MoboReader > Literature > Uncle Sam's Boys with Pershing's Troops / Or, Dick Prescott at Grips with the Boche


Uncle Sam's Boys with Pershing's Troops / Or, Dick Prescott at Grips with the Boche By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 8698

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

Then came the Moro rush!

All soldiers cheer in the charge, but these brown men had their own kind of battle-cry-a deafening, blood-curdling din.

Yet the regulars made a noise that was heard even over the Moro yelling. There was a smart sound of firing as the magazines of the soldiers' rifles were once more emptied.

The slaughter by men coolly firing at this close range, even in the darkness, was a heavy one. It testified to the courage of these Moros that they could take such punishment and not run.

True, many of the brown-skinned foe did waver, yet through their lines rushed groups of yelling fanatics, armed now only with straight or curved swords and knives. These men of cold steel rushed valiantly into close quarters.

To the soldiers the order to fix bayonets was never given; the men fixed their bayonets by instinct as they emptied their magazines.

Now steel met steel, in a cold, ringing, deadly clash. Occasionally the cry of a stricken man rent the air, though the majority bore their hurts with grunts or in stoical silence.

The greater part of the regulars leaped to the top of the trench wall to meet the shock. That move, however, soon carried them beyond the entrenchments.

Some of the regulars found themselves fighting three or more of the enemy at once. Lieutenant Prescott shot one Moro dead, but as he did so Sergeant Hal saw another Moro, armed with a sword, rush at the lieutenant from behind.

Overton leaped forward, cracking the fellow's head with the butt of his clubbed gun. Just as he did so Prescott fired squarely over Hal's left shoulder, knocking over a Moro bent on stabbing the sergeant from behind. The noise of that explosion, so close to his ear, deafened the young sergeant temporarily.

Both officer and sergeant realized that each in turn had saved the other's life, but there was no time for acknowledgments. The foe had yet to be met and worsted in that furious conflict.

At last it was over. The Moro men had broken and fled, their yells dying out in the distance.

Fully two dozen of the soldiers started to pursue. Prescott turned, bawling an order to the bugler over the din. The notes of the bugle recalled the soldiers.

"Men," shouted Lieutenant Prescott, "the first duty is to get the wounded behind the trench and then into the house. Every man badly hurt must have prompt attention."

Then, indeed, came the time to take account of what had happened.

Three of the soldiers already lay dead, their heads and bodies frightfully gashed. Another, Bender, was dying from two knife thrusts through his lungs.

Four more men were too badly hurt to help themselves. A dozen others had wounds of varying degrees of seriousness but were able to reach shelter unaided.

Uncle Sam had won the victory for the moment, but he had paid dearly for it.

"I'm glad you gave me that word when you did, Sergeant," murmured Private Hunter. "It steadied me. If it hadn't been for that I guess I'd have been a goner by this time."

It was after three o'clock in the morning when Sergeant Overton felt that he finally had a moment for free breathing.

"Sergeant," said the lieutenant, "your watch tour is long past. Lie down and get some sleep."

"You're sure that I can be spared, sir?"

"Certainly; you can be called if you're needed."

To one not accustomed to war it might seem strange, but thirty seconds after Hal had wrapped himself in his blanket he was deep in dreamless slumber. He slept until the sun was fairly high. Then Prescott awoke him.

"Kelly-Slosson-are they back, sir?" were Hal's first words, as he threw aside his blanket.

"Back nearly three hours ago, Sergeant," smiled the officer. "It's half-past eight. I've been occupied, and have missed my breakfast. Come into the house and breakfast with me, Sergeant Overton. Sergeant Dinsmore will look after things outdoors."

"Did-have you buried the Moros who fell?" questioned Hal, looking out beyond the trench.

"The rascals sent over men with two lanterns, and asked permission to carry off their casualties," explained the officer. "I let them do it."

"It must have given them a lot of work to do," muttered Hal.

"It did. I estimate their dead at thirty, and their badly hurt at forty or more. We made it an expensive night for them."

