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Story of John Champe
Part Eight
Published By
The Historical Society of Hudson County, NJ

By DANIEL VAN WINKLE

Edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

Within half an hour Captain Carnes, officer of the day, waited on the Major and with considerable emotion told hint that one of the patrol had fallen in with a dragoon, who, being challenged, put spur to his horse and escaped, though instantly pursued. Lee, complaining of the interruption and pretending to be extremely fatigued by his ride to and from headquarters, answered as if he had not understand what had been said, which compelled the Captain to repeat it. Who can the fellow that was pursued be?" inquired the Major, adding, "A countryman, probably." "No," replied the Captain, "the patrol sufficiently distinguished him to know that he was a dragoon, probably one from the army, if not certainly one from our own." This idea was ridiculed from its improbability, as during the whole war but a single dragoon had deserted from the Legion. This did not convince Carnes, so much stress was it now the fashion to lay on the desertion of Arnold and the probable effect of his example.

The Captain withdrew to examine the squadron of horse, whom he had ordered to assemble, in pursuance of established usage on similar occasions. Very quickly he returned, stating that the scoundrel was known and was no less a person than the Sergeant-Major, who had gone off with his horse, baggage, arms and orderly book so presumed, as neither the one or the other could be found. Sensibly affected at the supposed baseness of a soldier extremely respected, the Captain added that he had ordered a party to make ready for pursuit, and begged the Major's written orders.

Occasionally this discourse was interrupted and every idea suggested which the excellent character of the Sergeant warranted, to induce the suspicion that he had not deserted, but had taken the liberty to leave camp with a view to personal pleasure, an example, said Lee, too often set by the officers themselves, destructive as it was of discipline, opposed as it was to orders, and disastrous as it might prove to the corps in the course of service. Some little delay was thus interposed; but it being now announced that the pursuing party was ready, Major Lee directed a change in the officer, saying he had a particular service in view which he had determined to in trust to the Lieutenant ready for duty, and which must probably be performed in the morning. He therefore directed him to summon Cornet Middleton for the present command. Lee was thus induced to act, first to add to the delay, and next from his knowledge of the tenderness of Middleton's disposition, which he hoped would lead to the protection of Champe should he be taken. Within ten minutes Middleton appeared to receive his orders, which were delivered to him, made out in the customary form and signed by the Major. "Pursue so far as you can with safety, Sergeant Champe, who is suspected of deserting to the enemy and has taken the road leading to Paulus Hook. Bring him alive that he may suffer in the presence of the army, but kill him if he resists or escapes after being taken." Detaining the Cornet a few minutes longer in advising him what course to pursue, urging him to take care of the horse and accoutrements if recovered, and enjoining him to be on his guard lest he might by his eager pursuit improvidently fall into the hands of the enemy, the Major dismissed Middleton, wishing him success. A shower of rain fell soon after Champe's departure, which enabled the pursuing dragoons to take the trail of the horse knowing, as officer and trooper did, the make of their shoes, the impression of which was an unerring guide.

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Part One

Hudson County Facts by Anthony Olszewski
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Political corruption is a tradition here.
First issue in a series by Anthony Olszewski
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