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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Bobby story number 8. Hope you enjoy it.

The Ravine


By J.D. Anderson


A cold rain fell against Bobby’s face as he waited for the bus on a chilly October Friday. He pushed himself further under the cover of the spruce trees that lined the ditch at the edge of his yard. Bobby couldn’t decide what annoyed him most, the short, sharp spruce needles that poked through his jacket and pants as he pushed back into the row of trees, or the cold rain that pelted his face and seemed to be attracted to his eyes every time he opened them.

Bobby had lived his whole life in the Northern Midwest and loved the Summer season and Winter season with equal intensity, the only time he did not enjoy the weather to his full capacity was during the schizophrenic seasons of Spring and Fall. The Spring becomes warm enough to melt all of Winter’s snowy handiwork until the entire world that he occupied turned into a vast quagmire that was impossible to escape.

Fall, on the other hand, was craftily deceptive by appealing to a person’s sense of beauty by painting the forests that surrounded him with a pallet of bright reds, oranges, and yellows that set his sense of awe all a flutter, and when he ventured out to enjoy the broad miasma of color, slapped him in the face with a sleet storm that made his face sting and soaked him in bone chilling moisture that it took days to warm up from.

In the distance, Bobby saw the alternating red flashing lights of the bus as it stopped to pick up the Olufsen kids. Mikey Olufsen was a year younger than Bobby and his sister, Tessa, was a year older. He used to go to their house to play, but Bobby found that it was hard to fight the Confederates if Mikey was going to bring Batman into the fray to single handedly defeat the enemy with his utility belt and Jiu Jitsu. The only thing Tessa knew about history was how to conduct a Victorian Garden Party, although he did like that she always provided Oreos to go with the Gatorade tea.

As he steeled himself against the chill and turned a shoulder against the slushy rockets that descended on him from the heavens, Bobby silently thanked his mother for the new jacket she had bought him for school, and for paying the few dollars extra for the can of Scotch Guard that was doing a great job of keeping the water portion of the ice missiles from permeating the jacket and getting soaked in his clothing. The extra three dollars and fifty cents had more than paid for itself.

A long, cold, and wet ten minutes passed before the bus was rumbling to a stop at his driveway. As he maneuvered his way up the oversized metal steps he was greeted by Mrs. Nielson’s cheery salutation.

“Good Morning, Bobby, ready for another day at school?”

“No,” said Bobby, casting a sideways glance to see Mrs. Nielson’s toothy, ear-to-ear smile, “but Mom says I have to go anyway.”

“Morris says that once you get past History, the day goes by fast.” She said, trying to put a lighter side on an otherwise dreary day.

Morris was Mrs. Nielson’s nephew, and Bobby’s on-again-off-again best friend. He lived in town, a short distance from school, so he walked rather than rode the bus. Morris and Bobby got along all right, but Morris lived, ate, and breathed anything having to do with lumber or the Lumber Industry. Bobby was fine with that, to a point, but there was more to History than cutting down trees. Morris felt that history began with the invention of the chainsaw.

“History is my favorite class.” Said Bobby, not knowing what to make of their exchange.

Bobby shrugged and made his way through the bus. Mikey was sitting almost halfway back so Bobby angled toward the half of the bus seat that Mikey didn’t occupy. Mikey was buried, eyes deep  in a comic book, but moved over when he felt Bobby’s presence, never taking his eyes from the comic.

“Whatcha readin’, Mikey?” asked Bobby, trying to make conversation.

“Batman Family, Number Twelve, Batgirl’s brother comes back from the dead but has a secret identity. They thought he was dead, but he was only held prisoner in China, and now has come back with a new identity and meets his sister who has to change into Batgirl to fight Aero.” Mikey said in one breath, without lifting his eyes from the comic book in front of him.

“Oh,” said Bobby, trying desperately to keep his eyes from rolling back in his head.

“Hi, Bobby,” came a soft, feminine voice from across the center aisle, as he casually looked for an open window to throw himself out of. He looked toward the source of the voice and found the large, brown eyes of Tessa as she looked at him and smiled, “my mom bought me a new tea set yesterday, and two gallons of Gatorade, if you have time you could come over for tea tomorrow.”

