After abandoning Philadelphia to the Americans in 1778, the British shifted their focus to the South. By the middle of May 1780, they had secured a decisive victory in Charlestown, South Carolina, with the surrender of the Continental Army and Patriot militias under the command of Major General Benjamin Lincoln. Hundreds of captured colonial soldiers were held in prison hulks in the harbor.
In my debut historical novel, A Moon Garden, Joseph Buckleigh is an officer with the 33rd Regiment of Foot. At the Royal Army field headquarters just north of Charlestown, he is unexpectedly reunited with his friend, Aaron Mendes, a colonial doctor who has recently arrived to treat the sick and wounded prisoners.
Aaron’s face lit up when he saw Joseph, and he suspected his expression mirrored his friend’s. The two men embraced.From A Moon Garden ©2020 Roxane Gilbert
“This is unexpected, Aaron,” said Joseph. “Colonel Eades only told me a few moments ago that you are working at Greenwood. When did you arrive?”
“Just over one week ago.”
“It is commendable of you to serve the Patriots at a British facility. We have too few doctors even to attend our own soldiers, so I am certain the care given to the captured wounded is far from adequate.”
“I will refrain from commenting, Joseph. Suffice it to say that I am kept busy.”
The men went outside. Colonel Eades had already requested Joseph’s horse be made ready, and it was tied to a post next to Aaron’s bay mare. It was a cool morning on a clear day, perfect for riding.
“Charlestown Harbor is not far,” said Joseph. “When we get to the ship, you cannot board without someone to provide protection. Perhaps we may prevail upon a prison guard to accompany you, for you must realize I cannot. If there were a way to persuade you to abandon this undertaking, I would try.”
“It is not for myself that I must do this.”
Joseph felt the wind go out of himself, as though he had taken a blow to the solar plexus. Grace was the unspoken, unseen presence. It was for Grace that Aaron would visit hell to look in on the man who had seduced his sister and then bound her to himself with an eternal vow. It was for Grace that Aaron and Joseph had to assess a value to the life of a man who had abused and encumbered a woman that they each loved in their own way. Joseph untangled the reins of the chestnut Marsh Tacky stallion, put his boot in the stirrup, and mounted. “Then ride,” he said, as he took off at a gallop, not glancing back to see if Aaron had followed.