Authors: Jim DeFelice
Tags: #Patriot Spy
"It was a shame you had to lose your salt. General Putnam's men would have welcomed it."
"I did not lose it all, sir; just a small portion was needed to cover the tops of the barrels. The rest will find a welcome market with the general's quartermaster. Mistress Jane is even now engaged in seeing that small transaction to its proper conclusion."
"I suppose you'll make a profit."
"My investment will be recovered, that is all. Of course, the loss of my paper currency during our difficulties has put a strain on my situation. Fortunately, a proper claim has already been made to General Putnam, who accepted it quite readily."
"As a condition for you to leave off telling your story, no doubt."
Van Clynne smiled to himself, as Jake's guess was correct. Old Put's document could be redeemed at Kingston or Albany with any of several merchants he knew, and would more than compensate for his losses. And as he was once more equipped with his many purses, to say he was well pleased with himself would be to understate the case as surely as the Dutchman overstated his role in any victory.
Lieutenant Colonel Gibbs, battered, bruised, wrapped with many cloths and bandages, was nonetheless also in a light mood. What he had once seen as a brief diversion to while away an hour or so — a game or two of chess — had turned into a three-day adventure, during which he had thwarted not only a group of Tory rangers but the British navy, her marines, and a member of the Secret Department as well. Such sweet victories for the Cause — all the better to have been topped off with some sweet kisses from the remarkable young Rose.
The girl had been left with General Putnam, who promised to dispatch one of his men and arrange a reunion with her husband-to-be. Undoubtedly, the bounty he promised for her efforts would provide an extravagant wedding feast, even with the war. The general had even broadly hinted he would preside at the match — Old Put never lost an opportunity to join a celebration.
The Connecticut men who had proved so useful to the operation had been sent back to their barracks for more rest by Putnam. The commander promised to remember them with a choice assignment as well as leave. Jake feared that might not add up to much for the doughty soldiers, who'd shown their muster against some of Britain's toughest fighters, but that was the lot of the common foot soldier — always doing the dirty work, and never receiving much of the reward.
And Captain John Busch? Perhaps his fortitude and torment when alive had earned him a passage to bliss. Jake hoped this was so, for never had he found so worthy a man, let alone a Tory. Had circumstances been different — but one could just as well wish for two suns to rise instead of one.
The patriot spy had no doubt he would meet Dr. Keen again. At that point he might be able to retrieve his Segallas, stolen by the villain and worth ten times more to Jake than the lost money had been to van Clynne.
There would be time for that in the future. Now he had to ride north as quickly as possible to meet Schuyler.
And then get some sleep. Even his iron constitution needed rest eventually.
They reached a turn in the Post Road and the river suddenly came into sight, illuminated by the light pink of early dawn. From this distance, the Hudson was a peaceful lake, quiet in her majesty, silent and sure. The iron chain rocked against her restraints many miles to the south, protecting the upper reaches of the valley, and the nation.
The British would undoubtedly try again. Jake had seen that there were many vulnerabilities to the local defenses, and even such an accomplished soldier as Old Put might not be able to fix them. Yet this morning he was filled with an optimism that the country would endure no matter what the British did, and that the Revolution would succeed. So beautiful a river could flow only for free men.
"I don't think I've eaten a decent meal since Prisco's,'' declared Jake as the road turned away from the water."Perhaps you can lead us to a good place for breakfast."
"There is a housewife who makes the most excellent cakes you have ever tasted but a short distance away," said van Clynne. "She will be happy to feed us, as long as you compliment her on her garden as soon as you meet her. She will talk nonstop," added the squire, "but it is the price we must pay for her excellent food."
"Could there be a question?" answered van Clynne, kicking his horse to pick up the pace.
An Historical Note
The question of historical veracity of the manuscripts upon which this series is based was addressed in
and hence won't be repeated here. A few points of note that apply specifically to this tale, however, may prove to be of interest.
No mention of the attack on the chain detailed in this book appears in any history that I know of, but then again, Jake Gibbs doesn't either. An iron chain
span the Hudson above Peekskill approximately where the Bear Mountain Bridge stands today, and it was intact during the period covered by this book. For a description of it, as well as the more famous barrier that spanned the river at West Point, interested readers should examine Lincoln Diamant's excellent book,
Chaining the Hudson.
The first iron chain's strategic importance was every bit as vital to the American cause as the old manuscript indicates; alas, it was breached later that autumn under a flanking attack aided by a local Tory. Sir Henry Clinton led a small but fierce party of British soldiers northward; they burned Kingston and perhaps with reinforcements might have succeeded in rending the young nation in two. Fortunately, upper New York had been secured by that time, thanks to the defeat of Burgoyne north of Albany. The Americans were able to turn aside Clinton's threat, though not without considerable misery.
A galley called the
operated on the Hudson during the time span covered by this story, as both American and British documents show. Even General Putnam complained that his forces were impotent against it.
One of the best existing narratives of the Revolutionary War, and indeed the most complete by a "common" soldier, is the book published under the title of
Its author is Joseph Plumb Martin—which would seem to match the name of the soldier who assists Squire van Clynne and Lieutenant Colonel Gibbs in their operation. According to Martin's narrative, he was under quarantine for small pox inoculation at the time—exactly the condition of this book's Martin when he is called to greater duty by Claus van Clynne.
He does not mention the operation against the chain or the related adventures in his narrative. An oversight?
Perhaps further clues as to the authenticity and purpose of this private history of Jake Gibbs lie in the manuscripts I have left to work on ― including the upcoming ,
The Golden Flask,
which is Book III in the Jake Gibbs saga.
One last thing: as I said in
The Silver Bullet,
once you start reading accounts from the Revolutionary days you quickly discover that it's best to take everything with a large grain of salt. It would probably be wise to follow that same spirit here.