Alexander Hamilton: Portrait of a Prodigy

Alexander Hamilton: Portrait of a Prodigy

Alexander Hamilton: Portrait of a Prodigy

Alexander Hamilton: Portrait of a Prodigy

Excerpt

CHRISTMAS HAD NEVER BEEN A PARTICULARLY JOYOUS DAY for Captain Alexander Hamilton, but December 25, 1776, was distinguished above all the others by profound discomforts, discouragements and a complete lack of holiday cheer. It was not only that the Captain was cold, hungry and tired. He was used to that. More galling to a proud spirit was the consciousness that he was one of a thoroughly beaten, almost disheartened mob that only occasionally remembered to call itself an army.

The fact that they had been routed out of comparatively warm quarters to stand about in the snow for twelve hours did not seem at the time to be the first gallant step in one of the greatest feats of arms in modern history. This was an opinion for posterity (and an older Alexander Hamilton).

Today, as he stamped his feet on the frozen ground, felt gingerly of his ears to see if they were still there and pulled his cocked hat lower to keep the wind out of his eyes, the uncomfortable Captain was aware that he and his 2,500 fellows gathered in the fields of Bucks County, Pa., near a place the local lads called McKonkey's Ferry, were a forlorn hope. The fate of forlorn hopes in general was familiar to him. It was his industrious custom to write into the pay book of his company choice bits from his reading and random reflections inspired by the wisdom of the printed page. He had learned from this source that forlorn hopes are usually cut to pieces, achieving only brief, admiring, anonymous mention as a macabre minor in the shining, successful symphony of the great.

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