SORTIE 2 OF THE DAY
PILOT F. Irish S/A
EQUIPMENT General Wayne
I want to write another short story, I like being able to create an entire world that I am in command of, with a cast of characters that I for the most part control. We shall see how this plays out. Hope it is a good one.
The rain falls in sheets as I watch the carriage road melt into a near impassible trap. General Wayne is moving our regiment to the river, in an effort to resupply from our naval forces after the battle a few days prior. We may have inflicted damage to our enemy, but they remained at large in the countryside, pillaging the small farmers and tradesmen we were charged with protecting. As added defense, the general posted my small unit, one man short from our last engagement, as the rear guard. To give us some real strength I was allotted the use of a squad of riflemen, and a platoon of light infantry, units that I was more than happy to receive. Now, with the light infantry cradled behind a stone wall, and the riflemen scattered in the wooded hill above the road, we wait. And from the sounds of it, we won't be waiting long.
As I look down the road, I can see a flag rise over the top of the hill, a vulture gracing the apex. The Black Guard was moving to intercept General Wayne. We stand in their way. I look behind me toward the Sarge and nod. He turns to face the hilltop, and signals a lone rifleman with crossed arms, an order to hold fire until I fire. The slender young man disappears into the woods before I can turn back to the road. An advance company has begun to file past the woods, their weapons still on their shoulders as they march in step, a black mass of bodies sent to oppress me. I wait, I want the infantry to get off a good volley, knowing full well that the rain will make our flintlocks worthless. The mass begins to take shape, the individual rows making themselves apparent as the distance between our forces shrinks. I train my rifle on the first officer I see, his black coat faced with dark blue, a red sash around his abdomen. The gold collar of his uniform gleams in the gray light, I aim for it, the shining star on horseback.
The rifle kicks back into my shoulder, a cloud of smoking giving away my position. I duck as the hillside erupts with smoke and lead. I reload as I crawl to a tree closer to the road. The officer I shot is laying in the road, half submerged in the red mud, a hole where his face once was. Around his body, the Black Guard is firing into the woods. They struggle to reload as well, the rain making their muskets almost useless. I ram the ball home in my barrel, and fill the pan with powder. I lean around the tree, rifle at the ready. Down my barrel I sight in on the man who is giving orders. He looks to be a young lieutenant, his sword drawn pointing up the hillside. Behind him his men fire at will, some of their weapons misfiring in the weather. I aim at his profile, slowly squeezing the trigger. From the corner of my eye I notice a lowly private, and he's aiming at me. A burst of smoke hides his figure, his ball veering toward me. In a split second the ball connects with my cover, sending bark across my face. My rifle fires as I pull back. I can hear the rattle of a sword through the rain and musket fire. I draw my own sword, a throw back to the days of chivalry, my trust hand and a half.
Above me on the hillside I can see the Sarge, his musket misfiring as balls buzz around him. He draws his pistol and fires before making a dash to my position. He slides in. "Sir, this may turn into a hand to hand affair if we don't force them from the road soon."
"Signal the Light Infantry. Coordinated volley fire." The Sarge moves a little ways from the tree and motions across the road, commands drift through the rain and I hear the first volley, a thunderous clap of death. I look around the tree, to my alarm the lieutenant is still alive and has begun to form his me up, their bayonets gleaming in the dreary light. I turn to the Sarge, "Roll up the riflemen, deploy them a few hundred yards down the road." He turns to head up the hill, "Sarge," he glances over his shoulder, "Send for McCork, Higgins, Hart and Kelly. They'll be staying with me, the rest are in your charge." He disappears up the hill as the second volley from the infantry rolls past my ears. Above me, I can see the riflemen scurry past, their weapons cradled under their arms to keep their locks dry. Hell of a day, I thought, hell of a day.
The Light Infantry are now firing at will, their muskets spitting fire as the rain lightens up. I reload my rifle with care, doing my best to keep the weapon dry. I can hear the occasional ball ricochet off the stone wall of bury itself in a tree. The battle has come to a stand still as the enemy holds out for the approaching reinforcements. McCork arrives, his coat smeared with mud. I aim again, this time for a sergeant who is pacing in front of the men. He turns to face the wall, lifting his halberd to signal a volley. The rifle cracks, and I watch him fall to his knees, behind him the muskets flash, shrouding his death in smoke. McCork fires, his ball connecting with a corporal on the end of the enemy line. Hart and Kelly are sliding down the hill in our direction as I prepare for my next move.
