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Fighting for Father
“Eli! Eli!” Mother’s cry rang through their estate in southern Georgia. “Yes, mother?” I ran down the stairs, all a mess as he had just woken up. “I’ve received terrible new of your father….” she sobbed. Her face was completely tear-stained and her eyes were red and puffy, as if she had been crying for hours. “Oh no, mother…. it can’t be…” my voice was starting to fade into a sob as well, expecting the worst. “He’s-he’s…” his mother started, struggling to finish. “He’s passed” her head fell on my shoulders and she wrapped her arms around me as her sadness took over. “Oh my god, how could this have happened? Father was so strong” I questioned as my voice started to break.
Father was everything. He was a strong man who had always fought for the colonies fair treatment. He’d been involved in many of the protests of the unfair British acts and taxes, including the infamous Boston Tea Party. A protest where the Sons of Liberty, of which he was a part of, dumped chests on top of chests of tea into the Boston Harbor after the Tea Act was passed. After the war with Britain started so the colonies could ultimately gain their freedom, he'd volunteered to fight until the war’s end. That was in 1775. It was now fall 1780 and father had been fighting for 4 years.
I comforted mother as much as I could, but I was overcome with just as much or possibly more grief than her and knew we were both beyond inconsolable. I hugged mother tight. “How are you going to tell Amity?” Her sniffing stopped for a second. “I hadn’t even thought about that” she said in a voice so quiet and near-broken it felt like her being any louder would have broken it completely. “She can’t possibly know,” I said. “She loved father more than anyone else. This'll scar her forever.” Then my voice faded into a whisper as I was on the edge of more tears, “He was her hero…” The thought of Amity finding out about her father's passing broke my heart. I couldn't imagine the emotional and mental trauma it would put her through.
I could barely eat dinner that night. Many of our family and friends had expressed their condolences and it seemed all the patriots in the town were devastated. Father had been admired as a hero for the patriot cause. The loyalists, however, didn’t like him as much and were not so kind. Some even expressed that they were glad he was dead. This obviously hurt me some, but the outpouring patriot love and support helped take my mind off the rude comments. I knew that the loyalists would say father was as hated as the rest of the Sons of Liberty. For them, it meant a greater chance of the revolution failing. That was the last thing I wanted. I wanted freedom from the British more than anything. Father did, too.
I lay awake, tossing and turning, unable to get to sleep. “What am I ever going to do without father?” I whispered to myself. All father wanted was for the revolution to succeed. Then, an insane thought hit him. No, I can’t possibly do that. But it would make father happy. Maybe it would possibly help me cope with his passing. But would mother allow it? If she didn’t, I wasn’t going to go behind her back and against her words, not after all she’d done for not only him, but Amity as well. It was still a crazy thought. It was for me to go into war to avenge father. It would be hard for my family to cope with, if I was allowed. It would be difficult for me as well, to leave the place and people I loved to no end. But it felt like the only thing I could do to cope. I had to do it. It was the best thing he could do for the patriots now, in this difficult time. I tried to keep those good thoughts in mind as I drifted off to sleep at last, just as the clock struck 12.
“What on earth are you on about?!” exclaimed mother at breakfast the next morning. “Mother, it’s the best I can do right now” I said reassuringly, placing my hand on top of hers. “The best thing is for you to stay here. We need you. I need you” she said, tears starting to well up to in her eyes all over again. “You and Amity have each other. I have to do this for the greater good.”I said, staring deeply into her eyes. “Eli……” her voice started to break. “For the greater good” I repeated in a hushed tones, squeezing his mother's hand. She looked down without saying anything for a few moments. “Just….. promise that you'll keep safe. Promise you'll come home. I leaned in and hugged her tight. “I will, mother. Swear to God I will.” I whispered.
I packed my haversack after breakfast. I took the obvious things (musket, gunpowder cartridges, and so forth) but I also took care to pack some things that reminded me of home, such as some of mother's sewing, one of father’s letters, and some of Amity’s toy wooden blocks. I felt a little prang of pain every time I packed one of these items, knowing it was because I would be leaving this place I loved so dearly. Then a notion came to me. I went into father's office and looked around in the drawers and soon found what I needed. Ink pot, quill, and paper. I packed them carefully in a smaller sack before putting them in the bigger haversack. I wanted to be able to write letters home, so that, though I'd be gone, mother would still have these letters so that she wouldn't feel as alone. Or so I hoped.
