To reach them we rode a mile or two and then walked a quarter of a mile through a series of chalky bare gullies, and our escorts made us stoop low and hurry fast wherever the path wound up to the crest of the bank, lest our figures, being outlined against the sky, should betray our whereabouts and, what was more important, the whereabouts of the battery to the sharpshooters in the French rifle pits forward of the French infantry trenches and not exceeding a mile from us.
Porter, with his fleet, got within a few hundred yards of where the sailing would have been clear and free from the obstructions caused by felling trees into the water, when he encountered rebel sharp-shooters, and his progress was delayed by obstructions in his front. He could do nothing with gunboats against sharpshooters.
It could only be compared with that of the Garde Civique of Belgium, and with neither the Swiss Rifle Corps nor our own Volunteers. Curiously enough, there is, however, an offshoot of the Schutterij based also on the old organization of an ancient guild called the "Sharpshooters."
It was not jealousy of his comrade, but emulation, and also a desire to meet his own exacting standards. As he disappeared with his picked sharpshooters and turned the shoulder of the mountain his blood was still hot, but his Vermont head was as cool as the ice upon which he trod. Warner heard the distant reports of Slade's rifle, and also the crackle of the firing in reply.
There was an immediate wild stampede of the survivors, the two dismounted men contriving with difficulty to catch and mount a couple of riderless horses; and ere they had got beyond range two more men and three more horses were bowled over by the main body of Jack's negroes, who had the adventurous party in view as soon as they were lost to sight by the band of sharpshooters nearer the bridge.
As soon as the command abandoned the camp, the Indians reoccupied it, and under the fire of the sharpshooters, hauled down several of their teepees, hastily bundled together the greater portion of their plunder, packed a number of horses with it, and, mounting their riding ponies, the squaws and children beat a hasty retreat down the valley, driving the herd of loose horses with them.
The enemy's line was parallel with ours, just across the wheat field; then they had numerous sharpshooters, who were familiar with every acre of the ground, perched in tall trees on both our flanks; then they had artillery posted everywhere. No man could cast his eyes over the parapet, or expose himself ten feet in the rear of the trench without drawing fire.
Joseph Speckbacher did not leave the country either; he is enlisting sharpshooters and calling out the Landsturm in his district. It is the Lord's will that the Tyrol be henceforth protected only by the Tyrolese. Bear this in mind, and go to work. "Well," asked the friar, exultingly, "do you think that Andreas Hofer is right, and that we ought not to allow the enemy to re-enter the country?"
The warning had been a stern one. Evidently the sharpshooters who lay in the thickets on the Union side of the creek were of the first quality. "There's considerable moonlight," whispered Sherburne, "and you mustn't expose an inch of your face. I take it that we have Custer's cavalry over there, mixed with a lot of scouts and skirmishers from the Northwest, Michigan and Wisconsin, most likely.
"No, they won't dream o' sech a thing, but in case they do dream o' it we'll all three creep to the edge an' set thar with our repeatin' rifles. A fine time they'd hev climbin' up thar in the face o' three sharpshooters armed with sech weapons ez ours."