a corner.
'You can rot with your traitor friend!'
The door was slammed and he heard the soldier ordering a guard for the hut.
Jeremy leant over the inert form as it groaned. He touched his head. His hand came away sticky. He realized it was blood! Then he realized the man was Ned.
'Ned! What happened?'
Ned groaned again.
'Ned! You must wake up!'
He tore a piece from Ned's shirt to wrap around the wound. It was difficult in the darkness and Jeremy hoped the bleeding would stop. There was nothing else to do except try to rest for the remainder of the night.
Morning came slowly. Jeremy could not sleep. He stayed at Ned's side, wishing he had some water to bath the man's wound. He hoped infection did not set in. Now that he had a little light he removed the bandage and had a good look at it. Luckily for Ned it was only a shallow graze, but it had bled profusely. Jeremy applied a clean piece of shirting and hoped his friend would wake soon.
Outside the camp was stirring. He could hear some of the men talking as they passed the hut, probably unaware of anyone in there. He heard snippets of conversation, mainly about the imminent march to West Point.
Jeremy tried to picture the camp – a tent here, a small log cabin there, the main farmhouse that served as headquarters to the right near the edge of the camp – no clear way of escape.
He wondered who the French impostor was, for that was how he thought of Lafayette this moment. Was he related to Lafayette? The likeness was striking. Maybe Ned would enlighten him when he woke.
Lafayette, meanwhile, was ordering the regiment to prepare for the march to West Point.
'Phillipe! See that the prisoners are tied and loaded into a wagon!'
The Lieutenant left to do his General's bidding, hauling Jeremy and Ned out of their shelter, tying them up, gagging them and throwing them onto a wagon which was then loaded with camp paraphernalia, concealing the prisoners.
The march was underway! Ten to twelve days of constant walking ahead! Through forests, through towns, over mountains and across streams and rivers they would make their way. Two thousand rebels four abreast was an impressive sight as they advanced north in the direction of West Point. Artillery had been sent ahead so there were only fifteen wagons trailing the men, all loaded with the camp sundries. To those not in the know the last wagon did not appear out of the ordinary, but hidden among the bags were prisoners – Jeremy and Ned – both trussed up tightly to prevent escape.
Ned had not moved and Jeremy feared the worst. Not even a moan of pain from his young ally. Maybe it was best that Ned stay unconscious. Jeremy was grimacing at the uncomfortable ride when he heard a groan from Ned. He rolled over to have a look at his friend only to discover Ned staring at him. They could not talk to each other – their gags prevented that. Eye contact was the only means of communication – and a surfeit of mind reading! Jeremy didn't have to read the Ned's mind to know that he wanted his bonds loosened. The pair maneuvered so they were back to back, each trying to undo the other's hands. Surrounded by goods from the camp, their space was limited. Wriggling closer Jeremy managed to locate Ned's hands and commenced working to loosen the knots as fast as possible in the difficult conditions.
The wagon jolted to a stop and they were thrown apart. Muffled voices carried to them, the cover was thrown aside then bags were moved and the glare from the sun hit them fully.
The Lieutenant hove into view. He leered at the prisoners and ordered them to sit up. Ned stirred but could not muster the strength to move. He was roughly pulled upright and propped against a bag. Jeremy glared at the officer and was rewarded with a cuff around the ears for his trouble. His head rang and he had to take a moment to focus again.
'We are camping here for the night. I am going to remove your gags. If you make a sound I will shoot you,' they were warned.
Jeremy nodded – anything to be able to breathe properly! Ned shot him a surprised glance, but declined to comment when his own gag was removed.
A canteen of water was placed before them.
'May I have the answer to one question?' Jeremy asked quietly.
'And what would that be?'
'How are we supposed to drink with our hands tied behind our backs?'
De Riennes chuckled, 'That is your problem, not mine!' then he strode away without a backward glance, leaving them to ponder their plight.
Both Jeremy and Ned surveyed their surroundings with interest. The wagon was set aside from the main camp behind some trees. To their left they could see a large river, presumably the Raritan, not far from the Millstone junction, the banks of which were lined with magnificent she-oaks. Maybe thirty yards separated them from the water. To their right was a hill which rose gently from the meadow. The soldiers were busy erecting tents in the meadow. In the distance they could see what appeared to be a tavern, shimmering in the heat. Their gazes switched back to the river at the same time.
'Ned, work on my ropes again,' Jeremy whispered as he turned his back on the young rebel, 'I think we may have an escape route.'
Ned murmured in reply, 'May?'
Jeremy felt his bonds give as he answered, 'One of us will have more chance of escape. Whoever makes it will go to Washington and tell him of the other's plight.'
'But, sir, what if they shoot whoever stays?'
'Lafayette will not let them do that, Ned.'
'How do you know that, Jeremy?'
Jeremy turned to face his friend, his hands free, 'I know Lafayette, Ned! Let me free you.'
Ned obligingly turned and his hands were quickly freed from their tethers. The ropes on their ankles followed likewise.
Ned picked the canteen of water from the wagon bed and handed it to his friend.
'Drink, you will need it!'
'What about you?'
'I will have some after you. Get ready to run for the river, Captain. I have heard that the Lieutenant is an assassin.'