Bobby felt steam billowing from under his jacket as the cold, rainy day suddenly turned Amazonian.

“Uh,” said Bobby, thinking as fast as his sluggish brain would allow, “sounds like fun, Tessa, I’ll ask my mom, but I think I have a dentist appointment tomorrow.”

“On a Saturday?” she asked, her brows knitting, trying to make sense of what she was hearing.

“Yea,” Bobby said, looking out the front windshield of the bus and seeing the school come into view, “emergency drill and fill, I knocked a filling out last night with a marshmallow, really painful.” He held his cheek and winced in pain as he saw the school get closer.

“You poor boy,” she said as the bus slowed, and finally stopped in front of the school, “I hope you’re not in too much pain.” She said, genuinely concerned.

“It hurts a bit,” said Bobby, gathering his back pack as he stood up to leave the bus, “but it should feel better once I eat something.” He walked quickly to the front of the bus, hoping to be gone before she could conceptualize what he had just said.

“Wait, what?” he heard her say as he jumped onto the first step, exiting the bus.

He spent the next twenty minutes meandering around the school yard, trying to stay out of the rain as much as possible. His first class was English, of which the only good thing was that he loved to read, the only problem was that he didn’t like to read most of what he was told to read in English class. He liked to read History or Science Fiction, not why butterflies remind the writer of their first kiss. Bobby again found himself looking for a window to fling himself out of, this time wondering if the bushes outside the first floor windows would break his fall from the second.

Bobby’s next class was Algebra. As far as Bobby was concerned, numbers and letters did not belong together. Then he had Art class, which Bobby didn’t mind, but the teacher was concerned because all of Bobby’s drawings and paintings were depictions of battle scenes, though he had to admit that they were surprisingly historically accurate. The next hour was a study hour that Bobby used to get a large part of his homework finished or, as was the case on Fridays, spend his time reading a book of his choosing, usually an historical account or Historical Fiction.

After the free hour was lunch, and Bobby went to the lunch room and had a piece of cardboard pizza and a glass of milk. As he walked to a table he saw Tessa sitting with some of her friends. He lifted his glass of milk as an impromptu wave to which she responded by sticking her tongue out at him. Bobby assumed that she didn’t like her pizza.

Bobby saw Mr. Paulson as he was leaving the lunch room.

“Hi, Mr. Paulson,” said Bobby as Mr. Paulson walked by, “are learning more about the Northwest Ordinance today?”

“Hi, Bobby,” said Mr. Paulson, slowing down for a moment, “no, today we are going to go on to the War of 1812 and the little remembered Canadian Invasion.”

“Canada invaded the U.S.?” asked Bobby curiously.

“No, The U.S. invaded Canada.” He said, smiling at the quizzical expression on Bobby’s face. “I’ll explain it in class. See you in a few minutes.” Then he walked out of the lunch room.

With this tidbit of information, Bobby was now looking forward to History class. He liked History in general, But Mr. Paulson usually talked about things that are largely over looked in most history books. Mr. Paulson had been focusing lately on American expansion, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution, interesting stuff to someone that liked History, but a snooze fest for someone that didn’t.

Bobby choked down his pizza and gulped his milk. He was still chewing when he shouldered his back pack and got up from his table, picked up his tray and glass from the table, and took them to the window used to deposit his used dining utensils. He slapped his tray on the inside of the trash can siting just out beside the window and then placed his tray on the stack of other used trays, put his glass, upside down, in the tubs for that purpose and dropped his unused fork in the receptacle meant for silver ware. He stepped to the right to avoid the line of students cueing up to repeat the same process he had just completed.

He walked across the lunch room floor, swallowing the last vestiges of the pizza as he walked out the door, turned right and made his way down the hall the short distance to Mr. Paulson’s room. He walked into the room and to his desk in the first row, second from the front, immediately beneath the wall clock. He placed his back pack, after taking out his book, on the rack that was underneath the seat of his desk.

