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privilege ; but it is sometimes his unfortunate lot to become the instrument of vengeance.”
Lionel waited but a moment for an explanation — the flaming balls were soon seen taking their wide circuit in the air, and carrying their desolation among the close and inflammable roofs of the opposite town. In a very few minutes, a dense, black smoke arose from the deserted buildings, and forked flames played actively along the heated shingles, as though rioting in their unmolested possession of the place. Fresh battalions, from Boston, marched with high military pride into the line, and every thing betokened that a second assault was at hand.
Still all lay quiet and immovable within the low mounds of eart
as if none there had a stake in the issue of the bloody day. For a few moments only, the tall figure of an aged man was seen slowly moving along the summit of the ramparts, calmly regarding the dispositions of the English general in the more distant part of his line, and, after exchanging a few words with a gentleman, who joined him in his dangerous lookout, they disappeared together behind the grassy banks. Lionel soon detected the name of Prescott of Pepperel, passing through the crowd in low murmurs; and his glass did not deceive him when he thought, in the smaller of the two, he had himself descried the graceful person of Warren.
All eyes were now watching the advance of the battalions, which once more drew nigh the point of contest. The heads of the columns were already in view of their enemies, when a man was seen swiftly ascending the hill from the burning town; he paused amid the peril, on the natural glacis, and swung his hat triumphantly, and Lionel even fancied he heard the exulting cry, as he recognized the ungainly form of the simpleton, before it plunged into the work.
Let Howe reserve his fire, and he will go in at the point of the bayonet !” murmured the experienced warrior by the side of Lionel
But the trial was too great for even the practised courage of the royal troops; and the disordered masses of the British were seen driven before their deliberate foes in wild confusion. The flashing swords of the officers in vain attempted to arrest the torrent; nor did the flight cease, with many of the regiments, until they had even reached their boats. At this moment, a hum was heard in Boston, like the sudden rush of wind, and men gazed in each other's faces with undisguised amazement. Here and there, a low sound of exultation escaped some unguarded lip, and many an eye gleamed with a triumph that could no longer be suppressed.
135, The Same, concluded.
The fire had spread from house to house, and the whole village of Charlestown, with its four hundred buildings, was just bursting into flames. The air seemed filled with whistling balls, as they hurtled overhead, and the black sides of the vessels of war were vomiting their sheets of flame with unwearied industry. Amid this tumult, the English general and his companions crossed the river. The former rushed into the disordered ranks, and by his presence and voice recalled the men of one regiment to their duty. But long and loud appeals to their spirit and their ancient fame, were necessary to restore a moiety of their former confidence to men who had been thus rudely repulsed, and who now looked along their thinned and exhausted ranks, missing, in many instances, more than half the well-known countenances of their fellows.
The leaders now consulted together, and the dispositions were immediately renewed for the assault. Military show was no longer affected, but the soldiers laid down all the useless implements of their trade, and many, under the warmth of a broiling sun, added to the heat of the conflagration, which began to diffuse itself along the extremity of the peninsula, even cast aside their outer garments. Fresh companies were placed in the columns, and most of the troops were withdrawn from the meadows, leaving merely a few skirmishers to amuse the Americans, who lay behind the fence. When each disposition was completed, the fina. signal was given to advance.
A few minutes brought them in full view of that humble and unfinished mound of earth, for the possession of which so much blood had that day been spilt in vain. It lay, as before, still as if none breathed within its bosom, though a terrific row of dark tubes were arrayed along its top, following the movements of the approaching columns, as the eyes of the imaginary charmers of our own wilderness are said to watch their victims. As the uproar of the artillery again grew fainter, the crash of falling buildings, and the appalling sounds of the conflagration, on their left, became more audible. Immense volames of black smoke issued from the smouldering ruins, and, bellying outward, fold beyond fold, it overhung the work in a hideous cloud, casting its gloomy shadow across the place of blood.
A strong column was now seen ascending, as if from out the burning town, and the advance of the whole became quick and spirited. A low call ran through the platoons, to note the naked weapons of their adversaries, and it was followed by the cry of “To the bayonet ! to the bayonet!”
“Hurrah for the Royal Irish!” shouted M'Fuse, at the head of the dark column from the conflagration.
“ Hurrah!" echoed a well-known voice from the silent mound; “let them come on to Breed's; the people will teach 'em the law !"
Men think at such moments with the rapidity of lightning; and Lionel had even fancied his comrades in possession of the work, when the terrible stream of fire flashed in the faces of the men in front.
“Push on," cried the veteran major of marines, -"push on, or the 18th will get the honor of the day!”
“We cannot,” murmured the soldiers: “their fire is too heavy."
“ Then break, and let the marines pass through you!"
The feeble battalion melted away, and the warriors of the deep, trained to conflicts of hand to hand, sprang forward, with a loud shout, in their places. The Americans, after using up their ammunition, sunk sullenly back, a few hurling stones at their foes, in desperate indignation. The cannon of the British had been brought to enfilade their short breastwork, which was no longer tenable; and as the columns approached closer to the lower rampart, it became a mutual protection to the adverse parties.
“Hurrah for the Royal Irish!” again shouted M'Fuse, rushing up the trifling ascent, which was but of little more than his own height.
“Hurrah!” repeated Pitcairn, waving his sword on another angle of the work — "the day's our own!”
One more sheet of flame issued out of the bosom of the work, and all those brave men, who had emulated the examples of their officers, were swept away, as though a whirlwind had passed along. The grenadier gave his war-cry once more, before he pitched headlong among his enemies ; while Pitcairn fell back into the arms of his own son. The cry of “Forward, 47th," rung through their ranks, and in their turn this veteran battalion gallantly mounted the ramparts.
As company followed company into the defenceless redoubt, the Americans sullenly retired by its rear, keeping the bayonets of the soldiers at bay with clubbed muskets and sinewy arms.
When the whole issued upon the open ground, the husbandmen received a close and fatal fire from the battalions, which were now gathering around them on three sides. A scene of wild and savage confusion then succeeded to the order of the fight, and many fatal blows were given and taken, the mêlée rendering the use of firearms nearly impossible for several minutes.
When the Americans had disengaged themselves from the troops, they descended into the little hollow between the two hills, swiftly, and like a disordered crowd, bearing off most of their wounded, and leaving but few prisoners in the hands of their foes. The formation of the ground favored their retreat, as hundreds of bullets whistled harmlessly above their heads; and, by the time they gained the acclivity of Bunker, distance added to their security.
Finding the field lost, the men at the fence broke away in a body from their position, abandoned the meadows, and moved in confused masses behind the crest of the adjacent height. The shouting soldiery followed in their footsteps, pouring in fruitless and distant volleys; but, on the summit of Bunker, their tired platoons halted, and they beheld the throng move fearlessly through the tremendous fire that enfiladed the low pass, as little injured as though most of them bore charmed lives.
The day was now drawing to a close, and nothing further remained for the achievement of the royal lieutenants, but to go and mourn over their victory.
136. Goody Blake and Harry Gill.
O! What's the matter? what's the matter?
What is't that ails young Harry Gill?
Chatter, chatter, chatter still !
Good duffle gray, and flannel fine;
And coats enough to smother nine.