Hello everyone! I’m am so excited to share the first episode in a new history series, Unsung Heroes! I’m thrilled to showcase men and women of American history who are often overlooked, especially by the younger generation! Without further delay, let’s dig into the life of James Armistead!
James Armistead was born around 1760. Living most of his life as a slave in New Kent, Virginia, I haven’t found much information about his younger years. But when he reached his late teens/early twenties, he asked his master, William Armistead, for permission to offer his services to Gen. Lafayette during the American Revolution. Every American can be grateful that Mr. Armistead gave his consent, for we owe our freedom to the brilliant Patriot, James.
Gen. Marquis de Lafayette was glad to have James, who ended up becoming America’s first double agent! Fooling the British into believing he was a runaway, James collected valuable intel to the Patriot armies. One of his more famous bits of intel almost led to the capture of the traitor Benedict Arnold!
In the siege of Yorktown, it was only because of James’ warning to Lafayette and Washington that British reinforcements were on the way. This allowed them to divert them from Yorktown and defeat the British forces there, which led to the end of the war and the independence of our great nation, America.
Because James served as a spy and not a soldier, he was excluded from the “Fight for your Freedom” deal made with slaves who fought for our country. But he didn’t give up. Pursuing legal action, James waited for many years to become free. But thanks to a letter to Congress from Marquis de Lafayette, James’ patience was rewarded, and in 1787, he became a free man!
He lived out his life on a 40-acre farm with his wife and children. They bore the last name of Lafayette in gratitude to the man who helped them secure a free life in America.
James Armistead Lafayette passed away in 1832, around 72 years of age.
We owe a debt of gratitude to this brave Patriot, who paved the way for freedom for every American…
Likewise, may we be brave in paving the way for others worldwide enslaved to sin. May we daily pray for laborers and do all in our power to get the Gospel into their hands. Never deny our Savior and never give up until all have heard.
Writing Prompt: Have you ever heard of James Armistead? Have a fun fact to share about him? Do you have a recommendation for an Unsung Hero we should mention? Share your thoughts below!
Have a blessed day, and God Bless America!
Merry Christmas! Wow, day 9 already! Only three days until Christmas! Who's excited?? I'm thrilled to bring you part 6 of Expected End today! Without further ado, let's hope into today's story!
Part 6: Condemned to Die
The next morning, the condemned were marched down the plank onto dry ground for the first time in what seemed like forever. James found he couldn’t walk as a combination of his leg injury and being used to a rocking ship. Two fellow prisoners were chained to him and were forced to help their dizzy companion along.
Snow fell thick and fast around them as they slogged through the drifts and mud. If they had shoes, they were ragged. Those who didn’t grimly resigned themselves to dealing with frostbite in their final day. James shivered, trying to hop on his good foot, but he finally gave up; he was more of a hindrance than a help.
After five hours of forced marching and sheer misery, the twenty men were loaded onto a wagon bound for the town of Lynchburg… two towns over from James’ home. Half of him hoped perhaps he would see someone, anyone, familiar, the other half hoped no one he knew would witness his present appearance or execution. He had been a miserably impulsive soldier and not very helpful at all. But he had been eager and willing… and now he was preparing to die. He had nothing to show for his service or his life for that matter. He didn’t want them to see him like that. He didn’t want to die like that!
Around 6:45 that night, the wagon rolled into Lynchburg. The guards shouted and the men were unloaded from the wagon. They were marched to a jail house which to be honest was a big improvement from their previous confinements. The jailer watched as the men were marched into his building. James glanced at him as he limped past and read his expression clearly. He looked as if he wanted to express sympathy, but he wisely kept his mouth shut. He couldn’t say anything in front of the redcoats.