He looked at the chalk board as he sat down in his desk. To the right of Mr. Paulson’s desk was written “America’s forgotten war” in capital letters. Bobby racked his mind trying to figure out what America’s forgotten war was, then realized that he wouldn’t remember it because he forgot it. He shook his head vigorously when he became aware that he was confusing himself, and the class hadn’t even started.

“Good afternoon, class,” said Mr. Paulson, as he walked into the room behind the last two students and closed the door. “today we’re going to talk about, what many people think of as , America’s forgotten war,” he pointed at the writing on the chalk board and picked up a piece of chalk, “Any one know what war I’m referring to?”

“I forgot.” Came Morris’ lone voice from the back of the room, resulting in a round of laughter from the class.

Mr. Paulson smiled, then pointed to a girl in the middle of the room.

“Sandra?” he said, acknowledging her.

“My Grampa says Korea has been forgotten.”

“Good answer, but not the one I’m looking for, anyone else?”

On the other side of the room, another hand was raised.

“Ricky?” said Mr. Paulson, pointing at the boy.

“The Spanish-American War?” Ricky asked, looking nervously around the room.

“Another good answer, but still not what I’m looking for.” He looked further back in the room and pointed, “Mike?”

“The Hundred Years War?” came Mike’s hopeful guess.

“Uh,” Mr. Paulson searched for words, “g-good answer, kind of, but about five hundred years too early, The United States wasn’t a country yet.” Mr. Paulson turned to the board and wrote “1812” in large numbers, “Has anyone heard of ‘The War of 1812?’”

Rebecca, who sat two rows over and one seat back from Bobby, shot her hand in the air. Mr. Paulson pointed at her, “Yes, Rebecca.”

“Andrew Jackson,” she blurted, then followed it with “Battle of New Orleans!”

“Yes,” said Mr. Paulson, “that was the last battle in the war. And interesting side note, “The Battle of New Orleans’ was fought two weeks after the Treaty of Ghent was signed ending the war.”

“So why did they fight it?” Bobby asked. Remembering to raise his hand half way into his question.

“Well, to be honest, they didn’t know that the war was over. The treaty was signed in December of 1814, but it took two months for word to be sent from Europe, across the Atlantic to the United States, and by then the battle was over.” He turned to face the rest of the class, “but we are getting a little ahead of ourselves. New Orleans was the last battle of the ‘War of 1812,’ does anyone know what the first battle was?” he paused and looked around the room. “It started much like it ended, in confusion, parties on both sides knew there would be a war, they just didn’t know how to go about waging it. The British colony in Canada was an obvious target, and Thomas Jefferson thought that invading Canada would simply be a matter of marching. Many thought that the Canadians would want to be released from the British yoke as much as the Americans had.”

As he talked, Mr. Paulson turned toward the chalk board, reached above it and pulled on a small strap to unroll a large map of North America.

“Most of the battles took place either in or around the Great lakes, especially this portion of what is now Ontario, but then was called Upper Canada. Many of the people that settled this area were originally Loyalists that had opposed the united colonies separating from Britain, so the Americans felt it would be easier to invade here,” he pointed to a place close to Fort Shelby, “but they were wrong.”

He turned toward the class, “At first there was very little fighting. The Americans had fortified Fort Shelby, which was then called Fort Shelby, but most of the action was British troops, or their Native allies, disrupting American supply and communication routes. The Fort at Michilimackinac was taken without a shot being fired.”

Mr. Paulson looked at the clock, “What I want from you for Monday is to read the first section of the chapter on ‘The War of 1812,’ and see if you can answer my original question, what was the first major battle of the war. If you are interested,” he glanced quickly at Bobby, “there are several books in the library on ‘The War of 1812.’ I will give you the rest of the class time to read and will look forward to hear your answers on Monday.”

Bobby, along with the rest of the class, turned their eyes to their books. Some devoted more time to watching the long hand of the clock make its relentless progress across it’s face. At about five minutes before class ended, Bobby pulled out his back pack and shoved his book and note book inside. His next class was Phys Ed, then he had another free hour, and made up his mind to go to the Library, he thought that he had figured out the answer to Mr. Paulson’s question, but didn’t know for sure, he had a choice between the siege of Fort Shelby or the Battle of Maguaga, he hoped he could find something in the Library to help him find the answer.