'A murderer?' Jeremy asked handing the canteen to him.
'That is right!' Ned took a hearty swig of water.
Jeremy swung round at the sound of boots approaching, only to see the aforementioned Lieutenant heading their way. Ned prodded him into action.
'Go, Jeremy, I'll try to distract him!'
'I have enough energy to distract them. Go to General Washington! Now! Jeremy!'
As Jeremy dived away from the wagon and ran for the river, the young soldier bolted in the other direction.
All hell broke loose as the Lieutenant bellowed orders to capture them.
Jeremy heard the shots from behind him as he ran for his life to the river. As the balls whistled around him he dived into the murky water and swam underwater for as long as he could hold his breath. The current carried him away from the camp swiftly. He emerged apprehensively, glancing upstream before diving under again. When he broke the surface next it was to find the camp far behind and himself close to a stand of trees. He hauled himself out of the water and took stock of his surroundings. To the south was, of course, the camp. To the north he could see what appeared to be a farmhouse. The west looked uninviting, as it was all open ground. East was equally as daunting. He chose north - wishing he had a horse to put further distance between him and the rebel French officers. He skirted the farm he had seen and walked some distance before resting under a tree. By this time his clothing had dried in the warm afternoon sun. It would soon be dusk and he knew he would make better progress at night when he could escape any patrols that happened to be abroad.
Ned deliberately slowed and allowed himself to be caught, hoping Jeremy had made the river. He had nothing in reserve, having used all his energy to help his friend. He was roughly escorted back to the wagon.
He was once again bound while shots rang out from the direction Jeremy had taken.
'He will not get away alive!' De Riennes sneered, 'My men have orders to kill!'
Ned swore, bringing a gale of laughter from the Lieutenant.
'Do not dare to make another attempt to escape! It is useless,' De Riennes stated, 'I will personally hunt you down and shoot you, no matter what the General says!' he vowed
This brought another curse from Ned and he was quickly gagged to silence him.
He prayed that Jeremy was safely away, then lost consciousness, fatigue taking him.
Dusk had fallen when Jeremy awoke. He had to find food. Water was plentiful. Another farmhouse loomed as he walked slowly northeastwards. He decided to take a chance and knock on the door to ask for assistance. It took him longer than he had anticipated to cover the distance, darkness settling swiftly while he walked.
Candles were lit in the cabin, throwing a golden glow through the windows. There was a bright candle glowing from the front window as if in welcome.
He crept around the perimeter of the farmhouse, seeing only a young woman sitting by a fireside when he managed to peep in a window.
Returning to the front of the building, he tentatively he rapped on the door, only to be greeted by that young woman armed with a pistol.
'Who would you be and what would you want?' she demanded.
'Mistress, I mean you no harm. I am lost and I need some help.'
She held a candle aloft to scrutinize him closely.
'Are you one of Lafayette's soldiers? I heard he was in the area.'
Jeremy was surprised she would be so forthright. He decided the truth would be better at this stage.
'I am, Mistress. My name is Jeremy Larkin. I have been separated from my unit.'
The woman leant outside the door and glanced around.
'Come in and rest, Master Larkin. My husband is one of Washington's men. I am Margaret Johnson.'
'Thank you, Mistress Johnson. Your husband is with Washington?'
'Nay. He is with Anthony Wayne.'
'Major Robert Johnson? I met him only this last week!' Jeremy exclaimed.
Margaret showed her surprise!
'Saints be praised! So he is still alive?'
'Very much so, Mistress! Last time I saw him he was preparing to march north with General Wayne.'
Margaret fought back tears. She had thought her husband dead. No news had reached her for weeks.
'Jeremy – I may call you that? I will do what I can to help you. Where are you going?'
'To General Washington, Mistress. I must find him. I need food and water.'
'Come, I will give you some food and you can rest for a time.'
'Do you have a horse I could buy or borrow?'
'There are two horses in the stable out the back. Choose whichever you please.'
While Jeremy inspected the horses – both in good health and capable of carrying out the task at hand – Margaret packed a saddlebag with food and filled a canteen with water from the small well near the rear door of the cabin.
Jeremy entered the cabin to be greeted by the delicious aroma of a stew.
'You must eat before starting your journey, Jeremy. This stew was leftover from my supper.'
'I did not want to put you out, Mistress. It is very kind of you.'
'I only ask that if you see Robert again, tell him what I have done.'
'It will be done.'
Jeremy finished the meal, not realizing how hungry he really was. Replete, he took his leave from this patriotic woman and was soon on his way, covering more ground in the darkness than he thought possible.
Riding through a wooded area close to Plainfield, a strangled cry alerted Jeremy to danger. He pulled his horse to a stop and dismounted. Leading the horse he quietly made his way towards the sound. As he moved closer he could hear voices.
'Now that Yankee Doodle is out of our way Lafayette will be easy to take,' came a familiar voice.
'How do you know this, Reb?'
'I delivered a stolen parcel to him a few days ago. Lafayette will denounce him as a traitor.'
Jeremy recognised the voice as that of the messenger who had come to him in Chester.
But how did he know who Yankee Doodle was? To Jeremy's knowledge he had never met the boy before Monday.
He continued to listen undetected, learning more of the plan to kidnap Lafayette.
