Thursday, June 17, 2021

They Had No Chance

(Source)

Surprisingly, the company sent out from Rumford under Captain Horace Manderson had arrived at the fort without having seen any trouble along the way. Two men died on the trip out, one from a fall, the other a suicide, but Manderson had left Rumford with 97 men, he'd arrived with 95.

"So this is Number Five." Captain Manderson said after doffing his cap to Major Samuel Jenkins.

"Number Five, Captain?" Jenkins looked puzzled.

"Yes, the Governor of New Hampshire refers to this place as Number Five, seems logical as we have posts running up the Cannitticutt starting with Number One, we're north of Number Four, so..."

"Ah yes, makes perfect sense.¹" 

"So Major, where would you like my men to bivouac? It's obvious there isn't enough room within the fort to accommodate all of us, so..."

At that moment one of the Mohicans raised a blood-curdling cry from atop the westward facing palisade. While most of the Englishmen turned in that direction, Lieutenant Will Jefferson and his Mohican companion, Standing Wolf, looked to the west, towards the river. Within moments they could see what Tall Crow had seen from his higher vantage point, a party of Mohican warriors coming up from the river.

"How many do you see Standing Wolf?" Jefferson asked, shading his eyes against the afternoon sun.

"Many warriors, Blue Eyes, sixty-seven by your way of counting. There, you see the tall man in the front? That, my friend, is Grey Bear."

Jefferson could now see the man Standing Wolf mentioned. A very large warrior, both tall and broad, his hair was grey, like a wolf's pelt. He was a man of some years but from the look of him, he was a powerful man. Jefferson now understood why his name was known along the length of the Cannitticutt.

"Lieutenant!" Jefferson heard his name being called, he turned to see the Major walking towards him along with the new captain.

"Sir, how may I be of service?" Jefferson doffed his hat to both men. It wasn't really necessary as a Guards lieutenant stood higher in the service than even a major in the colonial service. But he knew when to subordinate himself to the greater good, which was keeping the men in the fort alive.

After introducing Manderson and Jefferson, Jenkins said, "I would greatly appreciate you taking command of my old company, Leftenant. I believe our Mohican allies have two war chiefs now to lead them. So they might dispense with your services?"

"It would be my honor Sir. Standing Wolf expressed much the same thought." He looked over to where the Mohicans were greeting each other. As he watched, he saw a man come running towards the fort from the north.  He thought he recognized the man, ah yes, He Laughs, a most ironic name for a man who seldom smiled.

He saw the man talking with Standing Wolf and Grey Bear, then saw Standing Wolf point in his direction. He Laughs immediately ran up to him as the Mohicans began to move off to the north.

"Blue Eyes, the French are coming down the valley, my people are going out to meet them and slow them down. Grey Bear says that if you form a line with your fire sticks south of the little river, you can kill many Frenchmen. We will be in the woods to either side of the trail they use. None will escape." He Laughs had said all of this in Abenaki, which Jefferson spoke rather well now. Of course, neither Jenkins nor Manderson had any idea of what was said.

So Jefferson quickly explained as He Laughs ran off to join his people. Jenkins' eyes lit up.

"Sarn't Major! Muster the battalion immediately. We march north as soon as you're quite ready!"

"If you'll excuse me Sir?" Manderson tipped his hat as he walked over to take charge of his own company.

Jenkins let the men in his own company know that they were to follow Jefferson into battle, "You go to war with one of the finest scouts on the frontier. An officer in His Majesty's Foot Guard!"

Sergeant Rutland immediately raised a "Huzzah!" Within minutes the men were formed in march column and were setting off.²


"Alain, something is wrong, I can sense it." Jacques Gaudry looked nervously at his brother. Their sergeant looked back and nearly told them to be quiet, but he too was nervous. He knew the brothers had experience in this wilderness.

"Yes, Jacques, there are people to our flanks and they are not our allies. Where are our flankers and lead scouts?"

The column marched on, though a ripple passed down it as more of the men felt an unseen presence. As for the Abenaki and Wyandot scouts, most of them were dead, ambushed and overwhelmed with barely a whisper. Little Wolf still lived, he had pulled the corpse of a dead Abenaki over himself, feigning death as the Mohican passed him by.


