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Timejacker #4-A
© 2023 James LaFond
Part Two: Took Times
Braddock’s Defeat: July 9, 1755, Dunbar’s 48th Regiment of Foot, 11 A.M. Monongahela River Crossing
Johnie Jamieson felt the sweat run down his legs beneath his kilt. ‘Would be worse in wool pants, linen tights or ozberg trousers,’ he comforted himself as he followed Corporal Armstrong, who followed Lord Dunbar who sat imperiously upon his horse, down to the river where the French had conveniently placed their fort on this side of that mightier of the two converging rivers.
Johnie heard the river that they had to cross below, to get to that wedge-shaped fort, glimpses of which they had gleaned through the towering trees when they were on the trail crest, but remained largely hidden on the descent. Sergeant Wallace bullied this section of their column from behind, shoving with his half-pike, when necessary kicking the ankles above their ill-fitted and foot-mangling shoes.
Johnie and his mates were not trusted, being convict transports, relieved from duty on plantations and in work houses in and about Philadelphia and New York, to serve in the ranks. They would have to serve out their time after the fight. But this marching was preferable to ditching from dawn to dusk in the swelter of summer.
As bad as the shoes were, they were shoes! The kilt, shirt, vest and jacket wore better than his wool shirt in the heat, though not as fine at night. Even by night, the fire light to warm the feet was better than sleeping in the blasted Quaker barn.
His musket was heavy and ready in his hands, his bayonet brushing his thigh through the kilt in its scabbard, his hat cocked with some arrogance—he was Scottish after all. The English rulers liked Scotsmen in their ranks, their fathers having given good accounts of themselves at Culladon and their ancestors at Dunbar, as well back into olden days at Bannockburn and Stamford Bridge. Lord Dunbar had reminded them of Montrosse, Robert the Bruce, William Wallace, all of their storied victories over the English, now their masters, as they neared ever closer to the French.
The French would be easy to pen, he had been told, they being few, and one need only worry about the odd angry heathen savage scalping him if he broke ranks. So long as a man stayed in his ranks, the few nasty savages flitting through the forest and the pampered French hidden in their fort offered little danger.
Johnie had been shipped to the Plantations out of Aberdeen two years gone for the crime of not having a pence in his pocket when he went to town off of father’s failing farm to seek work for wages. Oh, he had found work on these distant shores, but no wages.
Kidder, wiry and packed with mean muscle, behind him, he was a poacher, had been rightfully caught hunting rabbits on a Border Peasant’s hold and had been dully convicted and judged out sold.
Behind Kidder trudged Edmundson, big and fat-headed with curly red hair. He was a thief, caught stealing a chicken for his own ill-got feast. He had asked for the noose, not wanting to live a slave without meat to eat and feed his big frame of hulk. He was sorry to be judged out sold and dreaded going back to the Quaker farm where he cut wood all day on nothing but oats and corn. At nights Edmundson would pray for death in battle rather than to go back to starve under the Quaker thumb. He liked the service, and begged God for the war to last forever more, to their utter horror, for boiled beef there in the ranks was to eat!
Behind big Edumndson, pranced Williamson, a scrawny half-orphan from Aberdeen who had been caught stealing fish to feed his ailing mother, and off he was sold for 14 years of transport and toil, like as same the rest.
That is, except for Makeen, the Irishman, whose father had sold him into seven years service for rum, and once in Philadelphia making nails in a work house, easy as that work was, he had run. There, the last in their section, he lagged behind, kicked by the Sergeant on a regular. Makeen had been thrown in with the Highlanders because the English thought a low country Irish dog was closer to a Scotsman than to an Englishman. Makeen, for his laziness and racial degeneracy, was, Johnie Jamieson would have to say, the meanest of the bunch. Small as he was, the Irishman was rated “game” by the Sergeant, who kept him close and talked often of how the Indians would spit out his flesh if they did roast him after he ran away, for his yeasty Irish flavor.
Where the Sergeant came from, no decent man could know, perhaps formed by a king’s tinker in the work house where such monstrous tools of State were assembled of cold-forged iron hearts and tireless flesh quenched in a vinegar of dour souls.
The forest was alive with the noise of the march, of the many hard shoes on the beaten path down to the river, the clack of equipment, the snort of officer’s horses, the brushing of kilts and kit upon leaf, branch and tree, the snapping of branches under foot, the snarl of sergeants and corporals to “keep ranks,” as if there were anywhere but the tangles of a forest hell for a rank breaker to go, either up the mountain or down its slope. Thus they kept to the safe and narrow path of ways, beaten by how many Indian, trader and French feet none could know.
Sweat began to drip from beneath his wool cap, just as it ran beneath his wool kilt.
A crack of musket from near by and high to the right sounded and Lord Dunbar and his horse, for Johnnie could not tell which one had been shot, pitched over and off the trail, the wig and hat coming away on contact with a great tree as the horse body crashed sideways into a smaller tree that rent with a cracking sound.
Many muskets cracked and the corporal’s head exploded and a great savage yell as if all of the sordid inmates of Hell had broken from its smoke stack into the world sounded from above: “Ayeyeyeyyeyyay!”
“Face right!” bawled the Sergeant and as Johnnie turned he saw that emotionless head split with a hurled Indian ax, and yet the Sergeant stood and faced the foe in a daze, standing in Death’s very door as many red painted and black painted faces emerged from behind trees to fire into their ranks with grinning teeth, bald plucked heads with trophy locks fashioned of the hairs at the top bobbing with savage ornaments.
Johnnie stepped forward to raise his musket to his shoulder and his hard leather shoe smeared into a pile of lord Dunbar’s horse manure and he slipped and fell feet up as the savage who had made his mark between Johnnie’s breasts fired and the ball took off his hat instead.
The big pale, heavily muscled heathen, nearly naked and stripped in paint of black and blue and flesh pale, screamed and ran low like a panther down upon Johnnie, spent musket in one hand an Indian hatchet in the other. Johnnie raised his musket, cocked it sure, and pulled that trigger like it was the devil’s own cod piss cord!
Johnnie heard the thunder in his hands even as it’s force pushed back his shoulders so that he sprawled now on his back. The impact of the great body, a man much bigger then him, and his greasy stink of paint came to smother him there, west of horse shit, east of French, north of that big shitting horse and south of good old Kidder, who rolled the heavy, gut burst body off of him and pushed away the death grinning head, inhabited by a bloodthirsty soul not yet dead, but shot front to back through the spin and guts and lost to this earth.
“Up, Jamieson!” yelled his mate into his ear, as the torrents of heathen hell broke over the swamped gates of their mere fleshy, cloth-fettered ranks.
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