On the banks of the Chickahominy
FLASH! Union troops skedaddle in White Oak Swamp
Exclusive Report by I. M. Allwett
Via Telegraph from Fortress Monroe
Your intrepid reporter from the World was with Major General Edwin V. Sumner when his corps attempted to turn the flank of the rebel army. Sumner crossed to the south bank of the Chickahominy River into as dismal a swamp as one can imagine – thick with vines and moss, smelling of rot and infested with snakes, mosquitoes, and buzzards.
Through this muck the general intended to catch a raiding party under the rebel Longstreet and catch the rascal thespian Magruder further along. Things did not go according to plan.
With heavy going and the thick growth it was impossible to see more than a couple hundred yards in any direction and often difficult to extract one’s boots to take a step let alone maneuver. This being true, the divisions of Major General Erasmus Keyes and Major General Samuel Heintzelman became separated, with Heintzelman ahead and to the south.
It was in this position that the enemy, forcefully advancing instead of skulkily retreating from their raid, engaged General Keyes. The fright of suddenly coming upon a foe in the murk and being dealt a volley of buck and ball at under a hundred paces before one can gather their wits can only be imagined by the reader at home. This reporter assures you it takes a stout heart to stand and return fire!
But this is exactly what the veteran boys of the north did, standing and giving volley for volley in the heat and swelter and deep shadow of the dismal morass.
Keyes now came up and felt for the tender flank of the rebel masses for it must be there, at the north end of the line, the pressure on Heintzelman being so great. As he splashed through waters, knee-deep at times, A rebel ball found Colonel Henry A Weeks of the 12th New York, Heintzelman’s left flank regiment. The unit had suffered horribly from the fire of the 25th Alabama and 1st Louisiana. The loss of its captain was too much and the regiment disintegrated, leaving a gap between the two divisions.
Brigadier General John Davidson rushed the 12th Indiana to plug the gap, but “rushing” had a different meaning in the bottomless muck of the White Oak!
One after the other General Heintzelman’s regiment were pressed back by rebel charges, each time leaving wounded boys to drown in the black waters.
Finally, Brigadier General Winfield Hancock brought his Pennsylvanians into action against the 22nd Alabama who had occupied a small dry knob rising from the inky waters, only to see the southerners, whose coats resembled the gnarled trunks of the drowned trees, use the thick sheets of moss to withdraw, their sister 21st Alabama forming at right angles and thwarting the best laid plan of Hancock.
With all Heintzelman’s regiments wavering and Keyes thwarted more by nature than the enemy, General Sumner had no other recourse than to order a general withdrawal on the pontoons. That the enemy had been given a good shaking is evidenced by their unwillingness to pursue, selecting rather to lick their wounds and hope for a drier day.
I have, Your Majesty, the honor to report a sharp action outside Corbach Friday last.
The Prince of Kesse-Kassel attempted to turn the flank of Your Majesty’s army. The attempt was manfully repulsed by the eleven battalions under my immediate command.
The enemy came boldly forward with Griffen’s Brigade on their left and Von Bischausen’s on their right. I advanced to battle with Brigadier du Skim-mer on my right, my own brigade under Brigadier du Blind in the center and Brigadier du Caq on the left. I deployed our six-pounder battery in the center.
While Griffen came on directly; Von Bischausen paled at the regular blasts from our six-pounders and sidestepped to our left, threatening du Caq’s small brigade with his five. Du Blind was ordered to support du Caq and did this smartly by advancing the Second Battalion Grenadiers Chantilly and the Royal Italians into the gap, held only by a two-gun six pounder section and a similar section of 3-pounders.
Du Skim-mer, supported by both battalions of Regiment Belzunce from du Blind’s brigade, engaged Griffen in the center of the field. Here, under intense musketry from the Hessians both First Belzunce and First Couronne retreated in some disorder. However the second battalions moved forward to take their places and cause fearful casualties on the Hessian front line.
On our left, Von Bischausen engaged du Caq, a quarter hour later, due to the Hessian maneuver to avoid our guns. Regiment Briqueville (both battalions) blunted the assault, forcing both Battalion Von Toll and the Lieb Battalion to withdraw in disorder. They then advanced to engage the enemy’s second line, which had been thrown into disorder as well, Battalion Prinz Isenberg and Battalion Prinz Ferdinand.
