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Ferdinand Heinrich Grautoff.

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the horseman stood beside him. The horse was brushing off the flies with
his tail.

Then the awful, maddening thought came to him: This must be the
beginning of wound-fever. If it kept up and he began to get delirious,
he might betray his orders for Lawrence's brigade to the enemy.

And he saw hundreds of Japanese standing around him, all stretching
their necks to catch his words, and more and more came from over the
mountain ridges like a swarm of ants, and they all wanted to hear the
secrets that he was trying to keep in his aching head, while the officer
waved his note-book over him like a fluttering flag. Then the doctor
seized him, and arm in arm they hopped to and fro - to and fro - to and
fro.

Yes, he was certainly delirious. Lieutenant Esher thought of his home.
He saw his little house on 148th Street. He came home from business, he
walked through the garden, hung up his coat on the rack, opened the
door, his young wife welcomed him, she nodded to him - Eveline - groaned
the lieutenant, and then his thoughts turned to God.

Then the writing officer again, the rider on his horse, and the dark
night-sky, in which the stars were dancing like silver gnats. Collecting
his whole willpower, he succeeded in getting into a sitting posture, and
the Japanese soldier attending him awoke out of a doze only to find his
revolver in the American's hands. But it was too late, for a shot
resounded at the same moment. Lieutenant Esher had brought his weary
brain to rest; his head toppled over and landed hard on the rocky
ground.

Thus died a real hero, and those were hard times when men of stout heart
and iron courage were sorely needed.

* * * * *

Opposite Hilgard, the center of the enemy's position in the Blue
Mountains, trenches had been thrown up, and the 28th Militia Regiment
had occupied them in the night of August 13th-14th. The Japanese were
apparently not aware of their presence, as the regiment had taken no
part in the fighting on the fourteenth. On the evening of the same day,
the 32d Regiment was pushed forward to the same position, while the
searchlights were playing over the plain and on the mountain sides, and
dazzling the eyes of the sentries who were keeping a sharp lookout for
the enemy from various ambushes. And whenever the beam of light landed
on dark shadows, which jumped quickly aside, flames shot out on the
opposite side and flashes of fire from bursting shrapnel drew trembling
streaks across the sky and lighted up the immediate neighborhood.

The wires which connected the headquarters with all the sentries and
outposts vibrated perpetually with the thoughts and commands of a single
individual, who managed this whole apparatus from a little schoolroom in
Baker City far behind the front, allowing himself scarcely a moment for
much-needed night-rest.

The 28th Regiment had thrown up trenches the height of a man in the hard
ground opposite the little town of Hilgard on the night of August
13th-14th. Now a company of pioneers was busy widening them and building
stands for the troops where they would be safe from splinters, for it
was highly probable that the assault on Hilgard would be undertaken
from here on the following evening. The covering for these stands was
made of thick boards and planks taken from a saw-mill near by, and over
these the dug up earth was spread. The enemy's attention seemed to be
directed elsewhere, for the reflections from the searchlights were
continually crossing one another over to the right. In this direction
music could be distinctly heard coming from Longworth's Division - a
lively march waking the echoes of the night with its clear full tones.

Music? Those who were swearing at the stupidity of allowing the band to
play in the very face of the enemy, did not know that the troops over
there on their way to quarters had marched over forty miles that day,
and that only the inspiring power of music could help the stumbling men
to gather their remaining strength and press forward.

The cheerful melody of the old Scotch song,

"Gin a body, meet a body,
Comin' thro' the rye,"

rang out in common time across the silent battle-field, fifes squeaking
and drums rolling, while the silent searchlights continued flashing in
the dark sky.

"Gin a body, meet a body,
Comin' thro' the rye."

Meanwhile the picks and spades were kept going in the trenches of the
28th Regiment. The earth and stones flew with a rattle over the top of
the breastworks, making them stronger and stronger, pioneers and
infantry working side by side in the dark, hollow space. The battalion
on guard kept strict watch in the direction of the enemy, continually
expecting to see creeping figures suddenly pop up out of the darkness.

"Didn't you hear something, captain?" asked one of the men on watch.

"No, where?"

A curious purring sound like the whizzing of a small dynamo became
audible.

