Dark. Thomas steps up into the attic. He finds a trunk and opens it. Lifting out some blankets, he uncovers a trove of Marion's old military gear -- a worn battle coat, a box of medals, a military sword, rusted into its scabbard.
Thomas puts on the coat, which hangs off his narrow shoulders. He stands in front of a dusty mirror, appraising himself, then stops as he hears FOOTSTEPS coming up the stairs.
It's Marion, tired and dirty from his plowing. Thomas grimaces, expecting him to be angry, but sees him shake his head gently.
Not yet, Thomas.
Marion looks closely at his son, giving him the courtesy of really thinking about the answer.
But it's already been two years and
that's two more years. The war
could be over by then.
Thomas considers it, then nods.
Marion offers his hand. They shake firmly, like adults. Marion takes the coat off Thomas and puts it back in the trunk. They walk down the stairs together.
INT. POND BLUFF - DAWN
All is quiet. A dawn mist hovers close over the ground. Some sparrows feed at the base of the apple tree near the gravesite. DISTANT THUNDER. Low and rolling. The birds stop feeding, uneasy, then fly away.
INT. MARION'S BEDROOM - DAWN
At another roll of the DISTANT THUNDER Marion awakes. He gets out of bed and pulls on his clothes.
EXT. FRONT PORCH - MARION'S HOUSE - DAWN
Marion steps out to his front porch and listens. He knows the sound, the DISTANT STACCATO BOOMS OF CANNON and the PATTERING WAVE OF THOUSANDS OF MUSKETS FIRING.
One by one the children join him. Thomas, Nathan and Samuel listen analytically. Margaret and Susan press close against their father. William looks curiously at the cloudless sky.
Is it going to rain?
That's not thunder.
The SOUND BECOMES DEEPER, MORE OMINOUS. They all notice the change.
Six-pounders. Lots of them.
How far away?
Four, five miles.
Just east of it.
Are we safe here?
Marion puts on a smile.
We could go stay at Aunt Charlotte's
farm. She's to the west.
No, there'll be skirmishers on the
roads. We're safer here.
Thomas appears at the doorway with a pair of muskets. He gives one to Nathan and offers the other to his father.
Put those away.
But father, they might come this
Put them away.
Reluctantly, Thomas takes the muskets back into the house.
Enough. I'll be in the workshop.
Samuel, the cows. Thomas, attend to
your studies here on the porch.
Nathan, on the back porch. If you
see anyone, come get me. Margaret,
please keep William close to you.
No one is to go past the yard wall.
They all nod. Marion walks off toward the workshop, followed by Susan. The others hesitate.
They head off to do as they were told.
INT. WORKSHOP - DAY
Marion works the lathe. Susan watches from her perch on the woodpile.
EXT. BARN - DAY
The SOUND OF A CRASH from inside the barn. An angry cow runs out of the barn, dragging a tenacious Samuel who is holding onto the cow's neck.
Samuel's grip fails and he lands in the dirt. The cow runs about thirty yards down the hill, stopping on the bank of the river. Samuel grabs a rope and heads down the hill to get the cow.
ON THE RIVERBANK
As Samuel approaches the cow, he see it skittishly approaching then retreating from the water. Then he sees the cause -- the water in the river has a pale, pink hue. Samuel stares at it, trying to figure out what it is.
Behind him, Margaret sees her brother beyond the yard wall.
He doesn't respond. Margaret, trailed by William, walks down toward Samuel.
Samuel, get up to the house. You
Then she sees it, too. The pale pink is turning redder and redder. And then the BODIES. First one, then more, many more. Torn apart. Missing limbs. Those with wide- open wounds, are already drained of blood. Others are still seeping, leaving trails of deep red in the paler red of the surrounding water.
Samuel, Margaret and William stand frozen, appalled and fascinated.
MARION steps out of the workshop and sees the children at the river. He can't see what they're looking at. Irritated, he walks toward them. Then, as he nears the river, he sees the color of the water and the bodies that have hypnotized his children. He quickens his stride, speaking calmly but firmly, careful not to frighten them.
Up to the house, now. All of you,
come on. Now.
