french flag It may have only been six. Six stars and six stripes on the first “American” flag. It was a near thing that could have turned the land north of Maryland to France. In 1753, Virginia laid claim to what is now western Pennsylvania, much to the dismay of Pennsylvanians, the Iroquois, and the French. It took ten years to sort it out and the British nearly lost the war that began when a young Virginia militia major went into the cold and snow of an early northwestern Pennsylvania winter to shoo the French from the forts they had built along the upper Ohio rivers.

The first of my historical novels, CAPTAIN’S CROSS, is an action adventure tale woven into real history. Mountains, sailing ships, and just a bit of what makes men and women, well, men and women.


They were up early and moving north along the creek through the thick trees. Ben stayed closer in and knew that the Indian watchers, on foot, were having a hard time keeping up with them in the deep snow. The bitter cold made the snow loose and the horses cut through it behind a path cut by the mare. At mid-day Ben let Thomas cut the path with the big yellow horse and they made the lake before dark. They moved around the west side of the lake and started northwest before finding a spot under the trees where the snow wasn’t too deep to camp. They were getting close to Le Boeuf now and the air snapped with the tension they all felt.

Thomas woke first, unsure why. It was almost daylight and they usually all roused at the same time. He blinked and rubbed his eyes. Not a pine needle was moving, the wind had not come to them yet. He slid from under the elk robe and rose to stretch and unwind. The fire glowed from embers and Thomas pulled some small wood from under the cover Bear had put over it and made the fire come alive again.

Both Bear and Ben seemed to be shifting under their warm covers and left the fire and tea to Thomas. Draco was not in the camp, off doing what wolf dogs do in the night. Thomas put the water on to heat and stepped out of the camp to relieve himself. Thomas smelled him before he saw him. The Ottawa warrior was only twenty feet away, just visible behind an oak. The odor of sweat and bear grease mixed with rum and tobacco had drifted in the still air.

Thomas stood with his hands busy and willed himself to finish. His rifle was back near the fire but the pistol, short sword and knife were in his belt. The musket the warrior held was still in the crook of his arm and he was just watching. Thomas was close enough and the light had come up so that he could see the steam leaving the Indian’s nostrils.

Thomas judged that he could pull the pistol or the short sword and cover the distance to fairly defend himself, if he had to, but instead said in French, “Pardon me, my friend. I did not mean to soil your piece of the forest. We have elk and biscuits with our morning hot tea. Come and join us.”

The warrior did not move but Thomas saw his eyes shift to the left just slightly and then snap back. Thomas guessed, “And bring the others with you. We have trade goods, knives and blankets.” Thomas summoned up all his courage and simply turned to walk back to the fire, hoping a musket ball did not follow him.


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