While the musketry battles were underway 2nd Chantilly made to charge the Hessian medium guns. These guns were rather ineffective most of the afternoon, firing their canister high. However, at the instant the Grenadiers were about to change from L’Advance to the Pas de Charge, a single canister ball struck both Major du Stunn and Captain Erg. This sudden loss of command created a hesitancy in the grenadiers which halted their advance. By the time command had been reestablished (I sent Captain En Gorge from my staff to take control) the enemy was retiring.
Von Bischausen led valiantly from the front, rallying and blandishing. The situation became critical when First Briqueville retired. Du Caq brought forward the first battalion of Regiment La Roche and stabilized the line. When the Battalion Prinz Isenberg retired, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. The Royal Italians, who had been deployed to support Du Caq was suffering from a lack of resolute leadership; it’s colonel and major having been taken by the flux the day before.
Du Skim-mer won the day. His brigade had been taking and causing incredible damage with Griffen. Despite his battalions wavering, the enemy suffered equally. When our six-pounder battery swung to engage Griffen’s left that tipped the balance from the edge. Both the Garde Grenadiers and the Battalion Manbach were forced to retire. I watched the proud grenadiers crumble, their ranks reduced by two-thirds, when first one mustached sergeant and the one private after another lost confidence and stumbled to the rear.
With both battalions in retreat Griffen could not hold the others, battered as they were by Du Skim-mer’s regular volleys. Making the best of his situation Griffen, who had fought strongly and skillfully, ordered his men to retire on the British main body. Von Bischausen was required to follow suit.
My command, in total, suffered 987 killed and wounded; half in Brigadier Du Skim-mer’s command, attesting to the ferociousness of his engagement. I am told, by an officer of the Hessians with whom my ADC negotiated a convention for the wounded and dead, that the Hessians suffered similarly. He giving their losses at 1010.
I am, Majesty, your obedient servant
Marechal De Broglie
I have the honor to report to you another glorious resolution by your Imperial soldiers.
On 16 May 1811, I surprised and routed the Spanish Army of General Blake near the village of Albuera.
Having received your blessing to take the offensive against the outpost held by General Beresford, I gathered in all the outposts that could be spared as well as the infantry from the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo and marched with the utmost speed to the neighborhood of Albuera. It was discovered that General Blake (historian’s note – Soult discovered Blake when the Spanish engaged his assaulting columns) had landed a sizeable Spanish force at Cadiz and marched them to join Beresford, but I was undeterred.
I approached the enemy’s positions with great care. The men were not to light fires and the wheels of the limbers and carriages were muffled. The efforts were met by complete success as our assault came as a surprise to all the allied defenders, as borne out by the statements of captured officers.
To further baffle the enemy, I had small detachments of the 23rd Chasseurs a Cheval and two old 4-pounders make noisy demonstrations downstream on the Albuera River. This was also successful as the enemy posted several brigades to the north and west of the village to defend against this feint.
My scouts reported that the allied south flank was in the air, so I made my dispositions to take advantage of this tactical error. I formed an ad hoc corps under General Girard, giving him 10,000 veteran infantry and all my disposable light cavalry, about 2200 troopers. His orders were to turn the south flank and destroy Blake’s corps. (historian’s note – this is clearly revisionist thinking on Soult’s part, his original orders were to turn and then roll up the flank, bagging Beresford. He did not know Blake was there!)
The rest of the V Corps was placed under General Godinot, another 10,000 infantry, including the garrison battalions, and the two dragoon brigades. His orders were the fix the British and give General Girard sufficient time to destroy Blake.
Godinot’s feint succeeded brilliantly. He advanced boldly across the farmer’s bridge and split the Spanish from Beresford. The 15th Dragoons captured five guns in a gallant charge up hill into the teeth of the canister (historian’s note – the cavalry actually struck the guns in flank while the infantry of the 13th Legere took the canister fire). British reserves attacked Godinot’s penetration and both the 30th and 111th Regiments were caught unprepared to receive cavalry and routed, losing their eagles. Both colonels have been cashiered and both regiments have been ordered to wear black armbands until they redeem their honor. Beresford’s entire force, estimated at 16,000 total, was occupied by Godinot the entire day. British losses in their mounted arm were about twice as many as our in the dragoon brigades.