Bobby persevered through Phys Ed even though it was not his favorited class. He was not tall, he was not necessarily strong or very fast, but he was persistent, so he usually accomplished any task that was requested of him, though in his own time, and not exactly gracefully.

The next hour was his afternoon free hour in which he usually read or went to the Library to look for something to read. From the reading in his text book, he knew that he wanted to take a closer look at the Battle of Maguaga. He found a few books on the siege of Fort Shelby, but he couldn’t find anything on Maguaga. He looked in the card catalog and found one book on Maguaga, but he could not find it on the shelf. He was almost ready to give up when he noticed an abnormally wide space between two of the other books there. He pulled out one of the books there and saw a small, thin paper backed book between them.

It was small because it was less than a hundred pages and more the size of a pamphlet than a regular book. On the cover was the name, “Maguaga” in black capital letters. He took it to the check out desk and signed the card in the back, and then hastily put the book in his back pack and headed back to class.

His last class was Civics, which was like History, but boring. He had to fight the urge to take out his library book, and also the urge to close his eyes. The last half of the class was spent reading, and after reading the same paragraph about State Governments being smaller copies of the Federal Government five times, he decided to do something more exciting. He watched the minute hand of the wall clock jump to the next minute mark for about fifteen minutes when finally, the bell rang and he put his text book in his back pack and joined the lava flow of students as they swarmed out the door, into the hallway and through the exit.

He found his bus parked in the row of busses parked in front of the school and climbed the three, over large steps and walked in the middle of the bus and sat in his proper seat for his grade. He reached into his backpack and pulled out the small library book and began leafing through the pages.

On the page after the title page, he saw a portrait of a middle aged man in a blue military jacket with white lapels and a white vest underneath. Around his neck was a white scarf that was tied in a loose bow under his chin. On his shoulder was a silver colored brocade that distinguished him as an officer. On his head was a powdered wig, but his cheeks were ruddy, as though he had spent plenty of time outdoors. Underneath the portrait note saying that the man in the picture was Brigadier General William Hull, who had overall command of the American troops involved in the Battle of Maguaga.

Bobby read that in the early part of the war. The Americans were trying to invade “Upper Canada” from what is now, the state of Michigan. General Hull commanded one army for this purpose, of which there were four, and chose for his base in Fort Shelby.

Bobby saw the sentinel spruce trees that outlined his front yard and had poked at him so relentlessly that morning. At this cue, he tossed his book into his back pack and started walking to the front of the bus that was now moving at a crawl. As he approached the driver’s seat in the front of the bus, he saw Mrs. Nielson look at him through the rear view mirror.

“Good Night, Bobby,” she said through her Cheshire Cat like grin, “see you on Monday, and say ‘hi’ to your folks for me.”

“Ok, Mrs. Nielson,” said Bobby, “see you on Monday.”

Bobby turned to his right and hopped down the steps to the ground. He realized at the last minute that there was a puddle that had taken shape along the highway asphalt where the gravel shoulder began. He tried to extend his legs out further than his hop allowed and had to throw his upper body forward, so he didn’t fall backward into the puddle and under the bus. Momentum carried him forward and he felt his knees buckle and saw the ground moving rapidly to meet his face. He extended his hands forward to stop himself. This caused the momentum to centralize in his back pack full of books, sending the back pack up and over his head, driving his forehead into the gravel.

“Are you alright, Bobby?” asked Mrs. Nielson’s concerned voice from the bus.

“Yea,” said Bobby, red faced from his acrobatics, “just dying from embarrassment.”

“Ok, but it looks like you scraped your head a little, better have your mom take a look at it.”

“Ok, Mrs. Nielson,” he said, touching his forehead and feeling the sting as his fingers examined the wound.

