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June 28th, early dawn before reveille: A booming morning

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June 28th, early dawn before reveille: A booming morning

Post  Henry Fraser on Mon Jun 11, 2012 5:30 am

Fraser liked mornings, for at evenings there always would still be some people asleep, while in the early mornings, no-one would disturb your thoughts.

And early it was, this...what day was it? Tuesday? no, it was the 28th: it was a Wednesday. He had ordered his sergeants to wake up the men a hour before reveille; therefor it was almost still fully dark. Only a few strokes of light at the horizon hinted at the dawn, but Fraser did not care. He had a warm cup of tea, handed over by a bombardier with a friendly old face. His men weren't sure why they been woken up so early; they were shouted and kicked into a 2-deep line of Cannoniers, bombardiers and conducteurs, about 50 yards wide. They all wore full uniform and swords, which was quite unusual for a morning parade. But then, most of them were bright enough this wasn't going to be a standard morning drill.

The troop was set into attention, and Fraser, dressed splendid in his full uniform, looked at them. All men were present, no sick or otherwise not present.

"Crews! At the quick! Prepare to limber up!". Almost instantly sergeants and corporals repeated the orders and 175 men quick-pased to their horses and walked them to the cannons or caissons. At the same time, Fraser mounted on his horse so everybody could hear him.
"Limber...up!" Again, the orders were repeated and Henry looked at them. This could not be done with military preciseness like a company did their marching or a squadron their riding, as limbering cannons to their horses was a tough job which took both hands and a lot of strenght(and willing horses), but the men did it well-enough and within a few minutes they were all standing beside their horses, wanting for the next order, which they all knew would come.
"Troop! Mount up!"

Fraser saw 179 men swinging themselves up their horses, and then the entire battery followed Fraser and his officers, down the road which ran straight trough camp. There were barely any people awake, which was one reason Henry had chosen to start the exercise so early. In a half hour the road would be packed by drilling redcoats and wagons. But that was just one of the many reasons...
They arrived at low hill the battery had been given by General Hill for their exercises. The hill was too rocky to build tents on, which is why it was left empty though it was almost fully surrounded by tents of the 2nd Division. Dawn had begun but the light did not show an obvious target. The battery deployed, but then Fraser let them stand down as it was too early: it was still 15 minutes before reveille and Fraser was not going to get his new division angry with him for firing too early. He walked his horse behind the cannons were the men were standing besides their unlimbered cannons.

He had managed to save a few kegs of bad quality Spanish powder which was going to be destroyed or given to the Guerrillas. Because it wasn't suitable to fire round shot, it was going to be used for blanks. Small hay balls had been made by the men to imitate cannon balls. They were in no luxury of wasting real rounds or good quality powder, Fraser reckoned. He took out his watch. four minutes to reveille.

"battery! Prepare to load!" Men ran to places behind the cannons or caissons, all facing the front.
"Battery! Load!" Sergeants repeated the orders to their crews and all the cannons, six 6 pounders, one nine pounder and a 5,5 pound howitzer rammed down the bags with crude powder, followed by the hay cannon balls. They would get burned within seconds after the cannons had fired.
The men were still standing straight and according to the parade-exercises, corporals setting the range to a fictional target and bombardiers making sure the lighters won't go out. Fraser looked on his watch for a last time, took out his sword, and saw the eyes of the cannon commanders carefully following every move.

"Battery!" His sword was raised. Then, he heard the first drums beating the reveille. The sword went down. "Fire!"

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Re: June 28th, early dawn before reveille: A booming morning

Post  John Vickery on Mon Jun 11, 2012 6:01 am

Vickery had been woken by what sounded suspiciously like artillery limbers going through the camp. He had not been called in the night; having three officers in the Company meant that, working on a rotation, they each got a whole night in every third night, although Vickery had given his two subalterns strict instructions that he was to be called at the least sign of anything out of the ordinary if it happened to be his turn for an 'all night in' as they referred to it, Navy-fashion.

He hadn't been called, even after the limbers went rattling and clanking through camp. He yawned, gave a hoarse 'camp cough', rolled over and reached for his watch, which was in the fob pocket of the waistcoat hanging over his camp chair. He opened it, then realised that it was still too dark to read the dial and closed the lid again. It couldn't be too far from dawn, though.

If nothing else, he could take a quick walk along the picquet line - nothing like turning up unexpectedly to make sure the sentries were awake, although he expected nothing less than professionalism from his men. He threw back his blankets, shivering in the cold air as he reached for a clean shirt, his jacket and boots.

He had just finished buttoning his jacket as Cavender's bugle sounded the first note of Reveille. He could hear no more because the air was suddenly loud with cannonfire.

He snatched the tent-flap open. "Stand to!" he shouted, reaching for his sword-belt - no time for sash or shako. "Stand to!"