“Make sure their chains are secure and that your doors are locked. No visitors, not even the clergy are allowed. We are not taking any chances on losing these prisoners”
The jailer nodded and urged the Redcoats to hurry to the hotel before they were locked out. As soon as the brawly lot had taken their leave, the jailer hurried over to a door which led to a side room. Moments later, he emerged carrying large basket. Setting it outside the first cell, the jailer fumbled with his keys and inserted the key into the lock, swinging the door open.
“Here,” he said, briskly, “I was able to get word to my wife before you arrived, and she sent food. I’m so terribly sorry about this turn of events. Don’t lose heart yet. God is still in control. Here, take this roll, and there’s roast chicken too.”
He went from cell to cell, handing out food and then hurried away to fetch fresh water. That in itself was a luxury. Grateful, the prisoners blessed their food and tore into their bounty. James tried his best to eat, but due to his recent illness, his appetite was nearly gone.
“Come on, James, chicken will help you get stronger,” his companions urged him.
“Stronger?” he said with a humorless laugh. “Yep, I’ll get plenty strong with less than 24 hours to live.”
“Well aren’t you mister optimistic tonight.”
“I’m just stating a fact. God’s done with us. We need to accept that and not be disappointed that we are going to meet Him. It almost seems rude to pretend it’s not true.”
The soldiers looked at each other, unsure what to say. The jailer smiled. “With God, my young friend, all things, even the impossible, are made possible. Never give up hope.”
James arched an eyebrow and shook his head. He was tired of sitting up and stretched out on the floor, his breathing wheezy.
“Can’t you believe in the impossible, lad?” the Jailer asked, coming to sit beside him. Gently, he raised James head to help him take a sip of water. “Isn’t Christmas the time for impossible miracles? It started with one, the virgin birth of the Christ Child. If God can do that, can’t He do something as simple as rescuing the captive from the jaws of death? He did it for Peter you know.”
James furrowed his brow, wracking his brain for the account the man spoke of, but he was too exhausted to remember it. “You’ll have to refresh my memory, sir.”
“Well, lie quiet and listen up,” the man instructed, popping a small piece of chicken into the boy’s mouth. James relented and chewed on the savory meat. Maybe he was hungry after all…
“Peter was arrested and condemned to die in the prisons of the Roman government. There was no escape. There were over a dozen guards watching over his cell and Peter was chained between two of them! It was impossible for his friends to break in, much less rescue Peter. But God sent an angel to deliver him. His chains fell off and the door and gate opened for him, all without the guards seeing a thing!
“Peter went straight to the home of some fellow believers and after quite a mix up, he was let in. If God could do that then, don’t you believe He could do that now, this very night if he chose? Or do you believe God has lost his power?” the jailer challenged.
James finished the last bite of his chicken, considering the man’s words. “I know He is able. I just don’t believe He will this time.”
“Ye have not because ye ask not,” the jailer quipped. “You may be right, but never give up praying for a miracle. God may choose to celebrate His Son’s birthday by answering yes to your prayers.”
James looked up at the man as he stood to leave.
Be still and know that I am God… For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
The following evening, the twenty prisoners bid a silent farewell to their jailer friend and were marched out to the town square. James was held up between two men as they were marched to the execution grounds. They were lined up in front of forty Redcoats with shiny muskets. James saw a group of townspeople gathered nearby. Some were calling out words of encouragement to the poor Patriot victims; other wept for their loved ones in the line of condemnation. A preacher lifted up his voice in prayer for the brave, unrepentant heroes about to die.
He turned towards the voice just as a wild war whoop sounded from behind the troopers. James’ companions threw him and themselves to the ground as bullets flew and shouting continued. Dogs barked, and the church bells pealed through the cold winter air. James heard a snap and pain shot through his right leg as something rolled over it. His face contorted with the pain. What was happening?
Have you figured out what happened? Well, if not, you'll have to wait until Christmas Eve to hear the conclusion! Tomorrow I am sharing 5 things I want to do this Christmas! Click here for more Christmas fun and I'll see you tomorrow!
