Friday, 27 March 2009

The Battle of Viehdorf - 2nd Movement.

The climax of the battle.
*
After the terrible punishment inflicted by the enemy artillery the various companies of Regiment Storschen rallied and stood to their front. General Kuchler rejoined General Kaffe-Klatch and they exchanged a glance packed with a wealth of information. Kaffe-Klatch turned to look at the rallying cavalry. “It appears Bellev has matters under control there.”

Kuchler nodded. “Yes, and if we can hold on here there’s a chance of victory.”

“Just so.” Kaffe-Klatch thought deeply then drew up straight in the saddle. “We shall continue to fight. The day has not gone well but all is not lost.”

Close by the two infantry regiments had completed their maneuver. The shaken first company of Storschen’s command formed a second battle line behind the front companies while the fourth company of Jertz’ regiment adjoined the flank of the grenadiers. Together they presented the oncoming Hetzenbergers with a united front in some depth.
* * *
Colonel Wohl saw this and glanced up and down the ranks of his regiment. Order had been restored. And if we can outflank the nearest regiment without suffering under the fire from those guns, we shall prevail.
*
Colonel Sechs-Meilen-Scharfsch├╝tze had noticed the imminent danger from his enemy counterparts. “Gentlemen, I think it’s about time we paid our rivals a courtesy call,” he shouted, his ears ringing from the repeated gunfire.

His men cheered; their voices sounded tinny in his ears. They labored with a will to redirect their pieces. The gun captains checked alignment, elevation, loads, and stood clear. “Fire!” he shouted and the linstocks swept down onto touch-holes.

Across the field the gunners of Dunkeldorf-Pfuhl were laboring at their own pieces when the storm of shot arrived. Solid timber carriages shattered, barrels weighing a quarter of a ton hurtled into the air along with fragments of men and equipment. When the storm ceased half the battery had been wiped out and the survivors too shocked to do their duty.
*
Encouraged, Regiment Brabenachel opened fire on their counterparts, that valuable first volley of the day blasting into the close ranks of the enemy.

Colonel Jertz felt two bullets pluck at his coat and hat. One caromed off his sword scabbard with a diminuendo whine. All around his men fell, struck down by enemy fire, yet he was untouched.
* * *
Heartened by the demise of the enemy artillery, Colonel Wohl gauged the situation. For a moment he toyed with the idea of sending his grenadier company through the woods which now lay on his flank but instead sent them directly at the guns. With luck those fellows won’t recover before my boys fall upon them!
* * *
At Viehdorf the aide galloped up the slope and into the small village. Colonel Babbington tossed the chicken bone over his shoulder as he stood up to greet the man. “Your orders, sir!” the sweating aide cried.

Babbington took the proffered message and scanned it. “Thank you. This is clear and I shall comply immediately,” he said courteously.

The aide saluted and galloped away. Babbington glanced around. Even the clod-hopping McGill seemed to have sobered up somewhat. “Companies form up!” Babbington shouted. “Ah, Captain Tobermory!” he said as the officer came up for orders. He clapped a hand on his shoulder. “Take Fourth company and form our rearguard. Those ‘Bergers look inclined to close.”

Tobermory responded with a calm salute and strode away, bellowing for his sergeants. Babbington took one last look around then called for his horse. A nice interlude. What a pity there wasn’t much loot here.
* * *
General Rauppen-Schlepper sat upon his horse to the rear of the battle line and considered the situation. Over to the left the cavalry was under control and ready to repel any renewed attempt by the enemy cavalry to outflank him. To his front both infantry regiments were closing with the enemy line, their musketry and the guns having dealt several shrewd blows. To the right – He sighed. Regiment Sleibnitz was still not responding to his order. I’ll have that cocky bastard’s codlings for breakfast once this is over!
*
The cocky bastard had more immediate worries. His lead company was now closing on the village and there was an enemy company blocking the main street dead ahead. “Rush those fellows!” he shouted. “They’re only mercenaries!”

The officers barked their commands, the first company drummer beat his skins, and soon the men were charging into the attack.

In the village the mercenary company calmly awaited the onslaught. They waited until the Hetzenberg company had closed to a mere fifty yards before unleashing a volley that stopped it cold.
* * *
In the center the Dunkeldorf-Pfuhl artillery had recovered from their frightful blow. The gunners resumed their work with grim determination, resetting toppled guns and throwing water over the powder scattered from burst cartridges. Soon they were relaying their pieces, and the gun captains hunched over the barrels, sighting at the oncoming grenadiers. Satisfied with their aim they stood back, swept linstocks down to touchholes…

The Grenadier Company of Wohl’s Regiment shuddered under the blast of canister. Fully a third of its men fell dead or wounded. Over on the other flank Jertz’s Regiment served up a telling volley upon the nearest company of Brabenachel’s regiment. Colonel Jertz danced with the excitement of it all. “Hit ‘em again!” he yelled, waving his hat. His cries of delight turned into a wide-eyed stare of dismay as the Hetzenberg infantry leveled their muskets and charged.