Girard struck the end of the ridge and the open ground simultaneously, though the cavalry in the open engaged first, having an easier time than the infantry who had to scale the rocky heights. The hussars, in a series of brilliant charges, chased the Spanish dragoons from the field. However, they allowed themselves to get involved in a lengthy melee with the Spanish light cavalry. It was in this desperate struggle that they suffered their greatest loss.
The 33rd Ligne and 10th Legere led the charge up the hill and into the Spanish line perched, British-style, on the military crest. After some stiffer than usual resistance, especially by the Borbon Regiment, and the addition of the 108th Ligne, they pushed the Spanish from the heights and across the Araya Brook to the west. Girard took six Spanish guns and the guidons from two cavalry regiments.
Nightfall ended the action and the British retired on Badajoz under cover of darkness. Without any heavy artillery with which to reduce that fortress I ordered the army to withdraw on Llerena to prepare to engage Castanos who was gathering a new army to the south.
I am, etc.
Jean de-Dieu Soult, Marechal de Empire
For an entirely different view of the battle…
His Honor the Duke of Wellington,
Soult attempted to turn our position on the Albuera the 16th instant. He was repulsed with heavy loss.
Pursuant to your orders I had taken position, with my command, at the village of Albuera. General Blake, with his Spanish army, joined us on the eve of the battle and generously extended my right. Anticipating Marshal Soult, I had deployed the Cacadores on a commanding height on my left, occupied the village itself with two brigades, making it impervious to attack, and had deployed the rest of my command in ready reserve (historian’s note – Beresford failed to place pickets or patrols on the east side of the Albuera Brook or Albuera River. The first inkling he had that Soult was there was when the French columns burst from the olive groves). Blake, I am pleased to say, used the reverse slope to his advantage, surprising the attackers by appearing suddenly at the crest to deliver a volley!
The French attempted a two-pronged attack, with their right attempting to cross at the bridges and assault my command while a second force tried to turn General Blake’s right. I am pleased to report we destroyed both wings.
General Blake’s cavalry was heavily engaged from the beginning. The General Lautour-Mauberg led his veterans headlong into General Loy’s division. I am sorry to say the Spanish heavy cavalry did not stand the test, breaking and running from the field. However, the provisional Light Cavalry brigade stood up the French hussars and ground them up in a ferocious melee. Over 400 French saddles were emptied by the Spanish horsemen. They showed much promise.
The infantry, as well, showed the results of our training. The Regiments Ceuta, Borbon, and Cantabria fought toe-to-toe with the attackers. They gave ground only grudgingly, fighting in line, and withdrawing in good order when pressed heavily by French numbers.
As to our soldiers, all I can do is heap praise upon them. Lefebvre’s Troop of the Royal Horse Artillery and the Fusiliers, by their very presence and accurate fire, kept the French from crossing at the main bridge. Only at the small, “farmer’s bridge” did they get across.
There, Mercer’s Troop impeded, alone, their entire corps while Lumley maneuvered the cavalry for their decisive blow. The Guards smashed the 4th Dragoons and then proceeded to catch the 30th Ligne unsquared. They, of course, routed the infantry. They suffered a slight setback to a counterattack by the 1st Dragoons but took an eagle and 2 guns (historian’s note – the “slight setback” was 50% losses, and the two guns were originally Mercer’s).
The 13th Light Dragoons also covered themselves with glory, slicing through a French battery and coming upon the 111th Ligne, also unsquared, and destroying them as well. The Light Dragoons took 6 guns and an eagle.
Marshal Soult withdrew on Llerena, his offensive capability severely impeded, if not removed. General Castanos has come up and is observing the French at that location. I have transferred my base to Badajoz to better feed my force as well as fully equip the batteries.
I remain, Yr Obt Svt,
Wm. C. Beresford, Marshal, Portuguese Army
Prince Poniatowski, leading a mixed force of Saxons, Poles, and a few French depot battalions, was thwarted as her tried to cross Bohemia to join Napoleon. Prussians under Yorck and Russians under Scherbatov forced the Marshal into an extended march around them.
The Prince, sure of his veterans, thrust an assault on Yorck in the center and, with a deft eye, then flung the Wurttemburg Light Cavalry against the Prussian center. Both attacks were initially successful. The cavalry drove away a battery and smashed the 1st Infantry who had failed to form square. The infantry drove off the 9th Reserve brigade and a battery.
