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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

CatKnight

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Machiavellian: Thanks! I think we can avoid a civil war (unless there's a random event that decides to make my day.) Tensions between the northern states and southern were pretty much continual, and the southern argument about 'State Rights' came up early. I suppose we'll just have to be nice to them for awhile. :rolleyes:

Farquharson: Well, I had to get Tom back up to date for the game to continue. And Machiavellian's comment on politics gave me some ideas. :D Glad you liked it!

J. Passepartout: Thank you!

Stuyvesant: Well, the 'independence' war ended in May 1773. I had to give up five provinces. At an absolute minimum I want them back, and to annihilate the Shawnee while I'm at it. Since there are no events (at least in Vanilla 1.08) detailing Jay's Treaty that turned over the English forts near the Mississippi River to American control, I'll need to just take them at some point as well. :p

All this is, of course, in the future.
 

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Interlude 3: Some Quiet Time (1774-75)

Moving into Position

With the Iroquois War over in all but name, Congress immediately cut back the army's readiness level (1) in hopes of enjoying some peace. It wasn't well liked, especially for those hawks 'done out' of their crusade against the Cherokee and Creek, but these cuts were somewhat necessary. (2)

These were good years for the army despite all this. After the Iroquois formally submitted to American rule, Generals Washington and Gates moved south to cover the Shawnee border. Meanwhile, the vast levy now based in New York split in half. At first they were based in Boston and Hartford, but after the English flooded troops into Maine in fear of a sneak attack, the troops pulled back as a gesture of good will. They finally settled in Connecticut and southern New York. (3)

Meanwhile, a newly raised expeditionary force under Colonel Exeter moved into Pennsylvania. When the time came their job would be to retake the Canadian parts of New York, then break into Quebec (4) and flank the enemy.

The northern armies turned out to have some fine officers, as first General Benedict Arnold, followed by General Kosciuszko took command of their respective forces.

Merchants for Everyone!

Throughout the waning days of 1774 the ruthless persecution of the English in New York continued. Once they were ejected (5) the Americans controlled trade there for some time to come. Carefully, trying not to anger their friends, they started increasing their trade in France, Spain and Spanish Mexico. This finally backfired when a Spanish ambassador let it be known that our company in their cities was no longer appreciated. (6)

Hawks called for war, but again they were shouted down. Relations with England were deteriorating, if such was even possible. After Dr. Hall's return to Philadelphia, they demanded his extradition for various crimes. Congress responded by claiming Georgia as sovereign territory. (7)

Congress had plenty to do. After arranging a marriage between Hancock's daughter and a Spanish nobleman to ease tensions (8), there were several ominous rumblings from delegates that they felt the government wasn't listening to the state authorities properly, and if the state assemblies weren't given more local control the union might not hold together after all. On this, Congress caved, (9) deciding it was a minor issue. Finally they signed a mutual trade agreement with Portugal, which was all the merchants needed to hear as they shifted their business to Lisbon and Recife. (10)

World Relations

Aside from the obvious and ongoing plan to go to war with England as soon as etiquette allowed, little happened. The French/Spanish/Helvetian/Palatinate/American alliance picked up a new friend as Baden joined. (11) The American people finally 'forgave' the vast increase in the military (12), and for awhile everyone was at peace.

