Saratoga: A Novel of the American Revolution

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9780312361488: Saratoga: A Novel of the American Revolution
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Set against the backdrop of the unthinkable turmoil that accompanied the formation of America, Saratoga is the thrilling first installment in a series that will chronicle the birth of a nation and the stories of the men and women hopelessly caught in its wake. It is May 1777 nearly a year after the British colonies in America have declared independence from the crown. The mammoth British military machine has been dispatched to stamp out this minor annoyance, but the American rebels have shown a surprisingly stubborn resistance to being put back in their place. The past year has seen skirmishes from Crown Point to Fort Ticonderoga.
Captain Jamie Skoyles is a career soldier in the British Army who has made a reputation of conspicuous gallantry for himself with his unswerving bravery and uncanny luck. He fights alongside unquestioning British patriots in the unfamiliar lands of America. As costly, bumbling mistakes begin to pile up, and the American rebels surge with confidence, Skoyles can't help but begin to mistrust the arrogant generals whom he serves. Unable to pursue his love, a woman betrothed to a fellow officer, Skoyles must instead focus on staying alive and furthering the empire's cause in his own small corner of the war. As the two vast armies converge on Saratoga in what will prove the first large-scale test of the conflict, the American rebels gain momentum and British victory no longer seems certain. Captain Skoyles soon finds his loyalties severely tested as he imagines life after the war, which he intends to live in the new world, no matter which flag flies over it.

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About the Author:

David Garland is a British historian, playwright, and novelist with a special interest in the American Revolution. That interest was inspired by his studies at Oxford University and has continued during regular visits to the States over the past thirty years.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One 
Crown Point, October 1776
 
The musket ball hit him right in the middle of the forehead and burrowed into his brain. With a stifled cry, Private Samuel Farrar dropped straight to the ground, his body motionless, his hands still gripping his weapon, his grotesque third eye weeping blood. Nicholas Ottley was horrified.
 
"They've shot him," he gulped.
 
"Get down!"
 
"Sam is dead. They've killed him."
 
"Come on, lad!"
 
Captain Jamie Skoyles dived instinctively for cover and tried to pull the young soldier behind him, but he was too late. A second shot was fired from the other side of the clearing and Ottley felt as if a hot poker had just been thrust into his stomach. Knocked back on his heels, he lost all control of his body and collapsed in a heap, tossing his Brown Bess musket into the bushes as he did so. Ottley clutched his wound and stared at Skoyles with utter disbelief.
 
"I've been hit, Captain," he said, his face contorted with pain.
 
"Sharpshooters. Hidden in the trees."
 
"Am I going to die?"
 
"Not if I can help it," said Skoyles, retrieving the fallen musket and checking that it was loaded. "Lie still until this is all over."
 
"I thought I'd be safe with you, sir."
 
There was a note of accusation in Private Ottley's voice and disenchantment in his eyes. He was blaming the officer for failing to protect him in the way that he had always done in the past. Ottley was a spindly, fresh-faced youth of seventeen summers who reminded Skoyles of himself at that age. For that reason, he had gone out of his way to help him adapt to the rigors of army life, teaching him to make the most of his lot and saving him from some of the ritual bullying that new recruits invariably suffered. All that now remained of Skoyles's patient instruction was a frightened boy, robbed of his dreams of military glory and doubled up in agony beside him.
 
One soldier dead, another disabled. Skoyles was on his own. The first thing he had to do was to assess the strength of the enemy. Two shots had been fired, but he sensed that the ambush might involve more men. To find out, he pretended to crawl out of his hiding place to collect the discarded musket from beside Private Farrar, who was lying several yards away. A third shot bit the ground less than a foot in front of him and sent a flurry of dust up into his face. Skoyles rolled quickly back out of sight, certain now that there were at least three of them because neither of the first two would have had time to reload his weapon and fire again.
 
Jamie Skoyles and his men were part of a patrol that had been combing the woods for enemy soldiers who had fled from the fort at Crown Point as the British army pushed south. Separated from the other members of the 24th Foot, the three redcoats had gone deeper and deeper into the woodland, unaware that they were about to walk into a trap. British uniforms were colorful targets. Two soldiers had already been hit. Distant gunfire confirmed that Skoyles and his companions were not the only ones who had met resistance. It was bad news. It meant that nobody from the main group would be able to come to their aid.
 
Lying flat on his stomach, Skoyles poked the musket through the bush and tried to ignore a twinge of guilt. Sam Farrar had been a veteran soldier, older than his captain, a man who had cheated death in combat a dozen times. His luck had finally run out. Farrar would be missed but not mourned. Nick Ottley was different. He was young, innocent, burning with the fire of youth, eager to do well, but untried in action. He had worshipped Captain Jamie Skoyles, willingly entrusting his life to him. Yet he had now been cut down by a solitary musket ball, a brave soldier turned into a whimpering animal. Skoyles felt responsible.
 
Survival was his priority. If he could pull through, there was an outside chance that Skoyles could help the wounded Ottley back to camp before he bled to death. But the odds were stacked against him. Armed with a musket, a pistol, and a sword, Skoyles was up against at least three men, each of whom had now had time to reload his weapon and decide on his next move. While they knew exactly where he was, Skoyles had no idea where they were concealed. They could come at him from any direction. One of them might even work his way around the clearing so that he could stalk Skoyles from behind.
 