But that would be the high-water mark of the afternoon. The Saxons had not yet started their assault on the solidly formed Russian line when Yorck engineered an equally able counterattack. Pivoting his Landwehr Cavalry Brigade, General Juergass struck the Wurttemburgers in the flank while two infantry brigades poured musketry into their disordered ranks.
The 7th Reserve led the infantry counterattack, capturing a small knoll and the horse artillery that had been holding it, adding six guns to the Prussian artillery park. In the center Zayoncek was beaten back, only a few stubborn French depot battalions slowing the Prussian avalanche.
The Saxons only mounted a feeble assault on the Russians, seeing the Poles in disarray to their left and the usually vaunted Saxon cavalry, on this day, was bested handily by the well-handled Russian Hussars under General Sulima.
The action had been bloody, with over 900 Poles and 300 Saxons left on the field, while another 300 were captured. Russians losses were slight, though the Prussians suffered almost 700 casualties.
We use Napoleonic Fury with 15mm figures.
Had a pleasant game again tonight. Bavarians and Russians contesting a crossroads in 1813. It was supposed to be a double mismatch with Wrede binging eight big brigades against Sievers' six while Neubronn with only three Wurttemberg brigades faced Borosdin's corps of six more Russians.
In the end it was Sievers who originally pushed back Wrede, though numbers eventually told and the Bavarians won back some of the ground lost, but not, by the end of the game, the crossroads! On the other side Borosdin never did get his assault going and the gap between the Russian corps was exploited.
In the end, though Sievers occupied the crossroads, Russian losses had been severe, over 20%, with three brigades smashed beyond usefulness. German losses were less - about 10% - and Neubronn still held the high ground.
We use Fire and Fury Napoleonic variant and 15mm.
With apologies to Marshal Marmont and General Leutnant Klenau
20 May 1809. Camp outside Klein Clausterthal, Austrian Empire.
To: The Duke of Portland, No 10 Downing Street
I have the pleasure to report to Your Excellency that the Austrians showed a bit of fight this day, battling the corps of Marshals Soult and Marmont for eight hours. They will be forced to retire on the morrow – news has arrived in camp that Davout threatens to interpose between us and Vienna, but it was a glorious action!
Prinz Hohenzollern, showing unusual energy for an Austrian, aroused his III Korps in the early morning hours and advanced on the exposed corps of Marshal Soult at the small crossroads of Klein Clausterthal. Despite several couriers, General Leutnant von Klenau was delayed in rousing his VI Korps and thus the Prinz was forced to start the action alone.
Marshal Soult, upon seeing the approach of the Prinz and being warned that von Klenau was nearby, dispatched riders to call up Marshal Marmont’s corps to his aid and launched General de Division Morand in an all-out attack from the French right. Morand, his troops well in hand, was soon fully engaged with the Prinz’s left-hand division under General Leutnant von Schwartzenburg. Meanwhile, General de Brigade Lasalle advanced his outnumbered French hussars to engage Major General Brady’s hussar brigade in advance of Klenau.
Prinz Hohenzollern, unperturbed by Morand’s attack, pressed forward with Hohenfeld’s division as well as General Leutnant Hesse-Homburg’s grenadier division and Major General Nostitz’s Grenzer division. However, without Schwarzenburg’s division, Soult launched another spoiling attack, sending the 3rd Swiss into Hohenfeld’s flank. With Lasalle and Brady fully engaged and Klenau not yet up, Soult also made a spoiling attack on his left (north) with the 105th Line.
Schwartzenburg bent but he did not break. The French surged ahead with their usual intensity and elan. Over the course of the entire day’s fighting both Infantry Regiment Number 14 Oranien and Infantry Regiment Number 24 Strauch were forced to retire. But both rallied and, eventually, returned to the fray. In a death match Infantry Regiment Number 38 Wurttemberg destroyed the 48th Line, literally grinding it out of existence and capturing its eagle. At one point the 10th Legere captured the 3rd Reserve Battery but, again, by day’s end, the Austrians had recaptured and recrewed their 4 undamaged guns.
