Laurel O'Malley is the nineteen year old daughter of a highly regarded country doctor living just on the outskirts of Baltimore, a city under threat of attack by the British in 1814. Though not officially courting as yet, she fancies herself in a relationship with Edward Morrison who has been corresponding with her since he's been away at West Point. Though the British are steadily increasing the numbers of war ships out in the Chesapeake Bay, the war has been only an annoyance to her until Captain Bret Harrington, an injured privateer, and two of his crew members seek medical treatment from her father. This encounter causes her to begin to awaken to the dangers all Baltimore citizens are facing.
Over the course of several weeks, Laurel fights her attraction to the handsome privateer as she struggles to maintain her loyalty to Edward who has been recently posted at Fort McHenry, just up the road from where she lives. Nevertheless, with the daily concern that the British may invade, Edward is unable to make his courtship official. At the same time, Laurel finds herself repeatedly in the company of Bret Harrington, who has made no secret of his interest in her. Over the course of the next months, she is faced with several unforeseen tragedies that turn her life upside down. And then when the British burn Washington, the war becomes ever so real to her and everyone she loves. Laurel finds herself having to stand tall for her country and for the man she has come to love.
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O'er the Ramparts
By Nancy Foshee
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Nancy Foshee
All rights reserved.
Hidden in a pocket
Baltimore, June 1814
Her thick chestnut colored hair dressed neatly beneath a modest straw bonnet, Laurel O'Malley sat primly in the two-seater buggy as her seventeen-year-old brother Jonathan drove them from the Lexington Market. She had chosen to wear her finest dress of homespun cotton, dyed powder blue with dark blue ribbons lacing the Empire waist and three rows of blue piping sewn at the hemline, just in case she saw anyone she knew in town. Her confidence had beamed when she greeted Mrs. Jackson and Caroline Pinkersgill that morning. After discussing the nice weather and the new parson at the Methodist meeting house, she went about her business. She felt all grown up for having just turned nineteen three days ago.
Now on her way home, in her lap was a square basket that held cherries for a pie, a small sack of sugar, and some store-bought thread for mending. With the British blockading the Chesapeake Bay area and in fact, the whole Atlantic coastline, she realized how fortunate she was to be able to access such small treasures. Perhaps that is why she now hugged the basket closely to her. As she did so, she was keenly aware of Edward's last letter tucked in the pocket of her blue Spencer jacket. Immediately her thoughts flew to him.
Edward Morrison III would return from West Point next week. She could hardly contain herself as she anticipated the moment they would see each other again. They had known each other since they were children when she and her older brother, Joshua, and Edward would sneak off to a swollen creek to play along the muddy banks near the Patapsco River. She hadn't paid much attention then to the mischief in his aqua eyes beneath his tousled sandy hair. At the time, she was content to tag along behind the two adventurous boys, to be a part of whatever foolishness they dreamed up.
But when Edward came home on a break from his studies last summer, everything was suddenly different. It could have been his oh-so-erect posture that gave him an aura of self-confidence, or it could have been the obvious development of his shoulder muscles that strained against his cadet jacket sleeves. But the instant he turned his gaze upon her, she was acutely aware of the twinkling merriment in his greenish-blue eyes that flirted with her beneath sandy lashes.
Shortly after he had returned to West Point, he had begun writing to her every month or so. His letters were filled with remembrances of their youth, memories that she had forgotten until brought to mind by his remembrances. She had read and reread every one of them. It seemed her attraction to him was reciprocated, and that thought was positively thrilling. Those letters had sparked a kindling within her heart that would not be easily extinguished.
"Oh, dear, I think I know what that look means," sighed Jonathan after glancing in her direction. "But, Laurie, I have to agree with Joshua in this. I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed."
"J.D., you know our brother just likes to torment me," she replied wearily, reaching up with both hands to adjust the ribbon tie of her gipsy straw bonnet. She tossed her head as if to dismiss the notion. Then she sat erect with her upturned nose poised to disagree with whatever argument her younger brother offered.
Jonathan slowed the carriage a bit; Bonnie, an impatient mare, turned her head as if to question him. Then she spied a lovely tuft of grass just within reach. She edged closer and settled down to graze, causing the carriage to roll to a stop.
J.D. turned to face his sister. "You know how much I love you, Laurie. You know there's nothing I wouldn't do for you. But Josh is right about one thing. Alma Lee Morrison will never allow her son to be joined to any family in Baltimore. She's always had high and mighty notions, prides herself on her family's Virginia connections. Why I bet she'd claim kinship to Washington himself, if she could get away with it. You are just the only daughter of a country doctor. I'm telling you, she will never allow it."
