Then, at fourteen, I spent a semester at a ski program in Switzerland. I found myself gazing at the Alps wondering what possessed Hannibal to attempt them with his herd of elephant! This country with four official languages, had 450 different varieties of Swiss cheese, with further “variety within the varieties”, which the locals told me was a combination of vegetation and techniques passed from one generation to the next. We studied European history, and Swiss Mountain Guides taught us how to read snow and avalanche conditions. We watched weather to predict whether we would be skiing ice or powder from the way the crystals set up on our jackets. By then, I was a reader but reading comprehension alone could not have guaranteed success in these places. Thanks to my dyslexia, I had the foundation to employ multiple paths of engagement, which helped me draw as much meaning out of these experiences as possible.
Fighting for Both Sides in the War
Charles Ball, as a free man, was lucky enough to have a choice. Besides the Navy and privateering, there were even a few black battalions in the American army. But for most American slaves, the options were limited to the British navy. When the British fleet arrived in the Chesapeake Bay in March 1813, entire families of slaves made their way by canoe to the enemy ships. The British commanders had orders to welcome these refugee slaves, but also to take care not to encourage an outright rebellion against their white masters. The British did not want insurrection among blacks to spread to their own slave-holding territories in the West Indies.