Lasalle and Brady surged back and forth, first one squadron sweeping forward only to retire before the sabers of its foe and then repeating, but in reverse. In triumph, well past midday, Lasalle forced the Austrian hussars to quit the field, only to succumb to the fresh horses of Nostitz’s uhlan brigade. By then, however, the sun was sinking low, and Marshal Marmont’s corps was well up. There would be no horsemen thundering over panicked infantry.
At Klein Clausterthal, brute force won the day. The 105th Line succeeded in chasing away a cavalry battery during its spoiling attack, and then forced the Peterwardiner Grenzers back. However, a third opponent was too much. As Lasalle’s hussars were retiring, blown, and the 48th’s eagle was finally falling, the 3rd Converged Grenadiers forced the 105th to retire on Marmont, clearing the north face of the village.
On the south face, the Swiss drove off Infantry Regiment Number 22 Lacy and then, after much desperate fighting, Infantry Regiment Number 9 Clerfayt. The 13th Legere was fed into the fight by General de Division St Cyr and they defeated the 2nd Converged Grenadiers and then fought the resurgent Warasdiner Grenzers (see below) to a standstill. However, these two French regiments’ reward was to end the day virtually surrounded by Hesse-Homburg, Hohenfeld, and Nostitz, suffering over 200 men captured before they could recover their own lines.
At the crossroads all honor went to Infantry Regiment Number 29 Wallis. Ignoring the Swiss, who were causing so much havoc to the rest of their division, Wallis surged forward when the bugle sounded and routed the 111th Line regiment. Then, pivoting, smashed into the 30th Line and forced them to retire. This placed them to the rear of the village where they faced Molitor’s entire division in Marmont’s advance as night began to creep over the battlefield.
In the village itself, the boys of Warasdiner Grenz Regiment were repulsed by the 108th Line. Hesse-Homburg then gave the order for the 4th Converged Grenadiers, and they stormed into the village. The French line troops were forced, grudgingly, out of the village. They prudently retired out of the range of Wallis’ muskets, leaving the village, smoldering, in the arms of the grenadiers.
Von Klenau, when he came up, did come with a rush, swinging wide to the north of and simultaneously through a copse of woods to engage Marmont. General de Division Friant’s division was fully engaged with General Leutnant von Ulm’s division on the far northern end of the battle when darkness brought an end to the slaughter.
Losses were extremely heavy. From official reports coming into this headquarters, Klenau suffered about 900 casualties. Marmont, it is said, 600 with another 300 stragglers. Soult, from sources, including a young staff officer captured after dark, has 5000 men who will not fight tomorrow. Finally, Prinz Hohenzollern, he of the unusual energy for an Austrian, has suffered 6000 casualties, or over 22%.
Honors to the French 10th Legere who captured one color and, for a time, 6 cannon. The 3rd Swiss who took two colors. The 48th Line, who fought to the death. The 13th Legere who took 1 color. The 105th Line who repulsed three attacks and, again temporarily, took 6 guns. And, finally, to General de Brigade Lasalle and the French Hussars who fought almost the entire day, outnumbered, and triumphed over the Austrian Hussars.
Honors to the Austrian Infantry Regiment Number 38 Wurttemberg who destroyed the 48th Line. To the 3rd Converged Grenadiers who took the north edge of the village. To the 4th Converged Grenadiers, the honor of taking the village. But highest honor to Infantry Regiment Number 29 Wallis, who captured two eagles and made the furthest contested advance of any Austrian unit.
Your Excellency, Prime Minister, we may yet have a worthy ally in the Austrians.
Major Douglas Heresy, Special Observer for the Crown
Major General Samuel G French had been ordered to cut the Federal supply line at Allatoona Gap, Georgia. He did not hesitate to deploy his brigades in heavy attack columns immediately upon his arrival. Above, the Federals bristled in a thin line stretching almost a mile and a half from the railroad gap to the edge of the ridge.
French, sensing his numerical advantage, sent a message to the Federal commander,
“I have placed the forces under my command in such positions that you are surrounded, and to avoid a needless effusion of blood I call on you to surrender your forces at once, and unconditionally.
“Five minutes will be allowed you to decide. Should you accede to this, you will be treated in the most honorable manner as prisoners of war.”
Brigadier General Robert Corse, having just arrived with reinforcements, allowing him a second line, which were in defilade and invisible to French, replied, defiantly,
“Your communication demanding surrender of my command I acknowledge receipt of, and respectfully reply that we are prepared for the "needless effusion of blood" whenever it is agreeable to you.”
