Jack Archer eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 293 pages of information about Jack Archer.

The conflict now became a desperate one.  The midshipmen fired their guns alternately as fast as they could load, the Poles working as steadily and coolly as if they had been long-trained artillerymen.  Several times the Russians advanced to within twenty yards of the defences, but each time, shattered by the fire of grape-shot and by the storm of bullets from the abattis, they recoiled.  In vain they flung themselves upon the trees and tried to hew a way through them.  In vain the officers called upon them to gather themselves together and carry the battery at a rush.  Receiving no aid from their own artillery, which, mingled in the throng of infantry, were helpless, shaken by the shouts of the assailants, and by the battle raging in their rear which told them their retreat was menaced, the Russians lost heart and began to fall back.  Then, retaining only fifty men as a guard to the battery, the midshipmen ordered the rest of the defenders of the abattis to move forward among the trees on the flanks of the Russians, keeping up a constant fire, until they joined the main body in their attack on the Russian rear.

In the battery now they could see little of what was going forward.  The woods were full of dense smoke.  The whole Russian column as it fell back was maintaining a wild fire at random into the bushes around them.

But though the lads could see nothing, the road in front afforded them a sure guide for their aim, and ceaselessly the guns kept up their fire into the retreating mass of Russians.

For half an hour the roar of guns continued unabated, and then, as it died away, the triumphant shouts of the Pole told them that the victory was won, and that the Russian column, defeated and shattered, had retired from the forest and gained the open country beyond.  Then the defenders of the battery raised an answering cheer to their friends in the distance, and, exhausted with their exertions, threw themselves on the ground.

Of those working the guns but three had been wounded by rifle bullets which had passed through the embrasures.

Several of the riflemen had fallen shot through the head, as they fired over the top of the battery, while thirty or forty lay killed and wounded behind the abattis.

After a few minutes’ rest the party advanced, and soon joined their friends, who saluted them with loud acclamations.  The victory had been a complete one.  The whole of the spare ammunition and stores had fallen into the hands of the victors, upon overpowering the rear-guard, had cut the traces and carried off the horses.  The column had made a sturdy resistance at this point, and although the desperate onslaughts of the scythe-armed Poles had several times broken their ranks and carried slaughter among them, they had yet stood firm, and it was only the crushing of the head of the column, and its subsequent retreat, which had at last decided the day.

For some hundred yards in front of the guns the ground was covered with Russian dead.  Most of the artillery horses had fallen, and but two of the guns had been carried off the field.  The loss of the enemy in killed and wounded left upon the ground amounted to nearly 800, and the wounded were all killed as soon as discovered by the infuriated peasants.

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Jack Archer from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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