EXT. MARION'S HOUSE - NIGHT
Quiet. Dark. Marion stands on the front porch, looking out into the night, listening, hearing nothing. He glances up at the star-filled sky, tracking his eyes from the Big Dipper to the NORTH STAR.
BEHIND THE HOUSE, A FIGURE IN THE DARKNESS, carrying a musket, moves from shadow to shadow.
INT. KITCHEN - NIGHT
Margaret and Samuel and William talk, their voices low.
They're going to come.
We're going to have to fight them
Father will do that.
They'll probably kill us men and do
Lord knows what to you women.
A SOUND. They all stop. Something moved behind the kitchen. Margaret silently eases the others out of the room, through the darkened hall toward their father.
SUDDENLY IN FRONT OF THEM, A BLOODY FIGURE
Big. Hulking. In uniform. Margaret SCREAMS. William and Samuel CRY OUT. The figure moves toward them...
Marion, on the porch, hears the scream, races into the house. He sees the figure, moves toward it...
THE FIGURE MOVES INTO THE LIGHT... Marion sees the bloodied face...
Gabriel is wounded, battered and dirty. He carries a musket and a dispatch case. He sways. Marion catches him and eases him to a seat.
The battle, were you there?
Margaret, get bandages and water.
Thomas, the porch, eyes open.
Marion checks Gabriel's wounds which are nasty but not life-threatening.
Have you seen any Redcoats?
Not yet. What happened?
Margaret brings water and linen to Marion who expertly cleans Gabriel's wounds and applies field-dressings.
It wasn't like Saratoga. There, we
stayed in the trees, but this time
Gates marched us straight at the
Redcoats. They fired two volleys
into us and we broke like straw. I
was given these dispatches... I saw
Virginia Regulars surrender... as
they laid down their weapons the
British Green Dragoons rode into
them and hacked them to bits...
killed them all, over two hundred
They had surrendered?
Gabriel nods. Marion's stunned. Gabriel tries to rise.
I have to get these dispatches to
You're in no condition to ride.
I have no choice, I...
Gabriel passes out. Marion catches him and carries him to a day-bed in the parlor. As Marion lays him down, they hear HEAVY MUSKET FIRE, VERY CLOSE.
Marion hurries to the door and looks out into the night, the children cluster around him, seeing a strange sight.
A SKIRMISH IN THE FIELD BELOW THE HOUSE
Pitch black. Then a MUSKET FIRES, creating a FLASH OF LIGHT that illuminates a tableau of soldiers, about three dozen Redcoats and as many Patriots.
The strobe of the musket shot provides targets for an ensuing VOLLEY OF SHOTS in every direction. Then darkness, punctuated by SCREAMS OF PAIN, CONFUSED HOLLERING and the RUSTLING OF ARMED MEN IN MOVEMENT.
Then the pattern repeats itself: A MUSKET FIRES, illuminating a tableau of targets for another MURDEROUS VOLLEY OF SHOTS.
Margaret, take William and Susan
down to the root cellar. Thomas, go
to the back porch. Nathan and
Samuel, the side windows. Keep out
They hurry off. Marion steps into the house and opens his gun cabinet. He extracts two pistols and a pair of muskets. Then he steps back to the front door. He waits and watches.
EXT. LOWER FIELD - POND BLUFF - DAWN
First light. The morning mist lies low over the field. Marion warily approaches the scene of the battle. He carries a Pennsylvania rifle, has another slung over his shoulder, and has a pair of pistols in his belt.
As Marion nears the field he sees, appearing out of the low mist, a nightmarish vision. Young Redcoats and Continentals are scattered on the ground, dead and wounded. Many have been hideously torn apart by the massive musket balls. Blood is everywhere. Marion hurries back toward the house.
EXT. LOWER FIELD - POND BLUFF - MORNING
Marion loads the wounded men onto a wagon, helped by Thomas, Nathan and Samuel.
EXT. MARION'S HOUSE - POND BLUFF - DAY
The porch and yard have been turned into a field hospital. There are about two dozen wounded, a few more Patriots than Redcoats. Thomas, Nathan, Samuel and Margaret help Marion tend the soldiers. William and Susan watch from inside.
