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   Chapter 19 HAL TURNS THE GATLING GUN LOOSE

Uncle Sam's Boys with Pershing's Troops / Or, Dick Prescott at Grips with the Boche By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 11464

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"Gatling gun to the head of the line! Lie down, men!"

Two men dropped even before the order had been given, for Moro bullets had found them.

After firing volleys, the "point" and advance guard fell back on the run.

"Take the infantry fire at this point, Sergeant Overton!" commanded Lieutenant Prescott briskly.

"Open magazines! Load magazines!" shouted Sergeant Hal to the men in the swiftly formed front rank. "Ready, aim! At will, point-blank range-fire!"

Prettily enough the American fire opened on the Moros rushing down the narrow path.

The centre of the American column, at Lieutenant Holmes's order, opened fire across the gully at the wooded ambush on the left.

Captain Freeman took up his stand a little forward of the centre, where he could watch the fire in both directions.

"Hurry up that Gatling gun, Prescott."

"Yes, sir."

Prescott and two privates were working at lightning speed to get the Gatling placed. Then the lieutenant fed in a belt of ammunition.

"Sergeant Terry, relieve Sergeant Overton in charge of the advancing firing line. Overton, come here."

"Yes, sir," responded Hal, running up and saluting.

Lieutenant Prescott was just finishing the sighting of the Gatling.

"Attend to the firing of this piece, Sergeant. Fire steadily, though not at fullest speed. Keep it going continuously until it becomes too hot, or until I give the word to stop."

"Very good, sir."

"Begin firing, Sergeant."

Hal's answer was to turn the firing mechanism loose.

R-r-r-r-rip! rang out the exploding cartridges too rapidly for count. Hal swung the nose of the piece slightly from side to side, and the storm of Gatling bullets raked thoroughly the road ahead.

At first the on-rushing Moros had been almost stopped by the sudden, low, accurate infantry fire. They were to be seen ahead in great force, and the cries of their leaders drove them on with greater steadiness.

Now, as the crackling of the Gatling rose on the air, and its projectiles swept the road ahead, constantly supported by brisk infantry fire from at least forty men, the natives were forced to halt. Then they wavered. The hoarse, taunting cries of their leaders, however, drove them forward again.

Twice they wavered, under the blistering fire of the regulars, though each time their leaders succeeded in driving the brown men forward again.

When the fight opened there were at least six hundred yelling Moros in sight, but they were now dropping by scores.

Then, with a wild yell, three hundred more rushed around the base of a low hill, joining the assailants.

"Are the Moros cowards?" demanded the deep, penetrating voice of one of the leaders. "Are the Moros women, that they would live forever? Has heaven no joys for the faithful that you would remain so long away?"

That stirred the fanatical blood of the brown men. They were equal to anything, now! On they dashed, though the Gatling and the steady infantry fire withered the ranks in advance.

On they came, disdaining, now, to return rifle fire with rifle fire. Over their own dead and wounded stepped the brown men, and rushed on.

"Cease firing there, Sergeant Terry. Give 'em the steel!" bellowed Lieutenant Prescott hoarsely, using his hands for a trumpet, though he stood barely twelve feet from young Terry.

"Cease firing," Noll repeated squarely in the bugler's ear. Then the notes of the bugle arose, clear and loud. The firing died out.

"It's cold steel, men! Fix bayonets!" shouted Sergeant Noll.

But Sergeant Hal and two men had dragged the Gatling, momentarily silenced, to one side of the road, where they could still employ this machine of destruction.

Another belt of cartridges Sergeant Overton fed in. Then he started the machine again.

R-r-r-r-rip! The Gatling was performing at hand-to-hand quarters now. Noll sent a dozen men to stand by the gun, defending it from capture with their lives.

Clash! Zing! Slash! Slash! Thrust-cut! It was steel against steel now. On more open ground the Moros might have had a slight advantage, for they are skilled users of the sword and creese, and when their blood is up they know little in the way of terror.

R-r-r-r-r-rip! It was the Gatling, at such close quarters, that now dismayed the brown men. With no mean quality of heroism, they threw themselves against the gun's defenders. They would seize that demon of machinery and hurl it over into the gully below. But the doughboys, with bayonets stationed on the sides of the gun, thrust or stabbed them back. No native approached the muzzle of the Gatling and lived to cause further trouble. In as wide an arc as possible Sergeant Hal swung the nose of the piece from side to side.

Private Danton, standing close to Hal, ready to feed in the next belt of cartridges, fell with a Moro bullet in his brain. Another soldier sprang forward, snatched up the belt of ammunition and stood ready to feed.

Fully twenty-five hundred rounds of Gatling ammunition were thus fired into the dense brown ranks before the Moros felt that they could endure it no longer. On that narrow road they had failed to reach the piece itself. Four brown sharpshooters, back in the ranks, had been detailed by a Moro officer to climb a tree and fill with lead the body of the indomitable young sergeant. As the bullets sang past his head, Hal discovered the tree, turned the Gatling muzzle that way, and fairly shot the leaves off a portion of it. Two of the sharpshooters dropped, riddled through. The other pair dropped from sheer terror.

