Excerpt: 'The Hornet's Nest'

In "The Hornet's Nest," the first work of fiction by a President of the United States, Jimmy Carter writes about the American South and the War of Independence

Read an excerpt from "The Hornet's Nest."

Chapter 35: "The Hornet's Nest"

1779

Ethan Pratt had seen the Quakers, Morrises, and many of his other neighbors swear allegiance to the crown, believing that the war was over and that the Declaration of Independence had been in vain. Along with a few other families along the more remote frontier, the Pratts still tried to avoid an alignment with either Whigs or Tories.

Knowing that Campbell had moved up the river with more than five hundred troops, the Georgia militia leaders had to face reality and made no attempt to defend Augusta. From his home in Wilkes County, however, Elijah Clarke assembled as many men as possible, using lists that had been carefully maintained by Aaron Hart. With about 180 men gathered, Clarke nodded to Dooly, who spoke first.

"Men, all the Continental troops have left for South Carolina, and we hear that General Howe has resigned in order to defend hisself against a court-martial. General Lincoln is in command of what troops warn't killed or captured, and has set up headquarters in Purysburg."

Someone shouted out, "Where in hell is Purysburg?"

Dooly replied, "It's across the river in South Carolina, about thirty miles above Savannah. He's put out a call for militia from the Carolinas and Virginia to join in keeping the British from moving north toward Charles Town."

"Why don't we join up with him?"

Elijah Clarke spoke for the first time. "Bullshit! We ain't ready to give up Georgia, and I sho' as hell won't put my men under another general that don't know his arse about fightin' in the woods."

There was a general murmur of agreement, and Dooly continued.

"We've got two things to do now. One is to convince all our neighbors that we're going to fight on, and not to give up to the British. The other is to divide up into small groups, guard every trail coming into the backcountry of Wilkes and Burke counties, and kill as many Redcoats as we can."

Elijah said, "What we need to do is carve out some territory here where we feel the most at home. All of us needs to study it and figure out how to guard every trail against any bugger that tries to come in without our permission, jest with one or two men."

Aaron Hart said, "You mean a sanctuary."

"I don't even know what that means. I'm talkin' about like bein' inside our own hornet's nest so anybody that messes with us will live -- or die -- to regret it."

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