Prospect, Maine, 1898
There was a strange silence as the peapod skimmed across the tranquil surface of the Penobscot River. Only the rhythmic squeak of its oars in its oarlocks, and the steady splash of the ashwood paddles breaking the surface of the water made a sound as the double-ended traditional Maine small craft slid further and further from shore and ever closer to the punished ship.
Even now Thomas Casey could see the damage his fort’s 15-pound and 30-pound cannons had inflicted on the ship. Numerous holes had been blasted in its hull just above the waterline, and particularly accurate cannonball had hit the mainmast, toppling it over halfway between the deck and its uppermost sail. There was other damage as well, and Thomas leaned forward and half-stood to see as much of it as he could.
There was little movement upon the shattered deck. Rigging lines, torn sails and shivers of the once-majestic hull were the only thing visible on the littered top deck. Tom secretly worried about his perch on the small row boat as an unseen sniper aboard the vessel could have easily seen his rank and fired a round to smite the leader of the fort. Only the flapping of a white flag hauled all the way to the top of the foremast gave him courage that he was safe.
With grappling hooks and a crew of three men, Thomas, his master-in-arms, and his gunnery sergeant climbed up the splintered wooden vessel and stepped onto the deck of chaos. Several sailors lay on the deck, their lives cut short quite obviously by the savagery of cast iron cannonballs propelled through the air by kegs of high explosives. As their blood began to collect and congeal on the caulked and planked wooden deck, the Captain of the vessel, a man’s whose own injuries caused him to lean precariously on what remained of the main mast, looked at Thomas with shock.
“Why did you fire upon us? We come in peace.”
“Because you sail under the Spanish flag. How dare you sail up this river under such a flag when the nations of the United States and Spain are at war?”
“War? When was that declaration given? I sailed from Cuba forty-six days ago. Certainly war could not have stemmed from that explosion aboard the USS Maine just before I left port, could it?”
“That and for other reasons perhaps. I cannot define reasons of political upheaval, but it is my duty to ensure the citizens of Maine and the lumber produced here is not endangered in any way.”
“Danger? We only carry tobacco and rum. Certainly you could have seen that we were a vessel of commerce not war from your lofty vantage point in the observation post of your fort?”
“Dangerous you ask; why, I see a dozen ten-pound cannons aboard this ship . Don’t you, gunnery sergeant?”
“Aye sir, I do, at least a dozen.”
“You’re crazy, the lot of you. I have no cannons aboard this ship, and you damn well know it. I demand to speak to the Spanish consul and I demand to get medical treatment for my wounded sailors,” the Captain shouted in rage as he pointed to a half dozen men grouped just above a hatchway.
“Medical attention you say, here,” Tom said as he whipped a revolver out of his holster and just as quickly aimed it at the closest man’s head and pulled the trigger. The man was instantly felled by the point-blank shot as his comrades scattered about the ship in fear.
“There’s your medical attention. Does anyone else wish to seek my lead elixir, I have five more pills?” he asked, as a snarl curled around his lips.
“You shall hang for that?”
“I will do no such thing. Our countries are at war, my friend, and if you wish to see the end of the conflict, then I suggest you keep your demands to a minimum.”
Thomas then turned to his master-in-arms. “Have your detachment plunder this ship. Take whatever is of use to us. Gunnery sergeant, search the ship and present to me a list of its cargo and cannon’s,” he said with a hearty laugh as he looked at the captain of the ship in turn for there were no cannons at all aboard the merchant vessel. “Also, fire up the hot shot furnaces tonight, I want them to be red hot at first light.”
“Aye sir,” came the replies from his men as they turned to go about carrying out his orders. As they did, the Captain’s demeanor changed and he pleaded for the safety of his crew.
