Thursday, June 10, 2021

The Fort, Attacked

(Source)

Molly jerked awake with a start. She had no idea where she was or how she had arrived there, then it all came back to her.

She had been waiting impatiently for Will Jefferson to return to the Mohican encampment, when it had started to get dark she realized he wasn't coming back for her that night. She had no way of knowing that the plan had been for Standing Wolf to bring her to the fort when the rest of the Mohican war band went there. But that didn't happen, in fact, the Indians seemed rather lackadaisical about doing anything in a hurry.

They only began to get restless and show some concern when a few of their number had not returned from an earlier scouting expedition. When night began to fall, the horror began.

When that ghastly screech had issued from the forest, Molly decided to hide. In the darkness and with the confusion reigning in the Mohican camp, she had grabbed an Indian robe and crawled off into the brush near the camp. She had nearly blundered into an Abenaki warrior, fortunately that man had been too preoccupied with shooting arrows into the Mohican camp to notice her.

Like a baby animal she froze, not daring to move as the Abenaki began to rush the camp. One warrior had actually stepped on her left hand as he moved forward. She had managed to stifle her urge to cry out in pain and the man didn't notice her at all.

As the screams and the sounds of men engaged in a life or death struggle gradually faded into the distance, Molly crawled further into the surrounding forest. Eventually the Abenaki returned and with hideous screams and cries they began to desecrate the corpses of the fallen Mohicans. Trembling, Molly covered her ears and awaited whatever the Fates had in store for her.

At some point she simply fell asleep.

Now it was dawn and she found herself near a marsh, she wondered if it was some low lying spot near the Cannitticutt or perhaps further from the river than she thought. She hesitated to explore the area, though she knew that they hadn't been all that far from the fort, perhaps a half-day's easy walk, she was reluctant to wander with the prospect of an Abenaki war party still being in the area.

So she waited, one thing she had learned on the frontier was patience.


"Captain Jenkins, I would like to lead a party out to try and find Miss Henderson. This man," he nodded at Slow Fox, "says that he thinks she hid herself before the Abenaki attack. He doesn't recall seeing her in the camp when he and the others fled." Guards Lieutenant Will Jefferson wasn't particularly keen on going back out, not with Standing Bear being wounded and unable to travel for the time being.

Captain Samuel Jenkins looked at Jefferson for a very long moment before speaking. "Leftenant, what makes you think this young Englishwoman could survive an Abenaki attack which destroyed your band of Mohicans? Most of whom could not get away from the attack  fast enough and they abandoned this woman to the Abenaki. I am quite reluctant to afford you a party of my soldiers to go out there and risk being ambushed by those very Abenakis which you spoke so disparagingly of not 24 hours ago."

Jefferson flushed at the insult, had they been in England he would have demanded satisfaction from this colonial officer. How dare he? Taking a moment to control himself, Jefferson answered, "I was wrong Captain, my Mohicans led me to believe that the Abenaki were not a very warlike people. Events have proven that to be untrue. Still and all, the fate of the young lady weighs heavily upon my conscience."

"Quite. I can see you are upset by my comments Leftenant. I understand, I meant no insult to you personally, however, events make me tend towards cautiousness as regards leaving this post. I believe that this Abenaki war party is far larger than either you, or I, suspected. That being said, I agree that we cannot leave Miss Henderson to the mercy of the savages, whether she be alive or dead. I do believe that..." Jenkins stopped as his sergeant major was approaching, obviously with an urgent matter.

"Yes, Sarn't Major?"

"Begging your pardon Sir, but one of the sentries on the western palisade asks if you could join him on the platform with your spy glass."

Jenkins cocked an eyebrow and looked at his sergeant major for a moment, before he could ask, Jacobs told him, "It's Private Rutland Sir, not an excitable man in my experience."

"No, he's not, seems like a solid chap to me, let's go and see what has the man in such a state."


Molly had determined that the marshy area she had awakened next to was indeed very near the river itself, she could hear the rush of the river not far away. When she had waited quite some time to make sure she was alone, she had cautiously made her way along the edge of the marsh by moving to her left, which by the position of the sun she knew was south.

She eventually reached the river. She noted the direction of the current and made her way to the river bank after again making sure she was alone. Slowly she made her way down the river. She was sure that the Mohican encampment had been north of the fort.

As time went by and the sun rose higher into the sky, she began to doubt her choice of direction. What if the encampment had been south of the fort?

She began to doubt herself.


"What seems to be the problem Rutland?" Jenkins asked as he climbed onto the platform.

