Chapter 6: The Continental Army/The Battle of Great Bridge
After that last battle, things were quiet for quite some time. Christian continued to train hard with the Prussian Brigade and even communicated with Frederick the Great, who made sure to keep secret his aid to the Colonial Militia. The Prussians and the British had ties to each other no matter how weak or strong. Nevertheless, Frederick the Great never quite liked the British. His only reason for his alliance with them was to keep the French at bay. Britain proved to be a valuable ally in the Seven Years' War, but Frederick never liked the British themselves. Now their act of terrorism made things even worse.
Christian, however, enjoyed this peaceful time. He began to spend as much time as possible with Emma, considering that he nearly lost his life in the first battle. He wanted to take time to spend some of his life with his loved one. Emma was especially pleased by this. It had indeed been quite an eventful introduction into their relationship. She almost lost Christian after their first kiss and had never seen him very much during the British attacks. He would be gone every other hour and when he was home, he was so tired, he could barely talk. And in the week leading up to the final battle, he had practically vanished while planning the assault, save for the nighttime hours. He had saved that time to be with Emma. Still, it was nice to finally have Christian back without a battle going on; without the thought that he might not come back. The two enjoyed a long, peaceful silence from war. There were no cannons, no line infantry, no hussars, no muskets firing. There was just blissful silence accompanied by the sweet sound of a now safe sanctuary. Christian, of course, had become very well known as the one who saved the sanctuary. He was greeted by many people who constantly thanked him for what he had done for them. Of course, he found it a bit uncomfortable at times and Emma was fond of his modesty. For several months the peace continued, but the war was far from over.
Christian paid very close attention to what was happening in the rest of the country. On June 19, 1775, he and Emma read about the Battle of Bunker Hill. The papers described the result as a British pyrrhic victory. The word 'pyrrhic' through Emma off a bit, but knew that it must have had some good meaning behind it, as Christian wasn't completely discouraged by the outcome.
"Christian, what does 'pyrrhic' mean?"
"It means that the British suffered such heavy losses that the next battle will most likely be an American victory."
He was right, the next battle, the Battle of Gloucester, Massachusetts was a clear Colonial victory. For several months, the papers relayed information about the battles between the British and the Colonies, which was now the Continental Army, as declared by Congress. As Christian read these stories, he thanked God that he wasn't in the battles. This peacetime was changing how Christian viewed the war. His time with Emma caused him to become more reluctant to the idea of fighting in the Continental Army. However, he would soon be thrown back into the fray. These last months were his last in the sanctuary.
One night, near the end of November, as Christian was sitting with everyone else, his arms wrapped around Emma, they heard a knock on the door. Everyone jumped at the sound, for they knew that a knock on the door usually brought news of the war. So it did.
"Ah, Sergeant von München. I have a formal request by General Nathaniel Greene himself for audience with you tomorrow afternoon."
"Audience with Nathaniel Greene?" Christian asked in amazement.
"Yes. Quite an honor indeed. Do you accept?"
Christian took the letter from the soldier's hand and looked at it. An audience with General Greene was a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity. However, Christian knew exactly why Greene wanted to see him. He wanted to recruit the Prussian Brigade for the Continental Army. He looked over at Emma and the two locked eyes for a few moments before Christian turned back.
"I will attend this audience, but please inform the general that he will have to make a very strong case in order to recruit me and my brigade."
"Yes, sir. Good night."
Christian turned back and went back to Emma's side. The others were a bit confused by what he had said.
"Christian, what did you mean by 'recruit'?" Margret asked.
"Nathaniel Greene wants me and the Prussian Brigade to join the Continental Army."
"What?" Andrew asked. "Why does he have to make a strong case to get you the join? If it were me I'd take up the position in a heartbeat."
"Excellent. I'm sure you'd enjoy being separated from Anna for several years, the only connection you have to her being letters that may never be replied, marching through God knows what kind of terrain, fighting some battles against impossible odds. Doesn't that sound like fun?" Christian said in a sarcastic tone of voice. After he said this, the smile on Andrew's face disappeared. "I have far too much to lose."
"Oh, come on." Andrew said, trying to make his counterargument. "What do have to lose?"
"Emma. I don't feel obliged to be separated from Emma for years and years."
"You two have only been together for so many months."
"True. And you and Anna have been together for a couple of years now. But time doesn't matter, at least not to me. For those few months, my days with Emma have been the best days of my life and honestly, I look forward to spending much more time with her and I don't want to risk my life for a country I wasn't even born in and a definitely don't want to risk being separated from Emma for eternity." He then looked into Emma's eyes. "I love her."
Emma's eyes lit up after hearing that speech; after hearing Christian state that he would always love her. She placed her hand on his cheek and brought him into a passionate kiss. Anna smiled at the two, along with John and Margret. Andrew was smiling to but a smile of defeat that one sees on a child's face after losing a game with his friend.
The next day, Christian went to speak with General Nathaniel Greene.
"Ah, the great Christian von München, I presume?" Greene stated.
"Yes, sir." Christian said and saluted. Greene returned the salute and allowed Christian to sit down.
"So, I hear that you are a bit reluctant to join the Continental Army."