Last edited by John Vickery on Mon May 05, 2014 8:15 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: June 28th, early dawn before reveille: A booming morning

Post  Edward Torrington on Mon Jun 11, 2012 6:33 am

Edward was very glad he was an early riser. Otherwise he would have felt obliged to hurry out with the better part of his uniform missing. But fortunately only his sword and hat - both uncomfortable while writing - were not on his person. The sword was laying where it was supposed to be and grabbed in a second, but the engineer needed his second hand to fetch the lantern and map from his desk and had to leave his bicorn behind.

Having trained in Woolwich, he knew the sound of cannon well ... and these were much to close for comfort. A frisson of unease made itself felt - so this would be his first real fight.

He ran out of his tent and looked around, his eyes blind in the near darkness, until he spotted Vickery.

"French?", he asked, even before he had reached the Rifles officer.

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Re: June 28th, early dawn before reveille: A booming morning

Post  John Vickery on Mon Jun 11, 2012 6:43 am

Vickery turned, to see Captain Torrington, who was carrying a lantern. His hair stirred in the morning breeze, an unfamiliar feeling to a man used to wearing hats most of the time when out of doors.

"I... am not sure. I heard the limbers go past a few minutes ago, but there has been no word from the sentries on picquet - and they have strict instructions to inform me should there be anything untoward. And I have heard no sounds of skirmishing or anything else to indicate that the French are upon us."

The cannonfire hadn't sounded quite right, either; a bit duller, if that were the right adjective for artillery fire, than normal.

"They may using bad powder," he added, still a little doubtful of this conclusion. The camp around him had stirred to life, each man grasping his rifle and peering through the pre-dawn chill to see where the enemy was.

"I am not standing the men down until I know exactly what is going on, though," he added decisively.

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Re: June 28th, early dawn before reveille: A booming morning

Post  Edward Torrington on Mon Jun 11, 2012 6:58 am

Edward spread out his map, tilting his head and listening for further shots to establish the direction.

"I had the impression the sound came from there ... And that is firmly behind our own lines."

He swallowed.

"If you would not prefer another disposition, I will go to investigate. Perhaps it is possible to get a good look at those guns once one has cleared the line of piquets."

He couldn't think of why one of their own artillery units would do something like that without having spotted some French at least. That they had passed through camp made it more likely that they were from their own side, but he wouldn't put it quite past the French to have the nerves to try sneaking through in disguise.

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Re: June 28th, early dawn before reveille: A booming morning

Post  John Vickery on Mon Jun 11, 2012 7:08 am

Vickery covered another yawn - he ought to be used to early mornings and broken nights by now, really! - and looked through the darkness to where Torrington was indicating. "It certainly is behind our lines," he said. "And I know for sure that they would not have got through my picquet line, not after the other day, if they were French. Which can only mean one thing." He sighed and looked at Torrington. "If you would care to wait a moment while I get my sash and hat, I shall join you. I should dearly like to hear whose bright idea it was to wake everyone and set the whole Division on the qui vive."

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Re: June 28th, early dawn before reveille: A booming morning

Post  Henry Fraser on Mon Jun 11, 2012 7:10 am

"Reload! Round shot! 600 yards!"

Fraser was making the distances up as he went along for they were just for the exercise. The battery won't use round shot and good powder untill after it's commander was sure it's speed was up to date.

There were few 6 pounders in the army, the artillery preferring the more heavy 9 and 12 pounders. Yet a lot of French 6-pounder ammunition had been captured so he was in no shortage of those. The quartermaster General had practically begged him to use the relatively small balls (Or trow them in the river, the General who was in fact no general didn't really care, he just wanted more place for useful stuff), and in fact they had also enough good quality powder by Hill. Fraser just...didn't want to waste anything!

The cannons had reloaded and their crews were still, perfectly according to the drill, standing at attention next to their cannons.

"Battery! By cannon! From the left! 5 seconds fuse! Fire!"

The cannon flashes came, 5 seconds after another, brightening up the sky. It was, Fraser thought, a pretty sight to artillerymen.
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Re: June 28th, early dawn before reveille: A booming morning

Post  Maggie Cotton on Mon Jun 11, 2012 7:33 am

Maggie had scrambled out of her blanket immediately at the sound of artillery, before she was even awake enough to know what it was. She found herself clinging to Cotton's arm as he tried to grab his rifle. "Gabe, it's the French?" she cried, half question and half exclamation.

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Re: June 28th, early dawn before reveille: A booming morning

Post  Edward Torrington on Mon Jun 11, 2012 7:36 am

"Certainly!"

Edward nodded.

"I'll get my own hat as well ... and two horses. If this is one of our own, I refuse to appear stumbling and bleary-eyed."

