Author Topic: The Last Patrol  (Read 276240 times)

Offline Elegant Ella

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Re: The Last Patrol
« Reply #840 on: December 16, 2009, 10:57:57 PM »
When another chaotic dream of blood and death woke her, Ella got up, trying not to waken any of those around her. Scarlet's bedroll was gone, which probably meant she was sleeping with Lucky. Ella worried about Scarlet's icy anger towards the Army and especially towards officers. Ella doubted whether Scarlet had spoken to Fritz at all.

Chris lifted his head, and got up when he saw Ella tying on her pockets.

"I'm just going to check on my patients. I won't be gone long, you don't need to escort me," she protested when he pulled on his boots.

"I can give you a hand," he replied, following her away from the scout camp.

At the hospital tent, she set Chris to sponging Dick's face and chest, trying again to reduce the fever. It didn't really do Dick any good, but it kept him quieter so that he didn't disturb the others as much.

Using a little candle lantern for light, she moved from pallet to pallet.  The reassurance of her presence as much as the morphine she dispensed for pain let some of the sufferers go back to sleep. 

When she got to Bo, she knelt beside the pallet.  He didn't stir when she brushed his hair aside or checked the pulse in his neck.  The strong steady beat comforted her, and she was glad to observe that his temperature was close to normal. He seemed to be dreaming. 

Ella gave in to temptation and kissed him lightly.  She was surprised when he responded by putting his hand on the back of the neck and pulling her in for a deeper kiss.  Ella relaxed into the kiss, letting go of all of her concerns.

When the kiss ended and Bo slid his hand down along her arm, Ella whispered, "I'm sorry.  I shouldn't have done that."  She started to stand up.

Bo captured her hand to keep her beside him.  "Are you really?" he asked, "Sorry, I mean?" 

In the dim light, his eyes were enormous and magnetic.  They pulled the confession from her, "No.  Most of my pleasant dreams ever since we got to Fort Fetterman have involved kissing you."

"That explains the blushes every morning," he teased.

"Go back to sleep now so you can heal," said Ella, trying to free her hand so she could stand up.  "I'll see you in the morning." 

Bo let go reluctantly.  "You need to sleep, too." 

"I will," she promised.  Ella finished checking on the patients, then she and Chris went back to the scouts' camp. She returned to her bedroll, thinking.

Bo's kiss was a lot better than "nice". It was earthshaking for a woman who had never imagined feeling physically attracted to any man other than her husband. Becca especially, but also Scarlet and Rose, had taught Ella about male beauty, but appreciating a man's appearance was a far cry from wanting to kiss him. That first kiss made Ella want to kiss Bo again, and she didn't think it was just because she had gone unkissed for over three years. Bo's kiss hadn't been quite as thrilling as the best of Alan's kisses, but if Bo weren't wounded, that kiss could have exploded into passion.

Ella resolved not to kiss Bo again as long as she was married, and fell asleep remembering kisses.
Elegant Ella

1stSgt Fritz King

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Re: The Last Patrol
« Reply #841 on: January 01, 2010, 07:43:09 PM »
Fritz sat down hard on his cot, and took the sling off his left arm.  He unwrapped the bandage from his left hand and flexed his fingers.  They ached, and his hand would be swollen for a few days.  At least his fingers weren't broken.  His knee was another matter.  The doc told him that he'd probably torn some ligaments.  He'd heal, but his knee would never be right again.

"Good thing I don't like running," Fritz muttered.

The orderly stepped in and Saluted.  "Captain King?"

Fritz turned.  "Private Glass.  What can I do for you?"

The boy handed over parcel wrapped in his bandana.  "I was going to send this home, you know?  Keep it as a souvenir.  But seeing as you lost your pistol," Glass said, looking at Fritz's hand, "I thought you should have this."

Fritz took the parcel with his right hand, noticing that it was quite heavy.  He set the parcel on his bunk, and carefully unwrapped it.

"Well," Fritz remarked, "I haven't seen one of these in awhile."  

He handed the bandana back to Glass. Laying on his cot was a Walker Colt.  It had very little finish left, but was not rusted.  It had been well cared for, and was still loaded, with the hammer down on an empty chamber.  Friz hefted the big pistol, and turned the butt so he could see it in the candlelight.  It was martailly marked.  He didn't know the initials of the trooper who'd once carried this massive sidearm, but the "2" and the "I" were unmistakeable.

"Where did you get this?" Fritz asked.

"It was at the top of the ridge," Glass replied.  "I took it from the Sioux you shot with your Berdan.  That was a heck of a shot, sir."

"Glass, would you do me a favor?  Reach into my havenrsack, and pull that flask out for me."

The boy pulled the flask out and handed it to Fritz.  Fritz dumped the cold coffee from his cup and poured a measure.  He handed Glass the cup

"Do me another favor?" Fritz asked.  "Share a drink we me, in honor of absent friends."  

Two men raised a silent toast to those who could not.  
            

1stSgt Fritz King

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Re: The Last Patrol
« Reply #842 on: January 02, 2010, 10:54:23 AM »
The docs had issed Fritz a crutch.  He didn't like using it, but at the moment he had no choice.  It caused him too much pain to put weight down on the knee, but he had to get around.  He hadn't seen Scarlet since the scouts had refused the left flank charge of the Sioux into their lines.  The scouts had saved their asses while the soldiers rested in camp in the Rosebud Valley.  Their quick actions saved the lives of many soldiers, though few official reports would admit it.

Fritz limped out of his tent.  Private Glass moved to assist him, but Fritz waived him away.  He headed towards the field hospital to find his wife.

Johann moved with purpose, checking to see that all the men of I Company made it back to camp.  They were fortunate; only one trooper had been wounded, and he was expected to recover.  Johann knew that it was due to the extensive training they’d received prior to leaving the line of departure.  He quietly said a prayer of thanks to all the scouts.  That’s when he noticed Fritz walking down the street.  Perhaps walking was too kind a word.  Fritz was hobbling down the path between tents, supporting himself by a crutch.