French found it agreeable immediately. At a range of about 1000 yards the Federal guns began to boom from the heights as French’s columns moved forward smartly. He massed two batteries of Napoleons between Chalmers’ right-hand brigade and the center brigade of Jones Withers. The guns began to bang away at the 11th Michigan in their earthworks about 500 yards away.
Chalmers advanced behind a double line of skirmishers - the 21st Alabama and 5th Mississippi – on a narrow front up the steepest part of the Federal line. Crowning the Federal left was the 19th Illinois and the Battery M, 1st Ohio Artillery. The Ohioans had had an early success when a shell hit one of J. H. Kolb’s cannon and completely destroyed it. However, as the skirmishers pushed up the hill, the guns switched targets, spraying canister like angry, lethal, bees, downslope.
Withers attacked on a wider front, with the 26th Alabama on the left and the CGRB on the right. He applied pressure to Battery G, 1st Ohio Artillery, and their supporting infantry, the 78th Pennsylvania. The 26th soon got into an uneven firefight with the Federal guns.
On French’s left, at the end of the ridge, Brigadier General J K Jackson sent forward Wheat’s Battalion and the 5th Kentucky. Supported by Bouchaud’s battery of rifled guns, they were soon pressing Brigadier General J Beatty’s brigade. Wheat and Bouchaud directed their attention against the 37th Indiana while the Kentuckians threatened the far flank.
Battle was intense all along the line with the lead Confederate units gradually worn away and the Federal units at the schwerpunkts also being battered. After two hours French sensed the Federal line cracking and ordered a full assault. The lines of butternut and gray surged the last hundred yards.
Corse, too, had seen his front line begin to waver and determined the time was right to maneuver those reserves heretofore unseen to French. The veteran 42nd Indiana ascended a small rise to the left of the decimated 37th. Greeted warmly by Bouchaud, they delivered a devastating volley to stop the 25th Alabama and plug the gap where Battery G was fighting sponge stave to bayonet over the gabions.
Likewise, on the right, the 11th Michigan finally gave way but forward into the gap marched the 18th and 74th Ohio to thwart the surge of the 1st Louisiana and 10th Mississippi.
A rider galloped up to French with a note that Federal columns were on the move on the road from Atlanta and he called of the attack, even as its momentum died at the lip of the fortifications on the anvil of the fresh reserves and their concentrated volleys.
Corse suffered casualties of almost 25%. French, with a considerably larger force, though at a decided tactical disadvantage in terms of altitude and dirt, lost almost 30%.
We use Mr. Lincoln's War rules and 15mm figures.
The country is in flames! Smoke rises high above the forest spurring on Major Lathrop and his small supply column. Flour, freshly ground at the Hadley Mill, critical for surviving the long winter ahead. But the natives had risen in anger and devastation had touched the Connecticut Valley even as the amber, crimson, and gold leaves fell from the trees and the first cold winds swirled down from the north. Villages, towns, and isolated houses all along the great river, from its mouth to where white habitation lagged in the mountains of western Massachusetts, had been struck. Residents had died in their fields, on their stoops, and down the trails.
Lathrop had thought the natives might strike the mill or his wagon and haulers and so had stripped Springfield of its militia. A single platoon was left with instructions to retreat to the blockhouse if attacked. From the pall on the horizon, he hoped to God! they had made it to the blockhouse. He also hoped Major Pynchon had gotten his message and was hurrying to catch up.
The major had lived the past fifteen years on the frontier and had scouts deployed to both flanks as he rode behind the creaking wagon and the few bearers. Yet the command was still surprised when the three bands suddenly rose form the undergrowth and poured lead balls and ash arrow shafts tipped with sharpened flint.
Captains Moseley on the left and Treat on the right steadied their men and got them firing. As always the natives proved elusive. Shot after shot would thunder from the militia muskets only to be met with unremitting and unslowed. Not so the militiamen. Lathrop saw them one after another be struck by missiles from the unseen enemy. A man with a musket ball through his elbow, the arm hanging limply unusable as blood poured from the severed artery. Another foaming from an arrow lodged in his chest, lung pierces, gasping for breath.