"Fix Bayonet!" I stand, retrieving my sword from where I had planted it. McCork reloads his rifle, he knows that I plan on using Kelly and himself for their rifles. Hart is beside me now, his bayonet at the ready. We walk to the road, emerging from the trees as I bark out another order, "Charge bayonet!"
"HOOZAH!" The light infantry are standing now, several sporting wounds the stain their blue uniforms.
"Advance!" We begin a light trot toward the Black Guard, the infantry hopping over the wall before resuming their charge. With sword raised I begin an all out dash, behind me the footsteps splash in the rain soaked road. Ahead of me I locate the lieutenant, his sword back in his hand. With one swift motion his sword drops and the black coated enemy start their headlong collision with my men. To my right the light infantry have overtaken me for the lead. Our foremost man meets the enemy, parrying his thrust before ramming his spike through his stunned adversary. In a second the field is alive with death.
An enemy runs at me, his bayonet leading the way. He thrusts, his metal piercing the air where I just stood. In horror he watches the blade of my sword slice into his chest, I bury it in him, tearing the blade the final few inches through his spine. I look around for my counterpart, the enemy lieutenant. Our eyes meet as he kicks the lifeless body of a light infantryman from his curved blade. Around us is chaos as we move toward each other, a tangled mess of blue and black uniforms fighting tooth and nail, for their survival. Another enemy soldier begins to run at me, only to be taken down by either McCork or Kelly. I peer toward Hart, his bayonet protruding from one guard while he punches another across the jaw. It looks as if my men have the upper hand as the enemy officer and I begin to cross metal.
I block his downward slide pushing him back before swinging at his abdomen. Like a cornered beast he dodges and slices at my head. I duck and our swords meet as we each recover from our attacks. We are face to face, the swords grinding just beneath our faces. In and instant I head butt him, sending him a few steps back. Yet again he blocks my attack, the steel ringing as my blade is deflected. He stabs at me, piercing my coat as the sharp edge cuts a line across my left side. I close my arm around his blade, bringing my pommel to bear on his face. Stunned he falls to his knees, spitting blood and teeth from his mouth. In a daze he peers up at me, sword perched over my head. His eyes are devoid of emotion as my blade splits his skull in two. Around me the men are moping up the remains of the Black Guard patrol, a few men take pot shots at the retreating enemy while others silence the moans of the wounded. In the distance I hear the sound of drum and fife.
SORTIE 3 OF THE DAY 5:15 A.M. E.S.T.
PILOT F. Irish S/A
EQUIPMENT General Wayne
"Fall in," I trot past the shattered bodies in the direction of the river. "Let's go, form up!" The urgency is clear in my voice as the men line up in two columns. "Forward march," we begin toward the next spot of ambush, where I expect the riflemen to be in position. Behind us the drums are growing louder, and I begin to question if we will be prepared to me the enemy when they arrive. "Double time it boys." We begin an organized dash, the mud covering our legs as we fall back toward our lines. We pass McCork, his rifle already trained toward the approaching enemy. He nods at me before returning his gaze down range. Just above him Kelly is perched in a tree, his eyes fixed on a target in the distance. I look over my shoulder at the men, their faces stern and determined. We press on, spotting the Sarge waiting at the ford a few hundred yards ahead of us. We reach him a minute later, and the light infantry begin to cross the creek and take up positions on the opposite bank. A rifle cracks in the distance.
"The riflemen are posted on both flanks with lanes down the creek," the Sarge is staring over my shoulder as the second rifle report hits my ears.
"Good job Sarge, fall in with the men." He turns and crossed the ford as I reload my rifle, the beat of the drum edging ever closer. Two shadows race at me through the fog, the sound of muskets following their retreat. I replace my rod to its position as I await the arrival of my two riflemen. McCork looks into my eyes before I motion him to the right. He slides off the road a short distance behind me and begins to reload. Kelly breaks off the road to my left, pouring powder into his barrel. The drum and fife drown out the sounds of McCork and Kelly reloading, the enemy manifesting in the fog two hundred yards distant.
