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   Chapter 16 DATTO HAKKUT MAKES A NEW MOVE

Uncle Sam's Boys with Pershing's Troops / Or, Dick Prescott at Grips with the Boche By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 10548

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


To the civilian mind, being sent forward purposely to draw the enemy's fire, looks like "ticklish" business.

Yet it is better to risk a few men rather than sacrifice many. It is on the same principle that a "point" of several men is always sent in advance of the larger body when moving supposedly in the face of the enemy. The "point" often draws disastrous fire upon itself, but the larger body of troops is saved from catastrophe.

The soldier accepts calmly this work of going out ahead to draw a possible enemy's fire. It's "all in the game," as he understands it.

Of course, when troops are sent out only for the purpose of drawing fire, these troops withdraw, if necessary, as soon as they attract the enemy's fire to themselves, and thus locate the enemy.

Sergeant Hal Overton kept at the right of his thin, sparse line of men as they moved forward.

Every man had his eyes ahead; each was watching for the first sign of trouble.

"When the line had reached a plane within a hundred yards of the edge of the woods the soldiers expected, momentarily, to hear the signal shot, then the first scattering shots, followed by the heavy, crashing volleys.

Yet they passed this point safely and went on. The edge of the woods was gained, still without provoking hostile shots. It would have looked to one untrained in the art of war as though there were no enemy there. But this handful of soldiers knew better than to jump at any such conclusion. The Moros, like the Tagalos and Pampangos, are fond of getting an enemy at close quarters, and then leaping on him with cold steel. The Tagalo or Pampango fights with the bolo, the Moro often with the creese, and with all these brown-skinned men the game is the same-to leap up unexpectedly, from the tall grass, before the soldier has had time to throw himself on his guard.

A swift, short-armed cutting movement-a mere slash, delivered with muscular effort, and the soldier is gashed across the abdomen. After this cutting has been effectively delivered the white fighting man usually sinks down in a pool of his own blood, and his fighting days are likely to be over.

Small wonder that Uncle Sam's infantrymen prefer facing native bullets to native steel! The bolo man, or the sword man, is the soldier's greatest aversion. It is like fighting rattlesnakes!

Glancing down the line, Sergeant Hal saw one or two of the newer men flinch slightly.

"Steady, there!" Hal called, in an easy but business-like tone. "If we strike the rascals an unbroken line is the one hope for us all."

They had now reached the woods, but no halt was made. The boyish sergeant, who knew his business, marched his little command about six hundred yards under the trees.

Still no Moros were encountered.

Then Hal turned his line to the left, marching on through the woods. In this manner, in less than an hour, he had thoroughly explored the territory near the Seaforth plantation, and had returned to the point where his command had first entered the forest.

"Halt!" ordered the young sergeant. "Fall out, but don't scatter."

Then Overton stepped to the edge of the woods, waving his hat. In the distance Lieutenant Prescott, with his own hat, returned the signal. Then Hal, using one arm in place of a signal flag, wig-wagged the information:

"We have thoroughly scouted all about your position, and find no sign of an enemy."

From the lieutenant came the answer, wig-wagged by arm:

"Good! March your men in."

"I have allowed men to fall out and rest," Hal answered. "They are tired after their hike."

"Rest your men five minutes, then march them in," replied Lieutenant Prescott.

"Very good, sir," Hal signaled.

Exactly five minutes later, Overton commanded:

"Fall in! By twos right, march!"

Within the hour several of the former Moro laborers on the plantation returned. They reported that the Datto Hakkut and some three hundred men were on the march, miles away and evidently headed for the mountains.

"These men are honest and loyal, Lieutenant," explained Mr. Seaforth. "They are my regular laborers. Of course, when the attack came those who could not reach the house took to their heels. But these natives, like many Moros, are dependable. They are not to be classed with the idle, vicious cut-throats that follow the datto."

"Hm!" replied Lieutenant Prescott, politely, but he scanned all of these returned natives, keenly. None of them, however, showed any wounds, or bore any other signs of having seen recent military service with the datto.

"Mr. Seaforth," said the young officer, presently, "I am going to follow the course laid down by Captain Cortland, and return to Bantoc with the greater part of my command. I shall, however, leave Sergeant Dinsmore and a dozen men here. I urge that all the white people of the plantation return with me to town."

"You can take the women with you, Lieutenant, if you will," replied the planter, "but we men feel that we should stay here and make every effort to go on running the plantation."

"If you do not think it too dangerous, Mr. Seaforth."

