excerpt from Clash of Empires – Fort Ticonderoga

ticonderoga

The Battle

The word brought back by Daniel and Liam had the desirable effect and now 11,000 troops were marching at a quicker pace, an easy victory seemingly within their grasps.  Amherst, a veteran of many battles both in North America and Europe rode at the head of the column and when he saw the abandoned French redoubts that he had expected to have to fight for, he turned in his saddle and with a crisp military manner sent his adjutant racing to the rear to have the cannon brought up quickly.  ‘Orderly,’ said Amherst pointing down the formation to where Colonel Alun Williams was sharing a laugh with Sgt. Mulhern, ‘please give my compliments to Colonel Williams and ask him and his head scouts to join me after the camp is set, and have the chief engineer report to me immediately.  No time like the present to let the French know our intentions.  Let’s get to work gentlemen.’

It was a warm July evening so the General had set his camp desk outside under the boughs of an old oak tree where there was at least a slight breeze rather than in the stifling heat of the tent. He was sipping wine from a crystal goblet while he went over the troop assignments for tomorrow.  He saw Williams and the scouts approaching, the dapper Colonel Williams in stark contrast to the three buckskinned colonial backwoodsmen and one very large Mohawk. Colonel Williams had undergone a change of heart concerning the irregular troops, at least the scouts anyway.  He had read the command reports of the battles at Fort William Henry and Fort Duquesne and gained a new respect for Daniel and those in his charge.  He even pulled strings to get Mulhern permanently assigned to what was now being called Mallory’s Militia.  Williams was so impressed that he volunteered to take command of the irregulars once it became known that Colonel Washington, having come down with a fever last winter and only now resuming military duties, was not going to be part of this expedition.  General Amherst stood when they reached his desk, ‘ahh, gentlemen, please be seated.  I’ll try to keep this short, there’s much to do and I want to make sure we make every effort to save that fort from being destroyed.’  Looking at Daniel, Liam, Mulhern and Wahta he continued, ‘Colonel Williams told me of your plan for getting into the fort prior to the powder magazine blowing and I approve.  If this works it will save us a lot of time and effort.  Now is there anything else that you need from me?’  Daniel cleared his throat, pulled out the map and pointed to a section of the wall and spoke, ‘General, we did some more talking about it and it came to us that if you concentrate some artillery fire at this point in the fort wall it could, if effective enough, make our climb that much easier.’  ‘Consider the order given, ‘replied Amherst, ‘the artillery should be ready to commence firing in just a short while.  I take it you have men posted so that we’ll know when the French begin their flight to the harbor?’  ‘Yes sir, General, ‘answered Daniel, ‘we’re maintaining a constant watch.  We will get plenty of advance notice though I don’t think anything will happen for a couple of days.  In three nights there will be no moon; the perfect time for the French to abandon the fort and the perfect time for us to go in.’  ‘Excellent,’ said Amherst, ‘we should be able to soften up that portion of the defenses for you over two days.  God go with you, gentlemen.’  At this word of dismissal they stood and headed back to their tent for what would be an interrupted sleep as the first of the cannons belched forth in fire and iron, the first shot falling just short of the wall.

Over the course of the next two days, both sides exchanged artillery fire, neither side causing much damage to the other.  The French did manage to knock out one battery, killing four British soldiers while the British cannon did little to damage the formidable stone walls, except in one spot where there was now a fairly good sized gap surrounded by piles of stone rubble.  The French commander knew why and to counter the expected move by the British stationed shooters on the roofs of the two barrack buildings.  Taking one last look at the powder trails that led to the munitions barns, he saluted his chief engineer and headed to the gate to lead the rest of the remaining garrison to the waiting boats.  Daniel and the others were preparing their gear for the assault when the message came from their lookouts that the French were boarding the bateaux.  They trotted the short distance from the redoubt and clambered down the defensive ditch outside the wall and headed to the rubble strewn opening in the wall.  Picking their way through the scree they took up a position behind one of the barns from where they could see the two powder trails and the men with torches getting ready to set fire to the powder.  Liam pulled an arrow from his quiver and in one swift motion shot down the nearest torch bearer knocking him back, the torch flying harmlessly to the ground.  Sgt. Mulhern took aim on the one farthest away and shot.  The lead ball striking the French soldier in the chest but his forward motion continued and his torch set the powder trail sizzling toward the other munition filled barn.  Without hesitation Daniel handed his musket to Wahta and raced between the two barns to stop the trail of sputtering powder from reaching the waiting barrels of powder inside.  The sniper on the far barracks roof fired striking a boulder in front of Daniel, a shard of stone striking him a glancing blow on the cheek.  The closest sniper now took aim on Daniel, firing and hitting him in the leg.  Wahta saw the flash of the muzzle and ran toward the barrack, the sniper now in a crouched run to the ladder on the other side.  He reached the ground and took two steps before the blade of a tomahawk cracked into his back severing his spine.  Daniel reeled from the blow to his leg and fell to the ground.  He knew he had no chance to reach the powder fuse so started crawling away from the coming blast.  Liam and Mulhern stayed behind the second barn but made their way over where Daniel was struggling to get behind the interior wall.

