Excerpt from The Despoilers:
"Look at them," Paddy McGee whispered in disgust. "Act like a mess of starving crows, not soldiers." He spat, wiped his dry lips with the back of his hand, and added: "Swine."
Augustin Drummond quietly pushed aside a growth of brambles with the barrel of his long rifle for a better look. The way those Tories cackled and sang, he didn't need to be that careful. They weren't about to hear anything short of a six-pounder's blast. In the muddy pasture ahead, Colonel John Boyd's Loyalists hacked away at two bloody carcasses that once had been cows, cutting out hunks of meat to be speared with bayonets and roasted over fires. Maybe they weren't first-class butchers, but the aroma of roasting beef made Drummond's mouth water and stomach cramp. Neither he nor McGee had taken a bite to eat since supper two nights ago when Colonel Pickens sent them on a scout to find Boyd's men.
"I best run, fetch the boys," McGee said, and began backing his way into the thick forest that bordered the Georgia pasture. "Stay put, and you bloody well better not let them see you, bub. If they move, trail them, and we'll catch up."
"They won't be goin' nowhere for a spell," Drummond said as he pulled back his flintlock.
"Aye," McGee agreed, glanced once more at the ravenous Tories, and was gone.
After McGee left, Drummond inched deeper into the woods until he found a good vantage point to spy on Boyd's men. He propped the long rifle against a fallen pine, rested his back against a live one, and rubbed his hands to fight off the winter morning chill. The wind had changed directions, so he no longer could smell the food, for which he was thankful, but Drummond could still detect the strains of "I've Kissed and I've Prattled". It was his wife's favorite song, and he hummed along.
Saleli would be feeding the chickens about now, talking to them in a mix of Cherokee and Back Country English, maybe singing "I've Kissed and I've Prattled" -- at least the parts she remembered and could handle without choking on the English words. He smiled as he pictured this, thought of their cabin on Long Canes Creek, but the smile vanished. If she still lived at Long Canes, if she hadn't gotten tired of waiting for her husband to stop playing soldier and come home. For all Drummond knew, Saeli could be back at Kanasta, the Cherokee settlement on the headwaters of the French Broad River in North Carolina where he had first met her while working for Pickens.
Poor husband he had turned out to be. Almost two years he had been gone, fighting with Andrew Pickens's militia. Drummond could neither read nor write -- Saleli couldn't either -- but now he thought he should have asked the Parson or another one of the educated backwoodsmen he served with to put down in words how much he missed her, how much he wanted to see her again. Saleli was smart. She'd know it was from him, know to take the letter to the Witching Snake Tavern, where Zack Gibbs would read it to her. Old Zack had written the letter to Drummond's father and brother over in the North Carolina sandhills, the letter that told them he had settled on Long Canes Creek, had up and married Saleli, and they could accept that or go to hell.
They hadn't written back.
Copyright 2002 by Johnny D. Boggs
"Boggs' historical asides are aided by a narrative style that drive the story along full gallop." -- True West
"Boggs has once more written a humdinger of a book with wonderful characters, even the villains. The Despoilers tears at one's heart, which is what really
good fiction should do." -- Roundup
"Johnny D. Boggs tells a crisply powerful story that rings true more than two centuries after the bloody business was done." -- The Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier