Lady Liberty, Book II, Tale Five
"A Continental Christmas"
As this has been such a long epic so far, and such a long delay (nearly three years) since I last wrote an installment of it (and the previous tale in the outline being incomplete), I felt I would use this space to summarize what the reader should know going into this tale.
I've long hesitated to embark on this tale - rather ironically - because it was the concept for "A Continental Christmas" that first started the idea of "Lady Liberty". Telling this story, which ties in so closely with the real history (and its presentation in recent dramatic sources) of the Crossing of the Delaware, has had influences all the way back to the beginning of this series, even as far as the setting and some of the main character's names.
I fully intend for this to be the (or a) "climax" of the series (though perhaps not its end), much as Babylon 5 had "Severed Dreams", "Into the Fire", or the "Endgame"/"Rising Star" couplet, yet went on.
This is meant to serve as an introduction to new readers, and a refresher for returning fans. Feel free to skip to the next chapter for the actual story.
All characters and locations taken from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series, the Harry Potter books, or other sources are properties of their respective creators and distributors. Plot, original characters, and other original elements are properties of the story author. All are used without permission and without intent to profit.
Elements of "A Continental Christmas" are based on the 1999 A&E Network TV-movie "The Crossing" and the recent historical text "Washington's Crossing" by David Hackett Fischer. Direct quotes from either may be used without notation.
Story is for entertainment purposes only. Disclaimer ends.
This is a continuation of my "Lady Liberty" series. Those unfamiliar with the series will benefit from the following summary. In this world, the Watcher's Council is a little-known department of the British Ministry of Magic. As such, they are responsible for assigning Watchers, who are usually (until recently always) graduates of Hogwarts.
The current Slayer is one Liberty "Libby" Anne Glover of Marblehead, Massachusetts (a fishing port on the coast north of Boston, near Salem). Her uncle John is also a character in this story, although he is a real historical figure (he was the commander of the Marblehead unit of the Continental Army). She is extremely devoted to the Continental cause, and after learning of the Declaration of Independence, fired her first Watcher due to the fact that he was British (and insisting upon her neutrality). She is currently seventeen and engaged to a COntinental soldier from Marblehead, her childhood friend Tyler Hamilton.
Her three most common companions are:
Chastity Catherine Hawthorne Adams(-Wyndham), who has presented herself as an outcast of the Watcher's Council, although she is, in fact, more of a sleeper agent, working on their behalf but not under their direction, in literal accordance with Libby's own declaration of independence. (See previous stories "The Course of Human Events" and "Sacred Honor"). She is also of Massachusetts origins and devoted to the Continental cause, a distant relative of the famous Samuel and John Adams. Her (fictional) father is the leader of the Professor's Committee of Correspondence at Harvard. She is recently divorced (from an Englishman) and due to the recent foundation of colonial schools of magic, she is the first Watcher in many centuries who was not educated at Hogwarts. She was regarded as an embarrasment by the Council, and was only assigned as Watcher because there was no other option.
Bellatrix "Belle" Athena Hippolyte Black, the black sheep of the Noble House of Black (for being Sorted into Ravenclaw rather than Slytherin), local all-around representative of the Ministry of Magic, whose official role is to serve as a go-between beween colonial residents and the Ministry bureaucracy. She is also somewhat a Continental sympathizer, and is a former winner of the 1766 Triwizard Tournament.
Jean-Christophe de la Rochelle, Chevalier d'Armentieres, a 'Capitaine' in the French Royal Musketeers, and runner-up to Belle Black in the 1766 Triwizard Tournament (representing Beauxbatons). He was very recently sent to America to carry out two sets of orders given directly from the hand of King Louis XVI, one of which has already been fulfilled (apprehending the killer of a half-Selkie member of the French royal court), and the second he refuses to discuss.
The story takes place in December 1776, during the second year of the American War of Independence. The key historical players in this conflict are the Americans (in this period often called Continentals, i.e. the Continental Congress and the Continental Army) on one side, and the British (whose soldiers were often called Redcoats or "lobsterbacks" due to their red uniforms) and Hessians (not all from Hesse, but this was the collective term used for German mercenaries hired by the British).
