March 7, 1779
“I don’t wanna hear all ya nonsense, do ya’ hear?”
“Make me some proud ol’ man, Son.”
My father’s parting words still echo in the wind. Condemning. What he said revealed the temper of the times--deepens the fitful waves of warfare within me, like the raging sea billowing behind.
Warship Randolph had set sail, sailing into the depth of the American War. The distance has stretched about sixty miles eastward of the island of Barbados.
Lizzy. When we parted ways, her lips arrested mine, wet with her own tears--as if we’d never see each other again. Though it was months ago, memories of that day have faded little. I’m glad of Lizzy’s. Now, heavy clouds are engulfing the sun, and I dread another day as it closes in.
The sickening reek of death, this graveyard of war, begins to suffocate me. Beyond the fading horizon, the call of duty—to my father, country, and duty to my conscience for peace--rent my heart in two. Wretched anguish angrily fights within. Like the billowing sea, desperation rage on. Is there some mighty hope to ransom me from fighting my battles alone?
Into the deep of my naval coat pocket is my unfinished letter. Courage, which is beyond me to write it, is slowly sinking into the Atlantic. Another time, perhaps. When tempers of time are quite amenable.
I’m embittered by the pangs of war—senseless battle searing for the kill. I condemn myself--murder of fellow human beings--the British squadron aboard the Yarmouth. What if my desperate plea for non-resistance would never be heard? My country’s mock rejection would sentence me to imprisonment and torture.
I’m sitting on the deck-floor at the masthead below the demands of the US waving flag—a symbol of coveted freedom. Friends and my resolute father gravely despise me. I cannot fathom the gravity of alienation because I had refused to be enlisted in the navy to fight.
“Ross, get up man! Look!” cried his partner at the masthead lookout.
I sprang up and quickly hid my unfinished letter.
“Six sails to the leeward. And we’re near it in the east!”
Randolph's lookouts spotted sail on the horizon which proved to be the British Yarmouth. That evening, as Randolph engaged the British war, the American frigate was on the verge of victory when a chance spark in the chaos of battle ignited her arsenal. The Biddle's plucky ship—its début-sail, disintegrated in one blinding flash. Flames devoured the targeted vessel.
“Oh man, they’re gonna eat us alive!”
“Their turrets are massive, sh-ucks!”
The crew men in the Randolph uncoiled her foremast. While they labored to rig a spar as a jury mast, the ship's mainmast broke and toppled into the sea.
“They hit us. We’re going down!” The rest of the squadron taking advantage of the perilous night, dispersed for survival. The Randolph showered down vindictive shots on Yarmouth; and slipped away in the darkness.
Defeat. I was thrown out into the waters. I and my two comrades gripped fast on some spars and ropes, debris from the explosion; drifting away from the ship.
“O God, preserve us!” I cried. We clamored for life because death was unleashed so close to us.
Ten days floating on the waves while peril buried us alive. Under the vault of heaven, we would be killed. Several days of drenching rains spared us with drinking water as manna from heaven.
“It’s a frail raft my friend, but God has spared us this far” I said.
Turning to the early morning sunrise in the deep vastness of the sea, I squinted in some glimmer of hope. I dug in to the deep of my sunken breast-pocket. The letter. I moaned at the blots of ink, lost forever.
"Oh, boy. Wh...at on awn earth!” Ben cried out."
The languishing became too deep, pining away ever seeing life again. We braved to stay and surrender into the hands of our chanced enemy.
I said, “The whisper of humanity might allow us to live. The captain of the British vessel might lay claim upon us with compassion. Or we might never see another day.”
Awning our spindly hands over our eyes, Ben grasped the words, “We’re history, man. Dead.”
“All hail! Come aboa’d, fellas!”
US Naval Attorney-General, Ben Powers:
Sir, I, Pvt. Ross Williams, plead leave from my commission.
In the name of God, I cannot fight...
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