In July 1781, General Cornwallis and his army march toward Yorktown and their humiliating surrender. Isle of Wight County, Virginia, and thirteen year old Nathaniel Chiles are in their path.
Nathaniel helps the wife of the local clerk of court pack the county record book and vestry books from The Old Brick Church in a small hair trunk and then hides under the canvas on the wagon to see what she will do with them. Enemy soldiers stop her and discover Nathaniel. He discourages the soldiers from opening the trunk by telling them it holds a baby who has died from smallpox.
While the soldiers escort them to bury what they believe is a baby, Mrs. Young insists upon picking up a severely wounded young American soldier. The soldier tells about the American defeat at South Quay and that Colonel Josiah Parker, the regional commanding officer, is missing. Nathaniel hears the Hessian soldiers mentioning Parker’s name and knows they are looking for him. His efforts to find and save Colonel Parker nearly kill him and his friend, Jonas. Nathaniel’s journey demands more wits and determination than he knows he has, while pushing him to physical exhaustion. He comes away from the experience with a new understanding of himself and his faith in God.
The story is based on actual historical events, including Cornwallis’ visit and the burying of the record books.