Until October 1775, when Colonel Exeter decided it was time to test the troops…

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
(1) Down to 50%. The war was over in all but name (and the vassalage treaty was signed in September 1774) so there was no reason to maintain such a high upkeep….
(2) Especially as on paper I can only support 53,000 troops.
(3) The English were amassing a lot of troops (12,000 with reinforcements en route) in Penobscot. It turned out they were just boarding a ship, but I figured I was making the AI nervous.
(4) Past Niagara into what is now southeast Ontario, and seize all the trading posts they can find.
(5) Tossed England out of the Manhattan CoT (September 1774). No one else has tried to get in.
(6) I was trying to be careful, but I managed to pass Spain in their home CoT and the AI was upset. Trade Embargo (December 1774.)
(7) At 2 diplomats per year I didn't really have the luxury of translating my story into game play, otherwise I would have happily 'insulted' them. Of course it's not necessary - we both have Casus Bellums and our relation's around -195.
(8) Royal Marriage with Spain (March 1775). I figured it might help with the embargo, but their relations with us was already +142. Nothing personal I guess.
(9) Nobles demand former rights: I agreed (+1 Aristocracy) hoping it'd help with my diplomat shortage.
(10) Tago CoT is pretty busy. I have two merchants there. Of the last four sent, three ended up shutting down other merchants. Eh.
(11) Baden joins (August 1774). If the alliances hold, the 1778 war could be very interesting.
(12) Stability +1 (June 1775) - back to 3. Back in July '74 I'd switched tech over to half land, half stability - I don't want to fall too far behind in the tech race. Now everything (except a small bit to the treasury) is in land.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 

unmerged(24591)

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Well done! I especially enjoyed the heated discussion and theatrics during the important vote. Giving Connecticut a small piece of the south would have been interesting geographically and politically.
 

TreizeV

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great story you're telling here Catknight, i especially like the adventures of Tom Heyward mixed in with some politics ;)

This is your first AAR? I find it hard to believe, it is very well written.
 

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Chapter 9: Parting Shots

Charleston, South Carolina
11th March, 1775


Thomas Heyward's house in Charleston had been secured by his father in 1772. It was a sprawling two story affair, somewhat modest compared to the plantations and estates of other men in the state assembly or congress, but more than enough for two people.

Tom's house in Charleston. (1)
house.txt


John Preston moved in as soon as the legal necessities surrounding his father's death had been satisfied. He had his own house, and quite a bit of money from the sale of the banking house - both would become his by right in his eighteenth year or upon marrying, whichever came first.

It was an easy life, though somewhat constrained - first by Tom's continued and often appalling and embarassing lack of knowledge of certain basics of eighteenth century life. Two and a half years could not substitute for a lifetime and certain courtesies, such as never calling someone a liar unless you're trying to provoke a duel but allowing them every chance to withdraw gracefully, baffled him. Their relationship further suffered due to typical teenage issues such as girls, it'd seemed like he'd worked his way through the entire town and was beginning again. Frustration when patience was called for, of course. An absolute certainty he knew what was best for himself, and when someone disagreed they were obviously out to ruin his life. Tom's equal certainty the boy was clueless. Nothing in Tom's experience in England or here had prepared him for raising a teenager, and it made a time of relative peace and prosperity somewhat less so.

In the dining hall Tom was reading through the gazette. American reaction to freedom was probably all that kept half these newspapers in print, as the op-ed pages were constantly filled with something not far from righteous indignation. Of course no one in South Carolina could do wrong, but as for the other grass-combed buggers, half of them fornicating devil worshippers in league with Mammon and the other half 'merely' incompetent or mentally deficient - well, God would take care of them all soon enough and leave the good folk of South Carolina to inherit.

Dining Room
diningroom.txt


"Hello." John slunk in, eyes half-open and puffy in the exchange. He yawned politely and sank down to his breakfast.

Tom looked up and stared at him thoughtfully. "Long night?" he asked mildly.

"Stop asking," the boy snapped. "Every time I come in here you have something to say."

"Of course I do. I'm your…"

"You're not my father!"

"I was going to say guardian. You're under my protection," he added, switching to an older parlance.

"I don't need your protection," John sulked for about the ninety-seventh time.

"I think you do," Tom commented for the ninety-seventh time. "Now….long night?"

"I was out."

"With whom? Amanda? Kelli? Ashleigh?"

"I was just thinking." He bit into his food savagely. He really, really hated mornings. Especially after nights at the alehouses.

"About?"

"I turn sixteen tomorrow."

"Yes. Congratulations!"

"I'm joining the army."

"The hell you say!" Tom dropped his fork with a clatter and the two glared at each other.

"It's my choice, and you can't stop me!"

"And what do you want to do in this army? Hunt Englishmen? They're your countrymen by God!"

"They haven't been your countrymen in years, or have you forgotten? And they were never mine!"

"You still blame them for your father."

"Among others!" John shouted.

