Chapter Ten - Will I ever See Her Again?

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Fifty casualties, one hundred wounded and one prisoner of war. They were statistics enough to devastate any general, let alone one who's eldest daughter consitited that lone prisoner.

He had acted calm and quite altogether composed when light of the cruel and terrible aftermath had been revealed to him by the dutiful Colonel Sumners, but alone under the shade of a great oak he let his head sag and his shoulders slouch to reveal the devastated man he truly was. Having not thought much on the subject until that moment when his caravan of retreating troops, wounded and well alike, stopped a moment for rest, General Lewis could not help but feeling a piercing disappointment in his abilities. He fiercely believe that he had failed his family, his neighbors and his men by allowing an attack to be so easily sprung upon them when he knew full-well that after a defeat as a great as Charleston the alert of his troops ought to have been ten times what it was. And his daughter. To a father her loss as prisoner to the enemy produced a pain in him of the most unendurable kind. He could not protect his very own daughter. The thought haunted and contemned him as not only a terrible general but a horrible father as well, or so he thought.

In truth, anyone in observance of General Lewis would be astounded that he conceived such things of himself. Even if he had kept his men on high alert that fatal night they would have only been able to add maybe five minutes extra warning and in the state his men were in it would have made no difference. No one was to blame but Tarelton's men as General Lewis bravely and expertly contrived a way for his troops and his family to retreat into the woods, saving dozens of lives that would have otherwise been lost had he delayed and tried to vainly put up a resistance like so many other prideful generals might have. I suppose, however, that as much as he does not deserve it we must allow the downtrodden general his sorrow, for he was a noble father, husband and general who took it upon himself as a responsibility to bare the blame and take the fault. No matter if what had transpired had been out of his control or not, he was still in charge.

If it is even possible, there was but one man there amidst those weary travelers whose regret and despair amounted to more than the general's. Benedict Whitefield poured forth his overflowing grief for the loss of his fiancée in the form of attending to the every need of Mrs. Lewis, Abigail, Samuel, the general and every wounded solider around him. If a loving father's regret for having not protected his daughter as well as he felt he ought was terrible enough, a young man in love who has helplessly watched the object of all his affections get carried off into the night, perhaps never to be seen again, was simply unbearable. His attentions to others was all he could do to forget about himself and his pain.

It is no easy thing to think yourself a coward, especially with all the evidence which Benedict saw mounting up all around him, forming turrets and battlements around his conscious, taunting him with the thought that he let Grace run to retrieve her brother when he knew of her bad ankle. If only he had been a bit more forceful in his insistence that she stay with Abigail whilst he go and retrieve her brother she might still be here. To hell if it would have meant his own demise, he thought feverishly to himself, he would have died a thousand times over for her safety.

"What do you think will happen to my sister Gracie?"

He was turned suddenly from his thoughts as he saw the youngest of the Lewis children slip her hand into his and stare sorrowfully up at him. Her pale and delicate face, splattered with the dirt and sweat of a narrow escape, took on a look well beyond her years. In the course of a single night this girl of only nine went from a carefree child to a premature adult. So much death, so much blood and loss had been witnessed by little Abbie and he could see it all reflected on a face that should have been shining instead with the glow of youth. If he had anymore strength left in him, Benedict would have surely taken her up into his arms and wept.

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