Laurel shook her head repeatedly, her nose moving higher with each toss. "You'll just have to wait and see. When Edward gets here and is posted at Ft. McHenry, he'll show everyone that he's his own man. And when this miserable old war is over, he and I can settle into a proper courtship."
"Well, I hope you know what you're talking about because I'll be the one to challenge him to a duel, and whether it's fisticuffs, swords, or pistols, I'm sure to be a goner."
"Jonathan Douglas O'Malley, don't you dare joke about something like that!" Laurel exclaimed, grabbing his shirt sleeve and jerking him sideways. Just two years her junior, he never failed take a protective attitude toward her.
He grinned and winked at his sister, crinkling up his freckled nose, but the seriousness of his concern had been communicated.
Laurel leaned back a bit and sniffed, looking away from her brother. "We'd better get back in a hurry, J.D., or Aunt Kate will tan both our hides."
He reached to unwrap the reins from the brake, and then snapped them lightly to get the mare's attention. Bonnie responded, and the buggy was off with a moderate trot. In a few minutes, J.D. pulled the reins to a stop just as their aunt stepped out onto the porch.
"I was about to send the light artillery after you," Aunt Kate announced as she hurried to the carriage. "The dough is ready for this fruit," she said, reaching for Laurel's basket. "You can help me pit these beauties when you get changed, but only if you hurry, child. Like I said, the dough is ready to be filled, and I'm not as patient as I used to be," she added. Taking the basket with her, she strode quickly back toward the front door.
Laurel nodded respectfully. Aunt Kate was a tall slender woman with weathered features and silver hair, who had become a permanent fixture in the O'Malley home shortly after her husband passed away seven years ago. Because she herself had been childless, having suffered several heart-breaking miscarriages, she immediately formed a bond with the O'Malley children. She had quickly taken charge of the home even as Laurel's mother grew more easily fatigued from her heart condition. Aunt Kate had been at Laurel's mother's bedside when she finally gave in to her weakened state and died in her husband's arms. It was Aunt Kate who had comforted the children, especially J.D., when they were told of their mother's death. She taught them to pray through their grief. For someone who had witnessed so much heartache, Aunt Kate was a remarkably resilient woman and a comfort to all the O'Malley's living there. No one questioned her authority or her passion for the family.
After jumping down easily, J.D. moved to assist his sister's climb down from the buggy bench. He steadied her with his hand on her back. Once she was securely on the ground, he smiled, then impulsively he wrapped his lanky arms around her in a bear hug. They both giggled like school children. He then turned and led Bonnie, still harnessed to the buggy, back to the stables behind the house. Laurel stood there for a moment observing her brother, and thinking how lucky she was to have such closeness with him.
Laurel had turned and started for the front door when a stranger's voice called to her from the drive in front of the house. She turned around to glimpse a seriously disheveled man climbing down from a wagon that had just pulled up behind her. She was startled by the black soot covering his face and the grime all over his otherwise dressy frock coat. If not for the dirt, he might have been fit for an evening courting call upon a young woman. She frowned as he moved closer to her. The unmistakable odor of gunpowder and fire smoke seared her nose. She frowned and moved her hand to her face instinctively to protect from the smell.
"I'm looking for Doctor O'Malley. Down at Fell's Point, they said he lived just up this road past the hill in Baltimore City."
Laurel nodded and moved a cautious step toward the man. "Yes, Dr. O'Malley lives here. Whom shall I say is calling?" She reflexively folded her arms across her breast as she continued to examine the stranger. He seemed harmless, but she couldn't be certain.
He reached into his pocket for a handkerchief and wiped some of the soot from his face, revealing handsome features beneath a few days' growth of beard. "I beg your pardon, m'am. My name is Bret Harrington. I'm the captain of the Mystic Sprite docked down at the harbor for repairs. Two of my men need a doctor's care," he said, breathing heavily as he turned and gestured toward the wagon. "The surgeon in Fell's Point said he was too inexperienced to help my men. He told me to bring them here to Doctor O'Malley," he added.
Laurel hurried to the back of the wagon and was alarmed by what she saw. She stifled the urge to scream. The evidence of dried blood on the clothing of the two men set her teeth on edge. They barely moved, however, she could hear faint groaning sounds emanating from them. They were still alive, but in desperate condition.
She yelled for her father and brothers to come quickly. In a moment they rounded the house, her brother Joshua holding a musket ready to defend her from the enemy. Aunt Kate, too, stepped out, quickly assessed the situation, and then hurriedly grabbed an extra apron for Laurel as she ran toward the wagon. After hastily donning the apron, Laurel moved closer to inspect the two patients. Seconds later, her father was at her side issuing orders for her brothers to bring two stretchers from the stable. Within a short time, Laurel helped guide her brothers inside with the two injured men. The stranger stumbled into the house behind them all.
