Rush Revere and the Star Spangled Banner Prologue
Shouting and yells could be heard in the distant blackness. Washington City was barely visible as Liberty and I made our way down a winding dirt road.
“Liberty, I hope you can see better than I can,” I said. “I forgot there are no street lights in 1814.”
“No worries, Revere. Horses can see very well in the dark,” Liberty said. “And I can smell better, too. Well, not just in the dark but all the time. In fact,” Liberty sniffed, “it smells like someone is cooking dinner. Mmm, a nice carrot and onion stew sounds really—whoa!” Liberty yelled and reared up, flailing his front legs.
The sound of a woman screaming came from somewhere directly in front of us.
I hung tight to Liberty’s neck until his front hooves were once again on the dirt road. “What was that all about,” I said.
“Sorry, but those people spooked me. I didn’t see them until the last second,” Liberty replied.
“I thought you could see well in the dark,” I said with sarcasm.
“I can. But I had my eyes closed when I was smelling that delicious . . . oh, never mind. We have company,” whispered Liberty.
A woman and toddler briskly walked to the other side of the road, moving fast and away from us and the city. They appeared to be carrying their household belongings. Both were covered in dirt and looked exhausted.
“Are you okay?” I asked, concerned. “I’m sorry my horse spooked you.”
“All is well, thank you,” the woman replied. “We are tired but we are faring as well as possible under the circumstances.”
The young girl beside her looked to be around seven years old with long brown hair and a high-collared dress. Her tired eyes brightened when she saw Liberty. “Your horse is so pretty!” she exclaimed. “Can I pet his nose?”
“Of course you may. He loves that almost as much as he loves carrots,” I said.
Liberty leaned down and snuggled into the girl’s nose.
“You are very kind, sir,” the woman said in a weary tone. “Please be careful. The British are on the edge of the city. We were told to evacuate. There are rumors that four thousand Redcoats are marching toward Washington. They plan to burn the city in revenge for their defeat at York.”
“Thank you for the warning. We will be on the lookout,” I replied, putting a hand to the edge of my tricornered hat to bid them farewell.
“Bye-bye, horsey,” the little girl said as they walked away into the dark night.
“Revere, I thought we were going to see the White House,” Liberty said, as we pressed forward on the dusty road.
“We are, but I’m a bit disoriented,” I replied. I looked down at my map of Washington City in 1814. The Capitol was being built, and the White House is where it still stands today in Washington, D.C. On August 23, 1814, however, the city was still under construction. As we continued to walk we noticed building materials all along the road.
“I think I can help,” said Liberty. “After all, I do have Spidey-sense for all things American history.” Liberty paused, closed his eyes, and sniffed the air.
“Well?” I asked. “Which way do we go?”
“I don’t know,” Liberty said. “The only thing I’m getting is the smell of roasted vegetables and boy, does it smell good!”
I rolled my eyes. “Look over there,” I said. “I think that’s the dome of the Capitol Building. We’re almost there.”
After a few minutes, we arrived at our destination. The light from nearby torches reflected off the white walls of the White House. We picked up our pace as we approached. There was nothing around the building except a road in front and dirt and grass surrounding it. A small gate was left open and we were able to enter the grounds without being stopped.
A man approached us carrying small items. “President Madison has already left, sir, and I suggest you do the same,” the man said as he brushed past.
“I am starting to think the same thing, Revere,” Liberty said. “Except that delicious smell is coming from the White House. I’m sure of it. Maybe they’re expecting us for dinner?”
“Liberty, our mission is to find Dolley Madison, the First Lady.”
“Right, I know,” said Liberty. “I’m just saying if she invites us to dinner it would be rude to say no.”
“It’s true that Dolley Madison was said to be an incredible hostess, but that’s not why we’re here.”
As we turned a corner behind the White House we saw two men helping a woman roll up a large canvas painting. I knew it was the rare and priceless portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart.
“That’s her!” I exclaimed. “The First Lady of the United States of America.”
As we approached I saw Dolley place the rolled-up portrait into the hands of a young African-American man.
“You there, come help us with this painting,” Mrs. Madison said. I knew it was the First Lady because I had studied a painting of her before we left modern day. She had dark hair, dark eyes, and pale skin. She continued to dart back and forth as she gathered and boxed other documents.
“Yes, Mrs. Madison,” I said, “we are certainly happy to help.”
“Thank you,” she said. “Help us roll this painting so that it is not damaged.”
I jumped off Liberty and helped the others carefully roll the giant canvas.
“The President has gone to the battlefield, and everyone is exhausted. I thank you for your help. I suspect the British will be here soon to destroy Washington City, so we are removing the items that are most valuable to the country. It is a small thing, perhaps, but I think it is important,” Mrs. Madison said.
“Why is the portrait of George Washington so important?” I asked.