The several officers commanding batteries were now met in that of the young sailor, and habited in a garb befitting the rude duty at which they had presided, were earnestly engaged in discussing the contents of their haversacks, moistened by occasional drafts of rum and water from their wooden canteens, and seasoned with frequent reference to the events of the past day, and anticipations of what the morrow would bring forth. A lantern so closed as to prevent all possibility of contact with the powder that lay strewed about, was placed in the centre of the circle, and the dim reflexion from this upon the unwashed hands and faces of the party, begrimed as they were with powder and perspiration, contributed to give an air of wildness to the whole scene, that found its origin in the peculiar circumstances of the moment. Nor was the picture at all lessened in ferocity of effect, by the figure of Sambo in the back ground, who, dividing his time between the performances of such offices as his young master demanded, in the coarse of the frugal meal of the party, and a most assiduous application of his own white and shining teeth to a huge piece of venison ham, might, without effort, have called up the image of some lawless, yet obedient slave, attending on and sharing in the orgies of a company of buccaneers.
At length the meal was ended, and each was preparing to depart, with a view to snatch an hour or two of rest in his own battery, when the pricked ear and forward thrown head of the old negro, accompanied by a quick, “Husha, Massa Geral,” stilled them all into attitudes of expectancy. Presently the sound of muffled oars was heard, and then the harsh grating as of a boat’s keel upon the sands.
In the next minute the officers were at their posts; but before they could succeed in awakening their jaded men, who seemed to sleep the sleep of death, the sentinel at the first battery had received, in answer to his hurried challenge, the proper countersign, and, as on closer inspection it was found that there was only one boat, he knew it must be their own, and the alarm which had seized them for the security of their trust passed away.
They were not long kept in suspense. One individual alone had ascended from the beach, and now stood among them, habited in a dread-nought jacket and trousers and round hat. His salutation to each was cordial, and he expressed in warm terms the approbation he felt at the indefatigable and efficient manner in which the duty assigned to each had been conducted.
“Well, gentlemen,” continued the Commodore, (for it was he), “you have done famously today—and in most masterly style did you silence those batteries, which the enemy, to divert your fire from the fort, had erected on the opposite bank. Much has been done, but more remains. Tomorrow you must work double tides. At daylight you must re-open with showers of shot and shell, for it is, during the confusion caused by your fire, that the General intends crossing