Laurel grabbed a large metal wash bucket, filled it with water from the pump, and carried it to the room where both men were stretched out on beds for treatment. Then she and Aunt Kate proceeded to wash the men's legs and arms as gently as possible so that her father could examine their wounds. They cut away the trouser legs and shirt sleeves and brought in assembled bandages to use both for dressing wounds and wrapping the broken bones.
Her father instructed J.D. to run out back and bring wood slats that could be made into splints. Once her father was busy dealing with their injuries, Laurel emptied the pail of dirty water, and brought more soap and water in the wash pan to clean the patients' faces. She knew she wasn't much use actually helping to set the bones, so she went to work assisting these men doing what she could to ease their suffering. Each man looked up to her with such gratitude she couldn't help but smile back. Then, as before, she took the dirty water from the room to empty out back. She returned in time to hear her father's diagnoses as he explained to the disheveled stranger.
"Your midshipman does indeed have a broken leg, broken in two places. I will set the bone after the pain medicine takes effect. The other man, the boatswain I believe you said, has both a broken ankle and a broken arm. Again, I will set those aright. I can't guarantee they'll be able to fit a crew again with these injuries, but both men will need to remain here in bed for at least a week before they will be able to move about."
"That won't be necessary, sir. We shouldn't impose. I can have them bunk in Widow Jenkins' boardinghouse near the harbor," the captain replied.
Her father shook his head rapidly. "That will not be possible. They've already been jostled plenty on the ride here. Moving them is far too dangerous. Further injury could cause them to lose their legs or worse. No, I insist that they remain here. They can stay in these guest rooms for the time being." Then he cocked his head and frowned as if he were unraveling a mystery. "You're a privateer, are you not?" he asked.
"Why, yes sir. Does that matter?" the man asked, stepping back a bit.
"Of course, it matters, son," her father replied. "You're out assisting the war effort. The very least we can do is to provide your injured men a place to recover."
The man at first hung his head down and sighed, then stood eye to eye with her father. He nodded before answering, "Thank you so much, Doctor. I will be sure to send some rations of food for my men when I return to the ship. But I insist on paying for the medical care. That's only right and fair."
Her father smiled and lightly patted the man on his shoulder. "Fine. We'll settle accounts later. Right now, I need to get back to my patients. The painkiller I gave them should have taken effect by now," he said, turning toward the exam room at the back of the house.
The man glanced around before moving toward a vacant chair in the foyer. Laurel stared at him. She had an instinct that guided her. Something didn't seem right, but she wasn't sure what. She crept closer and asked, "Are you all right, Captain?"
He quickly stood as if startled from a deep sleep. He seemed to wobble like a toy. He flinched as he moved his hand to a spot on his abdomen. He shook his head before replying, "Sorry, ma'am. Didn't mean to take your seat."
A dark red stain seemed to ooze before her very eyes.
"Sir, you are bleeding," she said, gesturing toward his disheveled blouse.
"Oh, that's nothing," he replied, though he appeared to be stumbling like a drunkard. "I cut myself on a broken lantern, that's all."
"Here, let me take a look," she insisted, moving closer to examine the growing stain on his shirt. Then she looked down on the floor to see a small pool of sticky blood that had collected at his feet. "J.D., come quick! This man's been hurt," she called as the man suddenly lost his balance and collapsed forward onto her breast. She struggled momentarily to keep him from taking both of them to the floor until her brother arrived and helped her place him back in the chair.
Once he was steady, Laurel lifted his shirt to reveal a large, jagged gash in his side that had apparently previously scabbed over. Aunt Kate entered the room, having heard the commotion, and the three of them lifted the semi-conscious man and carried him to the nearest empty bedroom. Once he was in the bed, Laurel began to attend the wound. The surrounding area was red hot. She checked his forehead to confirm her diagnosis—definitely feverish. She instructed J.D. to bring another pan of water and fresh bandages. The man struggled briefly as she and Aunt Kate set about to remove his frock coat and blouse. But he was obviously too weak to argue, and moments later he drifted off into a feverish sleep. As she laid his clothing across a chair, a British Union Jack slipped from his pocket.
