Glittering Misery

Excerpt: On assignment for History Magazine

Martha Summerhayes crouched in the bottom of an Army wagon as it bounced towards Sanford Pass. Her husband, Jack, rode alongside, keeping a sharp lookout for marauding Apache. Her three-month-old son lay helplessly beside her. As the wagon lurched through the narrow cut in the mountains, Martha wondered if she could carry out Jack’s instructions—in case he was wounded, she was to use her loaded derringer on their son and then on herself.

A year earlier, Martha was just back from an extended stay in Germany, and marriage to Lieutenant Jack Summerhayes. While in Europe, Martha had fallen in love with the romance and chivalry of the army. The handsomely uniformed men “lent a brilliancy to every affair”. She remembered saying to a German general’s wife, “Oh, how fascinating it all is!” and was puzzled at the response. “Life in the army is not always so brilliant as it looks; in fact we often call it glaenzendes Elend”—glittering misery.

Now, stationed far from home in “that dreaded Arizona” and steeled for an Apache attack, the glitter seemed a lifetime away and the misery too close for comfort.