He turned away to send a soldier for the horses and complete his toilet. When he reappeared a minute later, he had not only his hat, but also a brace of pistols for his saddle-holster, his spyglass and - perhaps most necessary at the moment - a cup of cold, but nevertheless reviving tea.

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Re: June 28th, early dawn before reveille: A booming morning

Post  Gabriel Cotton on Mon Jun 11, 2012 7:38 am

"What the fuck...?" Cotton mumbled, half asleep, automatically grabbing for his rifle as the sound of the cannon fire startled him from a very pleasant dream. He was hampered by Maggie grabbing his arm, and had to shake her off.

"Dunno," he muttered, swiping at his eyes as he fumbled for a cartridge to load his rifle. "Stick close an' keep your head down," he added, glancing at her. "Best take your cap off, jus' in case." The white cap was a pale blur in the dark grey pre-dawn; her hair was much darker. "Like I said, keep your head down."

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Re: June 28th, early dawn before reveille: A booming morning

Post  Maggie Cotton on Mon Jun 11, 2012 7:44 am

She nodded and did so, pulling off her cap and standing very close behind him, almost pressed against his back. "Where's the captain gone?" she whispered, as if stealth were a necessity. But the relative quiet was shattered once again as cannon fire lit up the sky.

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Re: June 28th, early dawn before reveille: A booming morning

Post  James Duff on Mon Jun 11, 2012 7:54 am

Alexander woke up, rolled over hurriedly, fell off the bed and swore. Then he crossed the tent and shook his brother awake.

"Come on, James! Wake up! There is cannon fire!"

Duff sat up, glaring at his younger brother. "Alexander, I'm leaving tomorrow. Do you have to play pranks on me?"

"It's not a joke...," Alexander's words were punctuated by cannon fire.

"Oh," said James intelligently, "Well, better go and see what all that is about."

They dressed quickly, making sure to grab their weapons. Outside the 88th was buzzing, unsure of what was going on. Alexander called a Captain over, gave him several orders and the brothers set off on their reconnaissance.
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Re: June 28th, early dawn before reveille: A booming morning

Post  Gabriel Cotton on Mon Jun 11, 2012 7:54 am

"Maggie, do me a favour an' lie down, on your belly if you can," Cotton replied distractedly once he'd spat the end of the cartridge out and was ramming the ball home. He knelt, one hand on the hammer ready to bring the rifle to the full-cock position. "Get yourself as small on the ground as you can, pull the blanket over you if you need. I'm goin' to be here."

Heaven knew where the Captain had actually gone. "Captain's prob'ly goin' to tear someone off a strip," he said, after a moment, realising that he'd been asked a question. "We'll know where he's at soon enough." If the French had got into the camp, he'd be shouting orders before they knew it.

"'Mind me to get you a Rifles jacket soon as," he added a moment later. The dark green would not only identify her as belonging to the 60th, but would help her blend in better if this sort of muddle were ever to happen again.

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Re: June 28th, early dawn before reveille: A booming morning

Post  Maggie Cotton on Mon Jun 11, 2012 7:59 am

Maggie realized that her white chemise was rather bright, and she wrapped her green shawl more carefully to cover it up before curling up on the ground and pulling the blanket over her legs. But what if she had to get up and run? "Gabe," she whispered. "Kick me my boots. They're over there."

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Re: June 28th, early dawn before reveille: A booming morning

Post  Alexander Prestwich on Mon Jun 11, 2012 8:00 am

Needham hurried to where he could see Prestwich, shaving just outside his tent, making use of the early morning light.

"Sir! Did you hear?! There is cannon fire!"

"Of course, I heard, I'm not deaf yet, Needham," said Prestwich after a moment. He shot a glance across at Needham's worried face. "Calm down its ours, I've seen them preparing for practice earlier, when we were out with Captain Hunter."

Needham let out his breath in a rush. "And you didn't tell anyone, sir?"

Prestwich's eyes glinted: "No, I didn't."
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Re: June 28th, early dawn before reveille: A booming morning

Post  Gabriel Cotton on Mon Jun 11, 2012 8:06 am

Cotton kept his eyes on... what?... and fumbled for Maggie's shoes, passing them over before returning his hand to his rifle.

"If... If you need to, you can move closer to me," he said after a moment, suddenly realising that she might need the reassurance of being able to press against him, even if he couldn't hold her. "I'll try an' warn you, if I'm goin' to start firin'."

He was much more alert now than he had been a few moments ago. "Don't think it's the Frogs," he added. "It does sound like it's in our camp some'ers. An' I never meant to swear earlier, sorry."

