At least the squadrons were starting to regain some cohesion after the fury of battle. One man was riding to the rear bearing the guidon of the beaten hussar regiment, to the acclaim of all. “Well done, lad!” Rumtopft called. “But there’s no time to spare. Charge those tin-bellies, boys!” His voice cracked. “At ‘em, by God!”
And his men, his poor tiring men responded magnificently. The horses were close to blown but they raised sufficient momentum to crash into the oncoming heavy cavalry. The dreadful sounds of battle rose once more. Rumtopf regained control of his passion and rode back to join the third squadron. I hate to let the men fight without me, but we’ll need reinforcements. He was glad to see the steady advance of the Bishop’s Horse. Good, I think we’ll need ‘em.
Behind him the fight was swift and brutal. The first squadron of heavy cavalry troopers gave as good as they got against the second squadron of dragoons but the fight turned against them elsewhere. The men of the dragoon’s first squadron broke their opponents, sending them whirling to the rear. But even as they leaned on their saddlebows, exhausted almost beyond measure, they saw the third squadron of cuirassiers calmly open their ranks to allow their beaten fellows through – before coming on at the trot. When contact came it was too much. The dragoons broke and fled.
But something else distracted him then. Hooves pounded the turf and around the Windmühlen-Hügel came a cloud of colorful cavalrymen, all riding hell for leather toward the rear of the Dunkeldorf-Pfuhl lines. For one heart stopping moment Jertz thought they were enemy cavalry before remembering that there were no Hetzenberg hussar regiments in the vicinity. Even as he thought this his foot plunged into a void and he fell flat on his face.
What the hell do you think I’ve been trying to do? Storschen wanted to say. Instead he came to attention and saluted. “Yes, sir,” he replied meekly.
The third squadron began slowly to coalesce out of the chaos, shamefaced but willing to restore order and perhaps some honor from the situation.
Not far away the routed cuirassier squadrons rallied on their guidons, the men savoring the brief moment of relative quiet as they recovered their wind. Closer to the enemy Colonel Seinfeld sat upon his horse alongside the color party of the first squadron and assessed the situation around him. We’ve broken those dragoons, but they’re not broken enough. That reserve squadron still looks full of fight. He cast a glance back over his shoulder. The wretched hussars had disappeared around a shoulder of the low hill but he could hear their trumpets sounding the rally in the distance. They don’t need our protection then, he thought facing front. That means we can concentrate on those gentlemen over there…
“The squadron will advance!” he snapped, and the trumpet sounded. A few hundred yards away the enemy dragoons flowed into motion too, mirroring the actions of the cuirassiers.
General Kaffe-Klatch studied the overall situation and sucked his teeth thoughtfully. The mess which the supposed-elite Regiment Storschen had fallen into was not encouraging. Regiment Jertz had slowed its pace to allow the now recovered First Regiment to catch up. That’s commendable action on Jertz’s part; it shows he has a grasp of his part in the battle, but again, not encouraging to the overall situation. The cavalry are holding their own, which is not quite as I hoped, either. I must get the infantry working for its pay.
“Message!” he snapped. An aide sprang forward, pencil poised over his pad. “To Colonel Babbington, immediate effect. I require you to withdraw your regiment from the village and join the main force in the center. Take up position on the left of Regiment Storschen and support same.”
The aide sped away and Kaffe-Klatch looked over to the right, where the cavalry melee continued with shrewd blows traded by both sides. But now the situation seemed to be altering…
Colonel Rumtopft gritted his teeth and led his own reserve squadron forward at the gallop, grimly determined to stop the rot. The clash came with the all too familiar screams and cries. Pistols banged and flashed, men yelled and cut or were cut down. All too soon the tide turned against the dragoons. “Withdraw and rally!” Rumtopft shouted, standing in his saddle. A cuirassier appeared from nowhere and lunged, his long heavy cavalry sword piercing Rumtopft’s coat and the flesh beneath.
A weak cheer rose but it was some time before the officers and NCOs restored order. Oh well, Jertz thought. It’ll give those sluggards of Storschen’s time to catch up.
He called to his aides. “Take a message to the squadron commanders. First and third squadrons are to follow me against those cuirassiers, the second squadron is to attack that nearest infantry regiment.”
The aides sped off. It would be ideal if I could tie down the enemy cavalry with one squadron whilst the others direct their attention to those fellows over there. And yet, needs must. He glowered at the oncoming foe. They shall not pass!
Once he was sure the messages had been received Schenk called for the canter to be sounded. Second squadron peeled off, heading to the east of the Windmühlen-Hügel. Grasping his sword in his right hand, his Bible and reins in his left, Schenk waved his sword above his head to attract the troopers’ attention then thrust it forward. “Charge!”
The trumpet sang its clarion call and the black horses began to stretch out. Ahead of them one of the cuirassier squadrons responded in kind; the other took one look at the advancing Horse and rode away in a panic. Schenk smiled quietly as the ground flowed beneath the hooves of his mount. One down, one to go…
Colonel Brabenachel looked up with a frown as the enemy artillery fired directly at his regiment. Or directly at me. There’s something so personal about being under artillery fire. Thankfully the salvo went wild. He nodded thoughtfully. Quite a relief, that.
And one-sided too, it seems. As he watched the Hetzenberg artillery made good practice among the ranks of the right-most enemy foot, and a company of grenadiers broke and ran. His excitement was stoked higher still when he saw a squadron of the dour Bishop’s Horse cantering toward the left-most infantry regiment, which was still in some disorder. Or is it..?