Marion treats an arm wound, retying a tourniquet, stanching an ugly flow of blood.
Marion moves to the next of the wounded. Thomas starts to help but Marion shakes his head.
Marion moves on to another.
Thomas, help me turn him over...
They turn over a young Continental and see a horrible wound on his back. Thomas, swoons.
A hard glare from Marion strengthens his son. Together they bandage the wounded man.
EXT. MARION'S HOUSE - AFTERNOON
Triage completed. Margaret and Samuel give water and food. Marion kneels next to a CONTINENTAL SERGEANT and a COUPLE OF PRIVATES who are less severely wounded than the others.
Marion nods, uncomfortable with the thanks.
Sergeant, there are seventeen
wounded men here. Seven Redcoats
and ten Patriots, counting my son
inside. That puts me in a difficult
The Continental Sergeant knows what's coming. The Privates and Marion's children don't.
You three are the least severely
wounded. I have to ask you to leave
and find care elsewhere.
The Privates are stunned at the request. The Sergeant looks at Marion's children and nods.
He struggles to his feet and jerks his head for the two Privates to do the same.
Come on, boys.
Nathan, Samuel and Margaret are confused.
But they're wounded.
There are rules, even in war.
Marion motions to a large, old scar on his arm.
After the Battle of Ashuelot River,
against the French, I got this and
the one on my leg. I couldn't walk.
Washington had to march north. He
left me with other wounded men and a
like number of French prisoners.
Nine for nine. When the French
found us, their surgeon gave me the
best of care. We'll be safe this
Marion's children are not convinced. The Sergeant and the two Privates gather themselves to leave.
Your best chance is in Bennington,
seven miles east, along the river
The wounded men nod grimly and start off down the road.
Marion and his children watch them go.
EXT. POND BLUFF ROAD - DAY
A dirt road runs along the edge of the Santee Swamps, stretching toward green, rolling hills beyond. Beautiful country. Peaceful. Then, the GROUND BEGINS TO SHAKE. A THUNDEROUS SOUND rises, louder and louder. HORSES HOOVES. From around a bend, a detachment of cavalry gallops:
British GREEN DRAGOONS. The finest light calvary in the world. Hard, strong men. Excellent horsemen. Their mounts are powerful, muscled and perfectly cared for. The Dragoons themselves are all hardened veterans, marked with the blood and dirt of a recent battle. Tired and vigorous.
They're armed to the teeth. Each carries a flintlock carbine, a brace of pistols and a sword. Some carry lances as well. Regimental flags flutter. They are forty of the most imposing, frightening horsemen imaginable.
And at their head, the most imposing man of all, LT. COLONEL BANASTRE TARLETON. "The Butcher." Aristocratic. Strong. Dark. A powerful horseman on the best mount of the entire troop. Decorated. Imperious. No temper, just hard, cold authority. His men struggle to keep up with him.
Behind them, two dozen LOYALIST MILITIA CALVARY (American civilians loyal to the crown). Nasty, local men. Civilian clothes. Riding at their head is AMOS GASKINS, grizzled, lower-class, wearing ill-fitting patrician's clothing.
AROUND A BEND
The three wounded Patriots who just left Marion's farm hear the horses coming, stand on the side of the road, raise their arms and a white cloth of surrender.
The Green Dragoons rein in. Tarleton stops in front of the three men. He motions for one of his men to lower his weapon. Then he speaks calmly, quietly, to the wounded men.
First Virginia Regulars under
Who cared for your wounds?
With a lace table cloth?
Tarleton turns to his second-in-command, MAJOR WILKINS.
Tarleton rides off. Wilkins and several other Dragoons calmly FIRE THEIR PISTOLS, killing the three Patriots. The troops ride off, thundering past the bodies of the three men.
EXT. POND BLUFF - DAY
Marion and his children tend the wounded. Gabriel, weak but walking, helps. REDCOAT INFANTRY appears out of the woods, heading toward the house. Three dozen men. Scouts and flank units covering the main body. Marion gathers his family around him, stands and waits.
