Yorktown, VA, 1851
Emily Monticello was the only person left in Yorktown, Virginia who had witnessed the start of the brand new nation. When asked, she`d tell a tale of such sorrow and triumph that even the local newspapers had begged her to publish. To their own astonishment, she refused countless times. The tale was not hers to tell, she told them every time they came knocking. It remains a mystery why this woman kept the story in the bounds of Yorktown only. She could have become rich and famous, if she chose to publish her story, but instead she lived a moderate life in a small cottage on Church Street. You yourself only came across the story by a friend who had grown up in the premises. He recounted the tale to you in a hushed whisper and when it was over he bowed his head in a silent prayer. You, not ever being extremely religious, marveled at the impact a simple story could have upon your friend. Being a writer, you paid close attention to every detail of the story, later jotting down a few key things and, in particular, a name.
Oliver Brumby. It was by this name that you came across the oldest person in Yorktown, Emily Monticello and heard the story first hand…
Yorktown, VA, 1781
On the last day of Oliver Brumby`s life, he was struck with the overwhelming sense of awareness, as if he knew it was the last time he would step foot on Virginian soil. He was a young man, of age 24, a model patriot, and a decent fighter. He fought for his country with such passion that even someone of a higher ranking would find their eyes drawn to him. On this day, he found himself next to, or as close as you can be to, George Washington. He will forever remember the way the general scanned the horizon, eyes as sharp as a hawks, but face weary and worn down. It was then that a man of about Oliver`s age stood upon a parapet waving a white handkerchief frantically. Silence took over the field. Men, most of whom were on the verge of death themselves, stood as still as stone, eyes wide and mouths slack. It was in that moment that Oliver was hit with the sense of well, he wasn`t quite sure, it was something he had never felt before, - the type of feeling that makes you wonder whether you, in that moment, were actually real. Then the strange spell was broken, men rushed forward with cries of elation, patting each other on the backs and laughing for the first time in years. Only George Washington stayed frozen, above all the others, a strange expression of triumph on his face. A man bumped into Oliver and he lost sight of the commander.
“Freedom for America!” The man yelled, already a drunken smile on his face.
“Yes,” Oliver agreed, but the man was already onto another. “Freedom,” He whispered again, still not quite used to the word.
From there, the next few hours went by in a whirlwind of feelings and sights. The commander and generals went to discuss the details of surrender, leaving the men to their own amusements. Oliver immediately went to write every detail of the day down in his journal, the only article from home that had survived the long and treacherous journey.
“Dear Emily, The dawn of a new beginning is often scary. We do not know how the future will play out, whether it will be in our favor or not. I do not know when I will be home but I know it will be soon. The war ended today, the whispers of Freedom have no longer become just whispers. I am stuck with the urge to yell it from the rooftops. Freedom…freedom. Can you believe it?” He could hear the other men celebrating outside, their rambunctious attitudes creeping into Oliver`s quiet tent. He set down his writing with a sigh. He would have to tell Emily the rest once he returned home.
Stepping outside his tent, Oliver was once again hit with the greatness of it all. Men who were near him, marveled at his control, remembering him as “a man who celebrated the new age in his own solitude.” The last view of him still haunts Thomas Hunt, a neighbor of Oliver; “He stood, staring at the horizon for a moment, then he starting to walk. At that time, I didn’t think much of it but now looking back I realize that he turned right, a path that would lead him dangerously close to the British camps if he continued on it for a while.” It is for the reader to decide whether this choice was Oliver Brumby`s or one of a greater force.
That evening, a stray British soldier, young and angry, escaped his camp and set his sights on avenging his defeat. We can only imagine how the meeting between Oliver and the soldier went. Was Oliver scared? Did he try to reason with the man?
At 2 pm a shot was heard throughout the camp. Soldiers turned, wildly searching for the source, but alas it was quiet after that.
Oliver was found by chance a few hours later, bled out, with the British soldier, shot in the head, by his side.
What went through his head while he was dying? Did he know he was dying? Maybe he pictured Emily, the girl he had addressed all his letters to?
He was buried by the two soldiers who had found him, whose identities remain a secret to this day.
October 19, 1781: A day full of hope, sadness and lost dreams.