Posted by Corporal MacWilliam on December 08, 2000 at 06:04:57:
8th December 1758
Fort Beford by Reastown
By the stub of a candle throwing just enough light, I write this entry. It is not yet sunup and our company of Grenadiers have spent the night in the warmth of cabins. Our spirits are climbing and it proves to be a braw day, for Capt. Croy has given us all leave today except to keep the fireplaces stoked, our glasses full, and our stomachs from growling, for we will feast and drink this eve!
I know that Brother Gunn was disgruntled yesterday because these cabins were not inviting when we first arrived. In addtion, the townsfolk of this Reastown, which lies beside the Fort, were not as cordial with us as we expected....at least, not at first. Having had no action from enemy around here for such a time, they viewed us as soldiers of fortune, coming to their town to plunder their stores of food and wood. However, that soon ended, for Davey and I remembered a story from our youth, a story of three soldiers of fortune. A story which Grandmother MacWilliam did tell us on her knee, she called it Stone Soup.
The story is of three soldiers who come to a town looking for food. The townspeople are suspicious and hide their foods, their animals, everything that in their selfish natures, they believe the soldiers will plunder. However, the soldiers assure them they will make some soup of their own, soup of stones, and as they begin to boil water with a few cannonball size stones in the pot, the townsfolk ask, "Would some carrots make it better? How about some potatoes and onions? And, would you like a bit of beef to go in the broth?" I remember Grandmother's eyes getting big as she concluded the story by telling of the huge feast which the townsfolk now provided for the soldiers. A wonderful story which I put to the test last evening, with excellent results.
The 1st Sgt. and I had shooed out a brace of grouse and two turkeys, magnificent birds, on our way here yesterday, and we had the luck to take them out, we both having thought of this possible action as we marched, and we had loaded our muskets with shot. Arriving here, and finding no welcoming committee, but instead the suspicious townsfolk and cold cabins, I told my Grandmother's story to the Captain and 1st Sgt. By this time it was dusk, but we plucked the birds in full view of the Reastown folk and asked if they had some pots with which we could make some stew. Several of the young lasses, eyeing our strong kilted bodies and giggling, ran immediately and brought several cauldrons out and as we began to cut up the birds to stew them, I laid several clean, large stones in the pots.
"What are you doing", asked a few farm wives who were eyeing us suspiciously. At that, on cue, the Captain explained that we were making stone soup, having no proper vegetables for the stew, but once the stone soup was finished, us Grenadiers would surely share our lot with the townsfolk. These farm wives pulled their husbands aside, rough looking men, and after a bit of an argument, the men jounced off, to come back in a few minutes with onions, potatoes, carrots, and other wondrous vegetables. By this time being dark, the women announced that it was too late to have a huge feast, would we wait until the next evening, when they would have time to bake some pies and cook some puddings, a proper feast to accompany the stone soup?
One toothless hag cackled that her son had shot two squirrels that day and she would make squirrel bot boi for us, this being some German treat of meant, potatoes and cooked dough. The whole town became an uproar as the inhabitants began planning a huge feast for us, to take place this evening. One of the farmers even came up, hat in hand, and asked us in a thick Scottish brogue, if we would be interested in mutton and haggis. Believe me, our Scottish eyes grew wide and our smiles were great as this farmer said he would slaughter a sheep and with some help, he could have haggis and all the mutton we could eat.
And so it goes. Our cold cabins and empty plates will be filled with warmth and good food on this day. The people of Reastown, I hear them now as the sun is coming up, are working at this feast for us, all because of our soldier's Stone Soup. Oh, we have also been provided with several bottles of whiskey, grog, and rum which the townsfolk "happened" to find buried under the straw in one of the townsfolk's shed.
Tonight we feast! Tonight we drink! Tonight Fort Bedford in the Colony of Pennsylvania will be ablaze with light and merriment as the 77th Grenadiers and the Reastown folk celebrate life and living!
God bless us everyone! Pax Aye!
Malcolm Angus MacWilliam
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