"It hurts, Captain," Ottley gasped. "It hurts like hell."
 
"Be quiet, lad."
 
"I can't stop the blood."
 
"Hold still," snapped Skoyles. "I need to listen."
 
Scanning the trees on the other side of the clearing, Skoyles pricked up his ears when he heard the snap of a twig off to the right. Someone was on the move. He waited, watched, and eventually caught a glimpse of a body, creeping stealthily through the undergrowth. It was enough. In a flash, Skoyles raised the musket, took aim, and fired. A loud grunt and the sound of a body falling into the bushes told him that he had hit his target.
 
The momentary feeling of triumph gave way instantly to a sense of alarm as two figures suddenly emerged from the other side of the clearing and ran toward him with their weapons at the ready. They knew that Skoyles would have no time to reload his musket or to grab the one that lay beside Farrar. The decoy had been sent ahead to draw his fire. With the two men only twenty yards away, Skoyles pulled his pistol from his holster and leveled it but he had no chance to pull the trigger. One of the oncoming rebels discharged his musket and the ball went into Skoyles's right shoulder, forcing him to drop the pistol and stumble backward. A searing pain made his eyes mist over. There was another loud report as the second man fired, but the lead ball sailed past Skoyles's head and buried itself in the trunk of a tree.
 
Wielding their muskets by the barrels, the men surged even closer, intent on beating his brains out with brute force. Skoyles tried to draw his sword with his right hand but he set off an inferno in his shoulder. Only his left hand could save him. Using it to extract the weapon, he dodged the first man, then lifted his sword to parry a blow from the other's flailing musket. Skoyles ducked, feinted, then thrust home. The point of his blade sank deep into the man's chest before being pulled out with a practiced flick.
 
As one rebel collapsed to the ground, the other swung his musket hard and caught Skoyles across the back, making him lurch drunkenly forward and sending fresh tremors of agony through his shoulder. He spun round to face his attacker and was momentarily shocked. Looking at him properly for the first time, Skoyles saw that his adversary was even younger than Private Ottley, a scrawny lad, no more than fourteen or fifteen, with ragged clothes and bare feet. The boy's cheeks were pinched with hunger, but his eyes were alight at the thought of his prize. To kill a redcoat officer would earn him status and respect. Charging in again, he swung his musket with murderous power.
 
Skoyles ducked beneath it and jabbed with his sword, drawing a trickle of blood from the other's thigh. If he was old enough to kill, he decided, the boy was old enough to die. For his part, he would certainly not spare Skoyles. Coming at him with renewed energy, he tried to batter the wounded man into submission. All that Skoyles could do was to parry the blows with his sword as he retreated. Skoyles could feel his strength waning, his options closing down. The pain in his shoulder intensified. Blood was dribbling down his right arm. His vision was impaired. He could not hold out much longer.
 
When the musket was swung at him once more, he used his sword to deflect it and kicked out hard with his foot, catching the boy in the groin and making him howl with anger. With a slash of his blade, Skoyles sliced open his wrist and forced him to drop his weapon. Though writhing in agony, the boy was not finished yet. As Skoyles stood over him, panting for breath, the rebel soldier pulled a knife from his belt with his left hand and lunged at the redcoat in front of him. Skoyles stepped smartly out of reach so that his attacker was thrown off balance, then he put all of his remaining energy into one final thrust, impaling the boy on his sword point and watching the life drain out of him like water being poured from a jug. His victim made a futile attempt to spit his defiance before sinking to the ground.
 
Bruised and bleeding, Skoyles needed a few minutes to recover. A cry of desperation from Ottley reminded him that someone was wounded more seriously than he was. He staggered across to inspect the injured private. Ottley was in a bad state. Weak from loss of blood, he could do little more than groan pitifully. He had never realized how much torment a musket ball could inflict. Using only his left hand, Skoyles removed Ottley's canvas knapsack and undid the strap. Inside the knapsack, he found a shirt, three pairs of white yarn stockings, and two pairs of linen socks. Bundling them together, he used them to stanch the bleeding from the other's stomach.
 
"Press them against the wound," he advised.
 
He left Ottley and went across to Private Farrar. Inside the other soldier's knapsack were items that could used as emergency bandages for Skoyles's own wound. Unbuttoning his coat, he thrust a handful of stockings and socks up to his injured shoulder. He did not wish to leave any weapons for foraging rebels to find so he gathered up all the muskets and hid them quickly in the bushes, intending to recover them when he returned with a burial detail. Armed with his sword and pistol, he came back to Ottley. To leave him there would be to expose him to the risk of being caught by the enemy or, worse still, of being attacked by some of the predatory animals that inhabited the woods. Yet Skoyles had no strength to carry Private Ottley ...

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780312327194: Saratoga: A Novel of the American Revolution

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ISBN 10:  0312327196 ISBN 13:  9780312327194
Publisher: St. Martin's Press, 2005
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9789706513915: Una Magia Modesta (Spanish Edition)

Oceano..., 2001
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