A Doomed Army
Welcome to the SilverWood Books Blog Hop!
A few of our authors have come together to share a variety of articles and items of interest on their blogs for your enjoyment. There are some lovely giveaway prizes, and – to stay in keeping with the Spring and rebirth theme at this time of year – some colourful Easter eggs. Feel free to collect the eggs, and use them where you like. They were drawn by SilverWood author Peter St John who writes the ‘Gang’ series about a boy who was evacuated to a village near Ipswich during WWII. Meet Peter and his characters on the Blog Hop, along with a host of eggcellent SilverWood authors. 😉 Have fun!
Publishing Director, SilverWood Books
A Doomed Army
Doing research for a novel can be a very physical occupation. Apart from testing the edibility of the herbs, (most of which we would call today, “weeds”), that I had read Anglo Saxons ate as part of their staple diet, I have narrowly eluded a bear in Lapland, been blown off course in a gale trying to reach the Viking settlement of Hedeby, (now called Haitabu) and found myself the only one out of costume in a giant Viking re-enactment on the island of Bjorko. Most recently, I decided that I ought to get a better understanding of the physical strain of medium distance walking, to help me to get in tune with an event in my new book, “The Wessex Turncoat”. I had once done a fifty mile route march, but that was many years ago when I was much younger and fitter. Now I wanted a smidgen of the feel of the strain of walking around nine miles day after day on rough, muddy tracks on steep, hilly ground. Why?
In October 1777 a British army capitulated to the Americans at Saratoga. The terms of the capitulation, a so called “convention”, required the half-starved British to march the 200-odd miles to Boston, to embark for England. Two of the conditions of the Convention were that the 3,500 soldiers and the hundreds of women and children camp followers would be well fed by the Americans and that the soldiers, who were now known as “Convention Prisoners” must undertake never to serve in America again.
The march from Saratoga to Boston, or more accurately Cambridge just outside of the town, was an extreme test for an exhausted army. The men had just fought two battles against a numerically far superior army. The first engagement was a Pyrrhic victory, the second a defeat. The soldiers had been on half rations and the women and children on quarter rations, for weeks. Many were seriously wounded and did not survive the journey; many more had minor wounds which impaired their mobility. The late October weather was cold, with frequent rain and snow showers making the walk particularly hard for the women and children who were undernourished and poorly clad. They had had no supplies of cloth or clothing since leaving Canada four months before. One American lady observer said, “I never had the least idea that the creation produced such a sordid set of creatures in human figure – poor, dirty, emaciated men. Great numbers of women, who seemed to be beasts of burden, having bushel-baskets on their backs, by which they were bent double. The contents seemed to be pots and kettles, children peeping through grid irons and other utensils – some very young infants, who were born on the road – the women barefoot, clothed in rags. Such effluvia filled the air while they were passing, that had they not been smoking all the time, I should have been apprehensive of being contaminated”.
Three weeks after leaving Saratoga, the ragtag procession arrived at Cambridge only to find that their accommodation consisted of an abandoned collection of dilapidated huts, some with no roofs, most with no doors or windows. Everyone hoped that their stay in Cambridge would be a short one, before they were repatriated. Their hopes were dashed when Congress decided that they would not be permitted to return home. This was bad enough, but worse was to follow. Their captors informed them that they were to be transferred further from the coast, where there was no hope of a rescue by the British navy. The Americans decided that the new place of imprisonment would be Charlottesville in Virginia and that the wretched prisoners would be marched the six hundred miles to get there, in the middle of winter. Over three hundred soldiers escaped from their captors before the pitiful column reached its destination.
The hardships endured by the defeated army continued for several more years until in 1783 those who had not escaped, deserted or died were released.
The defeat at Saratoga did not immediately cause Britain to lose its thirteen American colonies, the war continued for another six years, but it gave the French and the Spanish the confidence to enter the war on the side of the Americans. This ultimately led to British capitulation.
The Wessex Turncoat will be published in June 2014.
And there are a host of other exciting and interesting articles – hop forward to the next SilverWood Author
for more interesting articles, some colourful Easter eggs to collect, and a few Giveaway Prizes
Helen Hollick : Let us Talk of Many Things – Fictional Reality
Alison Morton : Roma Nova – How the Romans Celebrated Spring
Anna Belfrage : Step inside… – Is freezing in a garret a prerequisite?
Edward Hancox : Iceland Defrosted – Seaweed and cocoa
Lucienne Boyce : Lucienne Boyce’ Blog – The Female Writer’s Apology
Matlock the Hare : Matlock the Hare Blog – Pid-padding the self-published Pathway…
Isabel Burt : Friday Fruitfulness – Flees for the Easter Hop…
John Rigg : An Ordinary Spectator – Television Lines
Debbie Young : Young By Nature – The Alchemy of Chocolate
Peter St John : Jenno’s Blog – My Village
Caz Greenham : Caz’s blog Spot – title to be decided
Helen Hart : SilverWood Books Ltd