“Sir, take what you want from this ship. If your country and mine are at war, then take what you will. The spoils of war right? But I ask of you, spare my crew. They are peaceful men. They will not harm anyone. Hell, I do not even carry a pistol aboard this ship because I do not fear mutiny by them. Please commander—”
“If it’s compassion you want, then you have sailed up the wrong river my friend. That fort is eternally damp, its earth and brick floors so cold even the devil himself would not bed there. To be encamped at this bend in the river minding a city so far removed from the war is unspeakable. As Roosevelt gets his glorious exploits in the papers, I sit on a rocky outcropping catching colds and fevers. If it’s your lives you want spared, then I can grant you that, but the only place in that fort more miserable then the enlisted men’s quarters is the brig, and as prisoners of war, that is where you are headed,” Thomas said out of spite, but then whirled around as a woman’s shrill cry filled the air.
“Let go of me!” she screamed in broken English.
“Ahh, the spoils of war,” Thomas said as his gunnery sergeant came on deck, a dark-skinned woman of Cuban descent in tow, his big hand clasped tightly around the woman’s right arm.
“Commander, I found her hiding inside a storage locker inside the captain’s quarters. She’s a spitfire that’s for sure; I had to smack her twice: once when she came after me with a revolver, and once for spitting in my face.”
“I thought no guns were aboard this ship Captain? No matter, she will serve us well tonight. As I said, this fort has miserable living conditions, but they are suddenly looking up for my troops and me.”
“Sir, she is my daughter! She has sailed with me ever since her mother died while I was on a trip to Spain. If you wish to treat us like prisoners of war, then she should be treated likewise, sent to the brig just like my crew and me.”
“You fool. To sail with a young lady borders on insanity. She is no more a prisoner of war than I am a private. She is a spoil of war,” he said again with a sneer so cruel it made the captain’s blood boil in anger. “Master-in-arms, place these men in irons, the woman too, and have them taken to the brig, except for the lady. Have her taken to my quarters. I will enjoy her company tonight.”
As the evening sun began to fall in the western sky and cloak the fortress in an eerie darkened glow, the gunnery sergeant caught up with Thomas as he stood in the main gun battery and looked out across the river.
“Do you think the inhabitants around here are aware that we overtook a ship this morning? All day we have been shuttling cargo from the ship to the fort and I am afraid that in town, their tongues will be wagging. Certainly we do not want word of what we have done getting out?”
“On the contrary actually, nothing could be better. A few days ago we were basked in misery; just here to show the residents that the United States Army was concerned about their safety. This morning we proved just how powerful our presence can be. When word gets out, the 3rd Volunteer Connecticut will have an unshakeable reputation in this war. At the same time our storerooms are now full of rum and Cuban raised snuff. What more could a commander want, and please, don’t say a woman, because she is in my quarters as we speak,” he said with a laugh.
“About the woman sir…. The captain of the ship gave this to one of the guard’s to give to you. I think it is in regards to the woman.”
Thomas took the scribbled note and walked closer to one of the many kerosene lanterns that illuminated the multi-arched main gun battery. Reading the note in the flickering, yellowish light was not easy, but the gunnery sergeant knew the note was not pleasant when Thomas scoffed at it.
“How dare this man write something like that? I am the commander of this fort and I will decide who and what gets distributed to my enlisted men! Gunny, that captain had to have got that pen and paper from one of the guards. Find out who it is and give them fifty-five lashings to think about the proper way to treat prisoners of war. Have it carried out at role call tomorrow morning on one of the 30-pound cannons. There might be a daughter in our midst now, but we will show that captain what a gunner’s daughter is, and it’s not something that guard will soon forget either,” he said, shoving the note back into the gunnery sergeant’s hand in full anger.
“I will say not,” the gunner said just under his breath, realizing himself the punishment was a death sentence. When the commander was out of sight, the gunnery sergeant took the note and read it to see what had angered his commander so much.
As a captain of a ship, I know full well the misery that comes from small cramped and cold quarters, and time spent away from the pleasures of a woman. While the woman aboard my ship is indeed my daughter, I know she is also a woman now and a pleasure to look at. Perhaps it is time she kept the company of a man, and I am equally sure she will someday make someone a nice wife. The only thing I ask is that you keep her for your own enjoyment. She is my daughter and I worry about her safety, I shudder at the thought of her being shared unsupervised with your enlisted men.”