'We will survey the camp in the morning. Then we will wait until nightfall and enter the camp when all are asleep. Our spy will be waiting for us there and will lead us to Lafayette. The sentries should be no trouble to you, boy,' the older man stated, 'You must be part Indian the way you move so silently. Monty and me will get the General.'
'But, Clem, there will be ten of them!'
'Do a good job and you will be rewarded,' Clem promised then turned suddenly, 'What was that?'
Jeremy's horse had whickered and the men moved toward the sound.
Hastily Jeremy moved away from his cover near the clearing, mounted his horse and rode away at full gallop into the darkness, making Plainfield early in the morning.
As Jeremy rode into Plainfield, Ned was roused from a disturbed sleep and dragged to face the General.
'Take his gag off!'
As the order was obeyed, Lafayette advanced on the young soldier.
'So, Private, you are not so lively now! By the time I have finished with you, you will be wishing you were dead.'
Nedsmiled grimly, 'I would not count on that, sir. Captain Yankee Doodle is on his way to General Washington now.'
'Captain Yankee Doodle? I do not know of this man!'
Ned now knew something was dreadfully wrong! For Lafayette to not know of 'Yankee Doodle' was ludicrous!
'Nay, but most of America knows of him. He is a thorn in the side of the British.'
'I do not wish to hear any more of this drivel from you!' Lafayette spat, turning to his Lieutenant, 'Take him away and prepare to break camp!'
'Prepare to break camp!'
Those words echoed around the camp, which became a hive of activity. It was already well after daylight
and Ned was loaded into the wagon once again, but this time no guard was available. Being soundly trussed and gagged did not help the young soldier as he tried to wriggle off the wagon. He had almost succeeded when three men appeared from the nearby trees.
'What 'ave we 'ere?' He heard a rough voice ask.
'One of Lafayette's life guard! Ain't that nice – all trussed up and loaded for us to take.'
'Not so docile, though,' Clem said, then pulled out his pistol and knocked Ned unconscious.
'What did you do that for?' Monty wailed.
'He's easier to handle, ain't he?'
Monty shook his head in exasperation as he ordered, 'Take the wagon now! We'll need it to transport Lafayette when we get him.'
The three looked around at the activity and smiled to themselves. No-one would notice them drive the wagon off into the trees!
And that is just what they did!
De Riennes had forgotten the wagon was unguarded in the rush to break camp and did not order a driver until the last of the wagons had been packed. The young soldier returned to tell the Lieutenant of the missing wagon.
'The General must have moved it forward,' De Riennes mused, 'Go back to your duties, Private.'
'Aye, sir,' the young man saluted and scurried off.
De Riennes still had not told his commander of Jeremy's headlong rush for freedom. As far as Lafayette knew he had two prisoners in the wagon.
De Riennes was distracted at that point so when the march began Lafayette still had not been informed of the missing wagon and its cargo and continued toward Plainfield unaware that the young soldier and Jeremy were not in his custody.
Reb drove the wagon while his companions rode alongside traveling southeast.
'Our contact will meet us later with orders,' Monty said as he called a halt in the forest an hour later.
'Who is the redcoat you talk to?'
'You do not need to know,' was the reply.
They continued in silence after partaking of a skimpy meal, turning to travel steadily northwards, fording the river in the afternoon. With Lafayette's men marching northeast, they knew they had to stay in the cover of the trees.
They were about to set up camp among a stand of trees when a rider approached and identified himself.
Monty signaled for the others to stay with the wagon and walked to meet the British officer as that individual dismounted.
'You will take Lafayette tonight?'
'Tomorrow night, but we have an injured rebel as well.'
The officer looked surprised until Monty explained the situation.
'Use him as bait! Lafayette will not want to lose such a loyal soldier.'
The officer remounted his horse and galloped into the gloom of the forest.
Monty walked back to his cronies and told them of the orders he had received.
They finished setting up camp and settled for the night.
After a few discreet enquiries, Jeremy learned that General Washington had only left Plainfield the night before. If he rode hard enough he could meet His Excellency before he reached West Point. General Wayne was only ten or so miles to the north. Jeremy knew Anthony Wayne would be the better choice. With that in mind he rested his horse, replenished his water and prepared for a hard ride north some hours later.
General Anthony Wayne was about to break camp to march in the cool of the night, when Jeremy thundered into his camp.
'I thought you would have still been in Chester, Jeremy,' Wayne greeted him as he pulled his horse to a stop in front of the General.
Jeremy dismounted and shook the General's offered hand.
'Sir, I have to talk to you! It is important!'
'Come into my tent. We will have some refreshment while you tell me what you have learnt.'
Jeremy followed Anthony Wayne into a nearby tent and took the indicated seat then told his tale to the General.
Wayne listened with interest. The thought of some more action stirred his blood.
'What about General Lee? Where is he?'
'He stayed behind near Monmouth. I cannot understand why he didn't acknowledge me.'
'Maybe he was trying to protect you. He is not good on the battlefield, but he is a master of subterfuge.'
'His one redeeming quality?'
'Mores the pity! Have you any suggestions how we can rescue Ned and any others who may be prisoners?'
'Sir, I think we have to take Lafayette out of the way first, but we have to take him unawares.'