"What the bloody hell does that mean!?"

Preston looked away. It was still a sore spot between them. Perhaps it always would be. "I'm going."

"Do you even know what a real battle is like? That scuffle in Georgia doesn't count, you know."

"Do you?" he sneered.

Tom shook his head. "No, but I've talked to enough soldiers. You can't afford all this emotion. If you make it personal, you're going to get killed."

Getting killed was a physical impossibility for one so young. John knew this for a fact. "I liked you better when you weren't afraid all the time."

"Afraid?" Heyward stood and glared. Maybe there was something to be said for the whip after all, son or not.

"Timid maybe? Every few months you go to Philadelphia to do…what? Nothing! You haven't done anything in years! Then you come back here and act noble and polite, and do what? Nothing here either!"

"Running a government is about more than starting wars when you're in a bad mood! Without us, your precious army doesn't get paid. I would love to see you fight without powder or shot, food or clothes!"

"At least then they wouldn't be beholden to old men more interested in money than justice!"

"Revenge is not justice," Tom began, then paused, studying the angry eyes, the set of John's jaw. Coldly he continued: "However, I see I'm not the one to be showing you that. Very well. There is a brigade forming near New York. Stay with them, and I promise you all the revenge you can swallow. Best start saying your good byes, I'll have the orders waiting when you get home."

----------------------
(1) Though the same style, this house is actually in Buffalo. Heyward's house does survive in Charleston, however I found it...ugly and looking like an apartment house. If interested, here it is.
 
Last edited:

CatKnight

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JRoch: Thanks! Historically, Connecticut was the last state to give up its claim to any of the western lands, so I see them as quite willing to 'expand.' Connecticut with a political stake in the south would be quite interesting, especially if they held onto it until the ACW. Eep!

TreizeV: Yep, my first AAR though I've written some stories elsewhere. So far it's a lot of fun! I imagine as time goes on and my game deviates further and further from history it'll get harder to maintain consistency, but we'll see how it goes.
 

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J. Passepartout said:
Is Steuben going to make any sort of major appearance?

Well, originally I was going to have a random Baden officer show up in honor of the alliance, but since I was going to suggest 'special' or advanced training, von Steuben fits in perfectly. Your timing is impeccable, sir. :p
 
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Chapter 10: No Guts...

Fort Montgomery, near West Point, New York
23rd May, 1775


"Gentlemen? Colonel Exeter."

Jasen Exeter was probably in his early forties, with long gray hair that curled at the collarbone, almost as if he were wearing a wig. He was a tall man, thin with a hawk's nose and cold, intelligent eyes. He was dressed in his best uniform: the blue and white of the United States Army, with his tricorner hat was tucked under one arm. In his other hand he held a riding switch, as if the rag-tag pack in front of him had seen fit to interrupt his hunt.

He stared up and down the line, looking for some flaw in their attempt at order. Frankly, it wasn't difficult. Farmers' boys, laborers looking to escape the cities, people on the run or down on their luck looking for a new chance, and the occasional bravo looking for adventure combined to form something not very far from a mob. Two months just wasn't enough to bring anyone up to speed on the rudiments of modern warfare, and in truth the trainers didn't really try. They would simply learn like almost every other army since the beginning of time had: trial and error. Use makes master.

"Gentlemen, I am very happy to see you," Exeter began in such a sincere tone that none harbored any doubt about his anticipated hunt. "You are about to join a proud tradition. An honorable tradition. You will all, God willing, leave your mark on the United States Army for generations to come. Just four days south of here General Washington routed an English invasion, and it was near here that Washington fought them to a standstill though the entire army of Canada bore down on him. It was here that God graced us, and it was here the English were put to task for their arrogance. It is in this fertile ground you have learned your tasks."

His assistant, a grizzled master sergeant, blew his bugle. It's triumphant notes reverbeated as he shouted: "Prepare for inspection!"

Inspection in this case consisted of Exeter, the master sergeant and various aides silently marching up and down each rank in turn. The colonel never said a word, simply stared each man in the eye and continued on. It seemed no words were necessary, for the master sergeant pushed, pulled and yanked those in need into order and something resembling a line.