“It’s good to see a familiar face,” Johann said with a smile.  “Did your horse survive?”

Fritz sighed.  “I hope so.  Just don’t let those butchers the Army calls ‘vets’ near him.  Perhaps Scarlet or Ella can take a look at him.”

“I think Miss Ella has her hands full,” Johann replied.  “I don’t know if Scarlet is in any kind of mood to be sociable.”

Fritz heartbeat sped up.  “Is she…”

Johann put out a hand.  “She’s fine.  But Bo is wounded.  I’m not sure how bad.”  Johann looked at the crutch and said “Wait here a minute.”  He reached inside his tent and pulled out a Sioux war club.  

“Don’t let her see you like that.  This is more dignified for a man of your…”

“Age?” Fritz said.

“No…stature,” Johann replied.

Fritz took the club and smiled.  “I hereby promote you to the rank of First Lieutenant, with all of the rights and responsibilities thereunto pertaining.”

Johann jerked back as if stung.  “But…”

“Report to my tent immediately.  There a set of shoulder straps with your name on them.  I have to find my wife. “

Fritz tossed the crutch aside, and put his weight on the club.  Satisfied, he hobbled towards the field hospital.


Offline Scarlet Angel

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Re: The Last Patrol
« Reply #843 on: January 03, 2010, 12:10:02 PM »
Scarlet couldn’t relax, there were too many people around her, she picked up her bedroll and found a spot with Lucky where she could watch the movement in camp and recollect her thoughts before going anywhere else.

Teddy gave her a head start then followed her. When she sat he slowly approached. Hearing her hard sigh he said. “I have a bottle of the good stuff but if you want me to go I will just leave it.”

“Sit.” She said.

He knew by her tone she was not mad at him, she was tired and she was trying to regain control of her bad temper. He sat next to her and handed the bottle over. “Cyrus once told me he hoped I knew how lucky he felt to have someone ride with him who would back his decision regardless the cost. I always felt I backed his decisions because I agreed with him. He told me a man in charge needed a stronger man to follow.”

Scarlet to two long pulls off the bottle before she handed it back. “Did he say why the right hand needed to be stronger?” she asked.

Teddy smiled then replied “Divided we fall united we stand. Sometimes the one in charge takes a lot of hard hits and may be swayed if he doesn’t have somebody standing strong behind him. Negotiations are hard if they start tearing you apart and your right hand won’t stand toe to toe with somebody who thinks they are the toughest.” Teddy took a long swallow handed the bottle back to Scarlet and continued “I never realized what he truly meant Scarlet. I’ve always been the one to back Cyrus. Never thought I was the fast thinker or the fighter Cyrus says I am. I want to thank you for being my strong right hand back there. I hope it doesn’t take you as long to figure out what it truly means as it did me.”

There was no immediate reply from her. She just stared down at the tent where they had taken Bo after surgery. “I’ve been the leader and the right hand many times standing at the gates of hell.” Scarlet finally whispered.


Teddy’s eyes followed hers. “Then you already know.” He whispered. His smile grew again “Ya know I almost messed my pants when you stood hard by my decision to refuse the order to inta that canyon.”

“I get real tactful when someone wants me ta do something they aren’t willing to do themselves and it’s a sure fire bet I won’t come back alive, and for what Teddy? A damn hunch, glory for someone who doesn’t do the work? Good men are not dispensable. If one wants to kill ‘em self that’s his business, but don’t take a bunch of innocent lives with you because you think they will blindly follow orders.” She snorted.

Teddy giggled. “I was trying to be tactful refusing orders of an officer. But you…hell no. I’ve heard tales of your temper ma’am but never seen it in full blown action.”

“Ain’t purdy is it?”

“No, but he sure got the point.” Teddy could see the entire scene playing out again.

The officer had come up to him and told him to gather a group of  scouts and ride into the ravine. Teddy replied “That would be suicide Sir. It’s a perfect place for the enemy to sit and wait to pick us off.”

Some of the other scouts could be heard agreeing with him. The officer repeated the request sternly ending with I am ordering you.

Scarlet had been standing next to Teddy the entire time and had not said a word as the other scouts looked at each other as if it was a stale mate. Teddy had started to try and reason with the officer but it was getting out of control and turning into yelling when they heard Scarlet calmly ask the man where he would be when they rode up the canyon.

“I will be following.” He said.

“Why don’t you lead us Sir?”

The man took a step back. Nobody was sure if he was shocked or offended  “I am no scout it’s not my job and I won’t be in front.”

The calmness never left her voice as she said sweet as you please “is it you think we are dispensable or perhaps you are just yellow or something?”

Teddy had nearly choked on his on tongue and the officer’s eyes blazed as he pointed at the stripes on his arm and yelled  “Do you know what this means?”

Teddy was pretty sure that’s when Scarlet lost her calm demeanor and the check she had had on her temper went up in smoke.

“Means many things. To the enemy means you’re a good target. To me because you said you won’t lead us I’m thinkin’ it’s yer damn yellow stripes startin’ ta show.” She had hissed.

“Keep yer scouts in line.” He had barked at Teddy before storming off to find somebody with more stripes to come back and argue with them.


Scarlet took a deep breath, the sharp edge of her demeanor was finally smoothing. “I’m sure Cyrus will catch a ration for that if that officer came back alive.”

“Doubt it. I’m sure someone superior to him agreed with our view or they would have found Cyrus to order us to go. ….. You would say it again too wouldn’t you?” Teddy asked.

“Damn skippy. Cept I might not be as nice about it. There was no point at all going there.” She said.

Teddy nearly choked on the swallow from the bottle he had taken to keep from laughing and spitting it out.  

A few moments passed before she asked “You alright?” referring to the body blow he had taken earlier from the butt of a rifle.

