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  • Jacqueline Heron Wray

What I saw in the picture.


Death of Major Peirson, 1781

As I watch the battle unfold before me, I am petrified and find myself momentarily frozen in time and place.

I fleetingly recollect the market square last night.

Outside the Court House, George the second stood tall and golden upon his pedestal, resilient and majestic, furnished with a crown and armour. Moonshine flickered between scudding clouds making him glisten. He exudes authority.

Above him, red tiled roofs glistened with rime, we have not seen a thatched roof since 1715, chimneys permitting the last of the days hard earned smoke to waft and curl into the freezing night sky.

Any traces of market stalls are long gone, vendors and retailers slumber, resting their weary bones in unsuspecting readiness for the next day of trade.

How could they foreknow that by morning, their square would be undulating, a sea of British and French militia.

I am dragged back to the here and now by the sound of screaming, I realize it is my own voice, almost unrecognisable, an involuntary response to the carnage before me.

Watching in horror as white breeches become as red as the tunics worn by brave soldiers, I am scared. I want to run, but I am as motionless as the golden statue I can still see through the haze of foul smelling gun-powder residue

Acrid Smoke is stinging my eyes, mingling with tears and salty perspiration as it drips relentlessly down my face. The molten amalgam tastes caustic and bitter as my tongue darts over my lip.

Inadvertently, I wipe my eyes with the back of my hand and see a black, slimy, smear of mucous mingled with soot.

I hear a baby cry pitifully above the melee. Looking to my right I see a mother with her babe in arms, another, older child is clinging desperately to her skirts as she tries to flee .

The baby falls eerily silent as the sound of gunshot fills the bloody ether, the older child involuntarily throws his hands over his ears and cries out, no words, just howling, his despair and bewilderment obvious to any who care to gaze upon him.

Drums beat rhythmically in the distance, almost as distant as the faint sound of the waves on the seashore last night, but there is no sharp salty tang in the air, only the smell of death and destruction.

I see a militia man, recumbent on the impacted earth, his helmet beside him, he is motionless, his hand still grasps the silver quillion of his now impotent sword.

Beside him a soldier is being cradled by his fellow men, his face is pointing towards the still blue sky. Rays of sunlight can be seen through the haze of gun-powder smoke, dauntlessly illuminating our flag blowing determinedly, held aloft, a potent sign for all to see.

I make my way towards the woman and her children. We press ourselves against a wall. It feels safe, solid, it has stood the test of time.

We slide along the wall away from the conflict. I suddenly feel insignificant. My presence is inconsequential, and I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Jacqueline Heron Wray. 2017

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