“Grenadier company! One step forward, march!” The grenadiers stepped out smartly, coming to attention again with a stamp-crash! of boots. Jertz walked out of the line of fire and watched the enemy cavalry come on. “Present your firelocks!” The weapons were held out, almost as if they were being offered to the oncoming horse. “Shoulder your firelocks!” The muskets came up, an almost unwavering line of wood and steel. Three, two, one… “Fire!”
The first infantry volley of the engagement roared out. Through the smoke Jertz could see enemy saddles emptied, stray horses running, others falling. They’re hurt – but are they hurt enough? Ah! A black-clad cavalry officer saluted him with his sword. Jertz responded, and the enemy turned and retired out of range.
The two sides met in a clash and clang of sword and popping of pistols. The Horse were shaken by the impact and Seinfeld took advantage to press home the attack. Soon the black-clad troopers were breaking off and heading to the rear, their colonel falling back with them, his shouts of encouragement heard even above the battle’s roar. This won’t do, Seinfeld thought and pressed his men to continue the melee. The Horse finally broke, but an urgent shout directed Seinfeld’s attention to the left. Damn!
The squadron of enemy Horse which had been detached was now moving back into view, directly upon his flank. He dimly recalled the sounds of musketry coming from that direction. They attacked, were repelled – and now they’re menacing us!
* * *
Mary Amadeus heard the cheers ring from the battery. There was too much smoke in the way to see much now but she guessed they’d pulled off some remarkable shooting. It’s hard to think that men are dying out there, thanks in part to my efforts, she thought as she filled cartridges. But those same men knew the score when they enlisted, and no one invited them to invade my country! Something in the air told her there’d been a slight change in the weather. Good, perhaps the breeze will get up and clear some of this smoke away.
General Rauppen-Schlepper drummed his fingers on the head of his cane and considered the situation. A brief glance through the telescope was sufficient to tell him Colonel Sleibnitz was not obeying orders. We’ll see about that! He fumed. “Orders!” An aide sprang forward. “To Colonel Sleibnitz. I demand your immediate compliance with my previous order to join and support Regiment Wohl.”
The aide rode off and Rauppen-Schlepper turned his attention back to the situation on the left. There at least the situation had stabilized. The cavalry had administered a thorough check on their counterparts and he could see General Kuster riding back and forth, busily rallying the dragoons. And yet some of the Horse has broken too. He rubbed his jaw. The crisis is getting close, if it’s not here already. He called for his horse.
* * *
Colonel Seinfeld realized his situation was now perilous in the extreme. Although he’d broken one squadron of Horse he now had two others menacing him, one on either flank. “Sound retreat!” he yelled and set an example by hauling his mount’s head around by main force and setting spurs to its flanks.
General Bellev watched the retreat out of the jaws of the trap and pounded his saddlebow in exasperation. We nearly had victory there! The third squadron of cuirassiers was still heading back to their own lines at speed, although their second was beginning to rally, along with the third squadron of hussars. It’s not entirely lost, although I’d hesitate to lead these men forward now.
This place is a haven of calm compared to that, Colonel Babbington thought, munching a fried chicken leg as he sat and gazed at the distant battle. The smoke; the smell of powder, the sight of broken and rallying troops! Ah, but war is exciting. He turned his attention at the small figure of a mounted aide, who was drawing closer to the levee at the gallop. His men in turn were watching the slowly advancing column of Hetzenberg infantry but the enemy didn’t seem inclined to close with the village. This situation will soon change when that messenger arrives.
In the center General Kuchler managed to rally the shaken and routed companies of Regiment Storschen by a combination of brute force, bad language and terrible threats. Colonel Storschen sensed the disapproving gaze of General Kaffe-Klatch upon him and felt thoroughly dispirited. I wonder if Uncle Theodore will let me join his export business. A nice posting to some remote factory would suit me down to the ground just now.
“Don’t stand there daydreaming sir!” a stentorian voice thundered and Storschen flinched and saw General Kuchler riding up, his face like an angry god. Storschen came to attention in the face of his wrath. “I have restored your regiment to you,” the general growled. “Now it’s up to you to redeem its honor!”
“Deploy into line with your right companies adjacent to Jertz’ regiment. And don’t balls this up!”
The general rode away, muttering. Storschen had only just begun to shout commands when another salvo from the enemy artillery howled out of the sky. The execution was terrible. Entire companies writhed under the onslaught and Storschen flinched away, thinking his end had come.
And yet…and yet the regiment survived. Perhaps it was fear of another tongue-lashing from the irascible general that did it, but they held their ground and reformed. Storschen gathered his wits and barked his orders. A factory really far, far away…
* * *
With Generals Rauppen-Schlepper and Kuster rallying the men both cavalry regiments began to reform. Colonel Rumtopft had been carried to the rear, a sword thrust having pierced his side. With the blessing he would survive but his work this day was done. Lieutenant Klopfer had also survived, and was walking his horse away from the scene of the skirmish, patting the animal's neck affectionately.
Satisfied that his valuable left flank was stable once more, Rauppen-Schlepper left the final work to Kuster and rode back to supervise the coming infantry conflict. He was not a moment too soon. Under the steady direction of General Schmaltz the Hetzenberg infantry closed with the invaders. The Margraf’s men opened fire first, a brisk musketry rippling down the line but with little effect.
Colonel Wohl strode forward, his sword held out by his side to keep the line straight. He felt calm, even resigned now. A sudden blast and flare of light and smoke came from his right and the air filled with shrieking metal. All around him men jerked, twisted, fell and the colors twitched and shook as if pulled at by invisible fingers. And yet he still stood, unharmed. Muttering a quick prayer of thanks he directed the efforts to restore order.
“Close up! Close up!”
General Kuchler continued to fume, even as he worked hard to steady the men. The two broken cuirassier squadrons were rallying now. But are we in time to do any good?