After Christmas dinner, Moses sat by the fire, sipping a hot mug of grog. Virgil sat alongside of him. He poked at a burning log with an andiron. Sparks shot up and sparkled through the darkened room.
"Did you get any medals for bravery in the rebellion, Grandpa?” he asked.
"There's nothing brave in killing another human being, and nothing cowardly in refusing. Courage lies in the mind and heart, not in the killing. But if your convictions tell you to take up arms, then make every shot count."
"It wasn't a matter for medals, Virgie. There was nothing glorious about it, men dying and crippled. They were all brave. At Morristown in that awful winter, the bloodstained rags bandaging our feet were medals enough. And for those of us who survived, that was medals enough. Just being there, that was metal enough for many medals. And coming home. Remember this, Virgie, if, God forbid, we shall ever have another war, the glory is in coming home… surviving… and coming home. That's medal enough."
"But I thought General Washington gave you a medal or something."
"Oh no, no, no. The General did give me a commendation, but that was merely for doing my duty and nothing more," said the old man.
"But what was it for, Grampa?" he pressed.
"It was a most distasteful and disagreeable matter of duty, but one necessary in a time of war and for a treason of the blackest dye.”
“I was Quarter Sergeant in charge of the stores at Fort Arnold at West Point when one day General Washington paid an unexpected visit.”
* * * * *
It was a balmy day, warm and breezy. Billowing clouds moved slowly across the open sky. The valley was verdantly plush. Not at all like Montague this time of late September where leaves already are reds and gold, thought the soldier watching over the Hudson at Fort Arnold.
A contingent of officers approached, unannounced, the entrance to the fort on foot. The guard recognized the tallest of them from the Battle at Princeton. He spoke.
“Is General Arnold hereabouts?"
"No, sir,” replied the young Sergeant.
"Has he been here yet this morning?"
The officers made a brief, cursory inspection of the fort and returned.
"What is your name, soldier?" the leader asked.
"Gunn, sir, Sergeant Moses Gunn," he answered, "Quartermaster."
"And how are the stores?"
"We have approximately two days supply of flour, sir, and no meat at all, which has been the case for the month," Moses reported.
"I shall remedy that forthwith."
His face showed grave concern. He continued, "If General Arnold should happen to return, please inform him that General Washington was here and wishes his presence at the Robinson House without delay. Do you understand?"
"Yes sir," Moses replied.
"Gunn! Where are you from, Sergeant?"
"Montague, Massachusetts, Sir."
"Yes,” said Washington staring down intently into Moses dark eyes, "I remember."
Moses didn’t know what to say, how to respond, what to do. Washington continued.
“Keep a watchful eye on the river, Sergeant. All guards will be doubled until further notice at all the forts at West Point. The British may try something at any moment. Be fully alert and prepared to do battle."
The officers turned to leave. Moses spoke.
"You can trust me, Sir!"
Washington hesitated for a moment, turned and said, "I know, Sergeant, I know."
Go to Chapter Twenty-Two.
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