The bus door closed, and Bobby turned as it continued on its route. He walked slowly up the driveway, touching his forehead every few steps and looking at his hingers to make sure he wasn’t loosing too much blood. He wasn’t sure how much was too much, but intuition told him that it would be a bad thing to happen.

He wandered, nonchalantly, to the door of the house, opened the outside screen door and, while turning the knob on the inner wooden door, threw a hip and shoulder into it, causing it to pop open.

“Mom?” Bobby called as he entered the house.

“Take off your shoes.” Came the reply from the utility room.

“Mom,” he said, levering the heel of one shoe with the toe of the other, “Mrs. Nielson says ‘hi’ and that you should look at my head.”

Bobby saw her face pop into view from behind the door to the utility room, “why,” she said with mild concern, “is it different than the one you left with this morning?”

Bobby shrugged, “It’s the same one, but there may be a few pieces missing.”

“What?” her face showed the concern and confusion that Bobby could hear in her voice. Bobby took his hand away from his forehead and from a distance she could see the red splotch that was above and between his eyes. Leaving what she was doing, she walked toward him. She cupped his ears in her hands and tilted his face up so she could get a better look at his injury.

“How did you manage this?” she asked wiping a few strands of his hair away from the wound.

“I tried to miss a mud puddle when I got off the bus.” Bobby said, dropping his back pack.

“Well, there is still some gravel in it.” She walked to the kitchen and took a wash cloth from a drawer, went to the sink, and turned on some water to wet the cloth. Bobby had followed her into the kitchen and stood next to her as she squeezed water from the saturated cloth. She turned to him with the cloth draped over her hand with one finger extended. “This might sting a little.” She said as she placed a palm on the back of his head and tapped at the wound with the cloth covered finger.

“Do you have any homework?” she asked, noticing Bobby wincing and trying to distract him.

“Some reading for History class.” He said, trying to endure the stinging.

“What are you learning about now?” she asked, keeping the conversation going.

“The War of 1812.” He said.

“Oh,” she said, trying to remember her high school history, “Andrew Jackson and the Battle of New Orleans.” She said smiling to herself, secretly proud that she remembered even that.

“Yea,” said Bobby, “that was the last battle of the war, but it was fought after the peace treaty was signed.”

“How did that happen?” said his mother, finally finished brushing gravel out of his scrape.

“The mail was slow.” Said Bobby flatly, feeling no need to elaborate.

“Seems like kind of an important thing to just send through the mail.” Bobby’s mother said, looking down at him with her hands on her hips.

“It took a month for a ship to cross the ocean from Europe, the battle was fought just a week after the treaty was signed. No one over here knew what was happening over there.”

“I guess,” said his mother with a shrug, “transatlantic flight wouldn’t come for another hundred years or so.”

“What’s for supper tonight?” asked Bobby, genuinely interested.

“Meat loaf, gravy, potatoes, and corn. Why, are you hungry?” his mother asked, surprised at his interest.

“Not right now, but I only had one piece of pizza for lunch. School pizzas don’t last that long.”

“Supper will be ready in a couple hours.” She said as he retrieved his back pack and continued on his way to the stairs and to his room.

When he entered his room. He swung his back pack on his bed, opened it and rummaged through it until he found the thin library book he had gotten earlier. He placed the back pack on the floor next to the foot of his bed, climbed up and placed his head on his pillow.

He read that because Britain and France were at war, each tried to restrict America’s trade with the other. France finally hinted that it would stop these restrictions, but Britain continued. Britain went one step further by assuming the practice of impressment, by which they would board American ships and take American sailors to serve in the British navy to fight against the French.

To add insult to injury, the British involved in the fur trade would encourage Natives to harass American settlers in areas West of the Appalachian Mountains. Some members of the newly formed Congress lobbied President James Madison to declare war against Britain, and in June of 1812 he finally relented. These “War Hawks,” as they were called, thought that overtaking Canada would “merely be a matter of marching.” They didn’t seem to realize that Britain was the greatest naval power in the world, and that the American military was vastly underserved and undermanned. In some cases, they didn’t have weapons. There were some artillery units that did not have cannons and were reduced to fighting as infantry.