* * *
The air was heavy with the noxious smell of gunpowder and burning wood mixed with the salt sea air. Bret stood on the gangway between the Mystic Sprite and her heavier prey as he watched his crew collect the pirated cargo of the luckless British merchant schooner. He observed as the boatswain tied the bowlines to hoist the cargo onto the clipper's deck. The booty would be taken to Baltimore and sold; the rum would likely be shared later as his crew celebrated their victory over the British. The last of the schooner's merchandise finally stowed below, Bret saluted his enemy, mocking them, but allowing them to sail away with their lives, if not their honor, intact. He then smiled to himself as he pocketed their Union Jack into his blue woolen frock coat. Another trophy, this one making five in all just this past year.
He strode the length of the foredeck to the helm. His raucous crew, jolly from their easy pickings, laughed and joked as they replayed the scene of capturing another British merchant ship. They delighted in the ample share of rum, sloshing it about in tin cups while they mocked the British. He mused over his contribution to an American victory in this war. The U.S. Navy and the infant nation owed much to such privateers as he. He was an American, using the skills taught him by his father and grandfather to pilot the Mystic Sprite over the Atlantic and harass British commercial vessels. A dangerous, and yet exciting vocation.
Suddenly he saw several of his men fall beneath the weight of the oaken center mast beam. Then he heard the squeal of a cannon ball as it flew across the bow of the ship, followed by a booming report portside. He watched his crew struggle to get into place, to aim their cannons to return fire. But Bret was alarmed. Through his spyglass he saw the heavy frigate gaining on his smaller, but swifter ship. He shouted orders to his men, who quickly responded. The clipper with its six 12-pounders would be no match for a frigate manned with a dozen or more 24-pound cannons along its broadside and bow. The Mystic Sprite would survive only by outrunning the British man-of-war. He knew what had to be done. There was not a moment to waste thinking about all the options. Their lives all depended on what he did next.
Directing the first mate to take the helm, Bret jumped down to the main deck to assist the rescue of several crew still struggling to free themselves from beneath the weight of the broken mast. Through the smoke and confusion, he ordered his men to go aloft and set the sails. The first mate turned the clipper back toward the Chesapeake Bay.
Excerpted from O'er the Ramparts by Nancy Foshee. Copyright © 2013 Nancy Foshee. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Hidden in a pocket.................... 1
Chapter 2: Family is everything.................... 13
Chapter 3: Homecoming.................... 25
Chapter 4: Celebrating beneath the cannons.................... 35
Chapter 5: The second war for independence.................... 47
Chapter 6: Bleeding.................... 57
Chapter 7: A young man's fancy.................... 66
Chapter 8: Feeling powerless.................... 77
Chapter 9: A message delivered.................... 85
Chapter 10: At the top of the hill.................... 96
Chapter 11: Waiting for the right moment.................... 108
Chapter 12: The sky's on fire!.................... 120
Chapter 13: A sense of helplessness.................... 128
Chapter 14: A faint notion.................... 137
Chapter 15: Rumors and secrets.................... 145
Chapter 16: And the rockets' red glare.................... 153
Chapter 17: The bombs bursting in air.................... 161
Chapter 18: Fatal storm.................... 170
Chapter 19: Rain and confusion.................... 178
Chapter 20: Revelation.................... 186
Chapter 21: The other shoe.................... 196
Chapter 22: A stranger arrives.................... 206
Chapter 23: Old news.................... 215
Chapter 24: A new song.................... 225
Chapter 25: In God is our trust.................... 234
Chapter 26: And the bells chime across the city.................... 243
Chapter 27: Sailing to the fort.................... 252
Epilogue: A paraphrased summary of the events that occurred after the
Battle of Baltimore.................... 259
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Reviewed by Deepak Menon for Readers' Favorite O’er the Ramparts by Nancy Foshee is a fascinating insight into the troubled times when America was emerging as a free, independent country, striving to take its rightful place in the community of nations. The known world had hitherto been dominated by the great sea faring nations, with the British at the forefront. Then the British Navy ruled the seas, while the invincible British Redcoats, the land. Nancy Foshee takes the reader into descriptions of battles and the war. Delving deeper into the culture of the era, she brings to light the social constraints binding young ladies of that period. Modern culture has obscured the fact that back then it was mandatory for a young man to first request permission from the father of the proposed bride just to court her! Courtships amidst the battles and turmoil became romance and it has been enchanting to read about the way the honor of young ladies was upheld. Descriptions of battles fought between the invading British and the little American contingent stationed at a fort in Baltimore are so well written that they evoke a vision in the mind of the reader of the event happening before one’s eyes. There is a touch of troubled romance running through the entire book with a charming young lady being the subject. Foshee has really looked into the workings of a young lady’s heart coupled with the mind of her suitor. Acts of valor are described well in O’er the Ramparts and the undercurrent is gripping. I rate this book as an excellent read and have no hesitation in awarding it 5 stars.