The Rangers and provincials remained among the fallen trees, exchanging shots with the enemy till dusk. Then we went up to the abattis and picked out some of the wounded from among the heaps of dead men. This was the hardest part of the day for me, stumbling over the dead, picking up the poor wounded fellows and hearing them moan and cry as we carried them off.
Morrison, on the right, assaulted the left face of the work; the Seventeenth and Twenty-fifth assaulted the right. Crossing the valley, they began the ascent, encountered the tangled abattis, and while striving to tear their way through it, under a plunging fire from the battery and the infantry above them, they were assailed by artillery and infantry from a long extent of line beyond.
In front of the abattis more trees with sharpened boughs were spread for a wide space, the whole field with its stumps and trees, looking as if a mighty hurricane had swept over it. Robert was soldier enough to see what a formidable obstruction was being raised, but he thought the powerful artillery of the attacking army would sweep it away or level it.
Some forty yards farther back, young trees were felled and branches cut; and these were laid with the bushy parts towards the road, wires being twisted here and there among them, so as to form abattis perfectly impenetrable for horsemen, and difficult in the extreme for infantry. All worked hard and, by eight o'clock in the morning, everything was in readiness.
Washington would have welcomed the main attack. During the day his works were strengthened and his men reinforced. Orchards had been cut down to serve as abattis, and barrels of earth were ready to roll down upon the British.
We could then have moved up our supports and carried the place. "Unfortunately, however, our men dribbled out of the ends of the trenches, ten and twenty at a time, and as soon as they appeared they were cleared away. Some hundred men, under Lieutenant Fisher, got up to the abattis, but were not supported, and consequently had to retire.
Each man now took the station allotted to him: thirty men behind the trees, next to the road; the main body being stationed behind the abattis, each man having previously settled upon a spot where he could fire through the leaves, which entirely concealed them from view from the road. Number one company was placed to the right and, consequently, near to Blamont.
Ailsa slept fitfully, but the far challenge and the halting of the waggon usually awoke her in darkness feebly lit by the rays of a candle-set lantern, swung up inquiringly by the corporal of some guard. And, "Pass forward, Sanitary!" was the invariable formula; and the ambulance rolled on again between a double abattis of fallen trees, flanked on either horizon by tall, quiet pines.
For two days shot and shell splintered and tore through abattis and fraising, and levelled parapet and ditch, almost unanswered. To the right of the new parallel, and almost enfilading it by their fire, were two detached redoubts of the British, well in advance of their main lines.
The enemy was posted behind works, constructed the same as those assaulted by the Third and Seventh, of cliffs of rocks, trunks of trees, covered by an abattis. The regiments advanced in splendid style, and through the tangled underbrush and over boulders they rushed for the enemy's works. Colonel Kennedy was wounded in the early part of the engagement, but did not leave the field.