Some one gave a low whistle, and the pioneers stopped work, and leaned
on their spades. All the men listened intently, but no one could make
out whence the strange sound came.

Suddenly some one spoke quite loudly and another voice replied. Up in
the air - that's where it was! A black shadow swept across the sky. "An
air-ship!" cried one of the men in the trench, and sure enough the
whirring of the screw of a motor balloon could be distinctly heard.
Bang - bang - bang, went a few shots into the air.

"Stop the fire!" called a commanding voice from above.

"Stop! It is our own balloon!"

"No, it's a Japanese one!"

Bang - bang, it went again. From the rear came the deep bass of a big gun
and close by sounded the sharp bang - bang - bang of a little balloon-gun
in the second trench. There was a burst of flame up in the air, followed
by a hail of metal splinters. "Cut that out. You're shooting at us!"
roared Captain Lange across to the battery.

"Stop firing!" came a quick order from there. A few cannon shots were
heard coming from the rear.

Suddenly a bright light appeared up in the air and a white magnesium
cluster descended slowly, lighting up all the trenches in a sudden blaze
which made the pioneers look like ghosts peering over the black brink of
the pits. Then the light went out, and the eyes trying in vain to
pierce the darkness saw nothing but glittering fiery red circles. The
Japanese batteries on the other side opened fire. The air-ship had
entirely disappeared, and no one knew whether the uncanny night-bird had
been friend or foe.

* * * * *

The assault on Hilgard was to be begun by the 28th and 32d Volunteers:
General MacArthur had originally planned to have the attempt made at
dawn on August 15th; but as one brigade of Wood's Division had not yet
arrived, he postponed the attack for twenty-four hours, to the sixteenth
of August, while the fifteenth was to be taken up with heavy firing on
the enemy's position, which seemed to have been somewhat weakened. As
soon, therefore, as day broke, the Americans opened fire, and all the
time that almost sixty American guns were bombarding Hilgard and sending
shell after shell over the town, and the white flakes of cotton from the
bursting shrapnels hovered over the houses and almost obscured the view
of the mountains and the shells tore up the ground, sowing iron seed in
the furrows, the 28th and 32d Volunteers lay in the trenches without
firing a single shot.

The commander of the 16th Brigade, to which the two regiments belonged,
was in the first trench during the morning, and, in company with Colonel
Katterfeld, inspected the results of the bombardment through his
telescope, which had been set up in the trench. A shrapnel had just
destroyed the top of the copper church tower, which the Japanese were
using as a lookout.

Although the American shells had already created a great deal of havoc
in Hilgard, the walls of the houses offered considerable resistance to
the hail of bullets from the shrapnels. The brigadier-general therefore
sent orders to the battery stationed behind and to the right of the
trenches to shell the houses on both sides of the street leading into
Hilgard.

"Shell the houses on both sides of the street leading into Hilgard!
Shell the houses on both sides of the street leading into
Hilgard - Shell - Hilgard," was the command which was passed along from
mouth to mouth through the trenches, until it reached the battery amid
the roar of battle.

" - Shells - we have no shells - shrapnels - the battery has no shells, only
shrapnels - " came back the answer after a while.

"No shells, I might have known it, only those everlasting shrapnels. How
on earth can I shoot a town to pieces with shrapnel!" growled the
brigadier-general, going into the protected stand where the telephone
had been set up.

"Send two hundred shells immediately by automobile from Union to the 8th
Battery Volunteers stationed before Hilgard," ordered the general
through the telephone - "What, there aren't any shells at Union? The
last have been forwarded to Longworth's Division? - But I must have at
least a hundred; have them brought back at once from the right wing - No
automobile, either?" It was a wonder that the telephone didn't burst
with righteous indignation at the vigorous curses the brigadier-general
roared into it.

But unfortunately the statement made at Union, where the field railway
built from Monida for the transport service terminated, was correct.
Just as in most European armies, the number of shells provided was out
of all proportion to the shrapnel, and the supply of shells was
consequently low at all times. Besides, most of the ammunition-motors
had been put out of commission early in the game. The advantage of
higher speed possessed by the automobiles was more than offset by their
greater conspicuousness the moment they came within range of the enemy's
guns. The clouds of dust which they threw up at once showed the enemy in
which direction they were going, and as they were obliged to keep to the
main road, the Japanese had only to make a target of the highway and do
a little figuring to make short work of these modern vehicles. The great
number of wrecked motor cars strewn along the road proved rather
conclusively that the horse has not yet outlived its usefulness in
modern warfare.

