Of the Poles some 250 had been put hors-de-combat. The delight of the insurgents was unbounded. It was by far the most important victory which they had won. They had now come into possession of sufficient muskets to arm the whole body, and an abundant supply of ammunition, and had in all a complete battery of artillery, with enough horses, taken from the wagons, to give two to each gun, and leave a sufficient number for the ammunition wagons. The two midshipmen received the warmest thanks of the Polish leader, who attributed his success entirely to the slaughter which the guns had wrought, and to the dispositions taken for their defence.
TO THE RESCUE
A consultation was held on the evening of the battle. As was the custom of the Polish peasants after a success, many wished to return for a while to their homes and families. Several plans were proposed among the group of officers, and the leader asked the young midshipmen for their opinion.
Dick said that in his ignorance of the circumstances and the geography of the country he could offer none; but Jack, on being appealed to, said,—
“It seems to me that you will never do any good if you confine yourselves to beating back a Russian column occasionally, and then dispersing until they again advance. My opinion is that it is absolutely necessary to follow up the victory we have gained, and to do something which will induce the whole country to believe that there is a prospect of success. We have gained a very fair victory to-day. I propose that while the men are all in high spirits, and the Russians proportionately depressed, we take the offensive and fall upon one of their garrisons. Hitherto, as you say, you have always contented yourselves with attacking the columns sent out against you, and the Russians will be altogether unprepared for an attack on them in their own quarters. If we fall suddenly at night upon Piaski, we ought to succeed in nearly annihilating them. There are about 1200 men of the column whom we have fought, and about 2000 in the other column which marched out against us this morning, but fell back when they heard of the defeat of their comrades. It is probable that pretty nearly the whole force in the town came out, so that altogether there cannot be above 2500 men. If we can fall upon them at night, we ought to be able to defeat them easily. At any rate before they rally we should inflict tremendous damage upon them.”
Jack’s proposition was received with acclamation, and it was decided that the attack should take place on the following night. The officers therefore went among the men, and appealed to them to remain for another forty-eight hours, in order that they might annihilate the garrison of Piaski.
The men assented, the more readily that abundant supplies of bread and spirits had been found in the captured wagons, the Russian commander having deemed it probable that the expedition might extend over a period of some days.