For leadership they had men that had little or no military experience, or were political appointments, or both. Some were veterans of the American Revolution, were older and tired of war, and were not up to date on military tactics of the day.

Bobby heard his mother call him down for supper and he placed his book on the bed and made his way downstairs. During the supper time conversation his father mentioned that the war of 1812 was the only time that the United States capitol had been attacked by a foreign power. President Madison was forced to flee to Philadelphia and set up an improvised government.

Bobby finished eating and asked to be excused. He took his plate and utensils to the sink and slid them next to the sink. He walked up the stairs, entered his bedroom and resumed reading.

Upon the declaration of war, the Americans set their eyes on Canada. If they could conquer Canada they could affectively kick the British out of North America and leave them with the entire North American continent and with no one but the Spanish to stand in their way to settling it. They called up four armies and placed one each in four areas of operation, trying to stretch out Britain’s forces.

William Hull took his army to Fort Shelby which he would use as a base for his attacks against the enemy but began second guessing his designs when work that Fort Mackinac had surrendered to Britain and her Native allied. Hull feared that this would draw more Natives South to join the British. These fears were solidified when a detachment that he sent to retrieve supplies was attacked by a British and Native force and defeated. He responded by sending out a larger force to serve as an escort for the supply train.


“JUS’ TAKE THOSE OL’ RECORDS OFF THE SHELF,” Bob Segar’s gravelly voice jolted Bobby from his slumber and made him sit straight upright. He looked at his clock radio as if it had just poured a pail of cold water on him. He reached out and slapped the red snooze bar on the top. He looked around the room as if it was an alien landscape, and then at his body. How did he ger his pajamas on? Then the clouds in his mind parted and the great secret of the Universe revealed itself to him.

“It’s Saturday!” he said to himself, but loud enough for his mom to hear in the next room.

“Make sure you wear socks.” She admonished through the wall.

Bobby saw his clothes from the day before draped over the foot board of his bed and vaulted out of bed to retrieve them. he put them on and went to his dresser to get a pair of the all important socks that his mother held in such high regard. He stepped to the side and opened his closet door to find his hockey stick leaning against the wall inside. He strode to the door, opened it, and turned left into the hallway.

“Teeth!” came his mother’s voice after three steps toward the stairs. He stopped, midstride, and looked immediately to his right at the Bathroom door. He blinked twice at his mother’s unerring sense of timing. He leaned his hockey stick against the vanity as he entered the room and turned on the light. He squeezed a dollop of toothpaste on his brush and scrubbed vigorously on his teeth until the toothpaste foam around his mouth made him look rabid. He rinsed off the brush, transferred a couple of handfuls of water to his mouth and then spit it into the sink. He grabbed the hockey stick, turned off the light and continued down the hallway, wiping the excess toothpaste off his mouth with his arm and then wiped his arm on his shirt.

He rumbled down the stairs and came to a stop at the doorway between the living room. He pivoted toward the kitchen, immediately locking eyes on a steaming bowl that was sitting on the counter. He walked to the counter and looked into the bowl. Since the days had become cooler his mother had been making oatmeal in the mornings. Sometimes she would put brown sugar on it, occasionally she put home made jam in it, as she did in the bowl that currently held his attention, by putting a spoonful of Raspberry jam in it.

“There is oatmeal in the kitchen.” Said his mother from the utility room.

He took the bowl to the table and sat down, leaning his hockey stick against the table next to him.

“So, what are we doing today?” asked his mother as she came out of the utility room and reached for her coffee cup that was sitting on the top of the half wall that separated the kitchen and dining room. She took a sip and looked into her cup while making a face like she had just taken a sip of bleach.

“General Hull is sending us to escort a supply train to Fort Shelby.” Said Bobby, glancing up from his bowl to see his mother pour hot coffee into her tepid cup.

“Sounds pretty easy,” she said, keeping the conversation going.

“We’re going to be the second escort sent for this supply train.”

“What happened to the first escort?” she said as she sat down across from Bobby.

“They were attacked by the British and Natives.” Said Bobby in between mouthfuls of oatmeal.

