Author’s note: With this chapter, I start incorporating actual warfare in the form of battles, skirmishes and such. For you Revolutionary War historians reading this, know this as a warning – I’m taking a few creative liberties. In my story, conflicts might not occur as they actually did in history or in the movie, even. They might happen at the wrong time or have the wrong outcome. I’m just letting you know ahead of time that I’m fully aware of the issue; I just need to rewrite history for the moment so that it will fit in with my story. Also, I’d like to thank all of you for reading the chapters and reviewing. It’s very encouraging, and I really appreciate it. I hope you continue to read. And don’t be afraid to get critical. I encourage and welcome it!
“You must be absolutely relentless in your pursuit of the militia,” Tavington counseled. “You cannot afford to show any leniency.” He referred to the map on Hawking’s desk. “When you meet militia here and here,” he began, pointing to spots on the map, “They’ll try to retreat to here, but you must cut them off and prevent them from doing so.”
Hawking stroked his chin, wrapping his mind around Tavington’s words. “Colonel, I understand your convictions, however, these men are militia. They’re common men, not soldiers. They’re farmers and blacksmiths and woodsmen.”
“Those very same farmers, blacksmiths, and woodsmen will kill you just as effectively as any enlisted man,” Tavington said. “Your persistence will ensure that the colonials know that you mean business. You can’t spare the militia simply because they are militia. You do that, and they will only grow bolder because they don’t think you’ll take any action against them. Then, you really will have a problem on your hands. Don’t give them any room to work with, Colonel. If you do, you will regret it.”
Crisp, chilly air on a clear night. The cold didn’t bother Juliana much. The temperature wasn’t devastating, and Juliana had a shawl draped around her shoulders. Earlier they’d had dinner at Colonel Hawking’s residence, which was where they were also staying while they were in Savannah. Instead of retiring for the night, however, Tavington had asked Juliana to accompany him on a short walk.
They walked along the street that ran along the harbor. It was an awkward experience for the both of them, as they still hadn’t discussed what had happened back at the river. They walked for nearly ten minutes, then Juliana spoke up. “I wanted to apologize for interrupting you the other day during your bath,” Juliana said. “Honestly, I didn’t realize you were there until …”
“I should be the one apologizing to you,” Tavington said. “I shouldn’t have come at you with the knife like that.”
The two of them made a right and walked onto a bridge that crossed a small canal leading into the harbor. They stopped in the middle and were silent while they looked out at the water and the ships in the harbor. “Juliana, I’m going to ask you something, and you have to give me your word that you’ll reply truthfully,” Tavington said. He looked at her.
Juliana looked at Tavington, wondering what this question was supposed to be leading to. She nodded. “I promise,” she said. “The truth.”
Tavington looked back out at the harbor, phrasing his question in his mind. “When we first met, I asked if you were afraid of me. Do you remember?”
“I do, yes,” Juliana replied.
“You know me better now than you did when we first met … are you still afraid of me?”
Juliana was silent while she thought about her response. “I am, but for very different reasons than then.”
Tavington looked back down at Juliana and caught her lovely dark gaze. “What reasons do you have to fear me?” he asked. The desire appeared in him again, the very same that confronted him earlier, when he’d discovered Juliana in the stream. This time, though, there was no one to interrupt, no one to interfere.
He gave in and reached out to her. He caressed her face, and she didn’t shirk from him or back away. She closed her eyes, relishing the sensation. Juliana hadn’t anticipated that it would feel so good for him to touch her. She touched his hand on her face. She opened her eyes and looked up, finding his blue eyes on her. She was drawn to them, to him.
Before he knew what he was doing, Tavington had leaned in close to Juliana and his lips were pressed against hers, gently at first, then more firmly and more eagerly. He was kissing her, and he liked it. From what he could tell, she liked it, too, because she kissed him back.
A loud thundering noise broke into their shared moment and they parted. “What was that?” Juliana asked.
“I don’t know,” Tavington said. There was another loud noise like the first, and he looked around them for any clue as to what it might be. He looked out at the ships in the harbor. What he saw both shocked and riled him. “I don’t believe it.”
“What is it?” Juliana asked. She followed Tavington’s line of sight to the harbor and saw what he saw. A ship bearing the American flag was coming in, firing off cannons as she traveled. Juliana turned around and looked at the street. People had come out of their houses to see what the commotion was. A man came riding up on a horse and stopped at the house of one of the men who’d emerged from his house.
“What’s going on?” the man on the ground asked.
“It’s the Continentals,” the mounted man replied. “They’re attacking. They’re trying to retake Savannah. Get your gun. The militia is organizing to help them. I’m going to round up the other men.”
Tavington was taking stock of the situation, and he quickly realized that the situation would soon become dire for him and Juliana. He was wearing his uniform and would no doubt be a prime target when fighting started. He was ill-prepared for a fight with only a dagger and a hand pistol to defend himself.
“We have to get out of here,” Tavington said. “Now.” He grabbed Juliana by the hand and began to run with her across the bridge.
“Where are we going?” Juliana asked.
“We have to get away from here. If they find me, it’s all over for the both of us.”
