The Fudge Factor

Instances of Authorial "Cheating" in Die Fasting


The greatest fudge of which your author is thus far guilty is, of course, proclaiming that he already has a series.  Perhaps such self-promotion’s a tad premature … but readers may rest assured that’s the intention!  The idea is that Thomas Dordrecht, 18 years old in 1758, will age—along with his family, friends, and acquaintances—as years and mysterious adventures progress.  (We certainly hope he’ll mature, as well, but this remains to be seen!)

* * *

In the interest of historical accuracy (in which your author places considerable store), the convenience of the internet is availed to clarify matters which earlier authors may have simply crossed their fingers and prayed that their readers understood! 

Personal names, for example.  Many 18th Century Dutch names have been collected in research … and not one surname is identical to a city.  (Dordrecht is a venerable old town in South Holland.)  Some are based on place names, but they’re always preceded by “van” or other pronoun—a convention that strikes American ears, probably incorrectly, as aristocratic, which our fictional hero’s family definitely is not.  The genealogical record also shows that children were almost invariably named for their grandparents:  only after the four grandparents, uncles and aunts were honored, could later additions be christened more whimsically.  This historical tradition has been obliterated in the interest of easing the reader’s struggle to keep characters straight! 

I have generally used modern spellings and grammatical constructions, and also skipped much unnecessarily complex detail. For example, Ticonderoga was often spelled Cheonderoga, and at any rate the fort was most often referred to in 1758 by its French name, Fort Carillon. No insults are intended!  

Another area of massive oversimplification is currency.  In mid-18th Century America, every commercial transaction involved much tedious calculation, given a general dearth of specie, a plethora of currencies, and the common resort to barter.  

Just to save everyone confusion:  the historical events recounted in James Fenimore Cooper's wonderful story, The Last of the Mohicans, occurred in the summer of 1757, the year preceding the events of Die Fasting, but in many of the exact same locales.

* * *

Further instances of Frank Fictional Finagling are hereby 'fessed, on a chapter-by-chapter basis.


Chapter 1 - The amount of a private's salary for a one-season enlistment is actually taken from the Massachusetts figure for 1759: "With interest due, the net earnings for a Massachusetts private approximated thirty pounds in province currency, or twenty-two pounds ten shillings sterling - at least double an agricultural laborer's wages for the same period." (Fred Anderson, The Crucible of War, p. 785, footnote 5.)  However, the major change, during the war, occurred during the winter preceding the 1758 campaign, when Pitt determined that Parliament should reimburse the colonial legislatures for their military costs. This was effected, as usual in such circumstances, by massive inflation (printing of paper money and extension of debt), draconian increases in taxation of the British public and, eventually, great increases of taxes in the colonies ... that proved unexpectedly problematic!

The names and characters of the historical Dutch Reformed clergymen of New Utrecht are a matter of record in the archives of the town’s congregation (which still exists).  Dominie Van Voort’s fictional status as the sole local minister is therefore ... a fudge.  

Chapter 2 - James DeLancey was actually the acting royal governor of New York in 1758, though his title was Lt. Governor. I don't know that he was cursed by the citizenry with any special vehemence ... but it seems completely plausible that he might have been.

Chapter 3 - As the voyage is described, the HMS Proserpine arrives in Dobbs Ferry, NY, on a Sunday. It is extremely unlikely that Thomas Dordrecht would have been able to procure any comestibles that afternoon, as 18th Century sabbatarian laws were universal.

Chapter 4 - The historical Marinus Willett actually held commands in this campaign, and participated both at Ticonderoga and Frontenac in 1758, but the idea of his being "Lieutenant of the Fourth New York Company" is fictitious.  [See more on Willett, below.]

In the interest of clarification to afficionados of American history, we note that Fort Ticonderoga was a center of hostilities on numerous occasions:  


Fort Carillon (the original name) ordered constructed by the Count de Vaudreuil, Governor-General of French Canada


General Montcalm uses it as a base for his (successful) attack on Fort William Henry

March 13, 1758

A party of 180 of Rogers’ Rangers, trying to harass the French, is nearly wiped out in the “Battle of the Snowshoes”

July 6-8, 1758

Montcalm repulses great attack by Howe and Abercromby (the action in Die Fasting)

June 26, 1759

French forces largely destroy the fort, as they abandon it to a new British attack force led by Gen. Jeffery Amherst; Amherst rebuilds it and presses northward to capture Crown Point

May 10, 1775

Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold surprise and capture Fort Ticonderoga only weeks after Lexington; its cannons are transported across Massachusetts to relieve Boston

July 5, 1777

British under Gen. Burgoyne recapture Ticonderoga from American Patriots

Oct. 8, 1777

Following British loss at Saratoga, the fort was burned and abandoned by them (but never again garrisoned by Americans)

Sept. 11, 1814

The Battle of Plattsburgh showed the Champlain-Hudson corridor was still a major military objective. However, Fort Ticonderoga played no direct part in the War of 1812.