The conflict had arisen due to the British government trying to assert control over the colonies and impose new taxes following the economic strain of the Seven Year's War (1756-63, sometimes called the French and Indian War). Several various tax laws had been imposed, many of them heavily protested against (sometimes resulting in riots), and mostly later repealed after they were seen as unenforceable. For the most part, the colonials (and their free press) characterized the struggle as a foreign government attempting to illegally tax the colonies (which had willingly enacted and paid internal taxes for generations though their own assemblies). These tensions continually escalated through the late 1760's and into the 1770's.
In the winter of 1773, as a response to new laws concerning the transport and sale of tea, the Sons of Liberty (also known as the "Committee of Corrsepondence") of Boston, Massachusetts, destroyed the tea carried upon three ships. The rather draconian response of the British Parliament was to abolish the civilian government of Massachusetts and place it under a military governor, close the port of Boston, and a series of other punitive laws often called the "Intolerable Acts". The First Continental Congress (of fall 1774) was an assembly of representatives of the 13 Atlantic coast colonies, to protest against the "Intolerable Acts". Their most significant act was agreeing to reconvene the following year, laying the foundation for a Continent-wide association where the British had previously treated each of the 13 colonies separately. Meanwhile, much of the available force of the British Army had become an occupation force to maintain order in Boston. The Massachusetts militia (now in some ways merging with the Sons of Liberty and with the outlawed civilian government) had begun to arm itself with previously banned weapons, including cannons.
On the night of April 18, 1775, the British sent an elite strike force from Boston to the town of Concord (about 18-20 miles inland from the far side of Boston Harbor) in order to seize these "illegal" weapons. About two-thirds of the way, in the town of Lexington, the militia had assembled and refused to disperse. Although they could have been easily circumvented, the British officers insisted on their dispersal and drew up their troops into a battle line. An unidentified gunshot rang out, and both sides (assuming the other side had already done so) opened fire. The militia (vastly outnumbered) was quickly defeated and the British force advanced to Concord, where a larger militia force (reinforced by neighboring towns) also fought. The British captured the site of the supposed arsenal, but failed to find the cannons. The British officers then commenced a return march to Boston. The entire Massachusetts militia was now armed and converging upon the Concord-Boston road, and the British were subjected to a continuous fire from behind trees, rocks and farmhouses for the entire march. The British elite troops were decimated on the road to Boston.
The Massachusetts militia - soon aided by neighboring colonies - stayed in the field, and that very night laid seige to Boston. The seige lasted nearly a year, with little fighting. During that time, the Second Continental Congress convened (it was to become the de facto American government throughout the war) and "adopted" this force as the nucleus of the new Continental Army, and appointed George Washington its Commander in Chief. More troops were to be enlisted on short-term contracts, comprised of volunteers from all 13 colonies.
After the British evacuated Boston, the Continental Army moved to the next likely target, the area of modern New York City. In July, the Congress issued the Declaration of Independence, and the entire Continental Army was drawn up in Manhattan to hear it read. At this point the army was counted at 22,000-25,000 men. Shortly thereafter, the British arrived by sea from Nova Scotia, reinforced by the remaining British reserves and the "Hessian" mercenaries. In a series of battles beginning in Brooklyn in late August through a tortouous retreat across New Jersey in the direction of Philadelphia in early December, the Continental Army was repeatedly defeated.
As we find the Continental Army here, on the banks of the Delaware River separating New Jersey from Pennsylvania in early December, the morale and condition of the army could not be worse. Many soldiers still wear their summer clothes and have worn through their shoes. Food, gunpowder, and other supplies are scarce. There are insufficient blankets. The army is made up of volunteers with only a fraction of the training of their British and Hessian enemies. Morale had sank, and the volunteer citizen soldiers simply went home by the dozens. And the remaining troops are a tiny fraction of the army that had been drawn up in Manhattan only five months earlier. Other problems, known only to the Congress, the Commander in Chief, and the army staff make the situation seem even more bleak.
In short, this is the fall of the darkest night. The fate of the Continental cause could hang upon a single decision, a single sentence, a single hour. This is the time when legends are written.