Chapter Twenty

Winter At Morristown, January 1777


A lone crow cawed plaintively as it zigzagged aimlessly across a sullen sky. The ragged scarecrow of a soldier, a mere remnant of military bearing rotated his body to capture and evenly distribute the maximum warmth of the January sun. A sun which had to fight its way through the heavens, to its child, the earth, through a choking haze of fog and smoke from the camp's many fires.

"Thank God for its tenacity and perseverance,” thought Moses aloud. Guard duty was bad enough, but this winter at Morristown was the bitterest of his life. Snow, wind, ice storms. The Highland Gunns called it the Wolf Month.  At least he had a serviceable, if not good, pair of leather boots, and warm woolen stockings.  In this regard, he was a wealthy man.  Some of the others did not fare as well.  Rags were the uniforms of this army.

Asahel Gunn emerged from a smoke-filled hut to relieve his cousin from guard duty.

"Get some rest and some warmth, Moses," he said.

"I think it may be warmer here in the sun than inside today,” Moses replied.

Asahel coughed violently. Moses looked at him and felt a deep sadness. Here was a sick, convulsing, ragged creature.

"Why don't you stay in bed today, Asahel? I will take your guard duty for you. You need the rest to get well."

"No, no. I'll do it. I can't sleep. I can't rest. I might just as well do it myself,” Asahel replied and coughed some more. "But thank you anyway cousin."

"What happened to your boots Asahel?" Moses asked.

"They were useless, completely worn through. They offered up a final sacrifice last night, a few moments of warmth in the fire."

"You can’t stand in the snow all day with your feet wrapped in those rags and not freeze. Here - you wear my boots while I sleep. And my stockings too." They sat in the ashen snow and exchanged footwear.

"Bless you Moses," said Asahel.

"We share the same blood, cousin,” said Moses. "Why not a pair of boots?"

Moses retired to one of the log huts he and others had built. It was very little warmer inside than out and the smoke burned his eyes. Using a stick, he prodded some stones out of the fireplace and arranged them so his body would fit between them on the floor. He rearranged some well-used straw over the area, lay down and covered himself with a blanket. His tortured body was rigid with the pain of intense, unremitting cold and lack of proper nutrition. 

He reflected upon his condition. For hundredth time or more he asked himself the same questions. "Why am I doing this? And what will come of it?"

Go to Chapter Twenty-One.

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