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Re: June 28th, early dawn before reveille: A booming morning

Post  Maggie Cotton on Mon Jun 11, 2012 8:11 am

She had not even noticed him swearing, so she hardly minded. She sat up briefly and pulled on her shoes. "In our camp. But it's all quiet now." At least, apart from the sounds of general confusion, it did not sound like there was a battle going on.

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Re: June 28th, early dawn before reveille: A booming morning

Post  Gabriel Cotton on Mon Jun 11, 2012 8:21 am

"It is that," Cotton said, carefully moving his rifle down to the ready position, though he was still on the alert and ready to move back to a firing position.

"Here, reckon Pye might still have his old jacket handy?"

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And he sang as he marched through the crowded streets of Rochester,
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Gabriel Cotton
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Re: June 28th, early dawn before reveille: A booming morning

Post  Maggie Cotton on Mon Jun 11, 2012 8:26 am

"What? How should I know?" She looked around for Pye but could not see him in the dim darkness. Why was Cotton talking about Pye's jacket at a time like this? "Where's the Palmers?" Maggie did not really care about Zeb and Jed Palmer, but she would like to have Sarah's company if the men went rushing off into the unknown.

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Maggie Cotton
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Re: June 28th, early dawn before reveille: A booming morning

Post  Gabriel Cotton on Mon Jun 11, 2012 8:34 am

"Was just thinkin'. If he does, I'll buy it off him - you might be able to repair it an' cut it down to fit you." It really would be something to see his girl in the green of the Rifles. He shrugged. "Dunno."

Was it getting lighter? He thought so, but couldn't be sure. They couldn't stand down without the officers' say-so, and they wouldn't give that until one or other of the riflemen called the traditional "See a grey horse at a mile!" that meant it was light enough that they wouldn't be sneaked up on.

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And he sang as he marched through the crowded streets of Rochester,
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Re: June 28th, early dawn before reveille: A booming morning

Post  Henry Fraser on Mon Jun 11, 2012 4:37 pm

"Battery, continious firing at will!"

This order meant there was only one thing that counted:firing as fast as one could. Regulation drills were forgotton. Men stood easy and one of the staff sergeants ran from cannon to cannon, slapping men on the shoulders and saying "you're dead!". Some men simply walked to the back, others gave a little show of dieing and were dragged off by laughing men.
Fraser counted the seconds between the last and the first cannon firing. Twenty-two. Too slow, too slow.
"Come on men, it's not your mother you are ramming!

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Re: June 28th, early dawn before reveille: A booming morning

Post  John Vickery on Mon Jun 11, 2012 7:55 pm

Vickery had tied his sash - not neatly, though; he needed help in order to be able to tie it neatly - and found his shako. He had also found his pistols, and felt much like a pirate as he came back out of the tent to find Torrington already mounted.

"I don' think they are that far away," he said, and reconsidered: to appear mounted would look more impressive than appearing on foot.

The gunfire was more or less continuous now, and he was sure he could hear musket shots interspersed with the heavier sounds of the cannon.

What a mess.


Last edited by John Vickery on Mon May 05, 2014 8:21 pm; edited 1 time in total

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King George commands, and we obey
Over the hills and far away ~ Traditional

An officer must be confident in giving orders, or else the soldier will not be confident in executing them.
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John Vickery
Captain

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Re: June 28th, early dawn before reveille: A booming morning

Post  Edward Torrington on Mon Jun 11, 2012 9:55 pm

"You realize that that isn't really comforting, do you?"

Edward's voice was somewhat muffled, but the friendly sarcasm in his tone was clear nevertheless. He had trained his spyglass on the hill where every few seconds spots of light flashed out.

After a few seconds, however, he collapsed the glass with an angry gesture.

"The whole place is clouded with smoke now - even if the light was better, it's impossible to see anything helpful."

Trueno had fallen in step with Vickery's horse, fretting slightly. His usual tendency to run was slightly curbed by all those strange noises he had never heard this close before.

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Re: June 28th, early dawn before reveille: A booming morning

Post  James Duff on Mon Jun 11, 2012 10:48 pm

James and his brother hurried towards the noises and the smoke. The camp was abuzz with confusion. The saw other officers mounting up for reconnaissance.

"I think this going to turn out to be something very stupid," muttered James, making his brother wince. Alexander hated when army came into disrepute.
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Re: June 28th, early dawn before reveille: A booming morning

Post  John Vickery on Tue Jun 12, 2012 3:47 am

"If the sounds of firing are as close as that, then it follows that the guns firing must be close by. It's when the sounds of firing aren't so close that you need to worry about the cannon balls," Vickery pointed out. Brandy whickered, as if in agreement.

"Ah. I think the source of the firing is over here... and that is definitely within our camp." He stood up in the stirrups and shouted across, "Helloa, there!"

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Re: June 28th, early dawn before reveille: A booming morning

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