Captain Juan Famosa
Maria sat on the edge of the commanders bed for there was no other place to sit as the furnishings in the commanders quarters were rather sparse. Still, it was better than any other room in the fort. Here, the rather large room had planked floors and ceilings at least, a vast improvement over the rest of the forts rooms which were bricked or lined with massive granite blocks.
The room also had a brick fire place, and while the fire had long gone out, Maria could feel where the bricks had absorbed the heat and were slowly dissipating it back into the room. Keeping her feet firmly planted on a small oval throw rug just at the foot of the bed, Maria waited for the inevitable. The thought of being the commander’s possession for the night disgusted her to no end, but the heavy chain about her ankle bound to the foot of the bed gave her no illusions of escaping.
“She’s quite fetching, commander,” said the guard whose detail had been to watch the young lady as the commander approached his quarters.
“For a Cuban perhaps, but I prefer my woman to have much fairer skin, but in these dreadful parts, I must say, the enemy beats that of the natives,” he added with a grin.
The young man only nodded, but now relieved of his duty, took a moment to look in the room at the equally young woman. Even in the dim, yellowish light of the kerosene lantern, Maria’s dark Cuban looks were evident. Even under the forlorn white calico dress, now tinged a bit yellow from too many washings in salt water, the young private and the commander could see her shapely figure.
From the way her chest strained the buttons of dress, the commander guessed her to be in her early twenties. Such assumptions could be dangerous, but having her father squirm from fear and anger over his daughter’s plight while confined to the brig brought a defiant grin from the commander. He could only hope the young woman still held her virginity, and the thrill at taking it brought forth an excitement the commander had not felt in some time. That excitement only intensified as the steps of the young guard could be heard walking away, leaving the commander to step into his quarters and take the war prize that sat upon his bed.
Inside the room, the kerosene lamps gave her darkened skin a softer pale glow and he could not resist running his hands through her long, black hair. She recoiled from his touch, but did not speak as he looked at her again. He did not want to be consumed with lust at that moment, but the lonely army life could not be stifled from having spent months away from his wife.
“A father that sails with his daughter is a sad father indeed.”
“He’s protective and he has taken care of me when others would not. Life at sea is all I know…all he knows, he is a seasoned captain.”
“Barefoot and feisty. I like that, Maria,” he said enjoying how her diminutive feet had long toes that seemed as long as the planks they were laying on. “But I like a woman bare-chested too,” and with that he reached out and grasped the front of her dress. Grabbing it about the collar, he used his big hands to force the fabric apart, ripping the bodice of the dress right down the front, but stopped just as the rip reached her stomach. In this way the top half of the dress folded itself over, and having nothing to hold it upright, slipped off her small shoulders and left her bosom open and exposed. Maria instantly grabbed the torn top half of her dress, and out of instinct began to cover herself back up, but the commander’s harsh voice stopped her.
“Perhaps you did not hear me. I said I like a woman bare-chested!”
Maria only nodded and slowly let her tight grip on the fabric of her dress release. As the bodice fluttered away with gravity, the cool moist air of the New England autumn set in, giving her taut nipples the look of an aroused woman. Certainly she was not, but she could see the emotions her hardened nipples stirred up in the man that now dominated her.
“The rest of it… off,” he said simply as Maria began to cry. It was a soft cry, and through tears she struggled to push the wooden buttons through the slots in the thin white fabric. It would have been far better to have the man remove it from her body by ripping it to shreds, rather to take the dress off slowly for him…like a concubine.
As she did so, the commander did likewise. He turned from her view, and as he dress was unceremoniously cast to the floorboards, she watched the shadowy figure remove his belt, scabbard, revolver’s holster and breeches. The latter he only pushed down to his knees, for that was all that was needed in the way of undressing for him to get what he wished from her. He had already turned back around when Maria placed her hands on her pantalettes and slowly pushed them down her legs. She untied the lace at the bottom of one leg to allow the crotchless garment to come away and not be bound by the chain around her ankle. And thus she was naked before the commander.