Merry Christmas and welcome back! I'm so excited to share today's story part with you today! I'm writing this in advance but I know that today is very busy and filled with Christmas spirit! We have a lot going on today, so prayers are appreciated!
Part 4: A Friend Among Enemies
For days, the Hawk bobbed in the rough waters just off the New York shore. James could keep nothing down as his illness raged in form of a fiery fever. Precious pounds melted away as his conditioned worsened. Delirious most of the time, James would moan and cry out for his mother and people he knew from back home. His former comforter was no longer there to ease his fits; he had succumbed to pneumonia and consumption.
The guards cared little that he was deathly ill, only that he was disturbing the “peace” of the deck above and did all within their power to silence him. James continued to toss and turn in his sleep until his body was completely exhausted.
One day, when the water was calmer, the prisoner could hear footsteps overhead. Several people were boarding the ship. More prisoners perhaps? But nearly half an hour went by and no one came down the rickety old ladder.
Suddenly, the old trap door groaned and squeaked in protest as it was heaved open. For a full minute, nothing happened. Then, light, almost silent steps descended the rungs. Something bumped the wall with a clank, like the sound a bottle of liquid makes when bumped. No one dared to move, or scarcely to breathe… except James, oblivious to his surroundings or to the covert intruder of their misery and humiliation.
Keeping to the shadows wouldn’t have been hard; that was all the prisoners knew. Their ears pricked at the sound of a match being struck and their eyes burned as a lantern was lit, illuminating their dungeon for the first time in days.
“James Tanner?” a thick London accent called in a hoarse whisper.
“What do you want with him?” someone snapped. “He’s not hurt a soul! Leave the lad to die in God’s time!”
“Nay,” the Londoner said briskly. “I only want to ease his suffering,” he motioned to a bag he carried. “If ye shan’t help me, I’ll find him one way or another. I know what he looks like.”
“Far corner there. But please, don’t hurt him. He’s in enough pain as it is.”
The London speaker made his way through the wretched hold of the ship to James’ corner. He knelt and gently examined the young man by the light of his lantern. A fellow prisoner watched as the redcoat carefully cleansed the wounds, stitched cuts and applied salve to bruises. Carefully, he measured out a dose of medicine and poured it into James’ mouth.
James stirred, and his eyes fluttered open. He stared up at the British soldier, his vision blurry. The soldier smiled and gently squeezed James’ shoulder. “Might I pray with thee, friend?”
James stared at him blankly, then closed his eyes and let his head drop to the side. The redcoat bowed his head and placed a hand on James’ head. “Lord God, we bow heart and head before Thee to ask for healing of this brave young fighter. Father, Thou knowest that he and I do not see eye to eye on the situation with the rebellion. But Father, he showed up for what he believed in, and I cannot fault him for the stand he has taken. It takes courage to endure what he has endured. Lord God, I implore Thee, bless him, strengthen him and heal his body. But let it not be in vain, my Lord and Savior. Let him come unto Thee if he has yet to do so. And if he is already Thine, I pray Thee make a difference in this darkened world through his life. Help him to be still and know that Thou alone art God and that since Your eye is on the sparrow, that he is worth far more to Thee than a paltry bird. Let not his life be in vain. I humbly ask these petitions in the Name of Thy Holy Son, Jesus the Christ, Messiah and Lord. Amen.”
James opened his eyes, water gathered in the corners. Through the moisture, he saw the insignia the soldier bore, that of a corporal. Recognition washed over James. The commander’s aide.
“Percy, hurry! There’s a guard coming!” a voice called from upstairs. Quickly and quietly, “Percy” made his way back the way he had come. The light disappeared, and the trap door swung closed. Once more they were engulfed in darkness.
James let his eyes fall shut and for the first time in weeks, he slept peacefully, the words of Percy’s prayer trailing though his mind.
The next morning, watered down corn mush was served and for the first time in weeks, James was able to finish his portion and keep it down. The guard scowled at him and scrutinized his appearance. His eye narrowed to slits but he said nothing.