"No; I can trust my laborers, and they tell me that Hakkut and his rascals appear really bent on reaching the mountains."

"But if they go to the mountain

s, you know, they go only that they may be more secure until they have recruited other brown rebels. If Hakkut can get enough men together, he will attempt to carry fire and bloodshed even into Bantoc."

"Let the women go with you, and we men will stay here," was the planter's decision.

Half an hour later the column, minus Sergeant Dinsmore and his squad, swung off on the return march. A wagon had been provided for conveying the dead soldiers, another for the wounded, and a third vehicle for the women.

Four hours later the column was at barracks, from which the women were escorted into Bantoc, where there was a military guard, and where they could stop with friends.

Just before dark an escort of twenty men, guarding two wagons, marched into Bantoc. Sergeant Hal had asked and secured permission to head the escort, for he wanted to see his chum, Sergeant Noll Terry.

"Well, so you've been doing some real fighting," demanded Noll in a tone of friendly envy.

"Yes," assented Hal.

"The Moros are not such very classy fighters, are they?"

"They're good enough for me," Hal Overton answered. "I don't mind their rifle fire, but I can do very well with the least possible number of brushes against their cold steel."

"But our fellows have their bayonets."

"Yes; but wait until you have to face a rush against those murderous creeses. I can't tell you much about it. It sounds tame in the telling, Noll, but you'll know all about it when you have to go up against it. How have things been here in Bantoc?"

"Bad," Noll replied, with a shake of his head.

"Any serious trouble?"

"No; no fighting. For that matter, I think most of the Moros here in Bantoc like us well enough, and are disposed to be orderly," replied Terry thoughtfully. "Of course they're the more peaceable part of the population, anyway. On the other hand, there are plenty of Moros here in Bantoc who don't hesitate to let us see how sullen and restless they are. Only a spark is needed, or maybe only a secret word from the datto, and two or three hundred ugly fellows here in Bantoc will try to get the upper hand, or else take to the brush with Hakkut."

"We're going to have a warm time here before we're through, I think," replied Sergeant Hal, with a shake of his head.

"What puzzles me," muttered Noll, "is why the government doesn't send troops enough here to wind up the thing in short order. The whole of our first battalion of the Thirty-fourth, for instance, ought to take the field at once, backed by a platoon of light artillery. We ought to be sent to chase Hakkut clean across the island and into the ocean on the other side of Mindanao."

"It's not for me to criticize the government, or to say what it ought to do," Hal rejoined.

"Yet I can understand, lads, that you're puzzled," broke in the quiet voice of Lieutenant Holmes behind them. "You wonder, both of you, why the government doesn't use more force. Have you any idea of the great number of troops we already have here in the islands? As it is, it takes an Army corps to keep the natives in anything resembling order. Yet, of course, the government, in this especial case, could exert itself and send an expedition of a regiment of infantry, a squadron of cavalry and two batteries of light artillery, say, against Datto Hakkut."

"That would be enough to wind these rebels up in short order, sir," murmured Hal.

"No; it would do nothing of the sort," smiled Lieutenant Holmes. "Hakkut and his crew would laugh at us. What would happen? The rebels would disperse, and soon show up at their homes, all through this island. As for Hakkut, he would go into hiding. He always is in hiding when he isn't in the field defying us. I don't know whether you sergeants know it, but it's a fact that no American Army officer has ever seen Hakkut. He never shows himself, and his hiding place is a good one, for no American knows where it is. So our big expedition that might go out against Hakkut would find none of these rebels to fight. After the troops of the big expedition had been withdrawn, however, then Hakkut and his land pirates would come out again at their own convenience."

"Wouldn't it break up Hakkut's game altogether, sir, if the government kept enough troops here to be able to send a crushing force against him whenever he raised his hand?"

"Possibly it might," nodded Lieutenant Holmes; "but to police all of the Philippine Islands in that fashion we'd have to make the United States Army three times as large as it is to-day-and then station the whole Army in these islands. On the other hand, our present plan of keeping small forces at different points, and sending out small expeditions at need, shows the natives that we don't take them very seriously. We also show them that a hundred of Uncle Sam's regulars is a pretty large force for them to attempt to fight. By attacking the Moros with small expeditions we keep alive and always before them the fact that we know one of our regulars to be equal to several of their pirates."

Both sergeants saluted as Holmes moved on.

"Maybe the lieutenant is right," muttered Noll thoughtfully. "But the present way of fighting these wretches is pretty expensive in the matter of soldiers' lives."

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