Wayne thought for a few minutes then leaned closer to Jeremy to whisper, 'This is what we are going to do!'
He then outlined a bold plan to take Lafayette by surprise.
Jeremy grinned in response, 'When do we do it?'
'They are on the march?'
'Aye, sir, they should be almost to Plainfield today.'
'Let him come to us! I'll send a message requesting Lafayette visit me tomorrow afternoon. If it is not Lafayette we will let him think he's outwitted us, then strike!'
Once a messenger was dispatched to Lafayette, Wayne and Jeremy fine-tuned their plan. The General called his most trusted Captains to his tent to explain the change of plans.
'We will be staying here for another two days,' he said, 'You all know Jeremy here?' As they nodded he continued, 'Lafayette is in trouble and we have to help.'
Amid questions from the officers, Wayne explained what he wanted each of them to do, then dispatched them to prepare their trap.
'Jeremy,' Wayne turned to the young patriot, 'It would be best if you stayed out of sight until I need you. We may have a spy in camp so the least of my men to see you, the better. We don't want word to reach Lafayette that you are alive. I'll assign you a tent and a guard who will bring you when I signal him.'
'Sir, I understand the need for secrecy, but can I not join you earlier?'
'Jeremy, you know as well as I how things can go wrong. Stay out of sight, Captain!'
'Aye, sir, but I want to be about when Lafayette realizes it is a trap.'
'Don't worry, young Larkin, you will be in the thick of it!' the General promised.
With that Wayne summoned one of his most trusted aides and explained his duties for the next sixteen hours.
Jeremy recognized the aide as Major Robert Johnson, Margaret's husband. He told Robert of Margaret's assistance and praised her good work. 'Maggie is a feisty girl,' Robert averred, 'And she is a staunch patriot.' 'She greeted me with a pistol.' 'She knows how to use it, too.' 'You can be mighty proud of your wife, Major.' 'I am!' They spent the next hours in companionable silence, sharing meals as they stayed within the tent, only speaking when necessary, CHAPTER 7
Lafayette had ordered camp to be set up and was surprised to see a rider entering the camp from the north. When the messenger introduced himself he was even more surprised that Anthony Wayne would want to see Lafayette before reaching West Point. He mulled over the dispatch and decided to ride out the following morning with only one or two aides, as was his habit.
He rode unsuspectingly into General Wayne's camp early the next afternoon. Wayne greeted him cordially as he dismounted, hoping to lull him into a false sense of security.
'Gilbert, I have some news from Washington I must discuss with you,' Wayne stated as Jean followed him into the tent, leaving his two aides to watch the horses.
As they entered the tent Wayne surreptitiously signaled to his Captains, who immediately moved silently to disarm the aides the moment the two generals were out of sight.
'Anthony, I did not expect any word so soon from General Washington.'
'He is only a day's march ahead of me. I hope to meet up with him before he reaches West Point.'
'What news do you have?' Lafayette was abrupt as he seated himself in front of Wayne.
'Someone wants to see you first, Gilbert,' Wayne nodded behind the Frenchman as Jeremy entered the tent.
'What – what are you talking about, Anthony?'
Jeremy spoke as Lafayette stood abruptly and spun round 'General Lafayette, sir. 'Tis good to see you again.'
'You!! You were shot when you dived into the river!'
'Nay, sir, your men need practice. They missed,' Jeremy grinned.
'Who are you?'
'As I told you, I am Jeremy Larkin from Chester. I am well known to you and General Wayne.'
'Who are you?' Wayne demanded.
Lafayette looked from one to the other, narrowing his eyes.
'I am Gilbert Du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette. Why do you doubt me?'
'You are not Lafayette – where is Gilbert?' Wayne insisted.
Lafayette looked around him, panic beginning to show in his eyes.
'My men are outside! They will not let anything happen to me!'
'Think again!' this as an officer poked his head through the flap of the tent and nodded. Wayne knew that the two men who had accompanied the General had been disposed.
Lafayette frantically looked around for an escape route, but failed to find one. Realising he was trapped, he tried to draw his gun, but was forestalled by General Wayne who lunged at him and toppled him to the ground.
He smartly crawled through the opening taking everyone by surprise, moving so swiftly he managed to reach an upright position run through the camp.
Jeremy was quick in pursuit, covering the ground like a deer. But he was losing ground, weaving to avoid colliding with the men Lafayette had pushed aside in his rush to escape. From the corner of his eye he saw Robert Johnson astride his horse and signaled him to circle around to cut Lafayette off.
As he continued his pursuit he saw Lafayette change course to avoid the horse and rider, slowing only slightly. Jeremy knew he couldn't let the man escape – he had to do something fast! The Major was still worrying the hunted man, hoping to turn him back towards Jeremy.
Jeremy saw his opportunity when a wagon drove into Lafayette's path. That slowed him sufficiently for Jeremy to gain ground. Jeremy grabbed a rope as he ran past a stationary wagon. He made a loop and, praying for success threw it toward the mounted officer. Robert Johnson was quick on the uptake, galloped to where it landed and dismounted to pick up the end. Robert ran back to Jeremy as Jeremy stopped to pull the rope taut. Lafayette could not halt his headlong rush and was neatly tripped, giving Robert time to catch him.