The head guard leaned against a beam, his arms crossed. “We’ll, you rebels will be glad to know, we are leaving the harbor. We’re heading back south. But don’t get your hopes up. You’ll never get off this ship… unless you decide to join us. If not, this ship will be your death bed and the sea will be your grave!”
James pulled himself up, what little life that was still in him lighting his dark eyes. If only he could just see the land again! Maryland, Virginia… either one would be a sight for his sore eyes.
A week passed and the news soon arrived that they were anchored off the coast of Virginia. The knowledge was enough to drive James mad. He could almost smell his home colony, yet it was hidden from his sight. He begged the guard to have him up on deck for only five minutes, but he was flatly refused and got his ear boxed for his trouble.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
I know, God, James thought. I know Your thoughts are higher than mine and that You are going to give me an expected end. But why can’t I at least see my homeland before I die?
Be still and know that I am God.
James sighed. That verse brought a calm over him. Every time he complained or asked God why, that verse played through his mind as if audibly spoken. What was the reason behind it? Why did God want to teach him to be still right before he died? What good would that do him?
A washer woman arrived at the Hawk to gather laundry. She picked up the basket, then glanced casually around the room. Seeing James, she hurried over to him. “What’s you’re unit?”
“15th Virginia. Why?”
“Never mind, that’s all I needed to know.”
He watched as she disappeared.
“Guard, what day is it, please?” someone asked, and James lifted his head.
“And why would ye be wanting to know, Yank?”
“Just wanting to add up how long I’ve been here.”
You and me both, James thought.
“December 11th,” the guard snapped.
The questioner dropped his head. “Two years in this place,” he whispered.
James swallowed hard. Two years? Oh, dear Lord, please no. Please, get us all out of here!
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” James froze. Had he actually just said that out loud?
Apparently so, because everyone in the guards’ dim lantern light were staring at him.
“You have an expected end,” the guard growled, back handing him. “You’re end will be a splash in the water and eternity in—”
“Humphreys, come on!” a second guard shouted. “Something’s going on upstairs!”
Humphreys hurried over to the ladder and soon darkness swallowed the room again. All was silent until the two-year veteran said, “Thank you, Tanner. I needed to hear that verse again.”
James shrugged nervously. “Sometimes I speak out of turn. I should have waited for the guard to leave. I didn’t mean to upset him.”
“It convicted him,” the man answered solemnly. “As it should. And you didn’t talk out of turn.”
James fell silent. Feet ran back and forth along the deck. “Pepper, what do you hear?” someone whispered to the fellow nearest the ladder.
Pepper strained his ears and his eyes widened, even in the dark. “Benedict Arnold is aboard fellows!”
“They’ve captured the general?” someone cried in alarm.
“Where have you been? He deserted to the enemy over a year ago.”
“I’ve been here for a year. No one ever told me… why would Gen. Arnold do such a thing?”
“He’s a sorry traitor, that’s why,” another responded.
“Maybe, but an underappreciated hero while we had him,” another pointed out. “He was the best General we had!”
James decided to stay out of this conversation. He needed to focus on a new thought. Perhaps he should share the scriptures that had been playing on his mind. Maybe the others could help him make sense of it all.
What do you think of Percy? Do you think James will get to see Virginia before he dies? What is going on? Swing by tomorrow for part 5!
As Always, swing by Stories by Firefly for more Christmas fun!
Merry Christmas and welcome back! I have a surprise for you! Today, tomorrow and the day after, you will be getting a story part everyday! That's right! Three days in a row of Expected End!
Part 3: Bound for New York
James was completely unaware as he was lifted, stiff and shivering from the cell. Fremantle and Wellington carried James to a nearby tavern serving as the camps medical facilities. He awoke with a start as he was plopped down on a rough table.
