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Sharp Practice 2
Ensign Rogers still couldn't believe where his life had ended up. 2 years ago he was a Sergeant in India. Now he was an Ensign in the Portuguese army, and about to meet the Emperor of France. And more than that he was in gully with the legendary Sharpe of the Rifles!
Chris was part of a raiding party, led by Captain Vincente of the Portuguese Cascadores, their mission to capture the Emperor Napoleon.
Intelligence had information that the enemies leader was holed up in a farm not far behind the French lines. Inspecting the troops, sacking Generals, who knew what he was doing there.
Captain Vincente, as the most senior officer in the immediate area had been chosen to command the mission with his Cascadore company. With him were Ensign Roger's and his Portuguese infantry and Lt Sharpe and a detachment of 95th Rifles.
The farm was a collection of buildings with a stone wall perimeter. The French numbers were unknown, although some line infantry and Dragoons had been seen.
Vincente's plan was simple. He would take his Cascadores to the side gate, and approach the farm quietly . If things got noisy then Chris's company would assault the main gate as a decoy. Sharpe and his rifleman would snipe from the cover of a gully.
As the Cascadores approached, they split up into 3 groups, moving up to the perimeter. The Sun was just starting to rise when a shout went up from an alert sentry. Vincente replied with his pistol and sword, the surprise now gone. His men sprinted for the cover of 5he wall.
Hearing shouts and shots, Chris ordered his men out of the gully, and they marched towards the main gate.
The French started to wake up, shouted orders and scrambling men filling the morning quiet.
A building in front of the Cascadores erupted with musket smoke. The Light Infantry company occupying it had quickly and efficiently found firing positions within the stone building. As the Cascadores started to take casualties, they crouched lower against the wall, a detachment of Legeres sprinted out of the building to close the gap.Vincente seeing the danger directed the fire of his group against the French charge, stopping it in its tracks.
Chris's men held their nerve as they closed the distance to the main gate. Suddenly the building next to the gate sprouted a wall of lead, as the French inside woke up.
Sharpe fired his more accurate rifles at the building, trying to get the French from destroying the Portuguese.
The far side of the farm had a large stone house. Troops were now rousing themselves from inside. A company of the Legion du Midi started to form up in front. Dismounted Dragoons also appeared from a barn in front of the farmhouse.
The Britisb were starting to take heavy casualties, having great difficulty in removing the French from their stone bastions.
Smoke surrounded the building with the French Legeres in, making it difficult for both sides to hit each other, although the detachment of Cascadores nearest were down to nearly half the complement.
The other 2 detachments of Cascadores were using the cover of the wall and firing at the formed up Italians.
Chris and his company were taking a horrendous amount of fire and they were starting to stall. Suddenly shouts and screams erupted from the building nearest them , as the French poured out of windows and doors in a blood curdling charge, firing a volley as they closed.
Chris could feel the resolve of his battered men start to waver, and he moved to the front rank, holding his sword steady, ignoring the terrible fear he was feeling. He ordered them to present, then hold, hold.
Then the sound of a volley, and Frenchmen hit the dirt. Chris looked to his left, his men still shakily held their muskets into the shoulder, they hadn't fired. Then he noticed, smoke and movement in the gully. Sharpe had caught the French in the flank. Chris dropped his sword and then went deaf as his company fired all around him.
The French caught in the open between to units broke and ran back to the farm.
Vincente continued picking targets in the farm yard. The Legere charge had been defeated. The Dragons were pinned down, unable to return fire with their shorter ranged carbines. Even the Legion du Midi were started to edge away from the murderous fire of the rifles.
Then Vincente's heart sank, as he spied a second company forming up in front of the farmhouse, an elite company of Guards. Then to his surprise they scrambled over the far perimeter wall, taking a short figure with them. Vincente could swear the Guards officer had slapped the shorter figure before dragging him off. The Italians and surviving light infantry then withdrew leaving the field to the British.
Ensign Rogers looked around as he entered through the main gate. He had lost nearly half his company, but they had yet again endured heavy enemy fire and survived.
Vincente had also suffered many casualties, and he was amazed that the French had run. They had the farm, buf as they were behind enemy lines, they too would have to withdraw before the French regrouped and reinforced
After an uneventful journey back to their own lines, Chris had been called into his Colonels tent. A promotion had come up as a Lieutenant had lost an argument with a runaway limber. His if he wanted it.
Lieutenant Roger's had now faced death and survived against all the odds, twice. His men were solid under fire as they trusted him implicitly. They were getting a reputation as the hardest men in the division. And the divisions newest Lieutenant was determined to uphold that impression.
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