John Preston sweat under his wool uniform. It was too hot! Summer had begun early in New York, and on Fahrenheit's scale it had to be nearly 90. (1) Absently he loosened his collar and tried to think cool thoughts. He'd arrived later than everyone else, and as far as his commanders were concerned that simply meant he was that far behind to start. He believed he'd managed to succeed, however, and he had high hopes of being in the cavalry sooner than la…

His eyes bulged as Colonel Exeter coldly stared at him. He didn't care for young men who appeared to be daydreaming, sniffed, and walked on.

Not so the master sergeant, who saw fit to fix the young man's collar, glaring at him all the while. John started to pull away to fix it himself, but the sergeant's grip tightened into something not far from a chokehold. After pulling him, literally, to attention the sergeant walked on.

The next two men to pass were aide de camps who smiled kindly at him. The last was a Prussian officer in dark blue with white breeches and a swirling black cloak wearing a somewhat smug expression. I know you, his eyes said pleasantly. You are republican rabble. Anyone can kill indians, but when you face a real opponent you will wet your pants, drop your gun, cry for mercy and run for mother. Mind your betters and perhaps you will learn something.

"I'll show you," he hissed once the German had passed. His messmate glanced over and frowned, for Colonel Exeter was from the camp that believed one man's failure reflected on his entire unit, and so the entire unit should be punished until they make things right.
----------------

"C'mon Preston, what the devil is your problem?" shouted Sergeant Waymouth several days later. "It's not that hard. One, two, one, two, keep pace with your fellows eh?"

"Sorry, sir." John flushed, he hated being singled out as much as the next person. "I'm just.." Admitting he was tired from marching was a good way to be invited to run the next few miles. "…slow today."

"Aye, no doubt there." Colonel Exeter's army - five thousand infantry and two thousand cavalry - patiently worked its way down the Main Post Road which started in Montreal and worked its way down New York, through Philadelphia and Baltimore, before following the coastline all the way to Saint Augustine. Every line had to be exact, every gun and buckle polished to an unearthly hue. They were on display as much as anything, passing through silent and often astonished towns as they trailed the Hudson River.

march.txt


When not marching through the heart of a town they were allowed to speak, and John's new friend, Wesley was talkative. Wesley was also sixteen, the son of a Newport merchant, and fat. There was no nice way of putting it. Father thought the army would be able to get his child into some semblance of shape - or at least away from the meals he loved - and turn him into a man. Wesley thought he'd die of a heart attack before this wondrous goal was reached and had no trouble sharing his prophecy.

Today, though, he talked of home. "Your pa should be in Philadelphia by the time we get there, right?"

"He's not my father," John grumbled.

"Well... sounds like he's treated you alright to me. Are you going to visit him? I'm sure Sergeant will okay it for a few hours after we stop."

"I wasn't planning on it." He didn't hate Tom Heyward, he just didn't want to see him. This was his chance to be his own man, and maybe avenge himself on the English - if anyone in his regiment was game. This he doubted sincerely.

"C'mon Preston, tighten up that formation. What's the matter with you? You can rest when you're in the ground."

The Prussian chose that moment to ride by on a great black stallion. He looked down at Johnny and favored him with an amused smile before riding on.
-----------------

Thomas Heyward stood near the front of the cheering crowds as the soldiers marched through Philadelphia heading north. He was greeted by various shades of blue - from the crisp naval colors of the colonel and his aides to something not terribly far from a cloudless afternoon on the threadbare uniforms of the recruits. This was the price of reducing the military budget. Something had to give, and it certainly wasn't going to be powder or shot.

The recruits were hot and tired. They'd marched ten to twelve hours per day in all weather since leaving Fort Montgomery, and still had a very long way to go through less certain roadways. He didn't envy them - Tom knew with his chancy lungs, even though they almost never bothered him anymore, he'd never make it. For their part they marched more like a disorderly mass than a military regiment. He nodded to the Prussian as he rode by, hoping that soon enough this would change.

"Isn't your boy in here somewhere?" asked Dr. Hall, after literally wedging himself between his friend and a fat, gasping man who smelt of vanilla.