Without a word, the doctor ripped open his shirt and began to poke and prod the bullet wound in his side. James sputtered as he tried to hold back a cry. He soon gave up trying. The doctor ignored him, neither bothered nor concerned by the apparent discomfort of his patient.
A scream burst through his teeth as the doctor dug after the bullet with a pair of pinchers. “Please,” he moaned, then cried out again as he dug deeper into this side. “PLEASE!”
The doctor muttered something under his breath, reached for a bottle of foul-smelling medicine. He popped off the lid and tilted the mouth to James’ lips. Liquid poured down his throat, making James cough and gag, gasping for breath. His vision blurred and in mere minutes, he was in a state of incoherence.
“That’s all I can do for the lad,” the doctor said half an hour later, tightening the bandage on the young man’s leg. “Move ‘em on now.”
James felt disoriented, dizzy and sick to his stomach. He knew he had been cared for; he had survived the night. But he had no clue what time of day it was or where he was or who these funny speaking men in red jackets were. He couldn’t think clear. Why was he here anyway? Why was he being treated by a doctor? Why did his stomach hurt so furiously? Where were Andrew and Gabriel? Where was Gen. Lafayette? And why did his throat burn and his head ache so furiously?
“Come, ye Rebel dog! Move along now!”
He felt himself being pushed forward. “The colonel reviewed yer case whist you were asleep, you lazy urchin.” Who was talking? Why was James’ ‘case’ being reviewed by Col. Potts? What had he done? “He’s decided you’re not a spy after all, against our better judgment. Looks like ye get to spend yer days on a man o’ war, Rebel.”
At last memory was restored to the poor confused soldier. His stomach churned. He’d never liked the water, and now he was to be surrounded by it for months… or weeks if his illness claimed him. The soldiers were laughing at his bewildered face. James was frightened, though he would probably have denied it.
Shackles were clasped about his wrists and ankles as he was prodded by bayonet to walk faster between the guards who helped him towards the wagon. He was lifted into the air and dropped with a dull thud into the wooden frame. He shook his groggy head as a whip snapped behind him, scaring the living daylights out of him. A mule protested, but the wagon slowly began to clop forward. The wind blew less forcefully than the night before but was every wit as cold. Snowflakes blew inside the wagon, chilling James, who was now left in only his shirt and breeches. His gear and outer coat and vest had been confiscated.
Every bump tugged at his injuries and caused James to moan. He sounds were rewarded with a butt from the musket against his injured leg, which only made matters worse. By the time they stopped to rest the mule and for the soldiers to have their afternoon tea, James’ leg had swollen so badly, he was sure it was now broken.
After three agonizing days of travel, James arrived, battered and bruised, at the Maryland port that would be the beginning of the end of his journey. New York was the final destination, where the ship would put in just off the coast for its prisoners to rot their lives away.
That very day, he was taken below deck in irons. The HMS Hawk was full of prisoner of war, each chained to the wall or floor, some in stocks. They couldn’t move around without the Brits knowing, for the chains were heavy and clanked with even small movements. This wasn’t a problem for James; he couldn’t move anyway.
The smell of waste and garbage caused him to lose what little food was still on his stomach within the first five minutes, which garnered him a blow from his new guard. As he finally left him to lie in his misery, another smell mingled with the putrid air… blood.
As the days slowly creaked by, James listened to the old timers talk. They were only allowed up on deck when they were to be interrogated or punished for something, neither being often, they said. That very day, three men were taken up top… and were returned, half dead. James dragged himself farther into his corner, as if doing so would help him to escape this horrible reality that was now his life. It wouldn’t be long before he was called up, he was sure. And he wouldn’t survive such a beating. Where was God in a place like this?
I will never leave thee nor forsake thee… Be still and know that I am God… For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
An expected end? James thought, shivering in his corner, removed from everything and everyone he knew and loved. This is the expected end God has for me? Why God? If this is the expected end, why don’t You just let me die? Where are Your thoughts of peace for me in a place like this? It surely seems evil to me. God, I don’t understand!