“Well, make sure you let General Hull know that you have to be back for lunch, with or without supplies.” She said authoritatively

Bobby opened his mouth to tell her he would be back when he got back, then thought better of it and turned his attention to the last mouthfuls of oatmeal in his bowl. When he was finished, he hopped off his chair and grabbed his hockey stick. He took a step and slid his feet into his shoes and opened the door, then the screen door and stepped outside. The air was cool, but it had stopped raining. He turned to his left, took a few steps and turned left again, propped the shaft of his hockey stick against his right shoulder, cupped the heel of the blade in his right hand and marched in the direction of the ravine.


Robert Glenn looked to the front of the column of men, through the militia and through the regulars, all the way to the front as they marched in formation. At the head of the column, he saw Lieutenant-Colonel Miller astride his mount. The Colonel guided the horse to the right and paused to ensure that the column was in good order.

Robert had joined the Ohio militia two years before. He had not imagined that he would find himself facing down the British, the same way his father and uncles had in the war for independence. The militia had gone with the Fourth Infantry, under General Hull, to Fort Shelby, near Detroit in the Northwest Territory, to run the British out of Canada. At least that was the plan until they heard that Fort Mackinac had been taken without a fight. Suddenly Hull’s rhetoric had changed, and they needed reinforcements to do the job. Their main objective now was to sit and wait. This change had not gone unnoticed by the troops.

Even though they were just waiting, the men still needed to eat, so General Hull had asked to be resupplied. Their supply train had gotten as far as Miami Rapids, about twenty miles to the south of Fort Shelby, and an escort had been sent, when they were attacked by the British and their Native allies, who were led by the infamous war leader, Tecumseh.

When he heard this, General Hull had organized a larger force, and placed them under the command of Colonel Miller. The second escort numbered about six hundred men, roughly half of which were Militia, like Robert, and two hundred and eighty regulars from the Fourth Infantry Regiment. The enemy, it was reported, numbered around two hundred.

As they marched, scouts that had gone ahead of the column, informed Colonel Miller that the British Regulars and Canadian Militia had formed up across the path that they were on. One of Miller’s junior officers suggested that the men should leave their packs behind so the men could move more effectively. Miller saw the merit in this suggestion, so he ordered the men to drop their packs and pile them neatly in the woods.

The regulars formed up in two rows and went forward on line through the trees. The militia did the same on their left. They came to a small clearing with the path they were following running through the middle. Robert saw a formation of British regulars on one side of the path and, opposite his own militia unit, across the clearing, on the on the other side of the path he saw the Canadian militia. Robert looked closely but did not see any Natives, which caused him to worry.

As they approached the clearing, Robert heard the British officers begin to give orders. The American forces scattered amongst the trees, and by the time the British gave their first volley, were adequately covered. The first volley tore into the trees, and Robert could hear the bullets singing as they passed him. He saw numerous rounds impact trees around him, and had no doubt that one, or more, had slammed into the large oak that he had chosen for cover.

After the volley, Robert pivoted to his left, raised his rifle to his shoulder, and while looking down the length of his rifle, placed his front sight on the first red tunic he saw. He squeezed his trigger causing his hammer to fall and scrape flecks of hot metal from the frizzen into the gun powder filled pan below it. A cloud of smoke billowed from the pan, obscuring the view in front of him. Almost immediately, a large cloud of smoke vomited from the end of his barrel, further obscuring the scene before him.

He did not wait for the smoke to clear. He pivoted back behind the tree, grabbed the horn of powder hanging at his side, eye measured a charge of powder and poured it down the barrel, took a ball from his pocket and pushed it into the end of his barrel. He extracted the ram rod from its groove along the barrel, placed the end of it on the ball in the end of his barrel and forced the ball deeper into the barrel. He hammered the ball down until it seated itself on top of the powder charge.

