The second platoon stood ready alongside him, its sergeant watching for the signal to move. Weismuller nodded, the sergeant saluted, whispered an order and the platoon moved out, heading directly for the hedgerow overlooking the highway and the dockyard beyond. Once the second platoon had moved out the third took their place.
Jagers creep steathily into position, unnoticed by the sentries at the gate.
By now the light had grown to the point where Weismuller could discern the logs of the rudimentary palisade surrounding the dockyard. He could make out the gate with two sentries boxes positioned one either side. Sentries patrolled there, as he’d seen the previous day on reconnoitering the target. Two men only, and local militia to boot. Not much of a threat. Behind him in the woods birds began to chirp the dawn chorus. Time presses; I cannot wait any longer. He drew a deep breath, raised his arm and jerked it forward. With a regular step he moved out, the steady, soft tramp of feet behind and to either side telling him the men of the third platoon followed.
He aimed for the hedgerow about a hundred yards further along the highway from where his second platoon now moved stealthily into position. The line of advance would bring him opposite the south-eastern corner of the dockyard enclosure. Closer-to, the palisade looked even less like a military obstacle than before. It was little more than a sturdy fence, there to deter pilfering of supplies from the dockyard stores. The ‘Bergers will pay for such laxness! Weismuller thought, feeling his spirits lift higher with the prospect of action.
Dew from the long meadow grass soaked his gaiters but he didn’t heed it. The hedgerow loomed up and he saw the gate which let out to the road beyond. Weismuller stopped there, his hand resting on the top bar, and looked around as the men of the third platoon formed up into a rough column. Once they were ready he unfastened the iron hook holding the gate closed and pushed at the bar. The gate swung open, sped on its way by a further push from the platoon NCO. Weismuller drew his hangar and led the way with a rush onto the road.
They crossed the uneven rutted surface at speed, reaching the palisade within three heartbeats. The first jagers begun to tumble over the barrier. A shouted challenge rang out. Weismuller, reaching up to grip the wooden stakes glanced toward the gate. A scant second later the dawn peace shattered completely as a volley of musketry split the air.
The Sobelsburg Jager begin to fire...
*Horatio tumbled out of bed, nightshirt flapping. Erotic dreams of Ursula vanished in an instant amid the blast of musket fire. Experience and hard-won instinct guided his hand to the hilt of his hanger where it hung in its scabbard on the bedside chair. Shouts and yells sounded throughout the barrack block where the crews of the gunboats slept when ashore. Even as his sleep-fuddled mind focused Horatio heard a renewed burst of musketry from the direction of the road.
Stumbling to the window of his chamber he peered out into the dawn light. The sun rose at that moment, yellow rays spreading across the land. A thin mist, pushed along by the breeze failed to hide the shadowy forms of men emerging from the hedgerow the other side of the road by the dockyard. A militia sentry sheltered behind his box, hands busy with reloading. His fellow measured his length on the road nearby. A broad strip of wasteland separated the hedge from the road. It would take some moments for the evident attack to reach the gate. The lone sentry could not hope to hold it. Should the gate be lost… quite!
Cursing, Horatio threw his sword aside and fought his way into his britches. Some alert soul began ringing the alarm bell by the main door for all he was worth. Finally wrestling his britches on over his nightshirt, Horatio clapped his tricorn to his head, thundered out of his room and down the stairs.
In the main barracks below the men tumbled out in reasonable discipline. Most had cutlasses, dirks and a pistol or two. Petty officers barked orders, and their eyes turned to Horatio for further guidance. “We’re under attack from the road,” he rasped from the stairs. “Break out long arms and ammunition from the magazine then fall-in on the parade ground.”
The petty officers saluted briskly and began to shout new orders. Horatio headed out the main door and saw the local militia platoon appointed to guard the dockyard had begun to form up on the parade ground. They wouldn’t be a moment too soon. A glance toward the gate showed the shadowy forms of enemy soldiers running toward the dockyard.
“It’s gunfire, Mr. Schnoedt!” the milkmaid called, bobbing him a quick curtsey. She pointed. “It’s coming from the dockyard!”
“I see smoke over there, Captain!” Wilhelm said. “It looks and sounds like musketry!”
The carter was a military veteran and a militiaman. If he says musketry is on the wind, then musketry it has to be. Schnoedt nodded. “Call out the militia, I’ll be down directly.”
His wife sat up in bed as he turned away from the window. “What is it, dearest?” she asked.
He still wore his shirt and britches from the previous day. His room stood high in the turret situated in the northeast corner of the farm’s boundary wall. It offered a good view, although it was little compensation for dwelling in the farmhouse proper, his first inclination. The farmer possessed two beautiful daughters, a shotgun and a nasty gleam in his eye. Horst lacked the nerve to attempt seduction – but wouldn’t it be nice?
“What the hell?” Horst exclaimed, turning to the window again.
From his vantage point he could see smoke rising from the area of the dockyard. Even as he watched the stab of yellow musket fire competed with the rising sun. Dumbfounded he continued to stare until his orderly coughed loudly. “Turn out the men, sir?”
“Yes, yes, dammit!” Horst roared. The man sped off, clattering down the spiral stairway to the farmyard. Horst reached for his sword, and realized his hands were shaking the way they had at Viehdorf. “Dear Lord, don’t let me foul up now!” he prayed, buckling the baldric about his waist.