"Johnny? He should be here somewhere."

Drums from the regiment's musicians overwhelmed the cheering crowd, beating to their own rhythm. Then the musicians took over.

"Yankee Doodle?" Hall asked incredulously.

Heyward shrugged. "That's what the English called them…us. I suppose it's their idea of revenge."

He stood there for another hour as the soldiers filtered through the city. He didn't see John.
-----------------

"Special training's good, right?" whispered Wesley. John shrugged and stared straight ahead as Sergeant Waymouth continued.

"Colonel Exeter is convinced that if you can learn these new methods, than anyone can! Succeed, and I think I can promise all of you a commission within ten years as they'll use you to train others. Fail, and you'll be digging trenches until your back breaks or you fall over."

Train? John's heart fell. "Sergeant?"

"God rot your eyes, Preston! Don't interrupt!"

"I'm sorry. It's just…I came here to fight, not train others."

"Boy, you do what we tell you, you go where we tell you, you eat, piss, sleep and live when and where we tell you, and you die when and if I tell you it's alright. What makes you think I give a rat's *** what you want?"

There really was no response to make, and the sergeant hmfed. "At any rate, I'm sure there'll be plenty of time for fighting. Now, gentlemen. Attention!" He did his best to ignore the fact that this group's idea of ten lines of ten men each resembled a rectangular block more than anything. "Ready for inspection, sir!"

Several long moments passed as John Preston wondered just who the sergeant was talking to. Then there was a disturbance in another part of the line, and the Prussian soldier walked out in full dress uniform, followed by his own attache. The Prussian turned and regarded the hundred soldiers critically, his gaze now unreadable. He barked something in German, and the attache stepped forward.

"This is Baron Friedrich von Steuben, provisionally your colonel. From now on, you belong to him."

Friedrich Wilhelm, Rittermeister von Steuben
steuben.txt


-------------------------------------------
(1) 32 degrees Celsius

Comment: Baron von Steuben, like several other people and events so far, is a victim of time crunching - moving up the dates a bit to account for the early and extremely short war of independence. As it happens, he was in Paris in 1775 looking for work, so it's entirely plausible he met Benjamin Franklin there three years early. Works for me anyway :)
 
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unmerged(10971)

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CatKnight said:
Well, originally I was going to have a random Baden officer show up in honor of the alliance, but since I was going to suggest 'special' or advanced training, von Steuben fits in perfectly. Your timing is impeccable, sir. :p

Personally, I like the Baden officer idea better. ;)

Well, no matter, even a thing like that can't make me dislike this AAR.
 

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Judas Maccabeus said:
Personally, I like the Baden officer idea better. ;)

Well, no matter, even a thing like that can't make me dislike this AAR.

Hee hee.

I live in that part of New York belonging to Steuben County, so... :)

That statue is the statue at his grave, if I remember correctly.
 

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Chapter 11: A Taste of Discipline

30th September, 1775
Central Pennsylvania



"FIRE!" shouted the attache, and the air filled with black powder as one hundred muskets went off as crisply as a ship's broadside. The powder stung John's eyes and nostrils, but he did his best not to notice. Wesley immediately started reloading, and was cuffed in the back of the head by the Prussian for his efforts. Baron von Steuben went on to shriek something suitably horrible at the boy in a curious mixture of German and French, which the attache translated as "Wait for the word! Now…. Shoulder firelock!"

The soldiers crisply settled their rifles on their left shoulders. Somewhere von Steuben's arm shot out, adjusting a soldier's position.

"Halfcock….Firelock!"

John Preston pulled his elbow back while holding the weapon steady, with forefinger and thumb firmly on the cock until it clicked one notch.

"Handle…Cartridge!"

He slapped the next cartridge in his pouch to settle the powder, then pulled it to his mouth and ripped it open. Powder didn't taste very good either. John then rested it under his chin for protection.

"Prime!"

Preston shook a small amount of powder into the weapon's pan in front of the cock.

"Shut….Pan!"