Maria lay back on the feather bed, not pleased at the image she was presenting him, but knowing full well that she had no recourse. With her back pressed tightly against the down-filled pillows and her legs propped up and held together tightly with her arms, it would have been an innocent little pose if a chain had not trailed from one ankle, across the floor and securely bound to the bedpost. At the sight of her forbidden sex, he stirred, and Maria watched as his cock stiffened and twitched as he joined her upon the old bed.
As she did so, Maria felt him position the tip of his manhood onto the outer lips of her vagina. He used his cock to open and explore her, the tip just dipping inside, forced into a dry and unwelcoming chasm. A low, painful moan escaped her lips at the onslaught, but the sound only encouraged him to give her another inch and then rode her like that, just the tip, in and out, as she was too tight and dry to take much more.
Maria protested with whimpers as he thrust himself into her. He wanted to slam into her to the hilt, molding her skin to fit his hands, her sex to fit his manhood tightly just as his wife did when they were together and their love-making was consensual. Instead, her sex contracted around the head of his shaft, trying to deny the man entrance.
Maria loathed being filled by the man, the crushing weight of his body spread throughout her own and gave her a feeling that she had a complete lack of control. She was also overwhelmed by his size, his massive hands around her slender waist, his hard thighs supporting her, pressing into her even. She arched up in defiance, trying to deny him any pleasure at all as he took her.
“God, you’re tight,” he said, then he began driving the full, hard length of his manhood into her, letting his balls slap against her, spanking her with them, easing off and then thrusting forward again despite the dry cavern his shaft was being trust into. His hips snapped against her, forcing her into his rhythm, a rhythm Maria despised. She dug her nails into the down-filled mattress in dread, trying her best to keep from grabbing onto the man for balance that she despised with all her being. Her heart was also racing, her heart pounding even, and her breath was ragged from the pain, humiliation, and fear that ran through her as she was being raped.
He pounded into her as hard as she could, loving the ache, pain, and dryness that he built within her. The walls of her sex opened and closed on him like a dry fist. He even lifted her up off the mattress feeling the small feathers shift under his weight as he began moving her body up and down on his cock.
Somewhere in the night, the chains about her ankle rattled, giving their activity a quality seldom heard in the darkened fort.
Maria felt so small in his grip, hating his egoistical demeanor and roughness as he savagely took her like a female slave. She was even more disgusted when he thrust his vile tongue into her mouth, forcing apart her lips and lashing at her teeth with his thick tongue. Adding insult to an already devilish act, he kissed the curve of her neck, his tongue licking along the ridge of her shoulder, his teeth searching for purchase as he finally climaxed.
Maria felt it jettison inside of her, a warm, sticky sensation that filled up her womb and made her swoon with disgust. As she lay there, he was still moving inside her, though it was more of a twitch than full thrusts as he tried to release every drop he had inside him. It spilled into her in an ooze, even as he began to soften within her, her legs still wrapped around him dutifully.
“Are the hot shot furnaces fired up this morning gunnery sergeant?” the commander asked as he stood on the parapet of the observation deck of the fort and looked out across the river in the morning murky light.
“Aye sir, as you asked, and loaded with fifty cannonballs, with fifty more at the ready.”
“Very well. Fire at will.”
With a thunderous boom, the first 30-pound Rodman cannon fired its first projectile, the cannonball whistling through the air just before it smashed through the hull of the ship. Cueing the other cannons, the fort became alive, its massive battery of guns lobbing shot after shot at the ship that sunk in the slack tide of the river.
As the booming cannons echoed across the valley just starting to become awake after its quiet slumber, the ship in the river took the brunt of the forts fire. Unmanned and unable to move, its wooden hull was shattered time and time again by the heavy cannon balls slamming into it.
“Load the hot shots,” the gunnery sergeant yelled above the din of the roaring cannons.
With precision that only came from months of training, powder monkeys drew red hot cannonballs, heated all night in the hot shot furnaces, and dropped them as quickly as they could run, into the barrels of the cannons. Still glowing red, the cannonballs slammed into the wooden hull of the ship one after another. Even from his distant vantage point, the Commander could see whisks of smoke start to curl from out of the holes the red hot cannonballs had made as they splintered the side of the ship. A very conceited smile swooned around his face as he watched the merchant ship slowly begin to burn.