Sous-Lieutenant Louis François Joseph Marie de Vignerot was marching idly along beside the first men in the column. He could see that the trees began to thin out just ahead. The young noble had superb eyesight and thought he saw people forming up in the fields past the edge of the forest. People in red uniforms. As he turned to tell Capitaine Alphonse Étienne Comte du Langeron of his observation, he thought one of his soldiers had punched him from behind. He was puzzled and not a little upset.

Sergent Pierre Caillou couldn't believe his eyes as the young lieutenant sank to his knees, blood was beginning to issue from his mouth as well. Only when the young man fell onto his face did the sergeant see the arrow in his back.

"Alarme! Alarme! Les indiens attaquent!³" As the sergeant bellowed his warning, the man next to him spun around and fell onto him, an arrow protruding from the side of his head.

"Steady! Form up, form line!" The captain was trying to get the men to deploy into a firing line, then realized that would be impossible here in the trees.

"Advance! To the meadow! Third company, cover the rear!"


Major Jenkins watched as the French came stumbling from the woods, they were trying to form ranks to fire upon the Indians attacking their flanks, and now their rear. It seemed that they had not noticed the English formed to their front.

"Battalion will advance!" Jenkins commanded.

The drummers began to beat the pace as the line advanced. Some of the French heard those drums and turned, not sure what to think. Once they realized that the soldiers were English, some of them tried to form a line to face the advancing red ranks.

It was far too late.


Third Company had managed to semi-form and fire a single volley. A number of the Indians went down, but these new troops were very slow to reload. Before they could fire another volley, a tide of screaming Mohican warriors overwhelmed them.

Capitaine Alphonse Étienne Comte du Langeron saw his Third Company torn to red ruins in mere moments. He drew his sword.

"Second Company! To me! First Company, about face. Sergent Malheur take command of the First!"

As he turned to take the Second Company under command and face the English, the red coated ranks fired a volley.

(Source)

The French battalion was in utter ruin. Most of the men threw down their arms and begged mercy from the English. Those of the First Company who could, ran towards the English line with the Mohicans in hot pursuit.

Before the day was done and Major Jenkins regained control of his Mohican allies, one-hundred and three French soldiers were down, many of them dead, many of them wounded badly enough that they would not survive the night.

A number of the French had shed their grey-white coats and fled into the forest. Jenkins released the Mohicans to track them down. "Bring us prisoners Standing Wolf, they can give us information." Jenkins had pleaded. He truly doubted any of those Frenchmen would survive. If the forest didn't kill them, the Mohicans would.

Sergeant Major Edward Jacobs came up to Jenkins and reported, "Forty-three prisoners Sir. Some of 'em wounded, most are okay, but they're all absolutely terrified."

"Did we take any officers?" Jenkins wanted to know.

"No Sir, just two sergeants. One of 'em said that all of their officers fell, there were three of 'em I gather."

"Pity, the common soldiers won't have much information as to the French king's intentions in the New World I should think."

"Probably not Sir. King's don't hobnob with the likes of fellows like me."

Jenkins grinned, "I don't know Sarn't Major, I rather think our king would get along with you just fine."


Jacques Gaudry had stripped the clothing from a dead Abenaki. Though he now looked somewhat like a native, he was disturbed at how pale his skin was. It had been some time since he'd been long enough in the sun to darken up. Living in an army barracks wasn't conducive to that sort of thing. He gathered soil from the forest floor and rubbed it into his face and neck, arms and legs. An imperfect disguise at best he realized.

He had met up with Little Wolf and the two had hidden themselves as the Mohicans chased the French survivors through the forest. They were safe for the moment. But Jacques worried, where was his brother Alain?

They had been separated in the fierce fighting at the tail of the column. The last sight he had of Alain was his brother locked in combat with a Mohican warrior. Then he too had had to grapple with a screaming warrior who had thoughts of lifting his scalp.

His bayonet had silenced that man, but in the melee he had lost sight of Alain. Now he had to find his brother. He couldn't leave this place without knowing Alain's fate.




Maps -

The area around the Fort at Number 5
Google Maps

The area of our story.
Google Maps

The Tribes of the Northeast
(Source)

Editor's note: To my knowledge, no battle like the one I describe occurred in the vicinity where I had it taking place. It would have been very unusual for a French unit to be that far south. Unlikely and improbable, though not impossible. Call it artistic license...



