Michael and his two companions knelt in the brush, watching the soldiers who were camped just a few yards away. Once they were sure they hadn’t been heard, they continued their circuit around the camp. They crept along, counting men and listening for any information that could be of use to the General. The word “Yorktown” was repeated throughout the camp.
The three men had been hand selected by Washington himself as his aid-de-camps. Michael had soon earned the nickname “The Flying Dutchman” from his companions. Being from Germany made him a perfect choice to scout out the Hessian soldiers, as was his ability to get messages delivered quickly.
A voice whispered. “Look.”
Nickering horses were pastured off to the side of the camp. Hopefully, the handsome cavalry horses would not give away their position. They paused to allow the horses to settle before moving on. It would be dark soon, and they would make their way back to their own camp, with the all-important information.
Rain began to fall, chilling to the bone. The three men huddled close together, partly for warmth, but partly so they could plan their escape without being discovered. They held the information that could be the turning point of the war, if Washington could just get to Yorktown in time.
“We’ll have to each take a horse, or we’ll never make it back.”
Michael nodded his agreement. “This rain would only slow us down.” He pulled his coat in tighter.
The guards closest to the horses had gathered under some nearby trees, in hopes of staying a bit dryer. The three men used the dark rain to hide their movements as they came up behind the guards. In a flash, the three scouts had taken the men by surprise and had access to the horses.
They released other horses to aid in the confusion as they got away. Michael watched as his friends each grabbed a dark horse near the gate. He had his eye on the prize at the end of the rail. The white horse stood out majestically against the dark sky behind him. He was truly a magnificent animal, one that Washington would appreciate.
As they rode off, shouts and gunshots rang out behind them. The smell of gunpowder hung in the air, blending with the smell of the horses and the rain. The powerful beast seemed almost as glad to be away from that pasture as Michael. Its hooves pounded in the muddy ground, never once losing footing. They flew through the dense woods; every heartbeat and hoof beat bearing them closer to safety.
Author’s notes: Hessians were German mercenaries hired by the British Army during the Revolutionary War.
This is a fictionalized account of my family history. Michael Zehner was an aide-de-camp to General Washington and the author’s great-great-great-great-great-grandfather. I had heard the story all my life, most people never believed the story when I shared it. A few years ago, at a family reunion, a couple came in from California. When they began comparing family histories after getting married, they discovered one of her ancestors was one of the other two men scouting with Michael. However, he claimed to be the one who delivered the white horse to Washington, shown in the portraits of him at Yorktown. Either way, it confirms that both of our ancestors were involved in the victory at Yorktown.
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