“Cease fire,” he said, and the repeated cry could be heard as one by one the guns fell silent.
One cannon had never fired a shot however. Poised at the center of the five sided granite fort, it was one of the biggest cannons on the premises and also closest to the parade grounds. It was for that reason that a young private was bound to the cannon. Perched precariously over the breach, his hands encircled the barrel and secured with rope. His legs too were stretched outward and bound, his breeches pulled down and his buttocks bare in preparation for flogging. Affectionately called ‘kissing the gunners daughter.’ It was a punishment that was meant to be shameful as it was painful.
“Bring out my breakfast; let me dine while this boy’s punishment is carried out,” he said to one of his officers as the gunnery battalions formed ranks about the parade grounds.
As the din of post-battle spurned conversations of great shots, fast cycle times and the effective use of hot shot, the commander smiled at how his company’s morale had improved. Technically the men were supposed to remain mum while standing at attention on the parade grounds, but the commander did not enforce the issue today since their target practice had some tangible destruction today.
The prisoners of war were another story, for they to were present, draped in chains and irons, they had an even better vantage point to view the flogging, a position purposely decreed by the commander for the utmost affect. Their faces were somber, no doubt from the lack of sleep a stint in the brig elicited.
“The commander wants his breakfast,” the cook barked to Maria as she toiled about the kitchen. She had jumped when the first cannon reports echoed through the brick and granite kitchen of the fort. She knew what they were lobbing cannon balls at, and could hear the mighty ship splinter and crack as the plunging fire reeked what must have been havoc upon the once seaworthy vessel.
She slowly nodded, not bothering to verbally answer the cook as she grabbed the plate of food, and firmly held the tin cup of coffee. She knew she was in no presentable shape to present it to such a noble man, and yet, she also knew that was the very reason she was to present it to him personally.
The heavy smoke from the morning cooking of breakfast had saturated her clothes with the smell of smoke, and the dirt floor of the unfinished kitchen had browned the white calico fabric of her dress in an uncleanable stain. Having been denied her shoes, her feet were just as dirty, while stoking the cooking fires had left smudges of soot upon her cheeks. It was her dress however that was the most despicable. During the evening’s love-making, the commander had strategically ripped the bodice of her dress. Whenever she had her hands free, she would hold the bodice of the dress up for modesty, but when her hands were occupied, she could only let the top of her dress fall down and her bosoms spill out.
Walking across the parade ground with her hands occupied by the plate of food and the cup of coffee, Maria tried in vain to hold the top of her dress up. For a while it covered her, but ultimately slipped out of her precarious grasp and she had no choice but to walk with shame towards the commander. As she did so, the enlisted men cheered and called out the most unmoral of names and suggestions, swooned by the sight of a half-naked woman, a sight they had not seen in many months.
The kitchen was on the other side of the parade grounds and thus Maria had to walk past every enlisted man and officer, the walk itself being as cruel as her nakedness. Barefoot as she was, Maria was accustomed to her native island of Cuba where going barefoot year-round was the custom. Here it was much further north, and being late September, the temperature had dipped below freezing, leaving the ground coated in a light frost. In the kitchen, the bare ground had been tempered by the heat of the cooking fires, but walking barefoot across the frost chilled the bottoms of her feet and numbed them. The granite blocks steps on the farther end of the parade grounds held the cold as well, and she could scarcely stand flat footed in front of the commander as she passed him his plate of food and tin of coffee.
“Your breakfast, sir.”
“Why thank you, love,” he said as he took the plate of food and watched as the young woman instantly scooped up the front of her ripped dress and covered up her bosoms now that her hands were free.
“Master-in-arms, you shall proceed.”
“Aye, sir,” he said and then turned to face the 3rd Volunteer Connecticut Regiment. “Today we are brought forth to watch the carrying out of Lance Price’s dereliction of duty. For aiding the enemy with pen and paper, Mr. Price is herby ordered to be flogged with fifty-five lashings while secured to the barrel of cannon. Let the flogging commence.”