¹ As I've mentioned before, the post at Number Five is entirely fictional. The posts at Numbers One through Four really did exist (see this post). There is a museum/tourist attraction in Charlestown, New Hampshire which is a recreation of the Fort at Number Four. I spent a summer there firing a cannon. Great fun.
² Jenkins had 96 men available for duty at the fort, of whom twenty were left behind under a corporal to guard the fort. Manderson's company had 95 men. So under Jenkins' immediate control were 171 men. Grey Bear and Standing Wolf controlled 73 Mohican warriors. The French numbered roughly 210 men, European and Indian. Most of the Europeans were poorly trained.
³ The Indians are attacking!

Link to all of the Chant's fiction.

32 comments:

  1. "Jefferson let the men in his own company know they were to follow Jefferson into battle".........might that be Jenkins beginning this sentence?!?.....Can't find your Muse to ask her..........:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. D'oh! Fixed it.

      It was only last night that I noticed that there are perhaps too many characters whose last name starts with J (Jenkins, Jacobs, Jefferson) all in leadership roles. My Muse better have a good reason for doing that. 🙄

      Delete
  2. That circular palisade fort reminds me of Fort Necessity (in my parents' neck of the woods). Oh wait, it is. That would be why, heh! Turns out a couple of sticks in a muddy field didn't do ol' George Washington any good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, the painting is an anachronism, but I liked it and it rather set the tone for the episode.

      Delete
  3. The disconnect between the Continental French and the New World French was something that would bedevil the French throughout the war. The Continental French considered the colonists as not really knowing a darn thing about war; the colonists considered the Continentals wildly unprepared for the landscape, enemies, and conditions of the New World. It bedeviled their officers to no end.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well said, had the European French listened to their colonial counterparts, North America would look far different today. (And I probably would be writing in French, not English.)

      Delete
  4. Replies
    1. You can say, "It's about time," and I would not disagree.

      Delete
    2. Sarge, I think it may just as likely be a case of feeling like I should know that area for its history, but find I am sadly lacking in actual geographic details.

      Delete
    3. One thing I bitch about constantly is the paucity of good maps in some history books. So what do I do? Forget to include maps! 😲

      Delete
  5. " HUZZAH " Do people actually say things like, " HUZZAH "?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In olden times they certainly did!

      Delete
    2. Scott, I still do. Regularly. And yes, I do get looks.

      Delete
    3. Me, too! But then again, I also do the "Hip, Hip, Hooray!" thingy. And occasionally the "Urrah!" thingy.

      Delete
    4. I say "HOOEY" a lot, does that count?

      Delete
  6. Sarge, I'm giving YOU a "HUZZAH" for the story - it is moving along quite nicely. Just had a chance to catch up on the last few installments, been busy at work and also travelling. You have a gift for creating characters with whom I can identify at least somewhat and sympathize with even more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Second the "HUZZAH!" (and throw in an " Urrah" to boot). You've set the hook, Sarge.
      Though I've not spent much time in that AO, my people were there (farther south, I believe but do not know for certain) in those days.
      Boat Guy

      Delete
    2. It's a time period I find fascinating, the clash of multiple cultures in a relatively small area.

      Delete
  7. Your inclusion of "The Battle on the Plains" was perfectly placed! It really captured the mental picture that I had. Thanks for all your creative instincts, worked through, in this new book.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Oh, man, hope Alain is okay. Would suck to lose your brother like that.

    First rule of musket war: Don't stand around when the English are in line.

    The Frog officer should have known something was up by the lack of intel from their scouts. I know I would be getting worried if my scouts weren't checking in on a regular basis. Well, they paid for their incompetence with their lives and the lives of their men.

    And, you know, never quite realized how close to the border Montreal is. And the French didn't penetrate very far? Being so close? Luzers, LOL!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A bunch of rookies in the North American forest...

      Never ends well.

      Delete
  9. (Don McCollor)...Minor nit. Jefferson is referred to as Lieutenant then as Leftenant two sentences later...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In English usage, it's spelled "lieutenant," but it's pronounced "leftenant." When a character says the word, I use "leftenant" as that's how it would have been pronounced.

      Delete
    2. (Don McCollor)...Logical, thanks...It brings to mind a WW2 snippet of a US officer (who probably pronounced "Lieutenant" like Bill Malden wrote it as 'lootenant') being introduced to a British one. He asked "And who is your rightenant"...

      Delete
  10. My sense of humor with your map: If the scouts have trouble finding the battle, they can just take the 91 freeway south to exit 27, and left off the ramp! hahah.

    ReplyDelete

Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

NOTE: Comments on posts over 5 days old go into moderation, automatically.