“Long way from my heart and that rather personal wound you and Ella healed awhile back. Just black and blue nothing broken.” He said with a smile. “How about you?”

“No broken bones. No need for stitches.” She replied.

  

  
  

"The Scarlet Angel, heaven and hell all rolled into one.... I’d hate to be the one on the hell side.” ~Patches McDuff

"Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway." John Wayne

"Dance like nobody's watching; love like you've never been hurt. Sing like nobody's listening; live like it's heaven on earth."  Mark Twain


1stSgt Fritz King

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Re: The Last Patrol
« Reply #844 on: January 03, 2010, 01:55:42 PM »
Fritz hadn’t found her at the field hospital, which was a good sign.  She wasn’t injured, or at least not badly enough to require medical attention.  When he inquired about Bo, the surgeon told him that he was under Ella’s care.  If that were the case, Fritz knew he’d be all right.  Fritz looked about the tent.  These sights and smells were as familiar as those of the battlefield.  Disinfectant and death…old companions who tolerated each other’s company.  Satisfied that the wounded were in good hands, Fritz moved to the picket lines to find Scarlet.           

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Re: The Last Patrol
« Reply #845 on: Today at 10:28:36 AM »

Offline Scarlet Angel

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Re: The Last Patrol
« Reply #845 on: January 03, 2010, 05:50:08 PM »
Teddy wasn’t sure if it was Lucky or Scarlet that caught sight of the man moving toward the horses first. Scarlet had gone from a sitting position to kneeling with her hand on her pistol with no noise whatsoever to his ears and he was sitting right there. They watched as the stranger slowly approached and paused at the first horse on the line then moved slowly to the next.

Scarlet had chosen a spot not far behind the picket line next to a tree. One had to have seen her go there, like Teddy had, or be looking into the darkness for oddly shaped trees and bushes. If one was checking horses or stealing them she would go unnoticed.  It was hard from their position to see who it might be until he moved down the row of horses.

“If he was gonna run ‘em off or steal ‘em he’d be moving a lot faster ‘n that, what’s he lookin’ for?” Teddy whispered narrowing his eyes to see who the slow moving man might be.

Scarlet said nothing, the man had come from the direction of camp, he could simply be one of the soldiers checking on the horses, she doubted it was somebody trying to steal anything. He did not seem to have that kind of movement about him. In fact there seemed to be something very familiar about him. The man stopped about four horses down, it was then you could tell it was someone walking with a crutch of some kind.

She didn’t curse when she stood but by the way she sucked in her breath she might as well have. “It’s Fritz.” She said softly.

That explained the silent curse. They had found one of Fritz’s men after Bo had been taken into surgery and he had told them Captain King was fine and he was meeting with the other officers.

Scarlet quickly picked up her bed roll “Thank you for the company Teddy.” she said before she moved towards the picket line with Lucky following. Teddy followed behind her figuring he would pay his respects to the Captain and then go back to where the other scouts were.

“I was told you were fine. I am going to have to ask one of your men what the definition of fine is.” Scarlet said as she approached Fritz wondering just how hurt he really was and trying to tell herself this was not going to turn into the same thing as Bo sliding off his horse into her arms. She dropped her bedroll when she reached him wondering if she hugged him how many broken bones or bullet holes she’d find and almost afraid to do so.
"The Scarlet Angel, heaven and hell all rolled into one.... I’d hate to be the one on the hell side.” ~Patches McDuff

"Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway." John Wayne

"Dance like nobody's watching; love like you've never been hurt. Sing like nobody's listening; live like it's heaven on earth."  Mark Twain


1stSgt Fritz King

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Re: The Last Patrol
« Reply #846 on: January 04, 2010, 08:16:25 AM »
He wanted to run to her, to crush his body to hers, but he was afraid his leg would fail him.  Fritz simply raised his right arm and said, “come here, darlin!”

Scarlet approached cautiously, concerned that she’d break him if she held him too tightly.  She looked him over, top to bottom, with trepidation in her eyes.  “How bad are you?”

He took her into his embrace.  She carefully slid her arms around him, holding him tightly.

“I dislocated my shoulder in the fall.  I tore some ligaments in my knee.  My pistol was shot away in an ambush.  If it’d been hit from the other side, it would’ve torn my trigger finger off.  I was lucky.  Unfortunately,” Fritz said, staring down at his empty holster, “my short Colt wasn’t so lucky.  A fraction of an inch closer and the cylinder would’ve exploded like a grenade.”

“Should you be walking around?” she asked.

“I had to find you.  I had to know that you were okay.  I blacked out when I hit.  Ella popped my shoulder back in place.  Believe it or not, that was the worst part.”

They kissed tenderly.  There would be time for passion later.

“Where’s Strider?  He went down hard when the guidon bearer’s horse was hit.  He got tangled up.  It wasn’t his fault.  I don’t want the vets to look at him.  They’d likely write him off, shoot him and cut him up for stew meat.”  

Offline Scarlet Angel

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Re: The Last Patrol
« Reply #847 on: January 04, 2010, 11:14:59 PM »
“It’s good to see you Sir. I’ll look for your horse.” Teddy said.

“Thank you Teddy, take Strider up to the scout’s camp if you think he can make it that far and I’ll met you there.”

“Beg yer pardon Scarlet, but if he can’t make it that far.” Teddy started to say only to be cut off by Scarlet.

 “If not let me know where I can find the two of you and if you think I should bring a medical kit or my pistol.” She said softly.

Teddy touched the brim of his hat and headed off to where he’d seen a group of horses standing lose. They were not doubt horses that had become separated from their riders and followed the others back to base camp. The fact that nobody had bothered to round them up yet told him he’d probably find Strider among them.