I kneel down to steady my aim, trying to calm down my beating heat. The mass begins to take shape before my eyes, four columns crammed into the quagmire of a road, advancing behind three men on horseback. I look at McCork, "Right." He takes up a prone position, his rifle gliding into position before he pulls the hammer to half-cock. I glance at Kelly just as he is putting away his powder horn, "Left." He steadies himself against the tree, raising his rifle with slow deliberation. I shoulder my weapon, my eyes tracing a line down range at the lead horse. My jaw clenches as I tense up. The enemy column is only one hundred and fifty yards away, their silhouettes bobbing in time with the beat of the drum. I tighten my grip on the rifle, closing my left eye. One hundred and twenty-five yards now. I exhale, tracing my finger over the trigger as I make my final adjustments. The hammer clicks into the full cock position. My finger closes.
In short order McCork and Kelly fire their weapons before turning to cross the creek and join the rest of the men. I hesitate, curious as to whether we got all three. "Fire!" The voice is followed by five or six shots that prove to no avail, the enemy is too far away for their muskets to be effective. I turn and splash across the creek, posting behind a tree to reload. I peer around the tree, the column has fanned out, their bayonets at the ready as they advance behind a lone horseman. I turn back and ram the ball home in the barrel. A rifle on our side of the creek announces its intention. A horse whines before it drops to the road. I take up my rifle and aim down range. The officer is pulling himself out from under the horse, his sword planted in the road to steady himself. I begin to sight in as a second rifle cracks, dispatching the officer and his plight. The enemy line parts to go around their fallen commander, and reforms a mere sixty yards distant.
"Charge bayonet," the voice is a whisper to me as I try to place its owner. "Forward march." The line resumes its approach, coming into range of my first line of muskets.
The scattered volley leaves holes in their line for a few steps as fresh troops fill the gaps, the advance never slowing. I find the source of the commands and level my sights. With a kick he is sent to meet his maker, yet the enemy line still advances. Muskets are discharging every few seconds now as the Black Guard nears the ford, their supply of bodies endless as fresh gaps are filled in mere seconds. The rifles now report, the enfilading fire thinning the lead ranks as a third musket volley erupts from the woods. The enemy returns a volley, the balls smacking into tree after tree. A loud yelled echoes through the cloud of smoke as the enemy charge into the creek and begin their climb up the bank. Muskets and rifles crack at random, the lead soldiers falling back onto their comrades. Still the black devils swarm at us, with no leadership, no emotion. I once more aim down my barrel and squeeze off a round, the sword wielding demon lands with a sick thud. Another guard takes his place in the lead, only to fall as a musket sparks to life.
A skirmish unfolds around me, the men are fighting hand to hand yet again. I draw my sword and leap to action, spotting a guard with his back to me as he attempts to bayonet Higgins. I cut his left leg off at the knee and he falls to the ground screaming before I silence him with a cross of his neck. Higgins turns the musket around and fires a ball past me, the black clad soldier spins into a tree before crunching to the wet ground. All around me the sounds of the fierce battle reverberate. The sounds of muskets clashing, metal piercing flesh, the moans of the dying and cries for loved ones drift through the trees, broken by the occasional crack of a rifle. Chaos engulfs my very being, I stagger through the trees laying my blade into any unfortunate soul in black to cross my path. Blood soaks my uniform, drips down my face as I heave my sword into another victim. Then I hear it.
"HOOZAH!" The battle cry sends shivers down my spine. "HOOZAH!" Closer now, the chanting is now joined with the steady thud of feet. "HOOZAH!" The steps turn into a headlong run, the forest flooding with blue coated soldiers. They dash past me, sinking their bayonets into the slower guards in a rout of the field. The splash of men crossing the creek is followed by a rapid succession of musketry, the last shots in a running retreat to the river. I take a seat against a tree and catch my breath as my men arrive piecemeal. Several of them garnish their fresh wounds, happy that we have lived another day. I rest my head on my arms, exhausted, unwilling to move unless I am forced to do so. I hear a pair of boots trudge up beside me.
"Well Frank, it seems you have yet again survived this crazy shit." General Wayne took a knee beside me, "Head to the river, Commodore Barry has your new orders. I'll clean up this mess." With the he is gone and I am left to contemplate what my future holds in store.