The officers, including the generals, had willingly dispensed with such
a dangerous mode of locomotion after the first fatal experiences, for
the staring fiery eyes of the motor betrayed its whereabouts by night,
and the clouds of dust betrayed it by day. The moment an auto came
puffing along, the enemy's shots began to fall to the right and left of
it, and it was only natural, therefore, that the horse came into its own
again, both because the rider was not bound to the main road and because
he did not offer such a conspicuous target for the enemy's shots.

Towards noon the Japanese batteries entrenched before Hilgard began
bombarding the 28th Regiment with shrapnel. Colonel Katterfeld therefore
ordered half his men to seek protection under the stands.

The howling and crashing of the bursting shrapnel of course had its
effect on those troops who were here under fire for the first time. But
the shrapnel bullets rained on the wooden roofs without being able to
penetrate them, and after half an hour this fact imbued the men in their
retreats with a certain feeling of security. The enemy soon stopped this
ineffective fire from his field-guns, however, and on the basis of
careful observations made from a captive balloon behind Hilgard, the
Japanese began using explosive shells in place of the shrapnel.

The very first shots produced terrible devastation. The long planks were
tossed about like matches in the smoke of the bursting Shimose shells,
and the slaughter when one of them landed right in the midst of the
closely packed men in one of these subterranean mole-holes was
absolutely indescribable. Back into the trenches, therefore! But the
enemy had observed this change of position from his balloon, and the
shots began to rain unceasingly into the trenches. And so perfect was
the Japanese marksmanship that the position of the long line of trenches
could easily be recognized by the parallel line of little white clouds
of smoke up above them. There was nothing more to be concealed, and
accordingly Colonel Katterfeld ordered his regiment to open fire on
Hilgard and on the hostile artillery entrenched before the town.

Captain Lange lay with his nose pressed against the breastworks,
carefully observing the effect of the fire through his field glasses.
Although this was not his first campaign, he had nevertheless had some
trouble in ridding himself of that miserable feeling with which every
novice has to contend, the feeling that every single hostile gun and
cannon is pointed straight at him. But the moment the first men of his
company fell and he was obliged to arrange for the removal of the
wounded to the rear, his self-possession returned at once. It was his
bounden duty, moreover, to set an example of cool-headed courage to his
men, so he calmly and with some fuss lighted a cigarette, yet in spite
of the apparent indifference with which he puffed at it, it moved up and
down rather suspiciously between his lips.

A volunteer by the name of Singley, the war-correspondent of the _New
York Herald_, worked with much greater equanimity, but then he had been
through five battles before he gained permission to join the 7th Company
for the purpose of making pencil sketches and taking photographs of the
incidents of the battle.

He now arranged a regular rest for his kodak in the breastwork of the
trench and stooped down behind the apparatus, which was directed towards
the six Japanese guns to the left in front of the houses at Hilgard, the
position of which could only be recognized by the clouds of smoke which
ascended after each shot was fired. Just then he heard the order being
passed along to the 8th battery to give these guns a broadside of
shrapnel, and as it would probably take a few minutes before this order
could be carried out, Singley pulled out his note-book and glanced over
the entries made during the last hour:

No. 843. Japanese shell bursts through a plank covering.
" 844. Trench manned afresh.
" 845. Captain Lange smoking while under fire.
" 846. Japanese shrapnels indicate the line of our trenches in the air.

Then he put his note-book down beside him and crept under his kodak
again, carefully fixing the object-glass on the battery opposite. Now
then! A streak of solid lightning flashed in front of the second gun,
and a black funnel of smoke shot up. Click!

No. 847. Firing at the Japanese battery before Hilgard.

Singley exchanged the film for a new one, and then looked about for
another subject for his camera. He took off his cap and peeped carefully
over the edge of the trench. Could he be mistaken? He saw a little
black speck making straight for the spot where he was. "A shell" rushed
through his thoughts like a flash, and he threw himself flat on the
bottom of the trench.