Jertz’s left-most company gave way immediately, their flight to the rear bursting through the supporting company from Storschen’s regiment. The Grenadier company moved to block the advance of the Hetzenberg troops and a mass skirmish broke out.
*
Colonel Storschen frowned as the volley from his own regiment failed to have much effect on the enemy, who kept coming on. His men wavered in the face of their resolution. “Steady!” he shouted but to no avail. A trickle of men heading to the rear turned into a flood, with officers and NCOs being swept aside as the companies broke and ran.
* * *
The Grenadier Company of Colonel Wohl’s regiment was made of stern stuff. They resisted the terrible slaughter and in the face of such bravery some of the enemy gun crews took fright. As the infantry from Jertz’s regiment fled some of the gunners too began heading to the rear. The relief Wohl felt was palpable. I’ve been so fortunate this day. God has protected me. But his blood chilled when he saw the artillery officers rally some of their men and force them back to their duty. The barrels were being swabbed, new powder loaded. Dear Lord! Again?
* * *
Colonel Jertz worked his way into the combat, exchanging sword cuts with an officer, parrying bayonets that seemed to appear out of nowhere. “Rally boys and at ‘em!” he yelled. “Did you come all this way just to lose?”

His rallying cry worked. Gradually the enemy was forced back until they broke contact and retired with some speed. Hot and sweating with exertion Jertz leaned on his sword and looked around. This is not a good situation. We beat them back but they’ll come on again.
*
Not far away the same thoughts were passing through the mind of General Kaffe-Klatch. He sat upon his horse, surveying the field and feeling the gloom of defeat settling upon his shoulders. “Orders,” he said, not bothering to raise his voice. An aide stepped forward. “Message to all commanders. Retire northwestward, facing the enemy. Cavalry to screen retirement. Go.”

The aide saluted, his face grave, and trotted off about his duty.
*
Over on the levee Babbington’s Legion continued to withdraw from the village. From the vantage point Babbington could see most of the Hetzenberg lines. Those fellows are a lot further forward than they should be if we’re winning this battle, he thought. A sharp volley echoed down the street from behind him and he fancied he could hear yells and screams. It seems that bothersome regiment has closed at last. And that flotilla is still lurking out there on the river. I’m glad we’re leaving this place and heading inland somewhat.
* * *
General Kuster nodded approvingly as the last of the dragoon squadrons rallied and began to reform. “This is good, Werner,” he said to his chief of staff. “Those fellows across the way won’t try matters now we have parity of numbers.”

Werner nodded and pointed. “And it appears their infantry is withdrawing too, sir. I caught a glimpse of a rearward movement when the smoke cleared a little.”

Kuster began to breathe easier. “God send that it’s a victory at last. Too many of these poor fellows died this day.”

“And they did their duty to the last, sir.”

“They did. We shall remain here for a while longer, and allow the troopers to regain their breath and their wits.” He smiled. “I can see a time not too far hence when we’ll be required to press upon the enemy’s retreat.”
*
Colonel Sleibnitz rode through the ranks of lead hat company and seized the colors. “Rally, men!” he cried, waving the staff. The colors flew over his head, the silk pierced in several places by bullets. “Would you let those mercenary devils despoil our land? Rally and sweep the scum away!”

His men cheered. Sleibnitz felt the thrill of battle come upon him. “Fix bayonets!” he cried and the men drew the vicious blades and set them in place. The regiment suddenly took on a more vicious guise. Sleibnitz looked around, ensured all was ready, keeping his back deliberately toward the enemy, daring them to shoot him in the back. The men looked to him now, awaiting the word. He gave it to them.

“Charge!”

Sword in hand he turned his horse and charged forward, his men following. The mercenary company leveled their firelocks and the red-coated ranks almost disappeared behind a gust of dun-colored smoke. Bullets zipped and sang past Sleibnitz. A man running alongside him jerked and disappeared with a gasp but then they were amongst the enemy ranks and he was cutting and thrusting, his habitual coolness coming to the fore again. Bayonets were plied, men hacked, slashed and swore in two languages before the mercenaries began to turn and flee.
*
The men of Sleibnitz’s regiment pursued them through the village, sparing none who fell or asked for quarter. Soon Sleibnitz was standing at the top of the rise, looking down the lane to where the rest of the mercenaries were withdrawing. Indeed, the entire enemy battle line seemed to be withdrawing too. He rested his sword across his lap, heedless of the blood that began to seep from it into his britches, and regained his breath. Perhaps there will be trouble from Rauppen-Schlepper over my interpretation of his orders. But driving the enemy from here will serve me well indeed.
*
The Dunkeldorf-Pfuhl artillery fired again, and the air sang and buzzed with canister rounds. Colonel Wohl flinched as men fell all around but again, he was untouched. A new confidence surged through him. “Press on, men!” he shouted. “Press on and let’s finish this!”

5 comments:

Bluebear Jeff said...

Well things are looking up for the Hezenberg side . . . but not a word of Mary Amadeus this post . . . I presume that she's still with us.


-- Jeff

A J said...

Worry not, Jeff, she's going to make an impact next chapter... ;)

Frankfurter said...

Make in impact?
Is she finally going to accidently blow up their ammo dump?
:)
A

Capt Bill said...

Your action reads better than the Sharpe's series. Very enjoyable, Well Done!

Fitz-Badger said...

Seems to be reaching a crescendo! Go Hetzenberg! And Lt. Mary Amadeus!