Scarlet moved to Lucky, part of her wanted to cry for the things that had happened to the ones she loved and part of her was angry for the same, she was thankful they had all made it back with their lives. Fritz watched the horse lay down at her request. Scarlet took a deep breath regaining composure she was afraid she was close to losing before turning back to Fritz “We should get you back to your tent. Lucky will give you a ride if you think you can sit him, unless you prefer to walk. Once we get you as comfortable as we can I’ll look after Strider.”
"The Scarlet Angel, heaven and hell all rolled into one.... I’d hate to be the one on the hell side.” ~Patches McDuff

"Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway." John Wayne

"Dance like nobody's watching; love like you've never been hurt. Sing like nobody's listening; live like it's heaven on earth."  Mark Twain


1stSgt Fritz King

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Re: The Last Patrol
« Reply #848 on: January 05, 2010, 07:39:16 AM »
Fritz was honored to be allowed to ride Scarlet's mount.  He and Lucky had always had a grudging respect for one another.  Fritz had intended to tough it out, and walk back to his tent under his own power.  But the old axiom floated through his head..."why walk when you can ride."  Fritz steadied himself on the makeshift cane and swung his right leg over.  Lucky stood and Fritz held to the reins.  Perhaps the horse knew that he was injured, and needed his help now.  Scarlet looked at her husband, and ensured he was balanced. 
   

Offline Scarlet Angel

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Re: The Last Patrol
« Reply #849 on: January 05, 2010, 09:33:33 PM »
Lucky followed Scarlet quietly down the path between the tents, when they stopped at Fritz’s tent Scarlet cued Lucky to lie down again. It was strange to imagine the animal that had moved so easy with him and had been patient while he had mounted and dismounted would charge with ears pinned and teeth barred, but on the other hand Fritz couldn’t blame him, he was protective over the woman they both loved.

Scarlet helped Fritz to his cot; once he was sitting she cupped his cheek in her hand and kissed him tenderly.  “I love you.” She whispered with a smile then straightened up.

“Is there anything I can do for you before I go?”
"The Scarlet Angel, heaven and hell all rolled into one.... I’d hate to be the one on the hell side.” ~Patches McDuff

"Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway." John Wayne

"Dance like nobody's watching; love like you've never been hurt. Sing like nobody's listening; live like it's heaven on earth."  Mark Twain


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Re: The Last Patrol
« Reply #850 on: Today at 10:28:36 AM »

Offline Elegant Ella

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Re: The Last Patrol
« Reply #850 on: January 05, 2010, 10:44:18 PM »
Ella finished her morning rounds in the nursing tent, completing the night shift, and turned responsibility over to Orville Torres for the rest of the day. She had chosen to take the night shift, so she would be there when the light of life was weakest, to do what she could to ease the soul's departure. Litter bearers had already removed the two patients who had died during the night. There were still a dozen who were unlikely to survive.

She found Cyrus easily at the scout's camp. "Dick wants to talk to you. He refused to take morphine this morning, to be alert for you."

"How's he doing?"

"His spirit might cling to his flesh for a few more days, but he's not likely to be conscious and coherent past today."
Elegant Ella

1stSgt Fritz King

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Re: The Last Patrol
« Reply #851 on: January 06, 2010, 08:27:45 AM »
"I have to write my after-action report of the battle," Fritz replied.  Can you hand me my journal?"

Scarlet handed him his journal and a pencil, and lit the candle.

Fritz reached out and took her hand.  "Listen, I know you've got a lot on your mind.  I do too.  Once I get this report done, I'd like to spend some time with you...okay?"

"You read me well," Scarlet whispered.  "I'll be checking on Bo."

He kissed her hand before she left.  "I'll be happy to get back home."       

1stSgt Fritz King

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Re: The Last Patrol
« Reply #852 on: January 06, 2010, 11:28:04 AM »
Official Report of Captain Frederick H. King
Camp on Goose Creek, Wyoming Territory
June 20th, 1876
Sir,
In obedience to Paragraph II of Circular of this date from HQBn, 2nd and 3rd Cavalry, I have the honor to respectfully report that my command was resting at the first halting place after leaving camp on the 17th instant, the horses being unsaddled and grazing, in obedience to orders received…  


“Shit.”

Fritz put the pencil down and rested his head in his hands.  Things had gone badly, and he didn’t want to sugar-coat them.  They had been caught off guard, despite his warnings.  They had entered the Rosebud Valley, and decided to take a coffee break!  

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

He awoke early, as the first grey streaks of light crossed the horizon.  3:00 AM was mighty early for the average man, but the average man wasn’t a Soldier.  Fritz rolled out of his greatcoat and checked Strider.  He’d run a lead loop from his halter and slipped it under his coat.  If someone tried to take his horse in the night, he’d feel the movement.  Whatever sugar cubes left in his pocket had been crushed by sleeping on the hard ground.  He turned his pocket inside out, dumping the contents into his palm, which Strider greedily licked up.

“That’s it, buddy,” Fritz said, rubbing his mount on the spot between his eyes.  The horse dipped his head to the touch, neighing softly.

“Yeah…I know.  They’re close.”

Fritz found Scott, who was sliding his boots on.  There would be no trumpet calls this morning, unless an attack came from the darkness.  Men were roused by a word or a touch.  They busied themselves by tending to their mounts, or talking in small groups.  Cigars or pipes went unlit.  Those who chewed tobacco spat happily, while others looked on enviously.  Fritz chewed on a few coffee beans to wake him up.  

Three hours later the command was ready to move out.  As he mounted, Fritz prayed that Scarlet would stay safe, and that the command would fare well.  The Infantry was first on the road, followed by the Cavalry, then the Packers and Miners who had joined the expedition.  The scouts were Cyrus’s concern.  

