The Hidden Children HTML version

Chapter 11. A Scout Of Six
We were now penetrating that sad and devastated region laid waste so recently by Brant,
Butler, and McDonald, from Cobus-Kill on the pleasant river Askalege, to Minnisink on
the silvery Delaware-- a vast and mournful territory which had been populous and
prosperous a twelvemonth since, and was now the very abomination of desolation.
Cherry Valley lay a sunken mass of blood-wet cinders; Wyoming had gone up in a
whirlwind of smoke, and the wretched Connecticut inhabitants were dead or fled;
Andrustown was now no more, Springfield, Handsome Brook, Bowmans, Newtown-
Martin-- all these pretty English villages were vanished; the forest seedlings already
sprouted in the blackened cellars, and the spotted tree-cats squalled from the girdled
orchards under the July moon.
Where horses, cows, sheep, men, women, and children had lain dead all over the
trampled fields, the tall English grass now waved, yellowing to fragrant hay; horses,
barns, sheds-- nay, even fences, wagons, ploughs, and haycocks had been laid in cinders.
There remained not one thing that could burn which had not been burned. Only breeze-
stirred ashes marked these silent places, with here and there a bit of iron from wagon or
plough, rusting in the dew, or a steel button from some dead man's coat, or a bone gone
chalky white-- dumb witnesses that the wrath of England had passed wrapped in the
lightning of Divine Right.
But Great Britain's flaming glory had swept still farther westward, for German Flatts was
gone except for its church and one house, which were too near the forts for the
destructives to burn. But they had laid in ashes more than a hundred humble homes,
barns, and mills, and driven off more than a thousand cattle, horses, sheep, and oxen,
leaving the barnyard creatures dead or dying, and ten thousand skipples of grain afire.
So it was no wonder that the provisioning of our forces at Otsego had been slow, and that
we now had five hundred wagons flying steadily between Canajoharie and the lake, to
move our stores as they arrived by batteaux from below. And there were some foolish
and impatient folk in Congress, so I heard, who cried out at our delay; and one more
sinister jackass, who had said that our army would never move until a few generals had
been court-martialed and shot. And our Major Parr said that he wished to God we had the
Congress with us so that for once they might have their bellyful of stratagem and parched
But it is ever so with those home-loving and unsurpassed butcher-generals, baker-
brigadiers, candlestick-colonels, who, yawning in bed, win for us victories while we are
merely planning them-- and, rolling over, go to sleep with a consciousness of work well
done, the candle snuffed, and the cat locked out for the night.