Title: One Afternoon In June
Rating: T (Suitable for ages above thirteen)
Original pen-date: 11 November 2008
Summary: The Marines fight at the battle of Bunker's Hill.
Author's Note: There are probably some historical goofs in here, but I don't have the relevant books here with me. Any discrepancies or inaccuracies are due to my relying almost exclusively on Internet sources.
Warm beads of perspiration tickled their way down his back, where his soaked shirt was not clinging to him. It was a hot day to be standing out, unprotected, in heavy coats. It was worse for the Grenadiers in their long-tailed coats. Adam Boone was glad for his shorter Light company coat. The choking cloud of powder smoke drifting about lazily helped nothing either. Shouts, screams, and the constant crackling of musket fire were all vying for dominance. Men grunted as they were struck and sent rolling noisily down the hill, but they were carefully stepped over by others coming up behind them. The reek of sulfur was thick enough to make him wrinkle his nose. And yet the Line pressed on.
It was only a matter of time before the waiting Marines on the left flank were brought up to support the battered regulars. When the order was passed for the Marines to fix bayonets, they all knew it was time. The Light company, and Boone with it, were only too eager to go and marched out snappily. None of them had liked watching their brethren in the regulars get shot to pieces in the previous two assaults. But now it was their turn. Up the hill toward the redoubt, enduring increasingly irregular volleys of fire from the rebellious colonials. Major Pitcairn was at the front of the line, his sword in hand, encouraging his men to strive on. They hardly needed the urging, for it was enough to have Pitcairn leading them.
"Make ready!" The order was passed along the ranks of Marines and, as the panting men lurched to a halt, the broken chorus of muskets clattering could just be heard. Boone coughed. It was almost possible to chew on the smoke, thick as it was. The Light Bobs paused in their steady advance to present their muskets and a heartbeat later they all fired. Then, at Major Pitcairn's loud command, they went forward at a fast trot. Halfway up, Major Tupper turned them free from ranks and, with some cheers, the Marines were loose. Boone managed to gain a full pace on the rest of his company by virtue of his longer legs and he dashed up the slope just ahead of his fellows. There were so many bodies littering the grassy hillside. The Marines zigzagged their way through the maze of red-coated obstacles, determined to reach the hill's top.
Close on their heels were the lads of the Grenadier company, seeming as tall as giants in their bearskin caps. Boone grinned fiercely, knowing that both battalions of Marines were in full charge. He was suddenly glad for the long conditioning marches that Major Pitcairn had sent them on, for now he was able to dash up the hill without straining his lungs or legs, and he was moving swiftly for it, too. The others were going just as easily and Pitcairn himself was ahead of them all. They'd carry the day and damn the colonials for being so foolish. There was still fire coming from the redoubt, but it was noticeably slackening. Boone's shoes scuffed up against the outflung arm of a wounded man from the Fifth Foot and he nearly pitched headlong. Billy Slade grabbed the back of his coat and heaved him back up, then the pair of them were sprinting forward again.
"Hurrah, the day is our own!"
It was Major Pitcairn, calling back to his Marines over his shoulder as he got near the redoubt. The men closest to him cheered and doubled their efforts to join their officer, heartened by his cry. Boone hopped over a dead colonial and outpaced Billy Slade in only a few strides. They were only a few yards shy of the redoubt, it would be theirs within an hour. Major Pitcairn was on the edge of the breastworks, waving his sword to encourage the leading Marines forward. Not that they needed any encouragement, not now.
"Now! For the glory of the Marines!"
Somebody howled when Pitcairn suddenly fell and there was a rush of Marines toward the spot where the major had gone down. Lieutenant Pitcairn was dragging his father away and one or two men paused to offer assistance. Boone didn't even slow his stride as he sprang up onto the breastwork and leapt down into the redoubt, bayonet leading. These bastards had done for Major Pitcairn. That was a sin deserving nothing less than immediate death. Billy Slade and the other Light Bobs swarmed over the top of the breastwork, heedless of the hurried, desperate crackle of musket fire and the handful of men who dropped back upon being hit. Some of the Grenadiers stopped in their advance to swiftly reload and fire over their comrades' heads, but most of that company pressed on in close pursuit of the Light Bobs.
The Marines' long, deadly bayonets flashed dully in the smoke-hazy sunshine. In the confines of the redoubt, the bayonet was the only weapon readily usable and they plied it with deadly earnest. Bellowing in his fury, Boone kicked, slashed, and stabbed his way through the mass of panicking colonials. It mattered nothing to him that they were trying to retreat. Other Marines, these the later-arriving Grenadiers, poured over the breastwork and joined their comrades in their bloody work. Billy Slade knocked a colonial officer in the jaw with his musket butt and barked a cheer as he moved on. A bearskin cap bounced over Boone's shoes as a Marine Grenadier was cut down nearby. He sneered at the white-faced colonial upstart and bayoneted him without a second thought. Somebody started hollering "Pitcairn! For Pitcairn! For the major!" The chant was taken up at once with equal heart. Their major had been shot and they were taking revenge for it, that hot June afternoon.