Be still and know that I am God. Be still…
An unbidden sob escaped James and shook his limp frame. He didn’t even care who heard him. “God, please,” he whispered. “Please, help me be still! I need help, Father! Don’t you care anymore? God, please, help me!”
“Shh,” someone whispered, scooting over to him, dragging his chains with him. “There, now, lad, God hears you and He does care. He gives His hardest test to His strongest soldiers. Don’t forget that. He knows where you are and He cares about the pain you are going through. But He’s just trying to grow you, lad. And I don’t doubt but that you’ll bring Him honor and glory in suffering, if you’ll let Him use you for His purpose. But He’s not forsaken you, lad. Just be still now. Lie quiet and let the sweet Holy Spirit speak to your heart. There, that’s it, lie quiet.”
James’ sobs subsided into gasps and finally into silence as the man’s words took hold of him. God did care, or else He wouldn’t have sent His Son to save mankind. James knew that. Jesus had suffered far worse than this. Was he better than his Lord? No, of course not. But why did God seem so far away?
A few nights later, a prisoner tried to jump ship, having picked the lock on his bonds. He made it to shore but was picked up by a harbor patrol. Being returned to the ship, the soldier was flogged. He died that night. James didn’t dare try such a stunt, even if he could. He would never forget that poor man’s screams of pain and pleas for relief. “God, please don’t let me die like that,” James begged.
Hawk at last arrived off the coast of New York and the prisoners were given “generous” terms by a commander who interviewed them one at a time on shore: They could vow allegiance to the King and join the Royal Forces and he would forgive all their insurrection. Or they could remain in rebellion and return to the ghastly conditions of the warship.
James had never felt so conflicted in his life. As he sat shivering on the bench before the commander, he contemplated his options.
A corporal standing by stared hard at the young man, willing him to give it up. He was so weak, the commander had decided that if he did give up the fight, he would just release him to go home. Military service would be too taxing on him. He needed rest, good food and medical care. He was only a lad as it was and surely, he could see the wisdom of letting go of this foolish dream of Independence!
“Allegiance or the Ship?” his bailiff repeated to the young prisoner.
James shuddered at the word ship. The corporal winced at the terror shining in the young man’s eyes. Were ships really that bad? He had never been inside one, but when the wind blew just right a foul stench accosted all standing by the harbor. Perhaps he should visit the Hawk and find out for himself…
“My patience is wearing thin, young man,” the commander sighed.
James trembled as he stared at the floor, his shoulders hunched as he tried to keep from falling to the ground. “I… I… I can’t, sir. I love my country. I have no king… but…. But… King… Jesus.”
The corporal closed his eyes, aching for the poor young man as the commander said, “Then let your King Jesus release you, for King George will not. Have him away.”
James was pulled to his feet and dragged stumbling out the door and back out into the cold air. His body went limp just outside and the guards had to carry him the rest of the way to the little boat waiting to return him to the pit of woe anchored out to sea.
The commander turned to his corporal and remarked, “That lad has some courage. He won’t last three weeks.”
James felt sick to his stomach as they bound him below, once more shackled to the wall. If he could just live to see his home colony… just once more. He lay on the floor, listless and unheeding. He prayed for a miracle… a miracle he dared not share with anyone… one he only dared to hope would come true, just in time for Christmas.
What do you think of James' decision? Is he brave or foolish? What do you think his miracle is? Think it will come true? Guess you'll have to come back tomorrow for more clues!
Don't forget to hope over to Stories by Firefly for more Christmas Fun!
Merry Christmas and welcome to Day 3 of Stories by Firefly's 12 Days of Christmas party! Today I am sharing Part two of my Revolutionary War Christmas Story, Expected End! If you haven't read part 1 (link coming soon!) please go do that first!
