In June 1777, Richard Lord Jones enlisted as a fifer in the Third Connecticut Regiment. He had just turned ten.
The main protagonist in my first Revolutionary War book, GIVE ME LIBERTY, is a fifer in the 2nd VA Regiment who sees action at the Battle of Great Bridge. So I knew those fifers and drummers—whose musical cadence signals told soldiers what to do during a battle, often saving their lives—were mere preteens. But ten? It kind of broke my mother’s heart thinking on it.
You will meet little Dick Jones in Chapter Twelve—thanks to Morristown National Historic Park Education Specialist Tom Winslow, who kindly responded to a long list of questions with a treasure trove of information about Washington’s encampment during the brutal winter of 1779-80. In that file was a one-page memoir from Dick himself when he was an old man. And then I found a wondrously anecdotal article about him in an 1884 edition of St. Nicholas: An Illustrated Magazine for Young Folks.
Dick is a perfect example of why I so love researching. It’s full of wonderful AHA! moments where I get my hands on real life people’s heartaches and moments of triumph to share with you. I don’t want to give away too much, because I think it’s one of the sweeter scenes in the book, but know when you read it that everything in there was fact according to Dick himself.
Turns out he was a stout little fellow, who mightily impressed the Brits with his hearty defiance and loyalty to GW when he and an English fifer had a bit of an exchange. In Morristown, he sang for Martha Washington. (This is an image of a $3 bill like the one Martha gave him in thanks for his song, and which he kept for the
rest of his life folded just as she handed it to him.)
Lafayette was there that afternoon as well, and his presence allowed me to create a plausible moment of Peggy using her fluent French to smooth away a misunderstanding between the exuberant Frenchman and the very serious and patriotic little boy.
Dick sang God Save America for Martha—the patriots’ defiant twist on the British God Save the King that celebrated both General Washington and our new alliance with France. I asked Kristian Maxwell-Mcgeever of MOXII-- (see the last blog and http://www.moxiimusic.com/ for more music!!) to sing the verses for you. A gifted
actor as well as singer, Kristian imagined a rather haunting scene of a young patriot walking through the woods, perhaps on post, singing the song to himself to steel his resolve.
Give a listen:God save America.mp3