A few weeks — or was it months — ago, self waxed lyrical over James D. Hornfischer’s ability to evoke landscape (completely redundant in a book about battles, some might think). Well, here she is at a major engagement of the American Revolutionary War (How does self know it’s a major engagement of the American Revolutionary War? Because it’s taken chapters and chapters to get to this point, ARRRGH!) Patrick K. O’Donnell matches Hornfischer in his description of the Green River in Georgia.
It is just before dawn on January 17, 1781. Sergeant Lawrence Everhart and twelve men have “trotted down the Green River Road into the predawn darkness on a special reconaissance operation, three miles beyond American outposts . . . For more than a mile, the cavalrymen rode silently through frostbitten trees dotting barren fields, when suddenly they collided head-on with” the British army.
Everhart and his men “wheeled their horses and bolted in the opposite direction, with the British advance in hot pursuit.” The British rode the “fleetest race horses which (they) had impressed from their owners . . . and which enabled them to take Sergeant Everhard and one of his men . . . After shooting Everhart’s horse out from under him . . . a Loyalist quartermaster took him prisoner and brought him before” the British commander.
“Do you expect Mr. Washington will fight this day?” asked the officer.
Everhart: “Yes, if they can keep together only two hundred men.”Washington’s Immortals, p. 285
Fighting words! The British had over 1000 men.
The British attacked, advancing over a frozen field. “Two three-pound grasshoppers fired into the American line. The British infantry broke into a jog, crossing nearly the length of two football fields in three minutes.”
Postscript: As the British were forced to leave the field, they shot their prisoners, one of whom was Everhart. They shot him “in the head at point-blank range . . . Remarkably, the Marylander survived the traumatic wound and remained lucid enough to talk to Washington . . . ” Washington asked “Everhart who had attempted to execute him. Everhart pointed to the man who shot him . . . and just Retaliation was exercised.” The Redcoat was “instantly shot.”
Savage! Washington did not want a single Redcoat to escape. He set out furiously after them. “Despite their casualties, the American foot soldiers set out immediately on a forced march, a feat they repeated several times in the coming months.”