He shut the pan quickly while holding onto the cartridge, then moved the musket to the loading position - almost vertical, with the lock to the front, and muzzle at chin level and his right hand behind it.

"Charge with Cartridge!"

John placed the cartridge in the muzzle and shook the powder into the weapon, followed by the paper-wrapped musket balls. Then he seized his rammer.

"Draw….Rammer!"

He pulled the ramrod out of its home under the barrel and held it to the barrel.

"Ram down….Cartridge!"

Preston shoved the rammer vehemently, deep into the barrel, pushing the balls against the cartridge and concentrating both.

"Return….Rammer!"

John returned the ramrod to its home.

"Shoulder Firelock!"

He pulled the musket to his shoulder, staring hard at the target, a bale of hay. He tried to pretend it was a British soldier and snarled softly.

"Poise Firelock!"

He pushed the weapon to its ready position, at arms length and barrel up.

"Full cock…Firelock!"

The field filled with a hundred soft clicks as the cock was pulled back a second time.

"Take aim!"

Preston swung the weapon so the butt was against his shoulder and he could sight down the barrel at the bale of hay.

"Fire!!"

He pulled the trigger. The pan caught with a spark and the powder exploded with a satisfying bang as more smoke filled the air.

"Discipline," the Prussian argued through his translator, "is what will make or break a modern army. I do not care a fig for your enthusiasm. I promise it will vanish the moment you realize someone else is willing to kill for their cause just as much as you. Only by obeying your officers will you assure that the regiment acts, fires, and marches as one. One hundred men who fire together, march smoothly and support each other will outfight and outlast five hundred rabble who think only for themselves."

Friedrich von Steuben was in his trademark dark blue uniform with white breaches and black cloak as he talked, a dashing figure. The company in front of him had similar uniforms - new, with the blue and red of the American army. He firmly believed that the first step to building up recruits was giving them a sense of pride, and so maintained rigorous standards on proper dress, hygiene and etiquette. It was finally starting to pay dividends.

After firing twenty volleys with increasingly hot barrels making the muskets jumpy, inaccurate and unpleasant to hold, they practiced marching. Left face, right face, about face, double speed - that still took a little practice. As they marched back to their camp, Colonel Exeter himself rode up and began an intense discussion with the baron, the attache serving double-time as a translator.

"Nein!" the Prussian looked thoroughly displeased. Glancing at the now openly curious men marching behind him, he abruptly pointed to his tent and rode away.

His camp was also different. Whereas the majority of Exeter's forces had settled in a blob which from overhead would have looked eerily like Austria's borders, von Steuben's contingent settled in a beautiful eight-tent by seven square. The baron himself lived in the middle, flanked by his aides and senior officers, and so on outward to the trainees.

Forty-five minutes later, Sergeant Waymouth found John helping police the camp. "Preston!" he called. "Black Baron wants you!"

"He wants me?" the young man frowned. Visiting the Prussian was a virtual guarantee that he was to be punished. "What does he want?"

"I don't know." The sergeant screwed his face up. "I don't think he heard your nickname for him if that's what you're worried about."

It was John's turn to grimace. He doubted his colonel would appreciate being called von Stupid.

"C'mon boy, whatever you did it's gonna be worse if you make him wait. You know how he feels about punctuality."

At the baron's tent he saluted crisply. For his part the German looked up from his table, elongating his neck as he met the soldier's gaze. He muttered something to the attache, who answered, "Ja." He nodded brusquely.

"Private Preston," the attache turned with a smile. "We were curious how you felt your training was going?"

"Good….Excellent, sir." John sensed a trap and glanced around quickly.

"Good. Do you feel you're ready to fight the English?"

Are they attacking? he thought with dreadful glee, but managed to keep the smile mostly off his face. "I'm certain the Colonel is better able to judge that than I," he said quickly with a bow.

This earned a translation and von Steuben smiled darkly. The attache continued: "We've been asked to demonstrate the success of the Baron's program. Specifically, we are sending a small force into Canadian New York to see how our men perform. Do you feel fit to join that group?"

"I…" Preston flushed. "Yes, sir! Thank you sir!"