They had been augmented by about 250 Crow and Shoshone Scouts.  General Crook had finally received the “Indians to fight against the Indians,” but they were a mixed blessing at best.  True, they were probably the finest horse soldiers he had ever seen, but their noise and light discipline sucked.  They were issued their rations, and immediately began feasting and dancing.  If Scarlet were concerned about the noise the command was making, she was probably having kittens by now.  They fired their weapons indiscriminately, without regard to ammunition stores.  The Shoshones were armed with .45 caliber Springfield rifles; where they got them Fritz hadn’t a clue.  The Crows were armed mostly with older .50 caliber Allin conversions.  That ammunition would be hard to come by.  Perhaps the Crows thought they would re-arm themselves with more modern, cast-off weapons.  Whether they came from Soldiers or Sioux didn’t matter.  

This morning, however, the Indian scouts were quiet.  They knew there was danger in the air.  Death was in their midst.
 
The Cavalry quickly outpaced the Infantry, and led the way into the Rosebud Valley.  It would’ve been a lovely place; the river wasn’t very wide, and easily fordable.  Thick blankets of roses covered both banks of the river, and the fragrance reminded him of his wife.  The valley was a mixture of green grasses and blue wildflowers.  It would’ve been a pleasant place to picnic…if not for the Sioux.

The column marched on both sides of the river.  Three miles into the valley, the Rosebud River turned sharply north.  The river then ran east for about three miles, and then turned sharply north again.  The 2nd and 3rd Cavalry were midway between the bends when the order to halt came down the line.  It was 8:00 AM.  

“What???” Fritz said, not quite believing what he’d heard.  He waited for Captain Mills to repeat the order.                      

“General Crook has ordered a halt.  Some of the horses are done in…not to mention the men.  We DID march 35 miles yesterday.”

Fritz was hurting too, but didn’t want to admit it to the younger man.  “Very well,” he replied.  

“And Captain,” Mills replied, “have the men unsaddle their horses.”

Before Fritz could protest, Mills was splashing back across the Rosebud to his command.  Fritz made eye contact with Scott and motioned him over.  

“What was that about?” Scott asked.

“A halt has been called.”

“Why?  We’ve only made a few miles by my count.”

“Not my call,” Fritz spat.  “The General says we need a rest.  Have the men unsaddle their horses.”

“Are you kidding?  We’re in Indian country for sure!”

“Pass the word slowly,” Fritz replied.  “No rush.”

Scott nodded and began to move slowly through the company.  He found Dave and Johann, and let the Sergeants pass the word down the chain.  It would take 15 to 20 minutes before the word reached every ear.  

The veterans wasted no time, turning to to unsaddle and boil water for coffee.  Small fires popped up everywhere; luckily there was very little smoke to mark their presence.  Men happily lit pipes and cigars.  Fritz rolled one between his fingers.  Remembering Scarlet’s warning, he slipped it back into his vest.  Pockets of men chatted; some took the opportunity to catch a few winks.  After 20 years, the capacity of a Soldier still amazed Fritz.  

“Why walk when you can ride…why stand when you can sit…why sit when you can lie down,” he whispered.  

He took a look at his surroundings.  It was not the place Fritz would’ve chose to stop, but then again, he wasn’t a General.  Water was plentiful, as was grass for grazing.  To the south was a 500 foot high bluff.  “That’s where I’d be,” Fritz said to no one.  To the north were a series of low ridges, running from 150 to 800 yards distant.  He could see the prairie rising behind those ridges.  A lone crest, running northwest to southeast, terminated about one mile east of the west bend of the Rosebud.  This crest separated the second, smaller valley called the Kollmar from the Rosebud.  The Kollmar was created by a spring-fed creek, which was mostly dry this time of year.  There was a solitary homestead on the banks of the Rosebud, owned by the Kobold family.  I Company was situated near this house.

Fritz could see General Crook talking with Major Shurmann near the mouth of the Kollmar.  He was sure that Bill was telling the General the same thing he thought.  Several Crow and Shoshone scouts rode up to the pair.  They were animated, and pointing towards the ridges to the northwest.  Bill shielded his eyes from the sunlight, and looked in the direction the scouts pointed.  The scouts wheeled and rode off towards the ridges.

“Scott,” Fritz called.  “Post some pickets to the north of camp please.”  Scott picked four men from the company.  The four took their carbines and moved about fifty yards north of the camp.  There they took interval and took a knee.  They would wait there until relieved, or until something started.  Fritz prayed it wouldn’t.

It was quiet and cool.  The stillness was bothersome.  Fritz walked back to Strider, checking his pistols as he went.  He opened the loading gate of each Colt, dropping a round into the empty chambers.  Several Soldiers took his cue and did the same.  Fritz pulled the Berdan from its scabbard.  There was no need to check the chamber.  He rested the butt on his boot and looked off to the north.  

Some of the Shoshones began racing their ponies, much to the amusement of the troopers.  Fritz shook his head.  There was nothing that could be done.  At the first report of a rifle, he lifted his Berdan and dropped to one knee.  One shot erupted into many, and the sound echoed over the valley floor.

“Maybe they’re hunting buffalo over there,” one trooper remarked.

“My ass,” Fritz replied, dropping to the sitting position.  He thumbed back the hammer and put his rifle to shoulder.  Suddenly, the Indian scouts galloped over the ridge top.  One of them was yelling at the top of his lungs, “Lakota!!!  Lakota!!!”  

As the scouts bolted towards the safety of camp, hundreds of Sioux and Cheyenne boiled over the ridge top.  Fritz flipped up the ladder sight and estimated the range.  He released the set trigger, and took a bead on the closest attacker, who was wildly waiving a pistol in the air.  Fritz held his breath and squeezed the trigger.  The report of the big rifle sounded enormous by the river.  The round struck the Sioux in the jaw, the heavy round tearing through it and the skull behind.  The rider flipped backwards off his mount, and was promptly trampled by the hoard.

The battle of the Rosebud had begun.

