"Ye Are the King's Finest!"
Pitcairn, ahead of the column, studied the wooded hillside to the left of the road’s summit. It was the briefest of examinations. As the front of the column reached him, musket powder exploded. Wailing soldiers broke ranks.
Down the incline of the road they careened!
He would have to seize this hill!
How? Where were the soldiers with the requisite stamina and courage?!
His lengthy career in the Marines had taught him the fallacy of equating assumptions with outcomes. Perversity did work its will upon the embattled. In perceived victory there could be unexpected loss. In certain defeat there was survival, escape, for the few, individual triumph. Good fortune, bad, entered, walked the boards, exited. Nothing perceived was absolute. Approaching him was a company from his own battalion, forty marines that the General had detached for Colonel Smith’s use.
Standing on the road’s hillside embankment, he exhorted. “Marines! Ye are the King’s finest!” Pointing his sword at a company of grenadiers skulking past, he shouted, “There! Take heed! Cowards flee!”
Shoulders squared, chin raised, Pitcairn marked them. “Every man of ye I trust! Marines do not flee! They fight! To save this arrmy we must climb this hill!”
Their assent was coarse, guttural.
“Together now, men! Brave hearts ye have! None braver! Grave duty it shall be! Two lines, lads! Quickly! Courageously! We will have these scoundrels know we do not countenance defeat! We shall take no quarter!”
Pointing his sword at the hill, he shouted, “Advance!”
The huzzahing of his men energizing him, he galloped ahead. Not more than 100 rods farther, at the bottom of the hill, he spied the inverse of valor! Looters were exiting a tavern! Many were carrying vessels of spirits. Others were clutching large, torn apart loaves of bread! How ravenously they chewed and drank!
Galloping farther, he observed that the road ascended yet another elevation, the last, he prayed, before
Hard riding took him past the front of the column to the top of the hill. Standing in his stirrups, facing the advancing soldiers, he shouted, “Halt! Ye will halt and forrm up!”
He saw sweat-drenched, dust-encrusted soldiers possessing scarcely the strength to stand. How in God’s name am I to incite them? He began with six choice obscenities.
“Beyond this hill is
We are the King’s soldiers! We are not
afraid! Hear this!” His eyes scorched the faces of those closest. Lexington
“We will have splendid fighting orrder! We will stay together! We will obey absolutely every officair! We will not yield! We will not succumb! Mark this! If we do these things, only if we do these things, we will prevail! Forrm up, two deep! Quickly now! Do it!” To the officers that had formed the restraining barrier behind him, he shouted, “It is imperative that ye enforrce this orrder down the column!”
Off both sides of the road gunpowder blasted. Pitcairn's horse reared. Twisted in his saddle, Pitcairn toppled.
Seated in the road, legs spread, he felt a sharp pain in his right hip, then in his right elbow.
Had a soldier seized his horse’s bridle?! Ignoring the pain, standing, staring up the slope, he spotted his mount vaulting a fence, carrying to the rebels, holstered upon his saddle -- buggering crap! -- his prized, ivory-handled pistols!
Desperate men were surging past him.
Where was the fatigue he had witnessed?! Crazed, stampeding horses they were, charging down the long slope! Fleeing to