As the gunnery sergeant let the first lash fly, the sound of the nine tendrils of quarter inch rope could be heard whistling through the air, just before colliding with the soft flesh of the boys posterior. As the boy cried out sharply, even the length of a spruce limb he had chucked into his mouth did little to stop the loud cry of pain from echoing around the bricked interior of the main gun battery. At the sound of this intense pain, the commander looked over at the captain of the ship, for he was only ten feet away and within ear shot of the commander.
“Why do you punish the lad? I asked for pen and paper, it is I who should take the brunt of your savagery.”
“In due time, captain, you will. In due time.”
The commander could just see out of the corner of his eye Maria turning her face from the cruelty that came from lashings with a whip. The man quickly grabbed her cheeks and forced her to look at the boy, his pants down around his ankles as he buttocks was slowly tenderized by the nine tendrils of rope.
“Did you know that boy was up all night fastening the knots for his own whipping? A cruel tradition perhaps, but he will learn quick enough not to fraternize with the enemy.”
“Then it is you who should get a hundred lashings,” she said with disgust.
“I make exceptions for women… pretty Cuban women,” he said as he pushed her hands away from the top of her dress, and then began to fondle her breasts.
“No,” she cried, unable to withstand the public embarrassment of the same order of which she had received last night. “I will not stand for this,” she yelled again, and pushed the man. As she did, she squirmed out of his grasp and rushed the gunnery sergeant, grabbing his whip just as he was about to strike another blow.
“Maria, no!” came her father’s cry, for he knew all to well the severe punishment she would get for denying the commander the pleasures of her nakedness, and for coming to the aid of a condemned enlisted man.
As if on cue, two of the guards rushed forward and seized Maria, an easy feat despite her thrashing and writhing to get free. Holding her down, they pinned her to another cannon, tossing her backwards over the breech and quickly binding her hands and feet about the cast iron behemoth. Splayed as she was, Maria watched in horror as the commander moved in front of her. She knew what her fate was, and watched as he grasped her white calico dress and pulled it off her torso and legs until every inch of her—even her womanhood—was exposed to every person of the fort.
Feeling the warmth of the cannon barrel from beneath her back, Marie was not surprised that the commander had the savagery and bravado to undo his belt, and pull down his breeches despite every man of his detail watching the proceedings. His intentions were clear, and as he positioned himself to take the bound, helpless woman, Maria turned her head, unable to watch her own rape transpire.
Maria’s father on the other hand, could not turn his head to such personal savagery. Despite the chain and irons in which he was in, he rushed towards the commander, a distance of only ten feet or so. In such a short span of space, the guards were unable to react quickly enough, and soon he was about the commander reaching and grabbing for his revolver.
Suddenly a shot rang out and echoed in the granite- and brick-enclosed gun encasements. Maria looked up just in time to see her father contorted with pain. With a gurgling sound he clutched his chest tightly, and while only a trickle of blood oozed around his fingers, Maria instantly knew her father was all but dead.
As he twisted and slowly began to fall to the granite floor, he was not alone, for in the tussle, the bullet had passed through the captain and into the commander as well. He too staggered backwards, clutching his chest as his nakedness made his last moments alive seem shameful despite a long and distinguished army career.
Only the master-in-arms held any stately look, for he stood beside the gunnery sergeant, a wisp of smoke trailing out of the barrel of his revolver, still standing in a collected shooting poise, ready to dispatch anyone that questioned his authority.
“As you were, gunnery sergeant,” he said with quiet conviction.
“But sir, a full grown man could not endure the punishment, certainly a lad could not. I am afraid he is dead.”
“Gunnery sergeant, you were ordered to carry out fifty-five lashings to the boy. Now that I am in command of this fort, I am ordering you to carry out the punishment, the lad’s death not withstanding.” With those words he turned towards Maria and began to undo his belt and pull down his trousers just as his former commander had done.
“Put a stick in the girl’s mouth. I’m afraid it’s going to be a very long war for her.”