The next morning all were instructed in the use of the Russian muskets, many of the peasants being wholly unacquainted with the management of fire-arms. It was arranged that each peasant should, in addition to his gun, carry his scythe, his favorite weapon for close conflict.
When night came on all was ready for the march. The bands were to advance separately, each under orders of its own leader, and were to unite in the market-place as the clock struck one. There were three barracks, and a certain proportion were told off for the attack of each. Three of the guns were hidden in the forest. The other three, each drawn by four horses, accompanied the column, the duty assigned to them being to blow in the gates of the several barracks. Coarse grass was cut and swathed round the wheels, and the horses’ feet were also muffled. The peasants were all clad in sandals, and there was therefore no fear of the noise of their advance being heard.
At nine o’clock the column set out for the town, which was nine miles distant, and upon nearing it separated, so as to enter as arranged in different directions. Each column was preceded at a distance of some hundred yards by four or five men, chosen for their activity, their duty being to seize and silence any watchmen they might meet in the streets.
The town seemed absolutely asleep when the band of Stanislas, with which for the time were the three cannon, entered it a few minutes before one.
Once the lads thought that they could hear a stifled cry, but if so it attracted no attention, for the streets were deserted, and not a single window opened as they passed. The other hands had already arrived in the market-place when that commanded by Stanislas reached it.
A few words were exchanged by the leaders, a gun told off to each column, and the bands started to their respective destinations. The contingent of Count Stanislas, to which Jack Archer was attached with his gun, was intended to attack the principal barrack. This was built in the form of a large quadrangle, and contained some seven or eight hundred infantry and a battery of artillery.
As the head of the column entered the street leading to the gate, a sentry on the outside challenged. No answer was made, and a moment later a gun was fired.
There was no longer any need for concealment, and with a wild cheer the column rushed forward. Some of the men threw themselves with axes upon the postern gate, which the sentry had entered and closed behind him.
The gun, which was close to the head of the column, was brought up and placed in position within a few feet of the gate, its muzzle directed towards the lock. The explosion tore a hole in the gate, but a massive bar still kept this in its place. Another discharge broke this also, and the Poles with exulting shouts surged in.
As they entered, a scattered fire opened upon them from the windows, but, without pausing, the band broke up into parties, each under its chief, and rushed at the entrances leading to the staircases.