Greene felt the kick of the revolver and only just stopped himself taking a another shot. But he saw very quickly that there was no need. He just hoped there weren't anymore redskins around. He felt incredibly thirsty and pawed for the water canteen hanging from the horse furniture. He took a swig and looked down: he literally could not have dismounted the horse even if he'd tried. Fall off it, maybe, but not dismount. Not and get up again.
He looked down, his head swimming. There was the dead Indian, of course, the fallen army scout, who was now a woman, of course, and Caroline with a pebble in her hand, of course (he would always later claim it was a pebble: 'bravest woman I ever met - took on an Arapahoe warrior armed with a pebble') .
"Hello, Caroline. Better give your friend some water." he said, leaning forward as much as he dared to hand her the canteen.
"Joseph? What the hell you doin' here?" Caroline stared as she dropped the now useless rock.
"You know. Heroic things. Rescuing beautiful damsels... or being rescued by them. That sort of thing." It was all like a crazy dream. "I can't get off my horse" he told her a little woozily, pointing to his leg "I got shot."
Addy seemed OK if a little dented. "Is that Miss Chappel?" he asked. Some more of his men were appearing nearby - they'd heard the pistol crack.
Joseph could later recall very little detail of what happened in the next few seconds on his so-called rescue of the two white women. In fact, from another point of view it could be said that they rescued him. For a start, in his dizzy and weakened state, he had lost all control of the crazed horse beneath him who darting froth into the thick bush, nearly unhorsed him as branches and brambles pulled at him. He held on for dear life using both hands, no thought of his revolver.
Addy hissed, "Stay here." She gave Caroline a gentle push back down, then pulled out her small knife and and sprinted back toward the very man trying to find and kill them.
He still hung on as a figure he presumed to be a man (was it one of their scouts?) grappled with the redskin in front of him in a whirl of knife play and gun stocks. It gave him the seconds he needed to paw at his unbuckled holster while his horse reared again and the warrior made his way past the flying hooves to get a blow in at himself.
But he still didn't have the weapon loaded yet and had no choice now but to try and use it like a club against the waischu above him on the horse. Just maybe luck would be with him and the white man would freeze up or - as happened commonly enough - would forget he had to pull back the hammer of the Single Action revolver to fire the damn thing. It wasn't enough to just pull the trigger.
This was exactly what happened, Greene, barely able to grip the revolver in his palsied grip, the long-haired white scout writhing on the ground, pointed the barrel of his handgun at the Indian without pulling the hammer back first. Bodawei must have praised his heathen Gods as the Cavalry officer pulled the trigger... and the double action Chamelot-Delvigne fired with a deafening BANG! at point-blank range.
Trooper Johnson never saw the Indian, maybe heard the shot which struck him full in the chest but was unconscious by the time he toppled backwards out of his saddle to strike the ground hard. He would bleed out in just a couple minutes.
Greene had been worried all day about making the wrong decisions, now he didn't worry or even think! The crack of the rifle ahead, Johnson biting the dust, himself unable to turn back out of sheer manly pride, unable to dismount and take cover, what with his roughly patched up leg wound, suddenly he was charging forward at a gallop toward the place the shot had come from. The horse beneath him wasn't his usual Daisy, it was the horse of one of the dead troopers, and later on, when trying to sort the events of the day in his own mind, he could not clearly recall whether he had spurred her forward or if she had just carried him with her, intend on some kind of equine revenge for her lost rider.
Either way, he was on the redskin, smelt out by the mare while he was still clumsily trying to pull his revolver from its holster, and wondering exactly how many Indians were ambushing him in the fading light. He felt like a mere spectator as the frothing mount whinnied and reared over the dismounted Arapaho warrior.
Call it fate or blind luck (sometimes two in the same) but it so happened Lt. Greene and one other trooper were on the path toward both the dead and the now riderless horse. They couldn't see Bodawei yet but they were getting closer.
There was a strong possibility that the two Indian horses were just runaways from the battle (historians might call it a minor skirmish, but for all the men who had survived it, it was firmly the 'Battle of Barlow's Bluff') but the crack of a rifle a few minutes before had put both soldiers on their mettle.