Chapter 5 - The death of Lord Howe—at the time perhaps similar in its dire momentousness to that of the Challenger disaster in 1986—unquestionably occurred on Thursday, July 6, 1758, within a mile of the spot described. But although the events were retold by many individuals, historians have been unable to compile a comprehensive, definitive narrative. Howe was criticized by some heartless realists for reckless treatment of his own life—and therefore of the military leadership that depended on it—a point of view I have adopted. And though New York regiments were certainly present, like James Fenimore Cooper in his novel Satanstoe (a sequel to The Last of the Mohicans), I've not scrupled about putting my hero—as a matter of perfect happenstance!—in the forefront of the action.

Chapter 6 - The obsequies for Lord Howe are fictitious, though the distress of both officers and men in the Anglo-American forces is not. His corpse was presumed to be removed from the scene for burial in Albany.

René Chartrand (in Ticonderoga 1758) is considerably more lenient toward Abercromby's handling of the main attack than Fred Anderson (in The Crucible of War). Chartrand places him on the scene, for example, in direct contradiction of Anderson. I have followed Anderson's general interpretation of the British failure, however, even though Chartrand's depictions of the military actions are far more detailed.

The "Indian" names Eight Feathers, Two Rivers, and Tonnere Noir (Black Thunder) are entirely made up, and have no basis in anything more serious than cowboy movies. The author confesses, with apology, his monumental ignorance of the Native American tribal customs of northeastern North America.

Chapter 7 – The notion that the British army or New York colonial regiments awarded “commendations” for bravery (or anything else), and that they might have taken the form of a ribbon shaped like a Tudor rose, is imaginary.  

Thomas Dordrecht's "commendation"

Chapter 9 - Although I've read somewhere that the various tribes had recognizably different ways of manufacturing arrows, I've no idea at all whether Two Rivers’ objections to a “Huron” arrow are remotely realistic.

Two Rivers effectively slanders the survivors of the Pequots—the first mass victims of English-American aggressiveness (in the Pequot War of 1637-38)—as drunkards.   

Chapter 11 - Although both Bradstreet and DeLancey made commercial arrangements for military supplies during the war, and both faced many raised eyebrows regarding their decisions, the particular confrontation described by Nogert is entirely fictional.  

Chapter 13 - In fact, the Anglo-Americans took many French and Canadian prisoners on July 6th—but they nonetheless came mistakenly to believe that twice as many defenders were inside the fort as actually were, and became convinced that further reinforcements were on their way (which was not the case).

Chapter 15 – Inasmuch as our villain and his personal responsibility for Howe’s death are fictional, so is Bradstreet’s conspiratorial reaction to Thomas Dordrecht’s recitation of it.  Apologies are due if we defame the man’s memory!  


A Special Note – Marinus Willett:  Marinus Willett during the American Revolution

In years of study of American History, I’m sure I came across the name of Marinus Willett, hero of the American Revolution ... but I’m afraid his exploits, however deserving of respectful memory, got muddled up with those of innumerable other stalwarts of his generation.  

When I began work on Die Fasting, therefore, I was quite concerned when I realized that I wanted to create a hero with the following seemingly-improbable background:

·       Born on Long Island in 1740

·       Of mixed Dutch and English ancestry

·       From a hard-scrabbling, middle-class family

·       Participant as an 18-year-old in both the Ticonderoga and Frontenac campaigns

·       plus many other characteristics ... which may come to light as the series progresses.  (Surely you wouldn’t want to learn about these in advance?)  

Lo and behold, after getting well underway with the fictional Thomas Dordrecht, I reacquainted myself with the historical Marinus Willett, and learned that they in fact share just this history and more, right down to the mixing of Dutch and English given and surnames, and family ownership of taverns!  

Now more familiar with Willett, I daresay that he and Dordrecht just might become life-long friends, despite frequent geographical separations and strong differences in temperament and opinion.  However, the reader may rest assured that, in respect for Willett’s reputation, we shall not attempt to convert him into Dr. Watson!  Thomas Dordrecht will continue to solve mysterious doings on his own!  


Readers of the Thomas Dordrecht Historical Mystery Series who find other references to be curious or inexplicable are invited to contact the author and see if he can’t enlighten them!  (Or vice versa, as the case may be.)





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