"Mornin' Sir. If you'd point yer spyglass just to the left of those two small pines, 'ats right Sir, right there. D'ya see what I think I see?"

"Damme! Sarn't Major! Form a party, twenty men, loaded firelocks! It's Miss Henderson, she's over by the river! She's alive!!


Molly saw the fort, she would have run to it but her legs had nothing left. She thought to wave her arms, she thought she could discern a hint of red atop the palisade. As she nearly did so, she saw a band of Indians emerge from the woods to her left.

Abenaki!


Jenkins saw the Abenaki at the same time Molly did, though he couldn't have known that. 

"Sarn't Major! Fifty men! The Abenaki are here!"

"Very good Sir."


Hook Nose tried to caution Sleeping Panther not to advance on the soldier fort. "You say you stopped them in the forest, why then are there so many inside?"

Sleeping Panther thought Hook Nose was being too cautious. After all, they had destroyed the Mohican war party in the night, now they would trap the soldiers in the fort and when night fell, they would burn them out. He knew they had killed many soldiers in the forest, there couldn't be that many in the fort.

When the gate swung open, Sleeping Panther stopped in his tracks. Why would the red soldiers come out into the open?


"Easy lads, there are more of you than there are of them. Steady, keep your intervals." Sergeant Major Edward Jacobs was speaking quietly to the men filing from the fort. Those who had seen action before knew what to expect, but their memories of the fight in the forest on the way here did not make them happy to see Indians again.

"Form line if you will Sarn't Major!" Jenkins commanded. He was keeping one eye on the Indians who had come running into the open but were now hesitating. As near as he could tell there were perhaps twenty of them. Perhaps more were back in the forest, but he didn't intend to stay in the open any longer than would be necessary for Jefferson and his unwounded Mohicans to get Miss Henderson into the fort.

"Company will advance!" Jenkins commanded.

The Abenaki were visibly nervous now, though they were within range, Jenkins wanted to close the range before giving them a volley.


"We should leave this place brother, the red soldiers are too many." Hook Nose said as he continued to switch his gaze from the advancing soldiers to the forest behind them. It would be so easy to slip into the woods and be gone. They had many Mohican scalps, they had made their point to the English and their allies, it was time to go home.

"You are an old woman Hook Nose." Sleeping Panther muttered, then, to the other warriors, he screamed, "Let us kill the red soldiers! Who is with me? See, see they have stopped! They fear you!"

With an echoing cry, Sleeping Panther raised his war club over his head and with another blood-curdling scream ran at the halted soldiers. His war band followed, even Hook Nose who burned with the insult he had been given.


Sergeant Major Jacobs watched as one of the Abenaki screamed and then ran at the soldiers. Followed by all of his men. Bloody bastard's brave, I'll give him that, he thought. Then in his best parade ground voice, he addressed the company...

"First rank!"

"Poise your firelocks!"

"Cock your firelocks!"

"Present!"

"FIRE!"

Jacobs heard the screams through the thick powder smoke, he also heard his captain command, "Give 'em another Sarn't Major!"

So he did...

"Second rank!"

"Poise your firelocks!"

"Cock your firelocks!"

"Present!"

"FIRE!"


Lieutenant Jefferson had returned, he had his warriors take Miss Henderson into the fort. One of the bigger men, Small Elk, carried her over his shoulder. She had wanted to run on her own two legs but Jefferson could see that she was done in, "Best let this lad assist you Ma'am, it'll be faster."

She had consented, especially when she heard the Abenaki scream and charge the soldiers.

"Dear God Captain, I do believe you've killed them all." Jefferson said as he came up to Jenkins. He gestured to his Mohicans to continue into the safety of the fort. They, seeing that the fight was over, continued on.


Jenkins had seen it before, but he still found the results of a close range volley to be sickening in the extreme. On the ground, not twenty paces from the front rank, was a mass of bodies, some still struggled, most were still. All were drenched in blood, their own and that of their comrades.

He also knew what had to be done.

"Company will fix bayonets!"

As the sergeant major carried out the rest of that command, Jenkins drew his sword. When the men had charged their bayonets¹, he commanded, "Company will advance."

As the men advanced, Jacobs would point out a still living warrior to the nearest soldier, "That one laddie, it's a mercy, don't let 'em suffer."

One man balked at the idea of bayoneting a prone, wounded enemy. Jacobs said to the man, softly, "Kill him Johnston, he'd do the same to you, after lifting your scalp. It's all right lad, don't be shy."

Within minutes all of Sleeping Panther's war party was dead.

"Burial party Sir?" Jacobs asked.

"Of course, Sarn't Major. We're not barbarians."




