America's War for Humanity eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 688 pages of information about America's War for Humanity.

[Illustration:  “BY ALLAH, I MAY HAVE TO INTERFERE IN THE NAME OF HUMANITY” —­Kessler in the New York Evening Sun.]

CHAPTER XIV

STORIES FROM THE BATTLEFIELD

Thrilling Incidents of the Great War Told by Actual Combatants —­Personal Experiences from the Lips of Survivors of the World’s Bloodiest Battles—­Tales of Prisoners of War, Wounded Soldiers and Refugees Rendered Homeless in Blighted Arena of Conflict.

HAND-TO-HAND FIGHTING

Cavalry fighting on the banks of the River Marne in the year 1914 was almost identical with the charge in the days when Hannibal’s Numidian horse charged at Romans at Lake Trasimene, or when Charles Martel and the chivalry of France worsted the Moors and saved Europe on the plains of Tours.

A good description of a cavalry charge was given by Private Capel of the Third British Hussars, a veteran of the Boer war, who took part in the fighting beginning at Mons and was separated from his regiment in a charge at Coulommiers, in the battle of the Marne, when his horse fell.

“You hear,” said he, “the enemy’s bugles sounding the charge.  Half a mile away you see the Germans coming and it seems that in an instant they will be on you.  You watch fascinated and cold with a terror that makes you unable to lift an arm or do anything but wait and tremble.

“They come closer and still you are horrorstruck.  Then you feel your horse fretting and suddenly you start from your daze, and fear changes suddenly to hate.  Your hand goes to the saber hilt, your teeth clinch and you realize that you must strike hard before the enemy, who is now very close, can strike.  Every muscle tightens with the waiting.

“Before your own bugles have sounded two notes of the charge you find yourself leaning forward over the neck of your galloping horse.  All the rest is a mad gallop, yells of the enemy and your own answer, a terrible shock in which you are almost dismounted, and then you find yourself face to face with a single opponent who, standing up in the stirrups, is about to split your head.  You notice that you are striking like a fiend with the saber.

“After that madness passes it seems almost like a complex maneuver and soon you find yourself riding for dear life—­perhaps to escape, perhaps after the Germans.  You then realize that you have been whipped and that the charge has failed, or you see the backs of the fleeing enemy, feel your horse straining in pursuit and know that you have gained a victory.”

FRIGHTFUL MORTALITY AMONG OFFICERS

The official reports of the loss of life in the battles in France tell of the large number of officers killed.  Sharp-shooters on both sides have had instructions to aim at officers.  These sharpshooters are often concealed far in advance of their troops.  Their small number and their smokeless powder make their discovery most difficult.  This lesson was learned at great cost to the British during the Boer war.

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America's War for Humanity from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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