The Prussian rose and stared down at the young man, then began speaking quickly in German. The attache listened to him for several moments, then nodded and turned.

"Colonel von Steuben realizes you have a…friend in Congress. That is all well and good in times of peace, or in a social role, but in war it will not answer. A musket ball does not care about your breeding or connections. Rely on what you learned here, and with God's blessing we will have the pleasure of your company again."

"He said all that?" John blurted.

"Well, most of it." the attache smiled thinly. "Best prepare. You leave in a few days." (1)

-----------------------------------------

(1) Rebellion in Oswego province (October 1775)
 
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The boy wants to be his own man. And kill some English. What better way to do that than to join the army? :)

I'm kinda hoping war will prove to be a bad experience for Tom. He seems a little too eager for it, time for him to learn that war isn't very pleasant. But hey! That's just me.

I liked the description of the firing drill, I had never even considered the fact that even old-fashioned muskets could overheat.
 

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Chapter 12: The Valiant

25th October, 1775
Near Onondaga Lake, Quebec province
(Canadian occupied New York)



Clicking and rattling, then the throw:

"Hah! Nine."

"You always were lucky," John complained. "So what do I owe you?"

'Red,' an Irish-American Catholic eager for a chance to kill some Englishmen, closed one eye as he thought. "That is eight thousand seven hundred you be owing."

"You lie."

"I never lie," Red shook his head "Though I will be settling for a beer next time we have leave."

"That I can live with." John smiled and picked up the Irishman's dice. He shook them once and absently threw them. Nine. His eyebrow arched.

"I said use yahr own dihce, yah bloody…!" Red shoved the dice into his purse, his accent thickening as his choler rose.

"Let me see those."

"Go to hael!"

"That's enough you two." Sergeant Waymouth leaned closer. "We're in Canada, not a God damned gambling den. Police the camp."

John looked around as his squad silently rose. Like him, they were dressed in grays except for their belts, the straps on their muskets and packs: these were leather brown. The United States and Britain were, of course, at peace so any hostilities in Canada had to be the work of subversives. Of course.

While John picked up the loose food cans and Red eliminated any trace of their meager fire, two others dragged heavy branches over the site to hopefully wipe out any prints and a third buried the makeshift latrine. Wesley - why had he been invited? - faced outward, looking for trouble.

"They're close," he whispered to John when he was near. "I can feel them!"

"What? You're a diviner now?" Preston grinned. "Tell me how to get Elisabeth away from her father next time we're in Philadelphia, then I'll believe you!"

"I'm serious!" Wesley was sweating heavily, and it wasn't that warm.

John looked down the hill they had camped at, into the thick forest of western New York. It wasn't as lush as the trees he'd grown up around - they weren't even green. Most of the trees had long since turned to brilliant shades of orange, red and yellow and the ground was carpeted with leaves. No movement bar a few squirrels, and somewhere overhead a flock of geese called to each other as they migrated south. After a few moments he shook his head and clapped the pudgy boy on the shoulder. "Now you stop that. You'll worry everybody."

"But John, I…"

"There a problem?" Sergeant Waymouth paced over and folded his arms.

"No, sir."

"Harding?"

"No," Wesley turned, defeated. "I suppose not. Sorry, sir."

"Don't apologize for vigilance." Waymouth frowned at Preston. "You. Back to work."
-----------------------

"There they are," Wesley whispered two days later, pointing down the hill. Just twenty yards ahead the forest opened onto a dirt path leading from the English fort at Lake Onondaga into Canada proper. Ten soldiers were marching home, Englishmen from the 101st Foot with their distinctive red and white uniforms.

Waymouth clapped him on the shoulder. It would be a good match - the numbers were even, but the Americans had the advantage of surprise. "Five minutes hearty and we're done," he smiled. "Line formation, poise firelocks." The weapons were long since loaded.

"Should not we be firing from cover now?" Red asked softly.

"Don't be foolish. Catching them unaware is one thing, but we'll do this like men, not scrubs."
--------------

"Master Sergeant!" a private called.