With a whirring noise the heavy shell struck the back wall of the
trench. "An explosive shell!" shouted Captain Lange, "everybody down!"

The air shook with a tremendous detonation; sand and stones flew all
around, and the suffocating powder-gas took everybody's breath away; but
gradually the soldiers began to recognize one another through the dust
and smoke, thankful at finding themselves uninjured.

"Captain!" called a weak voice from the bottom of the trench, "Captain
Lange, I'm wounded." The captain bent down to assist the
war-correspondent, who was almost buried under a pile of earth.

"Oh, my legs," groaned Singley. Two soldiers took hold of him and placed
him with his back against the wall of earth. The lower part of both his
thighs had been smashed by pieces from the shell. "Will you please do me
a last service?" he asked of Captain Lange.

"Of course, Singley, what is it?"

"Please take my kodak!"

Singley himself arranged the exposure and handed the camera to the
captain, saying: "There, it is set at one twentieth of a second. Now
please take my picture - Thank you, that's all right! And now you can
have me removed to the hospital!"

Before the men came to fetch him, Singley managed to add to his list:

No. 848. Our war-correspondent, Singley, mortally wounded by a
Japanese shell. Hail Columbia!

Then he closed his book and put it in his breast pocket. Five minutes
later two ambulance men carried him off to have his wounds attended to,
and in the evening he was conveyed to the hospital.

A week later Captain Lange's snapshot of the war-correspondent was
paraded in the _New York Herald_ as the dramatic close of Singley's
journalistic career. In his way he, too, had been a hero. He died in the
hospital at Salubria.

He could claim the credit of having made the war plain to those at home.
Or was that not the war after all? Were the black shadows on the
photographic plate anything more than what is left of a flower after the
botanist has pressed the faded semblance of its former self between the
leaves of his collection? Certainly not much more.

No, that is not war. Just a bursting - silently bursting shell, the
scattering of a company - that is not war.

Thousands of bursting shells, the howls of the whizzing bullets, the
constant nerve-racking crashing and roaring overhead, the deafening
cracking of splitting iron everywhere - that is war. And accompanying it
all the hopeless sensation that this will never, never stop, that it
will go on like this forever, until one's thoughts are dulled by some
terrible, cruel, incomprehensible, demoralizing force. Those bounding
puffs of smoke everywhere on the ground, rifle shots which have been
aimed too short and every one of which - That abominable sharp singing
as of a swarm of mosquitoes, buzz, buzz, like the buzzing of angry
hornets continually knocking their heads against a window-pane. Bang!
That hit a stone. Bang! two inches nearer, then - "Aim carefully, fire
slowly!" calls the lieutenant in a hoarse, dry voice. You aim carefully
and fire slowly and reload. Buzz - And then you fume with a fierce
uncontrollable rage because you must aim carefully and fire slowly. And
the whole space in front of the trenches is covered with infantry
bullets glittering in the sunlight. Will it ever stop? Never! A day like
that has a hundred hours - two hundred. And if you had been there all by
yourself, you would never have dreamed of shooting over the edge of the
trenches - you would most probably have been crouching down in the pit.
But as you happen not to be alone, this can't be done. Will the enemy's
ammunition never give out? It's awful the way he keeps on shooting.

And that terrible thirst! Your throat is parched and your teeth feel
blunt from grinding the grains of sand which fly into your face whenever
an impudent little puff of smoke jumps up directly in front of you.
Sssst. The mosquitoes keep on singing, and the bees buzz perpetually.
Those dogs over there, those wretches, those - Buzz, buzz, buzz - it
never stops, never. Over there to the right somebody cracks a joke and
several soldiers laugh. "Aim carefully, fire slowly!" sounds the warning
voice of the lieutenant. And it's all done on an empty stomach - a
perfectly empty stomach.