Jeremy helped to bind Lafayette and he was dragged away by three guards.
'He is not Gilbert!' Wayne stated as he caught up with Jeremy, 'Even if he did receive a blow on the head at Monmouth, he would not act so abruptly. He never refers to his title of Marquis.'
'I know!' Jeremy sighed, 'But who is he? Even I thought he was the General.'
'I don't suppose we'll find out until the General tells us.'
'What about his men?' Jeremy asked as he and the General watched as Lafayette was taken away.
'Apparently most of them are accounted for. Maybe three or four left at his camp. I've sent some men to fetch Ned. Do you wish to ride with me to meet them?'
'Aye, sir,' came the swift reply.
They mounted the readied horses and rode out of the camp towards Plainfield, little knowing that as they spoke, Ned was being handed over to a British officer who ordered his minions to drive to the nearest farmhouse and, if necessary, force the occupants to care for the prisoner until he was well enough to be transported New York for hanging.
''But he's not as important as Lafayette!'
'I know, but he will be used as bait. I know he is one of Lafayette's life guards.'
'We'll get Lafayette. I'll just 'ave to change the plan slightly,' Monty grinned.
'We want Lafayette alive! 'Twill be more interesting to hang him!' the British officer stated, 'That will show these rebels they cannot win this war!'
'I had to knock him out before we stole the wagon, sir. He was trying to escape.'
'More fool him! Look after him as if he were one of your own family.'
The wagon trundled away with the other two riding beside it.
Expecting to meet Wayne's contingent before they reached Plainfield, they were puzzled when they had to ride into the camp. When they saw the pandemonium in the camp, they exchanged glances and dismounted.
'What the hell is going on here?' Anthony Wayne bellowed above the hullabaloo.
A young officer ran to greet the General with a salute.
'Sir, your men explained everything, but now we cannot find the real General Lafayette. The wagon he was supposedly in did not arrive here with us.'
Jeremy looked concerned, 'You don't think they …..?' he left the rest unsaid.
'Don't even think that!!' Wayne roared, then turned to the young officer and ordered, 'Get me ten good men! We'll find the General! And find my officers!'
'Aye, sir,' he replied respectfully and bolted, only to be back minutes later to inform Wayne that his men were already out searching.
'I have ten men awaiting your orders, sir.'
'Where are Lafayette's aides?'
'With your men, sir.'
Wayne shook his head in bewilderment and looked at Jeremy, 'Captain, lead me to the last place you saw all the wagons.'
'Aye, sir,' Jeremy answered and mounted, 'Tis almost two hour's ride from here.'
Wayne turned to the young officer, 'Do you think you could restore order in the camp?'
'I will try, sir.'
'Get to it!'
The officer saluted as Wayne and Jeremy rode southwards out of the camp, followed by Lafayette's men.
They were almost four miles into their journey when they met the patrol returning from the south.
'Sir, we cannot find a trace of General Lafayette,' Major Johnson reported to General Wayne.
Wayne nodded in reply and glanced at Jeremy.
'What do you think we should do, Captain?'
'Send most of the men back to Lafayette's camp. I want Major Johnson and four others with us.'
Minutes later the smaller patrol led by General Wayne rode further southwards.
Jeremy took the Major aside while Wayne and the others continued.
'Major, I have a feeling your wife may be in trouble. Could you lead us back to your home?'
'Trouble?' Robert Johnson queried.
'A wagon just cannot disappear! Since your farmhouse is one of the closest to where they last camped, I can only presume that those men I saw stole it and have it hidden somewhere.'
'If anything happened to Maggie ….!'
'The sooner we get there, the better.'
'I know the way through the forest. We are only five miles from there.'
'I'll tell General Wayne of my suspicions. Rejoin the group while I talk to him.'
Jeremy caught Wayne's attention and motioned for him to fall back.
'What is it, Captain?'
Jeremy explained his suspicions and Wayne agreed to a foray to the Johnson abode.
Riding cautiously they changed direction, fording the river and traveling quickly.
The cottage was sighted as night was rapidly falling. General Wayne called a halt. Robert looked concerned as he viewed his home. From their viewpoint they could clearly see the cottage and surrounds. A barn stood behind the house, about a hundred feet away. The cottage itself was simple in design – a single storey affair built of logs with a window in the front next to the door. Another window showed at the eastern side of the dwelling. At the rear, both Jeremy and Robert know there was a door and another window. The western side lacked openings of any kind, thus allowing anyone to pass unseen.
'We'll split into three groups of two,' he said, 'Jeremy, you and Robert take the barn. Jed and George, you two will stay back here. If we need you we will signal somehow. William and I will go to the door.'
The General then explained his plan.
'If they are there, we will try to release Ned and Jeremy and Robert can cover the rear door,' he said.
'Sir, Maggie is not there alone!' Robert Johnson spoke up, 'She always leaves a candle in the window.'
'That's right!' Jeremy concurred, 'There was one the night she helped me.'
They all looked towards the cottage. No candle burned in the window!
'In that case, we try to flush them out of there!' the General opined, 'Take care!'
They rode as close as comfortable then dismounted and continued stealthily on foot, separating as they neared the cottage.
