So, It was cold, of course. Bitterly, unmercifully and unrepentantly cold. Men were dying from it -- the young soldier had actually seen men freeze to death, and there was no relief in store. The enemy controlled the nearby city, leaving little hope for fresh provisions as the winds raged and the snow fell.
Of course, freezing may have been preferable to other choices. Disease was rampant in the camp, and was responsible for even more of the deaths that were now a regular fact of the young soldier's wretched existence. It was a grim Winter, and that fact coming on the heels of their recent defeats had brought the collective morale of the rag-tag army to lows hitherto unimaginable -- and there was no way out. They were at the mercy of the whims of the Enemy -- stuck in this miserable camp until the latter should of their own accord depart the vicinity. So were they all trapped, and doomed to remain so for long months to come.
At least, the young soldier thought, it cannot get any worse.
Just then, a couple of guards appeared and ordered him to his feet. The General had demanded his presence…
Now, the General was having problems of his own. His horse had become very lame, the result of having been shod badly. He had found another blacksmith among his troops, and ordered the fellow to undo the damage of his predecessor. The results were as before -- the horse still limped, and the General was losing patience.
He had his aides search the camp for a new blacksmith -- the former trade, as you may have guessed, of our young soldier, who now shivered as much with trepidation as from the cold, as the guards hurried him off to the General's cabin.
The General fired off a few rapid questions at our poor young soldier who, looking up, stammered out his replies. The General was indeed tall, as tall as everyone said, and seemed even more so at close quarters.
The next words from the General alarmed him most of all: "Shoe that horse so that he doesn't go lame, or I will hang you up!"
Needless to say, our soldier set to work straight away, and did what must have been the best job of his life, upon the conclusion of which an orderly mounted the horse, and rode it off quickly -- and successfully.
The limp was gone! Our young soldier was safe! Suddenly the General was beside him, hand on his shoulder. "Did you think that I meant what I said?" Our young soldier assured him he believed that the General simply wished him to do his best.
Thus began a long acquaintance between our young soldier and General George Washington, on that cold day long ago at Valley Forge. Our young soldier remained as a part of Washington's personal retinue for the remaining five years of the Revolutionary War, at length heading West to Ohio, where he married, grew a long, long beard, and lived to the happy old age of 87, delighting in his later years to tell his tales to a grateful gaggle of grandchildren, who in turn passed the stories down to their own children and grandchildren, and so to me.
And now, just today in fact, I have passed on to my own daughter the true story of how her great-great-great-great-great grandfather, John Drushel, became George Washington's personal blacksmith.