Offline Scarlet Angel

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Re: The Last Patrol
« Reply #853 on: January 06, 2010, 08:23:50 PM »
Scarlet was worried when Teddy wasn’t waiting for her when she arrived in the scout’s camp. She figured he would beat her as she had ridden up to check on Bo before riding back to the scout’s camp. About the time she started to think she might go looking for him she saw Teddy leading Strider towards camp.

The horse had his head up and seemed to be shying from things, the fact he would not bear much weight on his front leg was probably what was keeping him from running Teddy over.

Scarlet dismounted and walked out to meet them. “What’s got him so excited, that’s not like him.” She said.

Teddy stopped and stepped to the side so she could see the side of the horses face.

“Damn.” Scarlet mumbled.

“Took us awhile to catch him. One of Fritz’s men was over there helping. One would think a three legged horse would be easy to catch but he kept spinning around on his haunches and hobbling away.” Teddy replied.

Scarlet slowly walked into Strider’s line of sight and took the reins. She talked softly to the horse and stroked his neck working her way up to his head. Teddy wasn’t sure how long they had stood there but the horse finally calmed down. When Strider put his head close to her chest and let out a sigh Teddy just shook his head. “Ya shoulda been a horse doc Scarlet.”

Scarlet smiled “Problem is I have a hard time getting along with most the owners Teddy.”

She wasn’t really sure if Strider found comfort in the fact he knew her or the fact he could probably smell Fritz on her.

“By the way he moved when you tried to catch him what do you think of his leg?” She asked.

“He’s not going to be running any races any time soon but I don’t think anything is broken. He was putting weight on it when he needed to.”

“Do you think you can find me some water that’s not so cold? We need to clean him up so we can see what we have to work with.”

By the time she got Strider into the camp the sun was starting to rise. At least it would be easier to see what she was doing Scarlet thought.

The side of the horse’s face looked like he had hit the ground with it first. A large flap of skin stuck to the dried blood over his eye that was swollen shut, and part of his lip was split and puffy. Scarlet opened Strider’s mouth and looked inside for any obvious broken teeth.

Scarlet carefully peeled the bridle from Stirder’s head leaving the halter in place, checked the shoulder and the leg he was favoring, and then removed his saddle.

She didn’t seem very concerned about the piece of wood that was stuck under the skin. “Whatcha lookin’ for?” Teddy asked walking up with a pail of warm water and some clean rags he’d been able to gather from some of the others, who had followed him back.

“Things that may tell me it would be better off to put a bullet in him.” Scarlet said softly as she continued to look the horse over.

Some of the men looked at one another in confusion. “If his leg ain’t bad enough what about his face?” Black beard asked.

“Been my experience if an animal has the fight in him to follow the others he has enough fight in him to survive a lot of things. His gums are not swollen and jaw are not swollen bad enough he can’t eat.” Scarlet reached into the space between his teeth where the bit would normally ride, pulled his tongue out to the side and looked at it and as far into his mouth as she could see. “He didn’t bite his tongue off. There’s a small chip in one of his teeth that could have had for years so that doesn’t concern me.” She replied to nobody particular as she let go of his tongue.

“Thank you.” She said to Teddy as she picked up the cloth that had been dropped into the pail and began to gently clean his face.

The flap of skin was still attached, but by very little. Scarlet went to her saddle bags, removed a few things including a flask. She poured the liquid over the blade of her knife. The men looked from one another wondering if she was about the cut the horse’s throat or something.

“Carefully take hold of his lip and squeeze it” She said to Teddy “should keep him from moving too much.”

  Once Teddy had a good hold Scarlet cut quickly the flap free. Strider tilted his head away but did fight much. “You can let go of his lip now.” She said as she started to apply some salve from a small jar she had taken from her saddle bags to his face.

Scarlet washed his shoulder best she could before she cut the skin that was stretched tight over the piece of wood. She pulled the wood free and looked at it; it was probably a piece of the pole from the Gideon she thought tossing it to the ground. She sutured the cut after cleaning it, and then applied some of the slave to what looked like rope burn around his ankle. It was hard to say what he had gotten tangled in, could have been the reins, they had been broken.

Once finished she stood up and looked at him. The horse turned his head so he could see her. “Your gonna have to tolerate me for a few days messin’ with your face.” She said hoping that when the swelling in his other eye went down he wouldn’t be blind. It had been too hard to tell and to much of a fight when she had tried to do that. Strider rolled his eye at her. “I know, better than the alternative I think.” She remarked.

Scarlet could feel the lack of sleep catching up to her but she knew she still wouldn’t be able to fall asleep so she decided to go back and check on Fritz. If he was asleep she would leave word with someone she could be found at the scout’s camp.

“Who would like to be in charge of Strider for awhile? He needs to stay put.” She asked.

“I’ll watch him.” Black beard offered.

Scarlet waved a thanks as she rode across camp.

 


 

"The Scarlet Angel, heaven and hell all rolled into one.... I’d hate to be the one on the hell side.” ~Patches McDuff

"Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway." John Wayne

"Dance like nobody's watching; love like you've never been hurt. Sing like nobody's listening; live like it's heaven on earth."  Mark Twain


Offline Scarlet Angel

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Re: The Last Patrol
« Reply #854 on: January 06, 2010, 09:05:30 PM »
Cyrus couldn’t help be suspicions why Dick would send for him. He bit his lower lip trying to decide if he should ask Ella or not. Maybe it was a silly question but he had seen people attack one another when you thought they were lying there dead.
 finally he asked.