I decided to take a last walk through the town and go to Theophilus’s house. Theo had been by my side through it all. We became friends when we were little because of our parents and his father was actually a patriot spy. He was the first outside the family to know about father's passing. I came to the house and knocked on the door. It was soon answered by his mother. “Oh Eli! Such a pleasure to see you again. I hope you're doing alright with.. everything that's just happened.” She was always ever so joyful. “Come in, would you like a bite to eat?” “No, I'm just stopping by to tell something to Theo quickly.” “Right. He's upstairs.” “Thanks ma'am” I said and went up the stairs rather quickly.
“Theo!” I said when I found him in his room, fiddling with some paints. Theo had always wanted to be an artist. “Eli! Tis quite a nice surprise to see you again.” He got up off the chair he was sitting on and gave me a quick hug. “So, particular reason you stopped by? Or just came to talk?” “Tis actually a bit of a serious matter.” I slowly sat on the edge of his bed. “Does it involve your father?” He asked, sitting back down on the chair so he was across from me. “Somewhat” I said, folding my hands in my lap and looking at him. “Well, what is it?” He asked, his eyes filled with curiosity. “I'm… I'm thinking of enlisting in the army.” I dropped my gaze to my hands. “Eli, are you certain? I hate to bring this up but.. your father… the same thing could happen to you” I looked up at him again. “I have to do this for the greater good of the army and the country.” “Just… be careful. I think you'll be a benevolent fighter, but a fighter's no good if they're dead.” His eyes now held care and concern. “I'll be careful. Mother already told me.” “I'll be hoping and praying for you.” “Thank you” I said as I lifted myself off the bed. I naturally went over and hugged him. Normally our hugs are very short, but this one lasted. Perhaps because of the specific situation. I went downstairs and told his mother, who had much the same reaction, and hugged her as well. I bid them both farewell as I left the house.
I went back to the house and took my haversack as I said my goodbyes to mother and Amity, who didn't really have much of a reaction. She was far too little to actually understand what was happening. Thought it was for the better, easier for her that way. I gave them each a hug and a kiss before I took the horse and set off on my way.
I have arrived in South Carolina just as the army was readying for another battle in Washington. I went through the enlistment process, and when the General William Campbell asked if I wanted to enlist for 3 years or until the wars end. I paused and held my breath. Mother was already absolutely distraught about me going as it was. Could she possibly cope with me being gone for however much longer this war lasts? I remembered what she said, what Theo said. Greater chance something bad could happen to me if I stayed out here longer. “Till the end, sir.” I said without fully thinking about it. For the greater good I reminded myself. If I can come home after the war is won, mother be thrice as happy. The soldiers’ clothing is far from the best and they are untrained, but hoping we'll still somehow manage to beat the British.
~ ~ ~
I have just fought at the battle of cowpens. Firing a musket and trying to reload as fast as possible, all the while redcoats are firing back at you, was certainly a challenge, but did fairly well for my first time I'd say. A musket ball threatened my arm but I managed to dodge out of the way just in time. Think the gunpowder from testing open those cartridges is certainly going to rough up my teeth, but it's the least of my worries at the moment. Least we won the battle.
~ ~ ~
Lost a little bit of faith after today's battle at the Combahee River. We lost many a soldier and the redcoats won, but you can't win them all as they say. Food is starting to get more and more sparse as the days go on, but still have to keep optimistic. Glad that we have the aid of those French folk, though. With them fighting alongside us, I'm more certain than ever that we can pull this off. If only father could see now. After all, I enlisted till the end. There's really no turning back now.
~ ~ ~
Tis been a long and hard journey, my life being threatened plenty more than once, but finally the war is over. The Treaty of Paris has just been signed, stating that we are now an independent country. I'm sure father is so proud, his one dream has finally come true. Pains me that he isn't here to see it, though. I'm happy to have fought in his honor and I'm so glad I managed to help achieve this goal, not only of his but of the rest of the country, too. While I am ecstatic about the win I'm almost more eager to get back home and celebrate with Amity and mother. My heart has been aching these past few years without them. Can only imagine what mother has been feeling. I'm longing for some of her home cooked food. I know you're still incredibly happy about the win, father, even if you can't actually be here. I love you always. Here's to freedom.