Sergeant Hal Swung the Nose of the Gun from Side to Side.

Now that the execution on that narrow mountain road was becoming more than flesh and blood could stan

d, the Moros broke in pell-mell confusion.

"Forward, there, Lieutenant Prescott!" yelled Captain Freeman. "Give 'em the bayonet. But don't let your men get away from you."

Prescott's answer was conveyed only by a wave of his stick. After the fleeing Moros he rushed his men, and the Malays in the rear received many an ugly wound.

"Keep the Gatling close up with the advance, Sergeant!" ordered Captain Freeman, striding forward.

When the Moros in front had gotten to hand-to-hand quarters the flanking fire from across the gully had ceased, after having killed two of Freeman's men and wounding six more. Now it reopened.

"Halt, Sergeant! Swing that Gatling around. Turn it loose across the gully."

R-r-r-r-r-rip! Captain Freeman sent two men back on the run to bring up more ammunition for the machine gun. Within two minutes the fire from across the gully had ceased. In the meantime three more regulars of the centre had been hit.

"Now, run it forward, Sergeant," commanded Captain Freeman. "Support Lieutenant Prescott. The Moros have halted him for the moment."

Again the Gatling went into action up front, where Sergeant Noll Terry, in the front rank, was taking more than his share of the attack, though as yet he had given many wounds and received none. Yet Prescott's advance would have been driven back had it not been for the prompt arrival of the machine gun.

The transport and rear guard were coming up now.

"Corporal," called Captain Freeman, "my compliments to Lieutenant Prescott, and tell him that I want the whole line to move forward as rapidly as possible. Our only safety, now, lies in getting as quickly as possible off this road and into an open country."

Prescott received the order, and right loyally responded. As often as possible the Gatling, now up with the advance, was given an opportunity to cool.

Within twenty minutes after the opening of the attack the Moro spirit was broken for the time. They had had more than a hundred men killed and wounded, and that was all the brown men could stand for the first onset.

"Don't pursue any further," ordered Captain Freeman, well up with the advance by this time. "Let the rascals get away if they don't interfere with our advance. We'll have them at hand to fight when we're ready, Lieutenant. What we must do now is to get a place where we can fortify ourselves and look after our wounded."

"We've a heavy list, I fear, sir."

"Heavy enough," replied Captain Freeman gravely.

There was no further opposition to the advance of the regulars, who, despite the great inferiority of their numbers, had made the brown men respect their fighting grit and prowess. Within ten minutes after Captain Freeman's order to abandon the chase there was no visible evidence that there were any Moros in the neighboring mountains.

"March to the right, and take that hill yonder in quick time, Lieutenant Prescott," directed Captain Freeman.

"Very good, sir."

"Follow the lieutenant, you men with the Gatling," ordered the commanding officer, and Hal and his comrades covered the ground as quickly as they could. No opposition was offered to their taking the hill. Here the first regulars to arrive dropped down panting, though Prescott, Hal and Noll remained standing and vigilant. Slowly the rest of the column climbed the hill. After a brief rest the men were set to work fortifying the crest of this little rise of ground.

No trench is ever dug, by a wise commander, at the exact top of a hill, but always at a point a little below, which is called the "military crest." If the trench were on the top of the hill, every time the men raised themselves to fire, their heads and trunks would stand out too clearly defined against the sky-line, and make them easy marks for an enemy below.

Up on the top of the hill, however, was a depression in the ground. Into this space the transport wagons were driven, and here the dead were laid out and the wounded attended to.

A deadly morning's work it had proved. Five infantrymen had been killed, twelve were wounded badly enough to be out of the fighting lists for the present, while twenty-two others, though more or less wounded, were still fit for duty.

"Now, chum, you see what follows the fighting," murmured Hal in Noll's ear. "How do you like what follows the fighting?"

"It looks some grim," Sergeant Terry admitted, wrapping his left hand where a creese had made a gash. "But what are we here for, and why are we soldiers, if this sort of thing doesn't appeal to us?"

"I'm afraid you're hopelessly blood-thirsty," smiled Hal.

"No; I'm not. I enlisted because I believed I'd like the soldier life, and fighting is the highest expression of the soldier's work."

"Hello, there, 'Long'!" called Private Kelly.

"Yes?" answered Private William Green, turning at the hail.

"Did you bring along your kantab and pass plenty of it to the goo-goos?"

"I'll make no money here," grunted William disdaining to answer Kelly's teasing question. "There's no chance to spend money here, so none of the fellows will borrow from me."

"Making no money?" Kelly rebuked him. "Man, isn't your government pay running along, and ain't ye glad ye're here to be drawing it?"

"I don't like this fighting business," grumbled Slosson.

"Why not?" inquired Kelly in mild surprise.

"In that hike I lost my pipe. Lucky for me I brought two more along in my pack. I'll get one of them out, now. Want the other, Kelly?"

"I do not, lad, and my thanks to you. Slosson, I'm beginning to think we ought to force the brown men to accept pipes. If they smoked 'em the way you do yours there'd soon be fewer of the pesky brown goo-goos in this land."

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