 “In his state should I be concerned for my safety.”
"The Scarlet Angel, heaven and hell all rolled into one.... I’d hate to be the one on the hell side.” ~Patches McDuff

"Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway." John Wayne

"Dance like nobody's watching; love like you've never been hurt. Sing like nobody's listening; live like it's heaven on earth."  Mark Twain


Offline Elegant Ella

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Re: The Last Patrol
« Reply #855 on: January 06, 2010, 11:06:53 PM »
Ella considered the question carefully before she answered, "No. The fever has taken the strength out of him, and he's been undressed, so he shouldn't have any concealed weapons. I doubt he's got enough dexterity to aim a pistol, or enough strength to cock a hammer. He knows he is dying. For the sake of his soul, I hope he wants to ask for forgiveness."
Elegant Ella

1stSgt Fritz King

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Re: The Last Patrol
« Reply #856 on: January 07, 2010, 07:19:28 AM »
Without waiting for orders, the scouts formed a skirmish line on the ridges north of camp.  Fritz saw Scarlet and Bo riding hard to get into position.  His pickets raced forward to aid the scouts, as did the pickets from the other companies.  Fritz ordered “boots and saddles,” and the command made ready.       

The warriors closed to within 500 yards of camp when the scouts’ line erupted in flame.  The line held firm and kept the Indians at bay long enough for the column to get organized.  The scouts’ line formed a wide arc, attempting to cover all avenues of approach.  The Sioux and Cheyenne were coming in from the north, east and west now.  This was the first time anyone had seen them fight in an organized fashion, rather than the hit-and-run, guerilla type tactics they were accustomed to.  There were no organized volleys of fire at this point.  Braves yelled their war cries.  The sharp, flat crack of pistols and the loud report of rifles filled the air.  Arrows arced and whistled overhead, to fall in bunches near the horses. 

General Crook dispatched Captain Van Vliet of the 3rd Cavalry to take the high ground to the south, while the Infantry companies deployed as skirmishers to assist the scouts.  Fritz saw B, D and E Companies of the Second falling into line.  Company A of the Second remained behind as horse holders.

“FIRST SERGEANT!!!   Assemble the men!  Deploy as skirmishers.  We’re taking the right of the line!”

Trumpeter Sergeant Powell sounded “assembly.”  The Men fell in at the order, shoulder to shoulder.  Scott fell in to the right of the line, and Johann the left.  Dave and the guidon bearer joined Fritz behind the formation.  Fritz chambered a cartridge in the Berdan and closed the action. 

“COMPANY!!!” Fritz yelled.  The commands were echoed by Scott and Johann.  “ PORT…ARMS!!!”  Carbines came up to hand.

“At the Double-Quick, FORWARD…MARCH!!!”

I Company, 2nd Cavalry, moved forward to support the Infantry’s right flank. 

1stSgt Fritz King

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Re: The Last Patrol
« Reply #857 on: January 07, 2010, 10:13:36 AM »
Fritz hadn’t seen a skirmish line this long since the war.  It was over a mile long, advancing over open ground towards the heights.  Each man was separated by five paces; units butted in against each other to prevent holes in the line.  There was no cover.  There was a 300 yard gap in the main crest which the combined Indian forces were using as their main entry/egress point.  This gap was roughly a mile away.  Scott saw it too, and began to angle their force towards the gap.  The attackers hadn’t found their range yet; most of their shots were dropping well ahead of the line.

“Steady,” Fritz called out.  “Don’t fire unless you have a target.  Don’t waste ammunition.”

Rounds began to strike among them.  So far, no one had been hit.  That would change.  Fritz noticed that to the east of the
gap, there was an area which would provide good cover.  Large boulders, sandstone crevices and pines would be proof against Sioux and Cheyenne rounds.  I Company commenced a right oblique and headed into cover.  

“All right Scott,” Fritz yelled.  “Let’s introduce ‘em to the boys!”

Scott raised his hand.  "Company…Volley Fire…ready…Aim…FIRE!!!”

A sheet of flame erupted from the company’s carbines.  Not all rounds found their targets, but Fritz was sure the volley had a telling effect.  The battle had the feel of a tug-of-war match; individual Soldiers or Sioux would advance ahead of their lines, only to be pushed back by a hail of bullets and/or arrows.  Some Crow and Shoshone scouts attempted to lure the enemy into ambush, but were unsuccessful.

Fritz advanced to the line and took a knee, raising his rifle to shoulder.  An Indian rode close to his lines.  Fritz was about to squeeze the trigger when he saw the red cloth tied to the man’s arm.  Sioux and Shoshone were almost identical in their battle dress.  Fratricide would be unavoidable.  

Suddenly, a hail of lead fell within their lines.  Sioux and Cheyenne marksmen occupied the higher ridges east of the gap, and were pouring in a galling fire.  The Second couldn’t advance without exposing themselves.  The stayed behind cover and returned fire as targets became available.  

“Damn it, where’s the Third?” Fritz said.  Just then, he heard the call to “charge.”  The 3rd Cavalry charged up the slope with drawn pistols.  A cheer came up from the Infantry and the 2nd as Mills’ troopers took the Sioux lines in the front and the flank.  Mills’ troopers bellowed as they dismounted and formed skirmish lines on the spot formerly occupied by the enemy.

“On your feet Troopers!!!” Fritz yelled.  “The 3rd has cleared the road!  Advance the colors!!!”  Fritz and the guidon bearer took off at a run to support the 3rd.  He watched as the enemy shifted position from one crest to another.  Once the 2nd had reached the 3rd’s new position, Mills remounted his troopers and charged again.  It was like a giant game of leap-frog; each time the cavalry charged, the Indians just moved back to the next crest.  

The 2nd exchanged long-range volleys with the enemy with little effect.   Fritz dropped into the sitting position and began searching for targets.  He didn’t waste ammo; each time the Berdan barked, someone fell.  At this range it was difficult to make out strips of red cloth tied to Crow and Shoshone arms.  He did his best, and prayed his shots killed foes rather than friends.

A trooper rode through his lines and moved towards Mills.  He saluted and spoke briefly with the Captain.  At this distance Fritz couldn’t make out what was said, but he got the gist when Mills dismounted his troop to form skirmish lines.  “This far, and no further,” he thought.  By all accounts, the column held the high ground.  