Jeremy and Robert skirted the garden and headed for the barn. A wagon stood outside. They entered cautiously, but there was no sign of human life. Only the snorts from a few horses and the cluck of a hen disturbed the peace.
Jeremy turned to his companion and whispered, 'There should only be one horse here.'
Robert nodded, 'Now there are six!'
'Two wagon horses and three others. Now we know how many we are dealing with, we can decide how to go about luring them outside. I wish Henry were here.'
'You have met him. If anyone could create a diversion, he could!'
Jeremy described his friend and Robert asked, 'Was he the one with the explosives at Monmouth?'
'That was he! Will we create a diversion by letting their horses out of here?'
Robert grinned, 'That may bring one or two of them out. What about the third?'
'We'll handle him when we have the others,' Jeremy chuckled in reply.
General Wayne and William had positioned themselves either side of the front door and were weighing up their options when they heard the commotion from the barn.
All hell broke loose!
One man shot from the back door as if his life depended on it – another came flying out the front.
Anthony didn't hesitate – he dived for the scoundrel's legs and brought him to the ground, knocking the gun he had held out of reach. William threw a punch at the man as he tried to stand and stood over him as Wayne regained his feet.
'Take him away!' Wayne spoke softly, watching the door for more activity.
As William dragged the unconscious man clear of the light, a bloodcurdling yell was heard from the rear.
Wayne cautiously made his way around the house only to see Robert tying and gagging a howling villain.
'Two down, one to go!' Jeremy appeared beside Wayne, making him start.
'What? Only three of them?'
'Two wagon horses and three saddle horses were in the barn. Now only the wagon horses are there.'
'Well, young Larkin, what do you do next? There is at least one man still inside.'
'Not for long!' Jeremy grinned, 'Just be ready to grab him as he comes out the door.'
'What are you going to do?'
'Just watch and be ready, General!'
With that Jeremy moved to within a few feet of the door and yelled, 'Okay, men, get ready to set off that explosive in one minute! We'll blow that door off its hinges!'
Anthony Wayne chuckled as he moved closer to the door as it opened a crack and a scared voice came to them.
'Don't kill me! I didn't do anything! Don't kill me!'
'Come out where we can see you!' Jeremy ordered.
The door slowly opened and a young lad, only five feet tall, edged his way out.
Now Jeremy knew he had been right! This was the messenger who had come to him in Chester!
General Wayne grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and held him off the ground, chuckling at Jeremy's audacity as he did so.
Jeremy, closely shadowed by Robert, warily opened the door, aware that Wayne had retreated to the front of the house.
When no one challenged them Jeremy and Robert entered the building.
Jeremy spun round to find himself facing a British officer, who had been hidden behind the door.
'Tarleton! I thought you were well gone!'
'You thought wrong, my young nemesis. Now I have the two prizes we British want most – Yankee Doodle and Lafayette.'
'You have Lafayette? Where is the General?' Jeremy demanded.
'He is here. I will take you to join him soon, but not before I lay a lash to you.'
Jeremy was thinking fast, knowing General Wayne was listening outside the front door. He glanced around for some form of diversion, but found naught.
At that moment Margaret chose to appear from the second room. She hesitated when she surveyed the scene.
'Robert!' she cried, seeing her husband behind Jeremy, and launched herself into his arms.
This distraction was all Jeremy needed – he dived to the floor as the front door burst open and Wayne fired at Tarleton who ducked then made a hasty retreat out the rear door, only to be confronted by the rest of the Rebel party. He was quickly subdued and trussed. General Wayne assigned three men to transport the prisoners to Lafayette's camp.
Margaret told her tale once Robert, Jeremy and Anthony Wayne were gathered inside half an hour later, having trussed the traitors and loaded them onto the wagon for transportation.
She told how, only hours after Jeremy had left, three men with the wagon had arrived at the door asking for help with two wounded men.
She told how she helped, at gunpoint, to carry the two casualties into the bedroom, recognizing Lafayette immediately but not indicating that she knew his identity. She told how she had treated the wounded men and made them comfortable.
Then Tarleton arrived only an hour before Wayne and his men! He made her, at gunpoint, ready the two injured men for a journey. She told how she delayed, risking death, telling him they could not be moved. How she stayed in the room with whispering with Lafayette and praying. How she prayed!
When she heard the commotion outside she knew her prayers had been answered.
All the while she was talking, Robert held her close, silently thanking the good Lord that his wife had been spared.
Lafayette was awake when Wayne and Jeremy entered the room where he lay beside Ned.
'You certainly took your time!' he admonished Jeremy, his grin taking the bite out of the words.
'Gilbert, you've led us on a merry chase!' Wayne chuckled, 'We have the impostor imprisoned.'
Lafayette listened as Anthony Wayne told him of the bold plan that had captured the impostor and laughed when he had finished.
'Anthony, you are a genius!'
'I had some help. Jeremy played his part to perfection.'
'Merci, mes amis. Now get out of here and let me get dressed!'
'Are you well enough, sir?' this from Jeremy.
'A good rest was all I needed, which is more than I can say for Ned. We have to get him to the camp and let Joseph look after him if he is to recover. His head wound has infected.'
Wayne and Jeremy exchanged glances, shrugged, and left the room.
Lafayette appeared minutes later looking his normal self.
