Young Dolley learns dueling skills on a lark, then practices them to relieve stress, daily, for sixteen years. When she and her servant slay murderous brigands, US Army Rangers help them cope with the grief of taking human life through rigorous training, training the women continue after returning to Washington City. A year after America declares war on Great Britain the women witness British atrocities at Hampton, Virginia, and vow to fight back. The first to feel their wrath are American traitors, but when four thousand British soldiers land at Benedict, Maryland and begin marching towards Washington City, the war becomes personal.
27 June 1813
"There are too many of them, Madam." Lieutenant Malone lowered his telescope.
"That depends," Dolley said, "on your method of engagement."
They were two miles southwest of Hampton, on a low, sandy ridge overlooking the British landing site. The sun was to their backs, a finger's width from setting. Green-coated soldiers, laden with loot, many drunk and laughing, were loading into longboats under the supervision of red-clad officers. Some three hundred others lounged about, awaiting their turn to be ferried to the frigate.
Dolley handed her telescope to Sukey and unlimbered her carbine. A gunsmith had installed an adjustable sight to improve accuracy, and she set it to two hundred yards.
"Madam, what are you doing?" he asked.
"When I shoot that Major, have your men volley-fire into the enemy. Even with smoothbores you should be able to hit some of them."
"But that frigate!"
"Sun's glaring off the water into their eyes. Give me three volleys, then we'll withdraw."
Dolley aligned her sights on the chest of the fat British Major, aiming at whatever it was that glittered at its center. She breathed, slowly and deeply, barely conscious of the Lieutenant's commands to his Dragoons as she focused on the target, and prayed:
Heavenly Father, life is a sacred gift, bestowed in Thy grace upon undeserving mankind. Three years ago I took human life, and have prayed, daily, that I would never have to do so again. But the eagle must defend her hatchlings from the condor and the mother bear must protect her cubs from the wolf. These lions have feasted upon the helpless of Hampton, and now depart to seek fresh prey. Shield and protect us as we defend the nation Thou hast given to us. I ask these things in the Name of the Lord of Armies, Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen!
Sukey stood beside her, observing through a telescope. The Dragoons stood in a line, muskets raised, awaiting her shot.
"Can she really hit that man at this range?" Malone asked Sukey.
Blessed be the Lord my strength, who has trained my hands for war . . . Dolley paused in her breathing.
Sukey giggled. "Payne is her middle name."
. . . and my finger for battle . . . .
Dolley caressed the trigger; smoke obscured the target . . . .
And then all Heaven broke loose.