"We paid a big price on our ow

n part, sir," returned the young sergeant, "for we paid in good Americans."

"We can't have war without death, can we?" half sighed the West Pointer.

Once inside the house Hal's first care was to visit the wounded men.

"Bender's gone, sir?" asked Hal.

"Yes," nodded Lieutenant Prescott gravely.

Then they went to breakfast, for the soldier must eat or presently stop fighting.

"You'll want to know my orders from Captain Cortland," said Lieutenant Prescott, filling his cup with coffee.

"Yes, sir; if you feel at liberty to tell me."

"The captain's instructions are few. He tells me that, as commander in the field, I will have to use my own judgment to a great degree. But the captain urges me, as soon as I may be satisfied that the Moros have withdrawn, to leave Sergeant Dinsmore here with a guard of twelve men, and to bring the white people from this plantation into town with me. Then Dinsmore, if he sees no more of the Moros within three days, is to march his men back to Bantoc. With the limited number of men at his disposal Captain Cortland recognizes the impossibility of keeping a military guard regularly at each plantation."

"But, sir, if Dinsmore and a dozen men had to brave such a charge as we met last night he would stand a very good chance of having his detachment wiped out, wouldn't he?"

"No; for the Moros would attempt such a charge only in the night time. Captain Cortland has sent me a supply of various-colored rockets, and a code by which they are to be used. So, if attacked by a rush at night, Sergeant Dinsmore will withdraw with his men to the house, and send up rockets that will be seen in Bantoc and at Fort Franklin. Then a column will be sent out to overtake and punish any brown rascals who may attack."

"Have you seen any signs of the Moros lately, sir?"

"No, Sergeant. Later in the forenoon, however, I think I shall order you to take about twenty men out in skirmish line. You will try to draw the enemy's fire, returning if you succeed. If you do not succeed, you will search the woods, always keeping an alert eye open for the possibility of running into an ambushed party of cold steel men in the woods."

"I shall be delighted to have charge of that reconnaissance, sir," Hal replied promptly.

"Yes; it is work cut out for just such a cool head as yours, Sergeant."

"Thank you, sir."

"Well, you are cool-headed, so why should I not say it?" laughed Lieutenant Prescott. "Sergeant, your presence here has made my own work half as heavy as it would have been without you. I shall so report to Captain Cortland on my return."

"Thank you, sir. May I ask if Captain Cortland reports trouble with the Moros in any other locality?"

"Nothing has as yet broken out anywhere else. Captain Cortland writes me that Bantoc, while apparently quiet, is really a seething volcano, ready to break out into insurrection, riot and pillage. Lieutenant Holmes is still in personal command over in Bantoc, so I fancy your friend, Sergeant Terry, is there with him."

As Hal followed the lieutenant out after breakfast, the first man they saw was Slosson, busily smoking the pipe that he had tramped twenty-four miles to obtain.

Then, as the officer walked away, Kelly sauntered up.

"Did you two have any trouble on the way in or back, Kelly?" asked Sergeant Overton.

"Not the least bit, though we stepped pretty close to some of the 'goo-goos' in getting away from here, Sarge. But we got by without telling 'em we were there."

"You two must be tired."

"We've had the bit of a nap," replied Kelly.

An hour later Lieutenant Prescott again approached Sergeant Hal.

"Count off your twenty men, Sergeant. Line 'em up for instruction. I'm going to send you over yonder, now, to make that scouting reconnaissance. Don't fall into any traps, Sergeant."

Hal quickly detailed his men, ordering them to fall in.

"Why am I not picked, Sarge?" whispered Kelly.

"Man, you've done enough."

Lieutenant Prescott's instructions were few, though to the point.

Then, in line of skirmishers, Sergeant Hal Overton ordered his men forward. Over the trench they went, then advanced steadily toward the woods from which had come the rush of the night before.

Those left behind watched anxiously. Would the issue mean another savage fight-or what?

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