He worked up some saliva in his mouth and spit it down the barrel to provide a seal around the ball and replaced the ramrod in its groove. Lifting the rifle so the lock was at chest height, he pulled the hammer to half cock and pushed open the frizzen. In the small channel under the frizzen, he poured a small amount of powder, and with a couple of taps to the side of the barrel, worked some of the powder into the touch hole, creating a chain of powder from the pan to the main charge. He closed the frizzen over the powder, and now that he was loaded, looked for another location. The whole process took about thirty seconds.

While he was reloading, the second row of British regulars had fired a volley. Now both sides were essentially firing at their own discretion. Robert now saw the advantages of the rifle over the muskets that the British used. Though slower to load, the rifle was able to deliver a more accurate shot at a longer distance.

As he looked for another vantage point, Robert noticed movement on the British left flank. Apparently the British had noticed it too, as a few soldiers were pointing in that direction. Several British trained their muskets toward the movement through the trees and opened fire in that direction.

The response was an eruption of smoke clouds that came from amongst the trees. At one point, Robert saw a man expose himself, he was immediately laid low as a British musket ball slammed into his shoulder. The man turned out to be a Native ally of the British, and rather than continue to return fire at their ally, the Natives chose to drift back into the woods, and out of harm’s way.

Robert moved, shot, and reloaded several times, trying to make each move in the enemy’s direction, but was hard pressed to make it into the open area in front of the British. The American fire became sporadic as they tried to find somewhere to launch a flanking attack. Suddenly they heard a bugle command from the British formation and then saw the British hastily leaving the field.

Colonel Miller recognized this as a retreat and rallied his men in order to pursue the enemy. Robert was in the front as they crossed the clearing and crossed to where the British had held their line. They entered the woods where the British had fled and went some distance before, through the brush, an in the distance, they saw that the British had reformed and were waiting for another attack.

As Colonel Miller came forward, Robert could see that he was very pale. He had been ill when they left Fort Shelby, and now was doubly so. He looked at the formed enemy and Robert could see the fight leave the man.

“I think they’ve had enough, boys,” he said without vigor, “Lets find a lace to make a stand. Let them come to us.”

“Sir?” asked a young Lieutenant, “should I gather a detail to retrieve the men’s packs, sir?”

“Can’t risk it, Lieutenant,” said Miller, casting a wild eye out into the woods, “we don’t know where the damn savages are. I don’t want to lose a man to foolhardiness.”

“But Sir,” began the Lieutenant.

“That’s an order, Lieutenant!” said Miller, shooting a hard eye at the Lieutenant, “Now quit questioning my authority and find a place to make camp.”

“Yes, Sir.” Said the Lieutenant, scurrying off to carry out his orders.

They made camp in a large clearing. Miller received several dispatches that he read, crumpled, and discarded. He became more and more ill until he finally received orders from General Hull to return to Fort Shelby.

As they marched hack to Fort Shelby, and Detroit, Robert wondered in any one would remember, or even know of the battle that happened here. Eighteen Americans had lost their lives here. He didn’t know how many the enemy lost. Would their names be remembered? Would some one put them in a book? Would anyone erect a statue?


Bobby marched out of the ravine with his hockey stick on his shoulder. He marched into his front yard and to his front door. He bumped open the wooden door and kicked off his shoes. He could smell his mom’s cooking and was suddenly hungry.

“How goes the battle?” asked his mother as she peered into the oven.

“We won, I guess.” Bobby said quietly and proceeded to his room upstairs.

He laid on his bed thinking for a few minutes, then went to his book shelf and the encyclopedias that his grandmother had gotten for him for Christmas last year. He pulled out the one labeled “W” and paged through it until he found “War of 1812.”

There was a small map of the North American continent, and the various countries that had possessions there. He recognized the mitten shaped land mass that was now Michigan and found at the base of the thumb were a pair of crossed swords signifying a battle with the word “Maguaga” above it. He read the article and found a sentence that said that Maguaga was the first significant battle of the war. This answered Bobby’s question, “What do twenty four lives buy in History?” A dot on a map, half a paragraph in an encyclopedia, and a hundred page book. Bobby thought that it somehow seemed anticlimactic.

Submitted: September 17, 2021

© Copyright 2022 J.D. Anderson. All rights reserved.

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