Part 2: Too Old to Cry
The wind howled through the cracks in the structure, whipping against James in stinging lashes. He grimaced and tried again to shield himself from the elements. From head to toe, his body ached and nothing he could do relieved the pain. In fact, the slightest move made it worse.
Something icy ran down his cheek. He shook his head fiercely. He was too old for that; he would not cry. Sixteen was far too old for childish pity parties, surely! After all, it was his own fault that had him in this situation. If only he hadn’t been seen; if only he’d been able to run faster; if only he hadn’t come out until he had full recovered from illness! Why had he been so persistent in going? Why?!
Try as he might, he couldn’t hold back the salty tears coursing down his face. His side and leg pained him greatly and blood continued to seep through his clothes and pool on the snow beneath him. He shuddered at the mental picture his thoughts presented to him. All that blood… He felt as though a hot knife had been thrust into his side and that the perpetrator was twisting in back and forth. He sniffed, trying to pull himself together. He had to think of something other than his pain and numbness in his hands and feet.
Unbidden, he thought of his mother back home. She would miss him if something happened to him. And something certainly would happen. If he somehow survived the night, he would be tried for a spy, and even if he wasn’t convicted, he would be shut up in the hold of some ship to await his death. He was condemned to die.
James bit down on the gag, a groan escaping him more so at the thought of his mother than from the pain racking his weakening frame. Another tear wormed its way down his face. She was a pretty lady, slender and short with brown curls and sparkling green eyes. James looked nothing like her, except for his slender build, which had been a curse to him his entire life. He was sandy haired and brown eyed, with a sharp nose and firm set chin that made him look defiant. Her nose was small and button-like and her chin was soft and gently. She was everything soft and pretty… and he was everything clumsy and plain.
His thoughts wondered to his father. Mr. Tanner had died before James was born. A carriage accident, he’d been told. Mrs. Tanner had been in the accident too and James had been born later that night. People said he wouldn’t make it; he was so small. But God had spared him for some reason and Mrs. Tanner said he was her little miracle. James was named for his father, James Hamilton Tanner the Second. “Sounds like an educated gentleman… a Free, educated gentleman. And that is what you shall be one day Jamie,” his mother had told him more than a dozen times growing up. “A free man!”
Mother again…and death too! Two things he didn’t want to think about. News of her only son’s capture and death would crush her. He could see her now, sitting in front of the fireplace, a few cedar chips thrown in for scent the way she liked it. Her itchy, but warm, gray shawl would be draped about her shoulders and her old, worn Bible would be in her lap. Her hands would cover her face, weeping and mourning his youth. Mourning the daughter-in-law she would never get to have, and the grandchildren; the son she loved who would never return home, never be free. Her tears wouldn’t be of self-pity… but anguish of heart and love for her baby boy and the future he would never live.
She had often shared her dreams for his future with him. She wanted him to go to a university one day, when they had saved enough. He was a bright boy, she had always said. He could be anything once they were shed of English rule. Then, he would marry, and they would both come and live with her so she could help with their brood of little ones. He would be successful in whatever he chose to do because he was smart and kind and smart and kind people are always successful.
So much for that, he thought. Mother, I’ve let you down.
He would never see her again. Never embrace her again… never hear her voice again, on this earth at least. It was more than he could bear. The tears came afresh, nearly strangling him. He tried to force them away, but he might as well have tried to free himself from the British stockade. If there was one person on this earth that could make him do anything they pleased, it was his dear mother. It was she who had urged him to keep up school when he fell into the lowest place in class. It was she that taught him the importance of learning to mend his own clothes, something he’d done quite often since joining the army. And it was she who had brought him to the Savior and instructed him in how to ask for His pardon. If only the redcoats were that forgiving.
But he could expect no mercy at the hands of his captors. These were the men who had captured his best friend Clint three months before. He shuddered as he thought of the report an escapee had brought them. Clint had been severely beaten and paraded through town to show just how mighty the British army was. He was spat on and condemned as a spy, something he was not. Then, they had taken him to a tree in the town square and hanged him until he was nearly dead.