"Two reasons. One, I have too much to lose. And two, I don't feel obliged to fight and die for a country that I wasn't even born in. I nearly lost my life once in that process and I don't intend on doing it again."
"Weren't born in?" Greene asked in puzzlement.
"I was born in Hildesheim, Lower Saxony. I am full born Prussian."
"Ah, yes that's right. I had forgotten that you are a Prussian. Well even though you weren't born here, surely you must believe in freedom for the oppressed."
"Yes. But I don't find it necessary to die for a country that is not mine."
"Oh? Then why do your Prussians fight?"
Christian was silent. He knew that he had lost that argument. He let out a deep sigh, signaling that he admitted defeat.
"There's another thing. Remember what the British did to your father, and your friends' parents. This is a chance for revenge."
Christian thought for a minute. The chance for revenge did sound enticing, but then his guardian angel spoke up and reminded him of what God thought of revenge. He looked back up at General Greene. "What will revenge do? Will revenge bring them back?"
"Well…no. But your contributions could help end the war more quickly."
"I still have one more reason for not going."
"Ah yes. What is this treasure that you fear to lose?"
"My girlfriend, Emma Chamberlain. She is very dear to my heart and I cannot bear to be separated from her."
"Oh…I'm afraid I don't know how to remedy that. That will have to be on your accord. Listen to me, Herr von München. If you join the Continental Army, your brigade could help end the war much more quickly. Please consider it." and with that Nathaniel Greene stood up, saluted and walked out.
Christian walked back to the house, a bit discouraged. He went into his room and sat at his desk, thinking about what Greene had said. Could his brigade really make that much of a difference in the war? As he was thinking, he felt Emma's arms wrap around his neck and felt her lips on his cheek.
"Hey, sweetheart." Emma purred. Christian looked up and smiled at her.
"Hey, beautiful." He then gave her a peck on the lips as he went back to thinking.
"So what did Greene say?"
"I gave my argument and he gave his. I initially turned him down, but it's up to him."
Emma was scared by what Christian just said.
"Wait. He can decide whether or not you join the Continental Army?"
"Me and the rest of my brigade."
Christian looked up at Emma and saw how scared she was. He then stood up and took her in his arms. "It'll be alright, Emma." he said.
"What if you get sent off to war though? What if…"
Christian gave her a reassuring gaze before bringing her lips to his. Their lips remained locked for several minutes, both of them completely absorbed in one another's embrace.
As they were kissing, they heard that dreaded sound; the sound of a fist meeting wood. Christian went over and opened the door to see Nathaniel Greene's adjutant.
"…What's the verdict?" Christian asked in a low voice.
"I'm afraid the general has overruled your argument. You and the Prussian Brigade are now part of the Continental Army."
Christian lowered his head and looked over at Emma who was wide-eyed and breathing relatively heavily.
"Very well." Christian said. "I won't argue with the general's decision."
"I'm terribly sorry, sir. I know that you were against it, but maybe it might help to inform you that the general wanted you because he considers the Prussians to be unmatched in combat."
Christian just gave the man a cold look. "Well, uh, anyway, the war's heating up and you should be prepared to head out soon. We'll expect you and your brigade to sign in at the barracks tomorrow." The adjutant left, leaving just Christian and Emma. Christian looked over at his girlfriend who was struck with fear for her boy. He went over and took her in his arms again. "I'm sorry, Emma…I'm so sorry."
"It wasn't your fault…Just be careful."
The next day, Christian and his men were at the barracks with some other volunteers. The number of volunteers signing up numbered about 300 men. Luckily, with more refugees coming into the fort, there were still enough people to maintain the sanctuary. Christian was up next to sign his name. As he took the quill, he heard a voice to his right. "Chamberlain, Emma."
Christian's head shot up and he looked over to see Emma there.
"And which division are you interested in, Miss Chamberlain?"
"How's the medical staff for the Prussian Brigade?"
"Quite understaffed. I'll fill you in for that position."
She then signed her name and smiled at Christian as she finished. After she left, Anna and Margret stepped forward and signed their names for the Prussian Brigade's medical staff, and after them, John and Andrew signed their names to the Prussian Brigade itself.
"Sir?" the clerk said to Christian who was standing there in shock at what his friends did.
"Sir?" Christian then snapped out of his trance and looked over at the clerk.
"If you'll sign your name, sir?"
"Oh…uh…right." Christian took the quill and signed his name on the parchment. After he signed he ran back out to find the group.
"What in Christ's name do you think you're doing?" he half shouted. "Are you out of your minds?"
"Christian, you're not going without us." John said.
"The hell I'm not. All of you are staying here."
"Christian." Emma said.
"Especially you, Emma."
"I'm in the medical department. What could happen?"
"Artillery strikes. The British couldn't care less about what the artillery hits."
Emma tried to argue but Christian kept up his counterargument.
"Christian, I'm not letting you leave me. You said yourself that you would never leave for so long. I can't bear it either."
Christian thought long for a counterargument. "…Emma…"
"Christian…you're not going alone. We're coming with you whether you like it or not."
Christian let out a sigh of defeat as he looked at the faces of his friends. He gave a weak smile before nodding his head.