¹ The front rank lower their muskets into an almost horizontal position, with the right hand held against the hollow of the thigh, below the hip. The ranks behind keep their muskets raised in the port arms position for the moment, to avoid stabbing their own comrades in the front rank.

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32 comments:

  1. The way this is going, I shell enjoy Michael Caine in ABENAKI!

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    1. That scene reminded me of Michael Caine in ZULU as well. Probably my favorite scene in the movie, aside from any scene with the old Sergeant Major in it.

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    2. I may have been subconsciously inspired by that film, having seen it multiple times. I think I'm due for another viewing soon.

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    3. British musket/rifle tactics didn't change significantly from the late 1600's to the early 1900's. Stand and deliver while in formation was a thing for a very very long time.

      Almost like the uniforms and the guns changed more than the tactics (a simplification, but...)

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    4. When the troops needed to be more or less within voice range for commands to be heard and executed, the tactic of standing in line and firing volleys was useful. The Boers began breaking the redcoats of that habit, the Great War really made them stop that. In truth they could have learned from the American Civil War that that was a bad practice, but after all, those were mere colonials...

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  2. Check the 3rd paragraph. I think the second north should be south. Old Guns

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  3. This may have been some of the most riveting stuff you have written yet, Sarge. Well done indeed.

    One wonders what would have happened had the Tribes learned - far earlier - to respect flintlocks and their range, or gotten more. History might be slightly different.

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    1. Good point, but it was also something of a numbers game. The Indians were not as numerous as they had been earlier due to disease (epidemics depopulated a long stretch of the Atlantic coastline even before the Pilgrims arrived). The number of Europeans arriving meant that the people pushing back the frontier were being augmented and losses replaced at a rate which the Indians couldn't match.

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    2. More Indians with muskets, the raid-style of Indian Warfare would have been, hrmmm, still not successful. More bloody, more concentrated maybe. Rifles would have fitted more into the flowing war style of the various tribes.

      But, really, even close up, the Indians favored flowing raid tactics in hand-to-hand, fast moving, advance/withdrawal, kind of like light cavalry with their foot tactics (and, definitely light cav with the western tribes when mounted.) As long as the Europeans were able to form heavy infantry formations and bring the stonk and shock of said heavy formations, the Indians could win a few, but would lose the overall war.

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  4. I can hear the slightly upper-crustish sound to Captain Jenkins voice. You have gotten the speech patterns and the styles down very well.

    The ruffling of Jefferson's feathers and Jenkins smoothing them, a very good exchange. I could feel the tension ratchet up and then flow back out.

    And, well, there's a reason that good forts have a huge clear-cut area around them. The Abenaki just found out why. Unfortunately, unless one or two survived, it isn't going to be a good teaching moment for the Abe. Teaching by inference - They just all disappeared - isn't most people's forte.

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    1. Thanks, I try. (Probably picked up by watching Black Adder.)

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    2. Or reading Horatio Hornblower or Sharpe's Rifles...

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    3. I have a confession to make, I've not read any Hornblower. It's ashamed I am...

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    4. Well, ya ain't dead yet, so there's still time...

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    5. Second on the Hornblower recommendation, Sarge. Though Parick O'Brien is also commendable (and addictive).
      You've drawn me right back in, Sarge. Good stuff!
      Boat Guy

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    6. Well, I did devour the series written by Alexander Kent, most riveting!

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    7. You must read The Hornblower Saga! Hornblower and the Hotspur is my favorite.

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    8. So many books, so little time.

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    9. Alexander Kent was the pen name of Douglas German, who wrote WWI and WWII novels under his real name. I have pondered on him writing a Bolitho book, at the same time he was writing Winged Escort, his book about CVEs. He has let his mind wander, it being a long dreary January day. Bolitho's frigate is about to be overwhelmed by a French First Rate, when two Avenger streak by, and moments later the First Rate blows up.Although that Bolitho novel was never published, of course.

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    10. StB #1 - I knew that. Except the two Avengers going after the First Rate, nice touch. 😁

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    11. StB #2 - Germans on the mind?

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    12. Nope,my victimization by autocorrect continues.

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  5. "...he didn't intend to stay in the open any longer that would be necessary." Think that should read "...than would be...", eh?

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  6. Speaking of Hornblower & C.S. Forester OAFS, might I suggest another work of his along the lines of the Cruel Sea & an EQUALLY good read: "The Good Shephard" about another DE in the N. Atlantic guarding convoys. Check it out!

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    1. I've read that, quite excellent! I believe it's the book the movie Greyhound was based on.

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