The Redcoats get to the house, warily eye the wounded and Marion's family. A young REDCOAT LIEUTENANT motions his men to check out the house and barn, then looks at the wounded, doing a silent count. He turns to Marion.
These men are of my regiment. Thank
Marion nods. ONE OF THE REDCOATS emerges from the house carrying Gabriel's dispatch case.
Rebel dispatches, sir.
Gabriel steps up.
I carried those. I was wounded,
these people gave me care, they have
nothing to do with the dispatches.
The SOUND OF HORSES HOOVES. All turn and see:
TARLETON AND THE GREEN DRAGOONS
Thundering down the road toward the house. It's an impressive, frightening sight.
They rein in their horses, stopping in the yard, enveloped by their trailing cloud of dust.
Tarleton surveys the scene, then speaks to the young Redcoat Lieutenant.
Lieutenant, have a detachment take
our wounded to our surgeons at
Camden crossing. Use whatever
horses and wagons you can find here.
He hands the dispatch case to Tarleton.
We found this, sir.
Tarleton opens it and quickly scans the contents.
Who carried this?
(to Lt. re: Gabriel)
Take this one to Camden, he's a spy.
He will be hung.
Marion quickly steps between Tarleton and Gabriel.
Colonel, he's a dispatch rider and
that's a marked dispatch case.
Tarleton ignores Marion and continues speaking to the Lieutenant.
Fire the house and barns.
And the Rebel wounded?
The Redcoat Lieutenant and several of his men are shocked by the order. Marion is, also, but he's more concerned with Gabriel. He pushes past some Redcoats and stands at Tarleton's mount, looking up.
A dispatch rider with a marked case
cannot be held for spying.
Tarleton finally pays attention to Marion. He looks down at his anguished face and offers the barest of smiles.
We're not going to hold him, we're
going to hang him.
Tarleton draws his pistol and points it at Marion. Gabriel tries to intercede but is held back by a burly Redcoat Corporal.
Oh, he's your son. You should have
taught him about loyalty.
Colonel, I beg you, please
reconsider. By the rules of war, a
dispatch rider with a marked case...
Tarleton controls his shifting mount, keeping his pistol trained on Marion's face.
Would you like a lesson in the rules
Marion doesn't answer. He looks up at Tarleton coldly, taking his measure, waiting to see if he's going to pull the trigger.
Tarleton walks his horse a couple of steps and shifts his aim, pointing the pistol among Marion's children.
Perhaps your children would.
The children are terrified. Thomas is more angry than frightened. Marion quickly steps between the pistol and his children and speaks quietly to Tarleton.
No lesson is necessary.
Tarleton sees the terrified expressions on the faces of Marion's children. He smiles at the effect. Then he holsters his pistol.
Marion and his children watch as one of the Redcoats ties Gabriel's hands. Thomas is beside himself.
Father, do something.
Thomas grows increasingly agitated. He sees that his father is going to do nothing. He gauges the distance between Gabriel and the cover of the nearby woods.
Then suddenly, Thomas SPRINGS. He RUNS, THROWING HIMSELF, into the two Redcoats holding Gabriel, KNOCKING THEM DOWN.
Gabriel is too shocked to take flight. A few of the Redcoats, including one of the ones knocked down, shake their heads with sad laughter at Thomas' ineffectual gesture. One of them grabs Thomas by the scruff of the neck and yanks him to his feet.
TARLETON sees the commotion. Without pausing he DRAWS HIS PISTOL AND FIRES, HITTING THOMAS IN THE BACK.
THOMAS is thrown to his knees by the shot. Stunned, confused, he looks down and sees the massive exit wound in his chest.
MARION, horrified, catches Thomas as he falls, easing him to the ground.
MARGARET CRIES OUT. THE OTHER CHILDREN are stunned to silence.
The REDCOATS are frozen in place. Tarleton's GREEN DRAGOONS are impassive, having seen worse.
MARION holds his son, looking at the huge, incomprehensible wound. He knows that Thomas is already dead, though his body still moves.
MARION'S stunned agony turns to fury. He rises, his eyes trained on Tarleton, then stops as...
