No I don’t mean Dr. Who.
This is set in the American revolution and is a fictional back-story for a woman, known only as “the Doctor’s wife” who was a revolutionary agent in Trenton when the Hessians occupied it. She took a few pot shots from her window from behind their lines on Christmas morning 1776, and (probably) shot one Hessian officer.
Chapter 1. Call to Arms
The sun was just rising on the morning of July 6th1776, its rays illuminating the bedroom on fifth street where Elizabeth and John Graydon were sleeping. Elizabeth stirred as the light awakened her. She kissed her husband awake. The last few days had been exciting, with the Continental Congress, now the Congress of the United States, declaring independence from Great Britain. There had been fireworks, speeches, and toasting.
Today was different, sad. The Philadelphia Associators were set to march to New York today. To join General Washington and the rest of the continental army in defending the biggest city in the nation, for it was now a nation or at least was becoming one, against the, now foreign, British and German aggressors. The Regular army under General William Howe with their Hessian mercenaries had been camped on Staten Island for the last few weeks, and it was only a matter of time before the attacked the city. They had to attack before Admiral Richard Howe, the general’s brother sailed for shelter in the fall.
“John,” she asked, “do you have to go?”
He stirred, they’d only been married three months, and sleeping next to a beautiful woman, waking to her touch, was still a novel and wonderful experience. They’d married as soon as John had finished with his course in medicine at the Pennsylvania College. They would have married earlier, but the college rules prohibited married students. They’d had three months of the joys of marriage, though Elizabeth had not yet been sized by its fruits.
“Liz,” he mummered in her ear, “I’m their doctor. Their surgeon. I cannot stay home. You know that.”
It was true. His friends had all signed up, like their fathers before in the Seven Years war, to defend their nation. He could not decline, not without a deep and personal feeling of shame.
Awake, John continued, “in any case, Dr. Reed is too old and the Associators are the cream of society. I’ll be in good company.” He reached over and held her tight. “We don’t muster until mid-morning. There’s time to say goodbye.”
The Associators mustered in the green to the south outside the Philadelphia State House. Their commander, the chairman of the committee on public safety and defense, John Dickinson, addressed them. He stressed that it was everyone’s responsibility to defend themselves, and even though he had absented himself from Congress – abstaining rather than voting against the declaration of independence, he was cheered. It wasn’t that long ago since the former colonists rose up to defend their rights as Englishmen.
Then they marched off with a new flag flying along with their regimental banners, one still had the thirteen stripes of the old one, but a blue field with stars instead of the union jack. The drums beat the time and fifes piped to keep their spirits high as the marched north toward Easton, to catch the ferry to Trenton on the morrow and begin marching on the main road to New York.
Elizabeth and her maid Molly waved and cheered as the Associators left. It helped to keep them from crying over the absence of their loves. Sadly turning to trudge back to the, now too, quiet house on fifth street they ran into her uncle Cadwalader.
“Fine troops. You should be proud of John.”
“Uncle, what are you doing here? I thought you were with Smallwoods’ regiment in New York.”
“I came down from New York on the flying machine Thursday. I had to tell General Dickinson where to report.”
“Where’s John going?”
“The associators will join General Washington’s flying column, outside of Elizabethtown. The British are on Staten Island. The flying column will make sure they stay there.”
“Ma’am?” Molly requested, the caution clear in her voice, “what are we going to do?”
“in the fall?’
“I thought we’d move in with John’s parents in Lancaster.”
“Lancaster?” Uncle Cadwalader exclaimed, “That’s an awful town. No you mustn’t stay there. Why don’t you stay with my wife in Trenton?”
“It’s near Philadelphia and she would appreciate the company.”
“Molly, what do you think?”
“Ma’am, I’m from New Jersey. I like Trenton.”
“Uncle, can you write to my aunt? I would be very happy to join her in Trenton.”
“I will. Now were you wanting lunch?”
“Yes I would, but we haven’t prepared anything at home.”
Molly spoke up, “Ma’am if you will walk with Mr. Cadwalader, I’ll prepare a meal.”
“That would be good, Molly.”
As Molly left, Uncle Cadwalader spoke, “That’s a good girl, your Molly. Is she married? You’re not going to lose her are you?”
“No she won’t leave me, at least not until after my John returns. Her husband was his man and is now with the artillery.”
Elizabeth recognized someone as they strolled along Market street. “There’s Mr. Peale, I’m sorry Captain Peale.”
As a wedding present for John, Elizabeth had been sitting with Charles Peale. In the small world of Philadelphia, Charles, John and her were friends. Despite their friendship, it was still expensive, but worth every shilling. It wasn’t done, and might never be. Peale’s brother James had already left for New York with Smallwood’s brigade and was posted to Long Island. Charles himself was an officer in the Philadelphia Associators and could only paint when off duty. So her painting was started, but waiting on the rare times that Captain Peale could be Mr. Peale the artist.
“Captain Peale! When would you have time for a sitting?”
“Mrs. Graydon, I’m sorry but with the Regulars landing in Staten Island, I’ve had to put my brushes away.”
Uncle Cadwalader, waited quietly. “Oh,” Elizabeth blushed, “I’m sorry. Captain Peale this my uncle General John Cadwalader from Smallwood’s regiment. We were heading to my house for a repast, would you be interested in accompanying us?”