They left the bridge, made a left, and continued to run away from the harbor. “Why don’t we just go back to Colonel Hawking’s house?” Juliana asked.
“From what I can tell, Hawking is about to have a world of problems without us. Besides, there’s no time. The militia’s already forming. We’d be spotted before we took two steps toward his house. We need to get away from here and fast.”
They ran down the street together, hand-in-hand until they came across a lone horse. There was no saddle on it, but there were reins, thankfully. Tavington pulled himself up onto the animal. He quickly reached down and pulled Juliana on behind him. She wrapped her arms around his waist.
“I hope Hawking takes my advice,” Tavington said with a final look toward the center of town. He looked over his shoulder at Juliana. “Are you ready?”
“Hold on.” Gripping the reins, he spurred the horse. They darted off down the street toward the edge of town.
Tavington and Juliana came to a stop just outside Savannah. The horse was tired. It had taken them ten minutes to clear town, and they’d traveled for 20 minutes beyond that at full gallop. They’d stopped beside a small river. It was dark, but there was a full moon out that night, and it offered a pale light that was just enough.
The place where they’d stopped looked familiar to Juliana. “This almost looks like the it could pass for the stream we stopped at on the way to Savannah,” she observed.
“That’s because it is the same stream,” Tavington said. “We’re just at a different part of it, further down stream.” He dismounted. Juliana tried to dismount, too, but only ended up falling into Tavington’s arms. “We’re going to have to work on your form,” Tavington said.
Juliana smiled at Tavington’s quip. She’d made the mistake of looking into his eyes again, and now she couldn’t look away.
“You, there! Stop where you are!” someone commanded.
Tavington turned around. A small group of civilian men a few yards away were pointing guns and him and Juliana. The speaker began to come their way, his musket still leveled at the surprised couple. “By order and authority of the Georgia militia, you are under arrest,” the man said. “Get your hands up, both of you.”
This was precisely the scenario Tavington had been trying to avoid. He’d hoped that he and Juliana had ridden far enough out from Savanna to be free from any danger. Apparently he’d been wrong.
It was dark. If they made a run for it, maybe he and Juliana could lose them in the river. The two of them were standing with their backs to the river now. It was their only avenue of escape. If they were captured, there would be no hope for them.
Tavington discreetly took Juliana’s hand, and slowly, he began to back toward the river. He only hoped that Juliana would realize what he was going to do and follow his lead. When she took a step back with him, he knew that she had picked up on his plan.
When they hit the edge of the land, they both looked at each other. It was now or never. They both simply fell backwards into the water. The militia men fired on them almost immediately, but Tavington and Juliana remained underwater. Tavington, still holding on to Juliana’s hand, pulled her along underwater for a few more seconds. He was torn: he didn’t want to surface and give their pursuers something to shoot at; but at the same time he didn’t know how long Juliana could hold her breath and didn’t want to run the risk of her passing out underwater. Finally, he made the decision to surface, pulling Juliana up with him. Though they had put some distance between themselves and their attackers, they kept swimming up stream. The bullets they fired weren’t coming anywhere near Tavington and Juliana, but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t start to if Juliana and Tavington stopped, and both of them realized this and kept swimming. Their very lives depended upon it.
They swam over to the bank of the stream and climbed up out of the water and onto dry land, where they began a mad sprint through the woods, away from river. They didn’t know where they were going, but they had crossed the river and were headed away from Savannah. They knew it wouldn’t be long before they were in British territory again.
They stopped running after they had put some real distance between themselves and the river. Both of them were soaked and winded. Juliana sunk to her knees, panting. Her chest felt like it would explode, her head was beginning to hurt, and she felt like she was about to lose her dinner. And she was freezing. “Do you think they’re still following us?” Juliana asked.
Tavington shook his head. “No. I don’t think they crossed the river.” He kneeled beside Juliana, concerned that she didn’t look at all well. “Are you alright?” His breathing was beginning to return to normal.
“I’m okay,” Juliana said, still breathing heavily. It wasn’t just the running and swimming that had her out of breath; it was also the adrenaline coursing through her. “I just can’t seem to catch my breath,” she panted.
“Try to take slow deep breaths,” Tavington said. “You’ll be alright.”
Juliana tried to regulate her breathing and her pounding heart by taking one slow breath and then another and another. “I’ve never been so cold in my life,” Juliana said. Her breathing had calmed, but now her teeth chattered.
Tavington took her hands in his and rubbed them. He blew on them, attempting to warm them with his breath. Then he rubbed them some more. “I don’t think it’s cold enough to do any real harm,” he said. He shivered a bit, too, when he spoke. “It just feels that way. We’ll be okay; we just have to keep moving. We have to get back to Charles Town, or to one of the other forts. Charles Town is probably the closest. It’s about 70 miles away.”
“Seventy miles?” Juliana questioned. That sounded like an endless distance to travel by foot.
“It’ll take us over a day to get there,” Tavington said. “But we have little choice in the matter.”
“What do we do?”
Tavington got to his feet. “We start walking.” He pulled Juliana to her feet as well, and they began walking towards somewhere, towards anywhere but Savannah right now.