TARLETON raises a second loaded pistol and a DOZEN GREEN DRAGOONS raise pistols and carbines, aiming them at Marion and his children.
MARION FREEZES, torn between his fury and fear for his other children. He locks his eyes on Tarleton.
TARLETON calmly baths in Marion's anger. Then, with a hard yank of the reins, he jerks his horse's head around and utters a sharp command to Wilkins.
Tarleton spurs his horse and rides off without looking back. His GREEN DRAGOONS THUNDER after him.
MARION'S CHILDREN begin to cry. Margaret tries to revive Thomas' lifeless body, gently caressing his cheek.
Thomas, please, Thomas...
The Redcoats watch in silence. MARION LOOKS AT GABRIEL and turns to the Redcoat Lieutenant.
The Lieutenant wavers, but he looks after the departing Tarleton and his resolve stiffens. He turns coldly to Marion.
I have my orders. Sergeant!
The Redcoat infantrymen scatter, some to get horses and wagons from the barn, others to torch the buildings.
MARION stands among the children, all of whom look to Marion with pleading eyes, waiting for him to do
Papa, look what they did to
Father, they're going to take
With stone-faced fury, Marion watches the Redcoats do their work.
From the barns, they hear the sounds of MUSKETS FIRING and the SQUEALS OF THE LIVESTOCK being killed.
Other REDCOATS TORCH THE HOUSE, BARN AND OUTBUILDINGS. THE FLAMES RISE.
The Redcoats bring out Marion's wagons and carriages and begin loading the Redcoat wounded.
The Redcoat Lieutenant and several of his men walk among the Patriot wounded who start to struggle to their feet, begging for mercy. The Redcoats quickly OPEN FIRE, as if to get it over with.
The WOUNDED PATRIOTS CRY OUT. More SHOTS. Then SILENCE.
GABRIEL, his hands bound behind him, looks to his father with a combination of resoluteness and fear. Marion locks eyes with him.
Father, you can't let them take
MARION AND THE CHILDREN
Watch as the Redcoats form up and move out, leading Gabriel on a tether. Gabriel looks back helplessly but a hard jerk on the rope by one of the Redcoats turns him around. They disappear around a bend in the road.
THE INSTANT THE REDCOATS ARE OUT OF SIGHT, MARION speaks firmly to his weeping children.
MARION STRIDES to his front door and ENTERS THE BURNING
INSIDE, FIRE EVERYWHERE. Picking a route between the flames, Marion walks to his gun cabinet. He opens it and pulls out weapons -- two Pennsylvania rifles, two muskets, two pistols, a long-bladed knife and a worn tomahawk. He carries them, with powder horns and ammunition pouches back toward the door.
Marion walks OUT OF THE BURNING HOUSE.
Without breaking stride, Marion throws muskets to Nathan and Samuel who catch them.
Margaret, take William and Susan to
the river shed. Hide there. If
we're not back by dawn, go up the
river to the Richardson's house.
They'll take you to your Aunt
Charlotte's farm. Nathan, Samuel,
and I are going to get Gabriel.
But what about Thomas?
Leave him. Take care of William and
Marion runs off toward the woods, Nathan and Samuel follow. Margaret hesitates, then herds William and Susan toward the river. The house is enveloped in flames.
EXT. WOODED PATH - AFTERNOON
Marion runs, breathing hard, keeping a punishing, steady pace. Nathan and Samuel run behind, less winded than their father. Marion makes up with cold fury what he lacks in youth.
EXT. WOODED HILLSIDE - AFTERNOON
Marion runs up to the crest of a wooded hill. Slows. Crawls the last few feet. Nathan and Samuel just behind him. Looks over the hillside.
A path runs through a glen, about fifty feet below. Marion's eyes dart, absorbing the terrain, looking for advantage. He points.
Nathan, there. Samuel, there.
The boys go where they're told.
I'll fire first. Then, Nathan, kill
whoever is standing closest to
Gabriel. Samuel, kill the last man
in the line.
They stagger under the weight of the orders. Marion notices but continues.
After that, Samuel, load for Nathan.
