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قراءة كتاب The Boy Scouts at the Battle of Saratoga The Story of General Burgoyne's Defeat

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‏اللغة: English
The Boy Scouts at the Battle of Saratoga
The Story of General Burgoyne's Defeat

The Boy Scouts at the Battle of Saratoga The Story of General Burgoyne's Defeat

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 8

fortress. Here a halt was called that the engineering corps might examine the hill with a view to placing a half-dozen cannon on its summit.

With some anxiety Ira went over to the officer who was watching his men as they clambered up the steep sides, measuring distances, and selecting the surest footing.

“It is a difficult place to carry guns, captain,” he said, as he stood by the officer’s side. “The enemy have always regarded such a feat as being impossible.”

“It may be for them, but not for us,” the Britisher replied loftily. “Before night I shall have my cannon yonder on that level spot you see below the big tree. From there it will be an easy task to run them over on the south side.”

“The fort will then be at your mercy,” the young scout suggested.

“Yes,” the captain replied with much satisfaction. “As soon as I have the guns in place, the general will throw his army about the fortress, and it will have to surrender, or be blown to pieces. The cannon isn’t yet made that can throw a shot six hundred feet straight up in the air to harm us.”

“That is so,” the lad admitted, and turned away with a heavy heart.

From his tent door he could watch the work of the engineers. A derrick was made of a tree some distance up the precipitous side; a pair of horses was attached to one end of the rope, and a gun drawn up to a level spot which had been cleared away a few feet below the tree. Then the tackling was carried to another improvised derrick farther up the hill, and again the horses swung the cannon toward the summit. It was a slow task, often beset with unexpected hindrance; but within two hours the first gun was lying on the level spot which the captain of the corps had designated.

“If one cannon may be put there, six can be made to follow,” muttered Ira as he saw the end of the task. “It is only a question of time. The officer was right; before night he will have his battery where it can be put in place. I must get word to General St. Clair, and let him and his men slip away before they are surrounded.”

The opportunity came to him unexpectedly. About dusk General Burgoyne sent for him.

“Master Le Geyt,” he said, when the young scout was in his presence, “I want you to go below the fort and keep watch over the road the enemy would take if they should attempt to retreat to-night. Select as many men with you as may be needed, and in case you discover any suspicious movement, report promptly to General Fraser. He has his division ready for immediate pursuit the moment we know the Yankees are trying to escape us. Before another night I shall have a force where they cannot leave the fort however great their desire.”

Concealing the exultation he felt at this order, the lad replied promptly:

“I will make arrangements to leave camp at once, general, and shall need but one other man, provided we may have horses. There are two routes by which the Yankees can leave the fort; my comrade can watch one, while I look after the other, and the first to detect any movement of the enemy will report at once to General Fraser.”

“Very well. Go to Colonel Baume; he will furnish you with horses and man, and you can be off by the time it is fairly dark.”

“Yes, sir,” and the lad hurried away.

Twenty minutes later he rode out of the lines, accompanied by a stolid Hessian whom he had chosen as his attendant. They went down the south road until arriving at another running westward. Here he stationed his comrade, saying to him in his own tongue:

“Stay here until I return, unless the Yankees come along in full force, in which case you are to ride to camp as fast as your horse will go, and tell your colonel. Do you understand?”

He grunted an assent, and Ira rode off to the east, saying to himself: “You’ll see no Yankee force to-night, my good fellow.”

A mile further on he came to a farm-house, up to which he rode boldly, and dismounted. Three rapid knocks on the door brought an immediate response.

“I’ll join you in a moment,” a voice said, and soon a stalwart form stepped from the darkness within into the darkness without. Approaching the horseman, he peered into his face an instant, and then exclaimed:

“Ho, Ira! It is you! Well, what is up?”

“I must go into the fort to-night,” the rider explained in low tones. “I will leave my horse here. What is the password?”

The man placed his lips to the lad’s ear, and whispered the information he desired.

“All right,” he replied. “I will be back in a few hours.”

He then gave the reins of his steed into the farmer’s hands, and, passing around the house, crossed an open field to the nearest thicket, into which he plunged. When he emerged from the timber he was near the fortress. Boldly approaching the sentinel, he replied to the challenge by giving the password, and in a few minutes was in the presence of General St. Clair.

The officer’s greeting was a warm one. Grasping the newcomer by the hand, he exclaimed:

“I am glad to see you——” here he hesitated a moment, and then went on with a grimace, as though the name was a disagreeable one to him—“Ira; but I fear your coming means bad news for me. What is it?”

“I had no time to find my messengers,” he began, “so came myself. The engineers of Burgoyne have succeeded in hoisting six of their best cannon up the north side of Sugar Loaf Mountain. To-morrow morning they will be run across to the south edge, and the fort will be at their mercy. You must retreat to-night.”

“If I do, it means leaving my cannon and stores for the enemy,” the general growled, more to himself than to his visitor. “Tell me how they did it? I thought such a plan impossible.”

Rapidly the young scout described the methods used to accomplish the feat, and added:

“I also have another item of news. General Fraser’s division is in readiness to pursue you, if you attempt to leave the fortification. I have been sent here to see that you do not get away,” and he and the officer laughed. “The general has orders to put his troops in your rear in the morning.”

“Hum! hum!” the commander muttered. “That does look as though I must move quickly, if I am to save my men for future fighting,” and he relapsed into deep thought.