The heroes in my two-book connected series, THE MERCENARY’S KISS and HER LONE PROTECTOR, are soldiers. Mercenaries, specifically. They were soldiers for hire who commanded a handsome price from the War Department to fight for America’s freedoms in their own way. Undercover, nonconforming, but no less effective.
Both educated in West Point Military Academy, their dreams to be a soldier in the traditional sense fall apart, but they remain fierce patriots. They travel throughout the world to fight with skills and daring few soldiers could imagine. Their life isn’t easy–or safe. They battle betrayal, harsh environments, malaria . . . and emerge victorious.
Soldiers throughout the nineteenth century didn’t have it any easier. Worse, most likely. Oh, my, many of these soldiers were young. Late teens, fresh-faced, and eager to serve. It wasn’t long before their determination is tested, for sure.
A typical routine for a calvary on the march would be like this:
- 4:45 am – First Call. No hitting the snooze button. Soldiers had to get up and moving NOW.
- 4:55 am – Reveille and Stable Call. They came to order, saddled the horses, and harnessed the mules.
- 5:00 am – Mess Call. Breakfast, both prepared and eaten.
- 5:30 am – Strike Camp – meaning take down tents and store equipment.
- 5:45 am – Boots & Saddles – the soldiers mount up.
- 5:55 am – Fall In – Calvary is assembled and ready to march.
- 6:00 am – Forward March!
An hour and fifteen minutes to accomplish all this! No dawdling allowed.
Some days, they traveled thirty, maybe sixty miles. Imagine sitting in the saddle that long! The men rode in columns of four when the terrain allowed. Single file, if it didn’t. If the wind and snow blew hard, they rode hunched in the saddle, their eyes slitted against the stinging wind, their hats pulled low over their eyes.
At night, they might have to sleep on snow. If they didn’t die of pneumonia, frostbite and gangrene often set in, and Army surgeons chopped off blackened fingers and toes. In the South, the heat was brutal, water scarce, and the flying insects merciless. The feared threat of an Indian attack was constant.
Fresh meat was in short supply. Soldiers reported the meat putrid and “sticky”. Yuck! Clean water was a precious commodity, too. Soldiers suffering extreme thirst desperately drank water wherever they could find it, even if it was green with slime, which only brought on instantaneous vomiting when they were already weak and dehydrated.
Even if decent water could be found, their canteens were lacking.
Wooden canteens tended to leak and/or dry out.
The water in India rubber canteens tasted terrible.
Tin canteens were probably best, but in extreme heat, the water got hot.
If a soldier was pulled out of the field and ordered to a post, amenities were minimal. Barracks at a fort were small, overcrowded, poorly constructed, poorly ventilated, cold in winter and hot in summer. Privacy was non-existent for most. Privies were outside and bathhouses rare. In fact, despite the War Department’s stipulation that the men should bathe at least once a week, one officer reported that after 30 years in the Army, not once had he seen a bathhouse at a fort.
Still, not every soldier thought his time in service to his country was endlessly miserable. One young lieutenant wrote his mother, “I could live such a life for years and years without becoming tired of it. There is a great deal of hardship, but we have our own fun. If we have to get up and start long before daybreak, we make up for it when we gather around campfires at night. You never saw such a merry set as we are–we criticize the Generals, laugh and swear at the mustangs and volunteers, smoke our cigars and drink our brandy, when we have any.”
I like his attitude, don’t you?
What is the farthest you’ve ever traveled? Have you ever had a miserable trip?
A number of years ago, to celebrate our anniversary, my husband and I traveled to Cape Cod in the fall, hopeful to see the beautiful colors. Alas, it had been too warm and rainy that year, and we didn’t see a SINGLE leaf that had turned color. Worse, on the way home, more stormy weather cancelled flights, and we were forced to spend the night at the Boston airport. I can still remember those creaky cots they gave us to sleep on. Although my husband slept, I couldn’t relax out of fear someone would steal our luggage. I was in tears checking my watch constantly. I can’t remember being more miserable, and that night is still vivid in my memory.
Let’s chat, and I’ll give away an ebook copy of THE MERCENARY’S KISS to a winning commenter.