Stop! He shouted in his mind. He would not allow himself to think of his friend’s end. It was too horrible for human comprehension. And knowing that something similar awaited him… his stomach lurched at the thought.
God, why? He prayed. Why couldn’t I escape? Why did I have to be caught too? Especially since I was trying to do something that would save lives! God, I need to get that information back to camp. People will die… Father, I don’t understand! It’s not that I’m afraid of dying… it’s just, I don’t want mother to hurt and I don’t want more of my people to die! Please, God, let someone figure out what the British are planning!
James viciously wiped his eyes against his shoulders. He shivered as a nor’easter blew in, leaving him chilled to the bone. He was still bleeding, but he could feel his blood freezing to his patched hunting shirt. This country boy certainly wasn’t used to the Yankee winters. He wondered what the fellows were up to. Many of them had thought him foolish to go off and join the Continentals when the Militia was right in their midst. But he knew the cause was the same: Freedom. And he felt he was needed in the main army.
In the big army, he could make a big difference, something he had always longed to do. He was never able to make a difference back home, pretending to be a soldier with the militia. They were all right, just not what he wanted. He wanted to see action, to see real men in battle. To meet the men behind the revolution. Men like George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette. Men who believed in God and what He could accomplish through them. Men like his colony’s Patrick Henry. And he wanted to be one of those men.
Now, he wished he had listened to his friends. They could have kept him from ridiculous heroics that he couldn’t carry out. They would have told him his heart was in the right place, but his health wasn’t. Why was he always trying to do more than he was capable of? Impulsive, that’s what his first sergeant would say. He was always doing this to himself, even when he was a boy at home. When would he ever learn? Well, obviously he never would now. This impulse would lead to his death.
What would his mother do once he was dead? How would she take care of herself? What if the British reached their hometown? Oh, he should have stayed home! There was no one to protect her now. Some son he had turned out to be. And all her dreams of freedom for him and herself… they would be void to her without her son to share it with her. She had said as much the day he left for war.
“Jamie, don’t you do anything foolish,” she had said, tightening the kerchief about his neck, as if doing so would keep him warm and prevent him from harm. “I want freedom for our country, out from under British rule, but I don’t want to enjoy it alone. You come back to me, you hear me boy?”
“Yes, mother, I promise I’ll come home to you.”
“And you’ll always read your verses in the morning and the evening.” It wasn’t a question; it was a statement. James had smiled as she tucked his Bible into his knapsack.
“Yes, ma’am. I’ll never stop reading my Bible. It’s too precious to neglect.”
But even in this, he had failed his mother. Tonight, his Bible was safe, tucked away in his knapsack in camp… away from him. For the first time since the war began, he would miss his Bible reading.
Be still and know that I am God.
James nearly jumped as the words came into this mind as clearly as if they had been spoken. I know You are God, he thought. My circumstances don’t change my faith.
Well, I’m not doing too good a job at that, he admitted. My mind has been anything but still.
Be still and know I am God.
James took a deep breath and exhaled deeply through his nose. All right, God. With Your help, I’ll be still. I’ll try to stop borrowing trouble and rest in the knowledge that You are in control. Please, help me to rest in you.
I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
James blinked as the words repeated in his mind. Peace washed over him as the promise continued to comfort him. I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
Thank You, Lord. That’s exactly what I need, right now, he prayed. And thank You for a mother who taught me to value Your Words and put them to memory. Thank You.
What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.
I certainly am afraid, Lord. Please, take my fears and turn it into trust in Your Almighty hand, Father.
James was growing drowsy. The wind continued to whip at his face, but he suddenly didn’t notice anymore. He felt strangely warm… and so tired…
What do you think will happen next? What is a scripture God has brought to mind in time of trouble? What is something important your parents have taught you?
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Christian. American. Southern. Author.
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