Just as the field-kitchen wagon had arrived this morning, a shell had
exploded in the road and it was all over with the kitchen-wagon. How
long ago that seemed! And the bees keep on humming. Bang! that hit the
sergeant right in the middle of the forehead. Is this never going to
stop? Never? You chew sand, you breathe sand, burning dry sand, which
passes through your intestines like fire. And then that horrible, faint,
sickening feeling in the stomach when you feel the ambulance men
creeping up behind to take away another one of your comrades! How
terrible he looks, how he screams! You are quite incensed to think that
anybody can yell like that! What a fool! "Aim carefully, fire slowly,"
warns the lieutenant. Bouncing puffs of smoke again! And sand in your
mouth and fire in your intestines. You think continually of water,
beautiful, clear, ice-cold water, never-ending streams of water - A
roaring, howling and crashing overhead, the clatter of splinters, a
sharp pain in your brain and a horrible feeling in your stomach and all
the time it goes buzz, buzz, buzz - ssst - ssst - buzz, buzz, buzz - -

That is war, not the pictures that people see at home, all those lucky
people who have lots of water, who can go where they like and are not
forced to stay where the bees keep up a continual buzz, buzz, buzz - -

Colonel Katterfeld was kneeling on the ground examining the map of
Hilgard and marking several positions with a pencil. He could overhear
the conversation of the soldiers under the board-covering next to his
own.

"Do you think all this is on account of the Philippines?" asked one.

"The Philippines? Not much. It would have come sooner or later anyhow.
The Japs want the whole Pacific to themselves. We wouldn't be here if it
were only for the Philippines."

"We wouldn't? It's on account of imperialism, then, is it?"

"Don't talk foolish. We know very well what the Japs want, imperialism
or no imperialism."

"Well, why are the papers always talking so much about imperialism?"

"They write from their own standpoint. Imperialism simply means that we
wish to rule wherever the Stars and Stripes are waving."

The colonel peeped into the adjacent cover. It was Sergeant Benting who
was speaking.

"Right you are, Benting," said the colonel, "imperialism is the desire
for power. Imperialism means looking at the world from a great altitude.
And the nation which is without it will never inherit the earth."

Then the colonel gave the order to fire at a house on the right side of
the street, in which a bursting shrapnel had just effected a breach and
out of which a detachment of infantry was seen to run.

Once again, just before twilight, the battle burst out on both sides
with tremendous fury. The whole valley was hidden in clouds of smoke and
dust, and flashes of fire and puffs of smoke flew up from the ground on
all sides. Then evening came and, bit by bit, it grew more quiet as one
battery after the other ceased firing. The shrill whistle of an engine
came from the mountain-pass. And now, from far away, the Japanese
bugle-call sounded through the silent starry night and was echoed softly
by the mountain-sides, warming the hearts of all who heard it:

[line of music]




_Chapter XIX_

THE ASSAULT ON HILGARD


It was three o'clock in the morning. Only from the left wing of Fowler's
Division was the booming of cannon occasionally heard. From the
mountain-pass above came the noise of passing trains, the clash of
colliding cars and the dull rumble of wheels. On the right all was
still.

A low whistle went through all the trenches! And then the regiments
intended for the assault on Hilgard crept slowly and carefully out of
the long furrows. The front ranks carried mattresses, straw-bags, planks
and sacks of earth to bridge the barbed wire barricades in case they
should not succeed in chopping down the posts to which the wires were
fastened. A few American batteries behind La Grande began firing. The
other side continued silent.

Suddenly two red rockets rose quickly one after the other on the right
near the mountain, and they were followed directly by two blue ones;
they went out noiselessly high up in the air. Was it a signal of friend
or foe? The regiments came to a halt for a moment, but nothing further
happened, except that the two searchlights beyond Hilgard kept their
eyes fixed on the spot where the rockets had ascended. A dog barked in
the town, but was choked off in the middle of a howl. Then death-like
stillness reigned in front once more, but several cannon thundered in
the rear and a few isolated shots rang out from the wooded valleys on
the left.

The front ranks had reached the wire barricades. Suddenly a sharp cry
of pain broke the silence and red flames shot forth from the ground,
lighting up the posts and the network of wires. Several soldiers were
seen to be caught in the wires, which were apparently charged with
electricity. Now was the time! The pioneers provided with rubber gloves
to protect them against the charged wires went at it with a vengeance,
and were soon hacking away with their axes. Loud curses and cries of
pain were heard here and there. "Shut up, you cowards!" yelled some one
in a subdued voice. The black silhouettes of the men, who were tossing


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Online LibraryFerdinand Heinrich GrautoffBanzai! by Parabellum → online text (page 19 of 23)