With profuse thanks to Margaret Lafayette decided it was time to return to his men. He left Robert to say a fond farewell to his wife as Ned was carefully carried from his bed. Jeremy took Ned onto his horse for the slow journey to the camp.
En route they encountered the wagon. Three prisoners were being guarded by William. There was no sign of Jed and George. Or Tarleton!
'What is going on here?' Wayne demanded.
'Sir,' William answered, 'Tarleton has escaped! We don't know how, but we stopped for a few minutes to check the wagon and he wasn't there!'
Lafayette swore in his native French as he looked at Jeremy.
'He knows you are Yankee Doodle, Jeremy. He must not be allowed to go back to the British lines.'
Jeremy nodded, still astride his horse holding Ned.
'Ned is more important right now, sir. We must get him to Joseph.'
Lafayette agreed as Wayne said, 'You two go ahead. If Tarleton can be found we'll get him! We'll join you in camp soon.'
Jeremy and Lafayette rode off leaving Wayne and his men to continue the search.
General Wayne searched for an hour, covering ever widening circles, but finding no trace of the missing Tarleton. His group was returning to the wagon when they encountered a small British patrol. The patrol seemed to be guarding two men in Wayne recognized at once. Isak and Henry showed no sign of recognition, but the officer in charge did. 'Anthony Wayne!' exclaimed the lieutenant, 'What are you doing in these parts? I thought you were well on your way to West Point.' Wayne grinned as he heard the familiar voice of John Wagner, an old friend. 'Looking for Tarleton, John,' Wayne answered with a grin, knowing Wagner would not believe him. 'Tarleton? He's on his way to New York.' 'He wasn't an hour ago! He's running around here on foot somewhere.' 'Tarleton on foot? Never thought I'd hear of that! Now I know you are joshing me.' Wayne arched his eyebrows, 'What have these two done?' 'I found them sneaking through the woods a few miles to the south. They won't tell me their names or where they are from.' Wayne glanced at Isak and chuckled, 'Stubborn. Both of them! They come from my home county, Chester, Pennsylvania.' 'That explains their stubbornness! Worse than you, they are!' 'They are no spies, one is a blacksmith and the other is an apothecary. Isak is probably escorting Henry on business.'
The Lieutenant glanced at the pair and asked, 'Is that right, lads?'
Henry nodded as Isak answered, 'We would have told you if you had asked nicely.'
Anthony Wayne broke into laughter at this remark.
'John, did you not ask them nicely?'
'Anthony, one more word out of you and I'll arrest you!'
'Let them go about their business, John. They will do no harm.'
John looked dubious, but ordered his men to let Isak and Henry ride off to the north east, little knowing they would double back to meet Wayne and his men.
Wayne shook hands with his friend then took his leave and rode to the west into the forest.
Meeting Isak and Henry minutes later, Wayne spoke quietly, 'Tell me later, boys. We had Tarleton prisoner, but he escaped. We're heading back to camp. You'll learn the details of the last three days when we arrive there. Let's ride!'
They returned to the wagon and Wayne proceeded to escort the wagon and prisoners to Lafayette's camp.
Making good time, day was just breaking as Jeremy and Lafayette rode into the camp. Joseph Currie, the physician, was summoned and soon Ned was left in his capable hands. Lafayette was welcomed back with rejoicing all over the camp. He let the men revel while he and Jeremy repaired to his tent.
'I will send a messenger to Isak and Henry letting them know you are safe, Jeremy.'
'Thank you, sir, I appreciate that. If there is nothing else you need me for, I will catch some sleep then travel home.'
'Non, Captain, I only hope Anthony finds Tarleton,' Lafayette sighed, 'We do not need him informing all and sundry of your identity.'
'I rather think he'll keep it to himself until we meet again, sir. He has a score to settle with me,' Jeremy chuckled.
'Go and rest. If Anthony and his men arrive with the prisoners, I will send for you.'
With that Jeremy left the tent as Lafayette settled on his cot to take a rest.
They were only allowed two hours of rest before Anthony Wayne and his prisoners arrived in the camp. Tarleton was not with them. An aide woke the General and informed him of Wayne's arrival.
Lafayette raised his eyebrows eloquently when he discovered the British officer was still missing and directed Wayne to his tent.
'We searched, but could not find a trace of him,' Wayne reported, 'There was a stray British patrol in the area, so we decided to let them have him.'
'Anthony Wayne turning his back on a challenge?' Lafayette queried.
'I thought it prudent to get the hell out of there!' Wayne chuckled, 'We were sorely outnumbered.'
Jeremy grinned at Lafayette, 'Maybe he's getting too old for this job.'
'Why, you young whippersnapper!' Wayne raged then laughed, realising the joke, 'Even with two extra men we didn't have enough ammunition.'
'Two extra men?' Lafayette looked askance.
'Oh, I forgot to mention that?' Wayne feigned innocence.
'You know you did!! Who were they?'
'Not were – are!'
'They returned to camp with you?'
'Of course, you didn't think I would leave a poor British patrol at the mercy of Isak and Henry?' Wayne chuckled then turned to call through the entrance to the tent, 'Come on in, boys.'
Both Jeremy and Lafayette laughed at this comment as two familiar heads appeared through the entrance.