If something happens to me, put down
your weapons and run as fast as you
can, that way, downhill. Hide in
the brush by the river, then make
your way home, get the others and go
to Aunt Charlotte's farm.
The boys hesitate. Marion looks at them firmly.
NATHAN & SAMUEL
Marion disappears into the underbrush.
DOWN THE PATH
The dozen Redcoats approach. Leading Gabriel on the rope.
AHEAD OF THEM
Marion waits in the thick undergrowth.
On the hillside, Nathan and Samuel grip their muskets and exchange a frightened, troubled look.
The REDCOATS enter the glen.
MARION waits, then picks his moment and FIRES, killing the Redcoat Lieutenant with a shot to the chest.
NATHAN AND SAMUEL INSTANTLY FIRE, dropping the last Redcoat in the line and the one holding Gabriel's rope.
THE REDCOATS STOP in confusion...
GABRIEL kneels, out of the line of fire.
The REDCOAT SERGEANT takes command...
FORM BY TWOS! BACK-TO-BACK LINES...
MARION KILLS the Sergeant with a shot to the throat...
Samuel finishes reloading, swaps muskets with Nathan who FIRES, DROPPING ANOTHER REDCOAT.
Marion FIRES, killing the Corporal, the last man of rank...
Marion ducks to the side as a VOLLEY OF REDCOAT MUSKET FIRE tears into the spot marked by Marion's rifle smoke...
FROM THIS MOMENT ON, MARION NEVER STOPS MOVING. He strides rather than runs, staying just inside the brush, offering only glimpses of himself. He changes his pace and direction repeatedly, ducking and weaving, firing and loading while moving. He never gives the Redcoats a stationary target, especially one marked by billowing smoke from his flintlock. It's an Indian tactic and it works.
The Redcoats TRACK HIM WITH THEIR BARRELS, about to fire... Marion suddenly STOPS DEAD, REVERSES DIRECTION, several REDCOATS FIRE AND MISS.
Six Redcoats left. Some primed, some reloading. A REDCOAT draws a bead on Marion who drops to the ground and FIRES, killing him.
Samuel, WEEPING as he loads, hands a primed musket to Nathan who FIRES...
The Redcoats turn their attention to THE SPOT MARKED BY NATHAN'S SMOKE...
Marion SEES THE REDCOATS AIMING TOWARD THE BOYS. He instantly STRIDES OUT INTO THE OPEN, drawing the Redcoats' attention from his sons...
Marion FIRES BOTH HIS PISTOLS, killing two Redcoats...
One Redcoat finishes reloading... Marion rushes him, shoves aside the barrel and SLAMS him in the face with the butt of the musket...
This is a DIFFERENT MARION, a vicious, savage Marion, killing with stunning brutality...
Marion drops his own expended rifle and CATCHES THE REDCOAT'S LOADED MUSKET before it hits the ground shoves that musket into another Redcoat's belly and FIRES...
Two Redcoats left, neither finished loading...
MARION CHARGES, drawing his TOMAHAWK, ignores a GLANCING BAYONET WOUND to the neck, HACKS a Redcoat open...
Splattering himself with BLOOD...
The final Redcoat, a cherubic-face young man, ducks into the woods... Marion tears after him...
A FOOTRACE... the young Redcoat BLASTING THROUGH THE BRUSH... the older Marion, panting, losing ground...
A CLEARING... the Redcoat is almost to the cover of the trees on the far side...
MARION THROWS HIS TOMAHAWK which FLIES through the air and SINKS IN THE REDCOAT'S BACK...
Marion runs to the wounded Redcoat, grabs his hair, yanks back his head and SLITS HIS THROAT...
Then, without pausing, Marion wrenches the tomahawk from the Redcoat's body, and races back toward his sons...
AT THE GLEN
Nathan and a weeping Samuel, stunned at the carnage, stumble down the hillside toward Gabriel. Marion runs up and motions for them to stop.
Marion, checks the Redcoats, making sure they're all dead.
Samuel, reload. Nathan, untie
They quickly do so as Marion picks up a loaded musket and scans the road and the underbrush. In a moment they're ready. Marion finds his own Pennsylvania rifle, then he and his sons disappear into the underbrush.