The group was sent out a few days later to a place called Great Bridge, Virginia. According to recent reports, the Loyalists in the area tipped the British off about some weapons caches and the Brits intended to seize them. If it meant wiping out any rebel resistance, then so be it. The Patriots in the area called for any and all support. That was where the Prussian Brigade came in. Nathaniel Greene ordered them to head to Great Bridge to support them. The brigade arrived on December 3rd, just six days before the battle. The men quickly set up camp and met with the Patriot forces. Christian also managed to find the girls some shelter in the home of a Patriot family, who openly welcomed them. For six days, Christian and his men devised a plan for the defense of the town. He also had a few opportunities to write to Frederick the Great, informing him of the Brigade's first battle in the Continental Army.
On December 8, Emma told Christian that the family that they had been staying with wished for him, John and Andrew to join them for their evening meal. Christian gladly accepted it as camping out in the cold and wet was quite unpleasant. That night was a very cheerful one indeed. The family was a very pleasant Irish family who had immigrated to America in search of religious freedom. They had a son who had gone off to fight in an all-Irish regiment and was partaking in the Siege of Boston. They also spoke of how the British learned about the weapons cache.
"Apparently, the Brits were tipped off by a few o' the Tories in the town, one of them bein' our neighbor. Aye, I'd like ta shoot him one o' these days. Honestly I say ta Hell with him with never a drop o' stout ta quench his eternal thirst."
Christian chuckled at the man's curse. "Do the Irish have a gift for such quick and witty curses?"
"It's in our bloodline, boyo."
"Well, the Brits probably aren't too far away, so I suppose we'd better be going. Thank you very much for allowing us to dine with you."
"Our pleasure. Give both the Brits and the Tories what-for."
"Aye, sir." Christian replied. Emma decided to follow the boys to get a little fresh air, or so she told the Irish couple. She walked with Christian back to his tent just to talk with him, seeing as how they didn't talk much the last few days.
"Hey Christian, what's a Tory? What that man was talking about?"
"It's an Irish word that means traitor. That's what we call the Loyalists."
"Ah. Well, he doesn't seem to like them very much, does he?" Emma joked. Christian laughed at her remark.
"No he does not. Well, the Brits should be here any day. I just hope we can get through our first battle with the Continental Army."
"I'm sure you will." Emma replied in a soft voice. Christian smiled at his girlfriend and gave her a peck on the cheek.
"Well, it's getting late. You should get some rest. I'll try to see you tomorrow…the key word being try."
Emma giggled at his remark and nodded her head. Christian then gave her a kiss goodnight before retiring himself. At 3:00 am, the Patriots sounded the alarm. The British forces were spotted just across the bridge. Christian quickly got out of his cot and began to prepare for battle. Within five minutes, he was ready to go. The Prussian Brigade took up positions near the bridge. They had set up a system of palisade walls near the bridge and cannon nests near the town. Everyone as in position by 3:30, but the British were not advancing. The long march had tired the men and General Samuel Leslie had halted them to let them rest. At dawn, he commenced his attack. He opened up by sending sixty grenadiers across the bridge to seize a foothold on the other side of the bridge. Unfortunately, they were in range of the Prussian's muskets the minute they stepped off the bridge. Christian ordered the men to open fire immediately and the lines erupted. As soon as the shots were heard, the artillery joined in with the chorus of battle.
During the opening skirmish, General Charles Fordyce brought up the navy gunners who had been brought along to operate the field guns while the Tory companies formed up and began to open fire on the Continental Army. Christian reloaded his weapon as bullets struck his palisade. As soon as he found a window of opportunity, he gave the order for his rank to fire on the Tories. They fired of a volley and eleven Tories fell dead. As they took cover, more and more bullets hit the wall. Soon, Christian began to hear artillery strikes. He peered over the wall to see artillery rounds striking the enemy troops. The Tories then fixed their bayonets and began to advance on the American positions. Christian called out for all Prussians to load weapons and wait for his orders.
John and Andrew were on the field with the Prussian Brigade as well. It was their first battle in the Revolution. As they were loading, a musket ball went straight through John's leg and he fell to the ground with a shriek of pain. However, he fell out of cover of the palisade and was in plain view of the enemy forces. Andrew reached over and pulled him back behind the wall just as a volley was fired. Christian was watching the whole time and his heart stopped as he saw the volley. He was relieved that john avoided it though. Andrew then called over to Christian.
"Christian, what's the German phrase for 'I need a medic'?"
"Sanitäter, hierher!" Christian called out.
"Sanitäter, hierher!" Andrew repeated and a medic quickly ran to John's side.
"Nehmen Ziel!" Christian shouted and the men stood up and aimed their weapons at the British. "Feuer!" The Prussian Brigade fired off a volley and British General Charles Fordyce fell to their bullets. The men then noticed a great deal of musket fire coming from the left. Christian looked over and saw the Minutemen firing on the British flank. The advance was quickly dissolved and the British Army had no choice but to retreat. General Leslie sounded the retreat and the battle was over. The Americans had won. The ending casualty count was 62-102 killed or wounded British to one wounded American: John Wilkinson.