'Greetings, my friends,' Lafayette welcomed them, 'Are you looking for Jeremy?'
'We were! But it seems our worry was for nothing! Here he is – safe and sound,'
'Only three days hence I was not!' Jeremy retorted indignantly.
Isak's eyebrows shot up, 'You were not sitting drinking tea with the British?' he asked innocently.
'Jeremy has been busy,' Lafayette stated, motioning to Wayne to tell his tale.
Isak and Henry listened with interest. Wayne told an interesting tale, garnishing it with some absurd comments as he spoke.
Jeremy turned to Lafayette as Anthony Wayne finished.
'We all know what happened to me. What happened to you, sir? You haven't uttered a word yet.'
Lafayette looked down then grinned at his friends.
'I am ashamed to admit that I allowed myself to be taken in by my distant cousin, Jean Brittany Charles Godfreyde La Tremoille. He took me prisoner as we prepared to march from Monmouth.'
'You couldn't have known what he would do, Gilbert.'
'That is where you are wrong, Anthony. I know him from old. He would not hesitate to humiliate me in public.'
'Why would he do that?' This from Jeremy.
'He thinks my great grandpere stole the Lafayette name and title. It was willed to my ancestor by his cousin, Comte Rene Armand de La Fayette, Jean's grandpere, because he had no male heirs to carry on the line.'
'Jean must feel cheated. He is the grandson of a Lafayette.'
'He is, but he is not a true Lafayette, like Stasi and myself. His mother could not inherit the title, as Stasi cannot. He is still a wealthy man, but he wants my wealth also. Sometimes I think that wealth is a curse!'
'Not if used wisely,' Henry commented sagely.
'I still want to know how Monty and his gang found you!' Jeremy queried.
'They had a spy in the camp and he knew where I was. Jean had the audacity to keep me in the camp. When Jean threw me into a tent, he came in and gloated to me. The spy overheard it all and told Monty exactly where I was.'
'But how did they get into the camp to take you?'
'Monty rode in bold as brass and demanded to see Lafayette. He knew Jean was masquerading as me, but did not know of Anthony's summons, and Jean did not want to see him, wondering if he should ride to see Anthony or ignore the message. While Monty was annoying Jean's guards to get an audience, Reb and Clem did the rest. They took out the sentries and came into the tent where I was being held. I was helpless against them as I was bound and gagged. The spy had signaled them somehow, indicating where I was. They knocked me out and took me away. You know the rest.'
'So you were in the camp all the time?'
'Oui, mon ami, I was kept out of sight of everyone and Jean was the only person to see me. Phillipe De Riennes knew of my presence, but chose to ignore it. You and Ned had a lucky escape. Phillipe et le méchant homme, un assassin. Only Jean can keep him in line.'
'A murderer? I thought he was only threatening to kill us.'
'Phillipe does not threaten, Jeremy, he always means what he says.'
'Then indeed we did have a lucky escape.'
Henry and Isak had stayed mostly silent through the explanations. Now Henry suppressed a slight frisson of fear for what might have been and changed the subject, 'How is Stasi? We have received a letter from her. She seems to be happy.'
'You will see her within the year. I have applied for a leave of absence to return home. I will attempt to have Stasi and Michel accompany me when I return.'
'Which will be?' prompted Isak.
'I do not know. It may take three months for Congress to grant me leave of absence then I wish to spend time with Adrienne and my daughter. And petition the King for finance, arms and men. I cannot put a time to it.'
'You will be missed, Gilbert,' Wayne stated.
'General Washington has everything in hand, Anthony. But I will be returning as soon as possible.'
Wayne nodded and turned to Jeremy, 'I'll keep you busy while Gilbert is away. There's a war going on here!'
Jeremy, Isak and Henry exchanged glances and grinned.
'In that instance,' Jeremy laughed, 'We had best go home and rest before our next mission.'
'Jeremy,' Lafayette intervened, 'Thank you for never doubting me during your arrest as a traitor to the Cause.'
'Sir, I like to think we know each other better than that.'
'Merci, Captain,' the General said simply.
The Yankee Doodle Society had an uneventful return trip to Chester, settling into their usual routine. Henry had orders to fill for customers, Isak had horses to shoe and Jeremy, well, Jeremy had other fish to fry.
Lafayette was sent with two brigades of infantry to operate under Sullivan in Rhode Island. After a destructive storm in August, he tried in vain to dissuade D'Estaing from taking the fleet away to Boston and rode on horseback from Newport to Boston to urge the admiral's speedy return. Next day a gallop of eighty miles in eight hours brought him back to Rhode Island just in time to assist in superintending the retreat of the American forces.
He obtained leave of absence from congress in October, but was seized with a fever which kept him dangerously ill for several weeks at Fishkill. He sailed from Boston in January 1779, on the new American frigate "Alliance." a swift and well-built ship, but manned by a rough and motley crew, picked up at short notice. A plot was laid among these ruffians to seize the ship and take her into a British port, after murdering all on board except Lafayette, who was to be delivered up to the British government as a prisoner of suitable rank to be exchanged for General Burgoyne. General Lafayette was informed of the plot (by none other than the Yankee Doodle Society, but that is another story.) Lafayette had thirty of the mutineers put in irons. He arrived in Paris in February 1779.