Wars are won on the battlefield by brave soldiers who risk life and limb for cause or country. In the Revolutionary War era, those battle-tested warriors fueling the action and political whirlwind were almost exclusively men, but women weren’t completely without influence. In fact, the natures of men and women, as depicted in Turn: Washington’s Spies, gave clear-eyed women an abundance of soft power, and in “Hearts and Minds,” it was the men who found themselves reacting — often flailing — to romantic machinations of the human heart.
Benjamin Tallmadge has had only one true love in three seasons: the army and especially its leader, Gen. George Washington. But after narrowly escaping Gamble following his sloppy attempt to dispose of Rev. Worthington, the injured American stumbles toward the country cabin of Sarah Livingston. Sarah is setting a quiet dinner for two when she hears the sounds of a visitor on her property, and though she sets out to investigate with her rifle, her heart goes out to the unconscious Ben when she discovers him in the rain. She drags him inside, treats his gunshot wound after finding the (stolen) crucifix in his pocket, and sheds tears of joy when Ben drifts off to sleep after the worst has passed.
Even before she introduced herself as Sarah, I thought of another Sara of fiction living in a similar circumstance. In Charles Frazier’s Civil War novel, Cold Mountain, a fugitive Inman spends a night with a Southern widow named Sara who’s mourning her husband while raising her newborn. There is a connection of convenience, and they share an evening, though not as intimately as Ben and Sarah do the next night.
After the first night, however, Sarah still has her guard up. She demands his identity, and Ben, rightfully unsure of his whereabouts and the partisan affiliation of his host, fibs that his name is Benjamin Brewster, a traveling minister. The crucifix seems to confirm his lie, and Sarah relaxes. Only then does she explain the absence of her husband — shot by thieves a year ago to the day — and her unembarrassed response to Ben’s awkward question about how much she saw of him while she changed his clothes represented some justified level-jumping. So it didn’t feel forced when they kiss the next night and spend the night together.
Of course, Ben is in no rush to leave the morning after, though a noticeably cooler Sarah is eager for him to take the 1778 walk of shame. (Or perhaps she simply hopes he has to rush home to clean his andirons!) Feeling pangs of what might be love, the romantically inexperienced Ben wants to bring her with him when he eventually sets off for home; she more realistically dismisses their night together as the sad product of two lonely people. Unfortunately, Ben’s response to this is truth telling, and he confides that he’s an officer in the American army. Oops. Sarah’s husband was murdered by American soldiers who forcibly took his crops. Ben even recalls the military order that justified their crime. When Gamble and his search party arrive looking for him, Sarah doesn’t hand Ben over, though that decision doesn’t exactly reflect a softening of her position. “I never want to see your face again,” she tells Ben after Gamble’s posse leaves.
Back in Setauket, Edmund Hewlett is fielding an even weaker game in his doomed engagement to Anna Strong. As she tells her ex-lover Abraham Woodhull, as a way of getting him to spare Hewlett’s life, “He loves me, and his experience with women is…limited.” Safe guess. Hewlett is over the moon for his new fiancée, even if their Whitehall wedding isn’t exactly the social event of the season. The only thing he denies her is her wish to honeymoon in New York City, her ruse to get him away from Abe’s murder plot.
NEXT: Anna tries to save Hewlett with a cruel kindness.