IS THAT YOU, GRANDPA?
Part 2 of 3
Part 1 – Two sisters meet once more to find a Mighty Tough Ancestor
Part 11 – Two sisters are lost in a Battle on King’s Mountain
Part 111 – Grandpa is lost on Tyger River. We return home.
Second day. pow – POW – wheesh! “Nancy! Duck! Get down!” Nancy heard the terrified shout and clung tightly to a nearby towering oak. Red coats could be seen through the heavy tree branches, shiny blades on heavy muskets pushing a way directly toward us. The shout came again. “Nancy, we gotta get out of here”.
Then, behind us, all around us, were the silent movements of leather clad men, some carrying long rifles, others with pitchforks held loosely, more with axes chopping a bothersome branch. I was frightened, my knees trembled, I slid to the ground, my cheek tight against wet scratchy bark. Somehow I knew these to be our militia. They didn’t see two old ladies who had happened in the midst of a battle that would change the course of the Revolutionary War.
The year was 1780. Or maybe it was 2014. The month was October. Or maybe it was July. A Carolina rain had been steady in the morning, bringing the woodsy smell alive. We had been climbing the uphill trail and the branches blowing around us seemed to wipe out the path. I knew we had seen this scene sometime earlier, way back someplace sitting comfortable, not on this hard wet ground. The rustling deep greens surrounding me were unknown in the dryness of Phoenix. Phoenix had disappeared. I tried to catch my breath, tried to get air in my lungs, even while realizing the strange unusual beauty around me.
Earlier in the day, or maybe it had been tomorrow, I had watched handsome young men in leather deerskins with tassels riding gallant horses and carrying shiny rifles. I peered again from behind the tree, trying to see if this was real or could I be dreaming.
“Get back there, ladies, both of you, stay back down out of the way.” He was young, he was crawling right behind us, face peering from behind a huge rock. His buckskins had an old dirty smell, no fringes on these. My voice croaked, “Are you part of the show?”
“Lady, I’m tellin’ ya both, we left the horses back aways, go straight down and ride them whiplash to the Sherrill camp. Git outa here before one of those bloody baynets goes straight thru ya.”
I almost shrieked, “Did you say Sherrill? Are you Adam Sherrill?”
“No, I ain’t him, him and Dickie Perkins went the other way circling those Tories.” Then he was gone. Did he say Dick Perkins, our gr-way-back grandfather? I didn’t have time to ask, Nancy was whispering, “He’s right, we better move down.”
I shook my leg free from her grasp. “No, we’re OK, our guys are pushing them.” But then our guys were coming backward, slowly, loading and shooting, darting from cover to cover. One, sturdy and strong farmer type, wearing a homespun shirt, the color of the mud around us, dropped to his knees, surprised, turned his rifle in our direction, then swung it up in the air. He hissed, “Git outta here, there ain’t no camp around us to git any dang gum work.”
Nancy pulled away from the tree. “We’re not looking for work, we’re looking for ancestors.”
He pushed her down, “There ain’t no ansissors round this place, just some mighty piss-angry boobies.
My face almost in the dirt, I had to ask, “What is your name?”
He shot once more and dust was all around us from his wad of fire. “I’m a good Christian Martindell and I don’t have no truck with wimmen out in the field.” He was backing away as he added, “We belong to Colonel Brandon, a fightin’ sun-of-a-gun who is fixin’ to backtrack around this mountain and cut through all the regments they got.”
This whole scene was flashing with memory and I recognized his name as James, married with three small children, who had joined the Patriots in 1780 and when they called him he grabbed his gun and axe and let the farming go until later. A private now, he would be promoted on the field to Lieutenant.
It became quiet as the signs of battle moved over in another direction. We didn’t want to move, partly afraid maybe those British bayonets might actually draw blood from 2014 flesh, partly because we didn’t want to miss any more of the 1780 scene and very much because Mariam needed to catch air in her lungs.
A soldier, walking straight and proud, wearing hunter deerskins, came toward us. He sat down beside us, almost as though we had time for an afternoon picnic. “I’m John Campbell,” he announced. “I heard you were here and might want to talk to me.”
Yes, we were anxious to talk to him but how did he recognize 2014?
We had read of his trials. He had been in town with a friend and a British soldier asked their loyalty. The friend replied “Well I guess I better stand with the Colonies.” They shot him without warning and gave John the option of joining the British forces. He promptly signed up. Although within ten miles of home, he couldn’t see his family or tend his crops. It took some planning to escape and join with the Carolina Militia.
He began talking, easy and in no hurry. “You got the word out that you wanted to talk to some ancissor, so you got me. I’ll tell you how it really was, what this shootin’ today means. How we’re going to get those Brits off of our land and then I can go back home.”
We settled on the ground, two old ladies who didn’t know if they were in 1780 or 2014, but waited eagerly to hear what this young man had to tell us.
To be continued