Fritz counted the cost.  Several of his men were wounded, but none severely.  Glancing wounds and ricochets caused most of the damage.  A field hospital had been established on a ridge below his position.  Any man needing additional care was sent to the rear.  

There was activity to the west, but Fritz’s last orders were to hold this position.  Here they were, and here they’d stay unless ordered to the contrary.

1stSgt Fritz King

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Re: The Last Patrol
« Reply #858 on: January 07, 2010, 02:04:46 PM »
At about 10:30 AM, Fritz saw Captain Mills withdraw to the hill where General Crook commanded the operation.  A brief conversation ensued, and Mills rode hard back to his unit.  Fritz watched in stunned silence as Mills mounted his unit and withdrew to the Kobold House.  As soon as his unit left, the Sioux and Cheyenne warriors scrambled back to occupy those heights.  Firing ensued again.  This didn’t make sense.  One of the first axioms of warfare Fritz learned was “once you take something, you don’t give it back.”  They had given the advantage back to the enemy.  Fritz began to distribute his cartridges to young troopers who had run low.  Firing slackened, and Fritz correctly surmised that the fight had shifted to the west.  A younger man might’ve run to the sound of the guns, but Fritz stayed put.  He’d not leave this gap wide open. 

A rider tore up to Fritz’s location and dismounted.  He saluted Fritz and said, “General Crook sends his compliments, sir.  You are ordered to withdraw from this position and regain your mounts.  Once mounted, you are advised to augment Captain Mills’ force.”

Fritz asked “Where the devil is Mills, and why did he leave the line?”           

The trooper said “Mills is preparing to advance down the ravine, to take the Indian village and hold it.”

Fritz nodded.  “Very well.  Tell the General that we’ll do our best.”  The young man mounted, saluted and rode off.

“FIRST SERGEANT!!!”

Scott ran up.  “Orders, sir?”

“Yes,” Fritz said.  “We’ll retreat by fire to the Kobold House.  Once there, we’ll mount up and back up Anson Mills and the Third.  Move in good order.  Don’t let those bastards see our backs.”

Scott sounded the order to retreat.  At that order, every other man in the skirmish line ran forward five paces and fired a volley.  The then turned and ran five paces behind the existing line and took a knee to reload.  The troopers who hadn’t moved then fired a volley and retreated five paces behind the kneeling troopers.  This process was repeated until the Second was safely back at the Kobold House.  There the men took their reserve ammunition from their saddlebags and replenished their belts and pouches. 

Fritz mounted up, and slid the Berdan back into its scabbard.  He drew his short Colt and advanced the column.  Anson Mills and his troop were slightly ahead and already advancing into the valley.  The Second closed the gap.  There was a low line of hills on the left, just to the east of the creek.  As Fritz passed within 75 yards of the hills, shots rang shots rang out.  Fritz began to wheel Strider about to face the threat, swinging the short Colt towards the rocks.  A giant hammer ripped the pistol from his hand.  It shattered as it flew mere inches from his face, the barrel and cylinder spinning through the air.  Carbines thundered in the valley, silencing the threat.

Fritz’s left hand was numb.  He could move his fingers, which was a good sign.  Before the feeling came back, he swapped the reins to his left hand, wrapping them around the palm.  His arms still worked, and he could control Strider with hip and thigh movements.  He looked down at the pieces of his shattered pistol.  Shaking his head, he twist drew the Army Colt from its flap holster with his right hand.

“Let’s do what we came here to do.”   

1stSgt Fritz King

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Re: The Last Patrol
« Reply #859 on: January 07, 2010, 07:55:34 PM »
The column moved out smartly, with units on both sides of the creek.  All guns faced outboard; the men were ready.  About two miles into the valley, the 3rd halted to tighten girth straps.  Fritz and his men stayed in the saddle in case anything broke bad.  A scout rode forward and had words with Mills.  The valley was only about 150 yards at this point, and was tapering.  The consensus was that this would be the perfect setting for an ambush.

Feeling had come back to Fritz’s hand, and it wasn’t a good feeling.  His palm throbbed with a dull ache.  He pushed the pain aside and focused on the mission at hand.  The men were getting restless.

Heavy firing echoed through the canyon from the west.  Suddenly, General Crook’s Adjutant, Captain Azor Nickerson, rode through the column and directly to Mills.  What came next was unbelievable.

Nickerson said “Mills, Royall is hard-pressed, and must be relieved.  Henry is badly wounded, and Vroom’s troop is all cut up.  The General orders that you and the Second file by your left flank out of this canyon and fall on the rear of the Indians who are pressing Royall."

Mills looked at Nickerson and said “Are you sure he wants me to go back?”  Nickerson repeated the order, to which Mills replied, “We have the village…and can hold it.”  Nevertheless, orders were orders.  Mills shouted to Fritz, “Turn your squadron to the left and come into line.  We’ll be charging the Indian positions.  Let’s hope we catch them in the rear!”

The Second came into line.  Fritz gave the order to “Sling…Carbines!!!” and to “Draw…Pistols!!!”  The combined forces of the 2nd and 3rd Cavalry climbed out of the canyon into line of battle.  Dave raised his bugle and sounded the “charge.”  Excited troopers spurred anxious mounts.  The line surged forward.  Fritz shouted “Stay by me!!!” over the din.  Men screamed and whooped.  He even heard that blasted Rebel yell again.  He smiled despite himself.  Cavalry pistols barked.

The Sioux and Cheyenne warriors were taken by surprise.  They wheeled about and began firing wildly into the screaming mass.  Fritz looked out of the corner of his eye to see his guidon bearer surging forward, the guidon staff held like a lance.  Its spear tip glistened in the midday sun.

A round struck the guidon bearer’s mount in the neck.  The horse screamed and buckled, falling directly into Strider’s path. Strider tangled in the mount’s legs and went down hard, pitching Fritz forward.  He tried to pull his feet from the stirrups as the world went black… 

 

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