THE SKIRMISH AT THE DILIGENCIA
Trent saw his reinforcements approaching, and advanced to pick them up and add them to his command.
The column, now a strong one for patrol purposes, turned at right angles at the first corner, and marched on into the city, from the further side of which came the sound of firing.
Every man with the column carried a hundred and fifty rounds of ammunition. A machine gun was trailed along at the rear, in the event that it might be wanted.
Less than half a mile from the start, Lieutenant Trent’s command sighted the American advance line ahead. Some of the seamen and marines in this advanced line occupied rooftops and kept up a variable, crackling fire.
As Trent approached the line, a lieutenant-commander approached him.
“Do you come to reinforce us, Lieutenant?” he inquired.
“No, sir,” Trent answered. “We are to patrol, and to took out for Americans and other foreigners who may be in danger.”
“Then I would caution you, Lieutenant, that this is the outer line. If you get ahead of us, take extreme care that you do nothing to lead us to mistake you for Mexicans.”
“I shall be extremely cautious, sir,” Trent replied, saluting, then marched his command through the line and on up the street.
“Good luck to you,” called several of the sailors in the line. “Bring us back a few Mexicans!”
“We’d like to, all right,” replied Riley, in an undertone.
“Ensign Darrin, take a petty officer and four men and lead a point,” Lieutenant Trent ordered. “I don’t want the ‘glory’ of running a command into an ambush.”
Calling to Riley and four sailormen, Dave led them down the street at the double-quick until he was two hundred yards in advance Then he led his men on at marching speed.
The work at the “point” is always the post of greatest danger with a marching command. This point is small in numbers, and moves well in advance. If the enemy has posted an ambuscade on the line of march it is the point that runs into this danger.
As they marched Dave did not preserve any formation of his men. His detachment strode forward, alert and watchful, their rifles ready for instant use.
Three blocks away a horse stood tethered before a door. Hearing the sound of approaching feet a man looked hurriedly out of the doorway. Then he rushed to the horse and untied it.
“Halt!” Shouted Ensign Darrin, as he saw the man dart from the doorway. “Halt!” he ordered, a second time, as the man seized the horses’s bridle ready to mount.
Quick as a flash the stranger drew a revolver, firing two shots down the street.
“Fire! Get him!” shouted Darrin.
Five rifles spoke, instantly. Just in the act of reaching the saddle the stranger plunged sideways, fell to the roadway, the startled horse galloping off without its rider.