Colonel Williams and the follow up assault team were poised outside the defensive ditch waiting for a signal from inside.  The blast had them all hitting the ground as the flames rose up into the night sky.  Williams had the foresight to equip the men with as many buckets as they could scrounge from the camp; some were filled with water, some with sand.  The colonel looked to his aide and said, ‘that wasn’t the signal I expected but it’ll do.  Get the men moving; put out that fire.’  Another blast shook the night slowing their advance but soon the men had formed a bucket brigade from the barn to the two wells in front of the barracks; some were dousing the flames while the others were throwing water on the walls and roof of the second munitions barn.  Colonel Williams wandered over to where Liam, Mulhern and Wahta were huddled over the still form of Daniel.  The first blast had thrown him into a pile of rubble, the back of his head striking a boulder and a large splinter of wood was protruding from his side.  Liam had wrapped a bandage around his brother’s head.  Daniel was alive but still unconscious as they gently picked him up and carried him to outside the walls to await the surgeon.

General Amherst stood in the entrance to his tent now a makeshift hospital tent and watched the surgeon cleanse and bandage the wounds to Daniel’s head and leg.  That he had given over his living quarters to a lowly colonial irregular was astonishing in and of itself, but the General found that he was genuinely fond of the lad.  Colonel Washington had sent him an effusive letter of praise regarding the scout troop and the Mallory brothers in particular and some of the words of that letter came to him now, ‘there is no one braver of spirit or one truer of heart.’  No, he did not fully understand his action, but he was not going to begrudge the fact that he would now be bunking with Colonel Williams for a few days.  He glanced over and caught Liam looking down at his injured brother, tears evident on his usually stern countenance.  ‘Ahh,’ thought the General, ‘his mask of hatred has slipped a bit,’ something else that Washington had hinted at, ‘matters weigh heavily on this young man.’   The doctor was now preparing to examine the gaping hole in Daniel’s side from where he had extracted a seven inch long by 2 inches wide hunk of wood.  As he began to probe for smaller splinters Daniel woke up. ‘Mr. Mallory, I imagine your head is pounding like a drummer calling a change in formation,’ said Dr. Martin Locke, personal physician to General Amherst, ‘that is quite a bump you have; most certainly a concussion.  Your leg wound will heal fine, no bones were hit and the bleeding was minimal.  Now, about the wound here in your side, again nothing vital was hit but I need to make sure all of the bits of wood are removed or a nasty infection could set in.  It would be best if you were not squirming around while I am probing so if you would please drink this.  It will relax you and make my job easier and you more comfortable.’  Daniel tried to nod his head yes but the throbbing pain seemed to him to be oozing out of his eyes and ears, even the pressure of closing his eyes sent yet another wave of pain.  Dr. Locke put a cup to Daniel’s lips and said, ‘this is a mixture of opium and an extract form the leaves of the hemp plant mixed in elderberry tea.  You’ll be asleep in a few minutes then I will continue with the procedure.’

Dr. Locke placed a loose bandage on the wound deciding to leave it open for a few days to make sure that the bit of wood he just dug out was the last.  ‘He will sleep for a while.  When he wakes have him drink some broth and another draught of the tea.  He needs rest more for his head wound than the other ones.  The hole in his side looks good but I will check it again in the morning,’ said the doctor as he packed up his kit and headed for the entrance.  General Amherst backed away to let the doctor through, ‘thank you Dr. Locke.’  Dr. Locke took in the night time sky, shrugged off the tension and fatigue in his shoulders and nodded a greeting to Colonel Williams and Sgt. Mulhern who had just arrived.  They smelled of smoke and were soot stained from the firefighting efforts but now that situation was mostly under control.  Wahta had gone down to the harbor checking to see if the French had any more surprises waiting.  Liam came out, the adrenaline from the night’s actions finally bleeding away causing him to bend over at the waist and retch.  After a moment he stood and gasped in lungs full of air his head gradually clearing.  Walking over to Williams and Mulhern he said, ‘Quite the night, eh?  Daniel looks a sight right now but doc says he should be okay after a bit of rest.  Sergeant, once you get cleaned up, can you sit with Daniel?  I’ll be back shortly, I want to find Wahta; still have a job to do, you know.’

It was two weeks before the doctor agreed that Daniel could be moved.  During that time General Amherst saw to the rebuilding of Fort Ticonderoga and made preparations to follow the French up the lake, although he thought the chase to be futile as the French had already abandoned and destroyed Fort Frederic and they were now on their way to Canada.  Liam and Wahta had just returned from leading a party of engineers to the ruined site of Fort Frederic and left them there to begin the construction of Fort Crown Point.  When Liam learned that Daniel was beseeching anyone who would listen that he was okay and needed to do something other than lie around on his arse, he marched over to General Amherst and received permission for Sgt. Mulhern, Wahta and himself to accompany Daniel to the Ford’s place and the gentle ministrations of Deborah Prescott for his continuing convalescence.  While he was improving, Daniel was still feeling the effects of the blow to his head; any sustained activity brought on a throbbing pulse of pain. Also joining them and driving the wagon was Daniel Boone who had arrived with a wagon train load of material to be shipped up the lake to Crown Point.  It was only twenty miles or so to the well hidden valley the Ford’s called home but to Daniel it was a painful twenty miles.  Even after a reluctant draught of the opium laced tea an occasional jarring bump would bring him to a foggy state of wakefulness but a vision of Deborah kissing and soothing his brow would lull him back to sleep.  It was with great relief that Daniel finally clambered out of the wagon and with some help from Wahta made it to a nice soft bed and to Deborah kissing and soothing his brow.

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