Master Sergeant Clarke turned, seeing the grey-clad men step out of the trees, muskets held in the ready position. A lesser man might have panicked, or - far worse - frozen. Both reactions were beneath him. If someone wanted to test their mettle against the might of the British Empire (as incarnate in he and his men,) then that was their lookout, not his. He turned and drew his sword.

"Company, halt!" Waymouth shouted to his men. He stared at his English counterpart, who merely arched an eyebrow.

"Company, right face!" Clarke roared.

"Full cock firelock!" Doing so before would have saved a step, but made the musket vulnerable to a misfire.

"Open Formation!" The Englishmen spread their line a bit.

"Take aim!" Waymouth cried.

"Draw and fix bayonets!"

"FIRE!"

"GENERAL MELEE!"


The American line fired, ten muskets firing as one. Smoke, burning and smelling of rotten eggs drifted across the air, and the Englishmen screamed. Screamed! Eagerly John took a step or two forward to see what was happening. The first volley had done incredible damage, no less than five of the Britons were down while a sixth had abandoned his weapon for a medical pack. Blood freely painted the ground beneath them a rosy scarlet - one man's throat had been torn out - their sergeant! Their leader was dead!!! Several moaned and thrashed and John felt the first burning triumph in his blood and grinned. He looked to the survivors, expecting defeat. Dread. Fear. Yes, that would be sweet.

Except the Britons weren't afraid. They were angry, determined, and they obeyed their sergeant's last command. Bellowing they swarmed the stunned American line. John's musket carried an older style of bayonet, the kind that actually plugged the barrel, and as such it wasn't set. "Sergeant!" he called, worried.

Waymouth may have said something. He may not. The world dissolved into cries, bellows, blows and general confusion. To his right John saw a man go down, speared in the stomach. He held the rifle like a staff, desperately fending off stab after hack. A second American fell. A third! Outnumbered the Englishmen may have been, but they fought like demons. John cried out as the bayonet nicked the side of his skull, swung his musket like a club, missed. With that damned spear on their weapons the English could stay out of reach and still attack! He noticed the others falling back, retreating up the hill and followed. Heard the furious triumphant roar behind him, and tasted bile in his throat as he turned.

They were still coming! Didn't they realize they were outnumbered? Didn't they care? In the last ten seconds the battle had turned, why didn't they just go home? Again, the world collapsed to a series of grunts and blows. His opponent, a devilish little man, dodged and parried every single swing. Once Red tried to help, but 'Devil's' particular friend rewarded him with a heavy blow to the head and Red fell, stunned. Men falling everywhere! Where was the sergeant? Why didn't he say something? Why didn't ANYONE say anything? Two more men down. Three! The English were unstoppable! Mama, I'm going to die. Pa, I'm sorry. I tried! 'Devil's' bayonet passed so close to Johnny's heart it cut the uniform. Tom, I'm sorry.

Then Sergeant Waymouth's voice, rising above the roar of the melee. "Preston!? Where are you going? Get back here you coward!!"

I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm sorry!!
 
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Looks like Preston doesn't have what it takes after all. Man, those Britons sure ripped apart the american line in close quarter fighting. Good reading indeed.
 

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J. Passepartout: Steuben County hm? I wonder if that's near where they're fighting. :rolleyes:

Stuyvesant: Well, more or less. That's the problem with warfare - boys tend to think it's a big, glorious adventure. Then someone tries to slice your head off. Eep!

Farquharson: Glad you're still here!

Machiavellian: Mm...don't count him out quite yet. He panicked. (I'd probably panic if I was still losing a melee at 2.5-1 odds too!) 'Course, he has a lot to deal with now. I like characters who have flaws to try to surpass. :)

As for the Britons doing so well in that fight, a big part of it is they had bayonets and the Americans didn't. Waymouth hoped they'd either panic or hestitate long enough for his people to fix bayonets and/or charge and make them rout, but English discipline and experience overcame that. (That, and they were lucky on some die rolls. :p )
 

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Gee, I got what I asked for! How often does that happen? :p
I thought that was a very effective scene, bringing out the nastiness of war. Even-handed, no favor to either side. Well done. :)

Now let's see how John is going to save himself from this scrap...