After less than five minutes the whoops came from the left. Lathrop pulled his pistol and braced with the wagoneers as a band of warriors, painted, screaming, and brandishing tomahawks emerged from the forest and struck Moseley’s depleted company. Lathrop watched Moseley stop a tomahawk with the butt of his musket but then have his skull split in two by a second warrior.
And then, the warriors were upon Lathrop and the wagoneers. The pistol misfired and Lathrop went down, the light fading from his eyes.
Two days later he woke, in a straw bed, Captain Marshfield nursing a bottle of rotgut in the chair nearby. Marshfield, in his perpetually slurred speech, related the rest of the battle. The natives, being led overall by Mettawump and with the bands of Nonotuck in the front of the trail and Pocotuc on the right, had followed Mettawump’s charge and converged on the wagons. Only a handful of Captain Treat’s company survived, racing back down the trail to find Major Pynchon advancing.
Lathrop had survived because he fell under the wagon which the natives soon set ablaze. None ventured underneath the flames to scalp the unconscious officer, leaving him to the fire. Once the wagons were fully engulfed they pulled out, the barrel of rum and the militiamen’s muskets their only spoils – and 42 locks of hair.
By the time Pynchon’s force cautiously advanced there was nothing to do but pull the major to safety and hurry on to Springfield. There they found the Widow Morgan leading the survivors in a spirited defense of the blockhouse and the 67 souls who had crowded in. Five unfortunates had been caught on the street. 22 houses, five barns, and a dozen other buildings had been destroyed in part or whole.
It would be a long winter.
1 March 1944
A sequential raid of Japanese aircraft and heavy cruisers at the Army’s landings on Manus Island in the Admiralties was beaten back.
So said the official report from Rear Admiral William Fechteler to General Douglas MacArthur.
In actuality, it was a near disaster.
The day before Fechteler had landed elements of the First Cavalry on the island and they had made good progress. That morning more troops were being landed from three APDs and supplies were being ferried ashore at a frantic pace. Two DDs were on station providing gunfire support to the cavalrymen. Radar picked up an incoming swarm from Rabaul.
Fighter control aboard USS San Diego vectored the 16 P-40s flying cover from New Guinea to intercept. Poor coordination between the Army Air Force flyers and the Navy gunners proved catastrophic. Fifteen Warhawks were shot down, five by “friendly” AA fire.
However, the Japanese displayed their deteriorating pilot skill as well. Twenty-seven Betty bombers and a dozen Zero fighters swooped in on the packed harbor. Heavy, accurate AA fire and the doomed Warhawks shot down 11 Zeroes and 9 Bettys. The survivors dropped 20 bombs and 13 torpedoes and succeeded in getting only a single hit. It was a spectacular hit, however, penetrating three decks on the seaplane tender Curtiss to land in the depth charge magazine and rip the ship to tiny pieces.
As the surviving planes swept over the land and out of sight, USS Barton signalled “Unidentified ships, 30,000 yards and closing!”
They turned out to be IJN Tone and IJN Myoko who had crept up on the landing by using the shore to mask themselves from radar.
Left with no choice, Admiral Fechteler ordered his covering force to charge the Japanese heavy cruisers, whose 8-inch main guns easily outranged the 5-inchers of the Americans.
The ensuing gun battle saw the volume of American fire smother the two heavy cruisers. While the 8-inchers hit much harder, the rapid-fire 5-inchers hit exponentially more often, eventually turning both Japanese ships into infernos.
The heavy fire did claim San Diego, sinking with no less than 10 heavy caliber hits and six hits by smaller guns. Four destroyers were also hit, two seriously, but gunnery honors went to USS Barton, the ship who gave first warning, which scored an unbelievable 21 hits on Myoko and 4 more on Tone.
The landing was saved but McArthur was forced to divert USS Phoenix and two destroyers from protecting coastal traffic in New Guinea to replacing the losses sustained by Fechteler. As for the Japanese, they had thrown their last roll of the dice to support the infantry now doomed to destruction on Manus.
Tsar Ivan’s scouts had returned with a message that Tigranes would soon arrive to break the siege of Dyrrhachium. Facing a choice he broke his army into three parties and ordered an immediate storming of the castle.
Diatribes are simply often humorous recountings of the games played by the Long Island Irregulars. We play with toy soldiers and are unabashedly happy to have never lost this part of our childhoods..