"Keep 'em peeled, Johnson." Greene muttered as they rode forward, his eyes straining against the fading light. Two horses. One little, two little, no little Indians? A half remembered children's rhyme ran through his head. They pushed their own mounts forward, though the two animals showed an interest in investigating their wild cousins. Both men expected a fusillade to fill them both full of lead at any moment.
Joseph found the pain in his leg quite comforting; every time he moved it shot through him: dulling the guilt at staying behind. They had done what they could, the walking wounded tending the half dead. That's when a bandage headed Stenz dashed up to him. If Greene was green then Stenz was even greener. He'd done all right in the fight, though: not particularly effective but he hadn't lost his bottle.
"Sir! I saw an Indian! Least I'm pretty sure I did! Over that way on that hill...just saw 'im and he vas gone then," he pointed in a direction that was actually behind the very location the cavalry had earlier covered. Unless the Indians were circling around? And if that was an Indian and he had fired that shot, it sure wasn't aimed at the soldiers?
"What? How many?" blurted Joseph following the direction indicated with his blue eyes to no avail.
"Just one...I think? And he headed down the other way...off the hill," he added.
"All right." Greene nodded. The detachment had started out with around 40 men, Barlow had taken eight men and the scouts, a couple were lying dead and another six wounded to various degrees. Not all the horses were in the best shape, but he got together a couple of sections himself and got a couple of troopers to get him on a horse.
"All right, we're going to police the area and make sure we're not surrounded." he told them, trying to keep a clear head. He told off four of the remaining men as vedettes ad told them to keep a sharp lookout, but not to shoot their own returning men if possible!
Luckily there was a sergeant remaining with enough experience to look after the wounded and keep things together.
His little party headed out to do a limited reconnaissance in force.
"Lt. Greene, are you still able to function properly? See to it any other wounded are being given medical attention!"
"Yes Sir!" Joseph answered smartly, even though the loss of blood made him look a little pale and feel a little woozy. Givens, with me!" he called on the veteran trooper: as much to help him hop around as to help him assess who was walking wounded and who might need some sort of travois to drag them back to the fort. One man was already being bandaged up with a tourniquet to stop him bleeding to death: the chance of that poor fellow living out the day were minimal.
He sought out MacIntosh, "How you doin'? You gonna be able to ride?"
This wasn't finished yet as far as he was concerned.
"Sergeant, get two sections mounted right now! Corporal, my horse!"
Even though he was too badly wounded to mount his horse unaided, and it made perfect sense to leave him behind with the rest of the wounded, the young Lieutenant couldn't help feeling dismayed that he would no longer be an active part of the hunt for Caroline.
Greene was relieved when the Captain gave the order to dismount and form the skirmish line, they had even practiced this at Westpoint, he knew what he was doing now: there were no decisions to make as such, just a matter of standing firm and keeping cool under fire. A trooper took his horse's bridle from him and he heard himself give a dry throated 'thanks'. Luckily his leg wasn't bleeding too badly and only felt painful when he walked.
"All right boys, steady now, steady." he said, somewhat meaninglessly but in what he hoped was a calm tone of voice. Boys! Half of them were older than he.
The scouts had been right, back came the Indians for one of the most magnificent, brave and suicidal spectacles he was ever to witness. They charged right at them! If everyone kept their nerve, and there were no other redskins, sneaking around to cut them off, they had them! He stood as nonchalantly as he could behind his section of the line. He holstered his gun, thinking it might give his men the idea of his supreme confidence in them.
"You heard the Captain, fire at will!" he repeated the order, as much as something to do as anything. A lot of the natives went down, but not all. One big mean looking warrior was heading right toward them. "Drop that bastard on the black mustang!" he yelled, pulling out his own revolver now and taking a pot shot along with most of his section of the line. When the Indian dropped, a trooper yelled "Who got him?"
"Me of course! - that's an order!" Joseph yelled back. Which witticism under fire probably earned him more kudos with the men than his wounded leg or anything else he did that day: not, he later realised, that he had done that much.
Unfortunately, the Indian, who was an admirable warrior, was down but not out, and now had a rifle aimed directly at the army scout MacIntosh.
When he thought about it later, Joseph could hardly remember that there had been a conversation with the scouts before that first wave attack. But the details of the attack were etched in his mind's eye then and forever. His mind was racing: moving as fast as his body seemed to be frozen in a slow-motion torpor.
Magnificent, just magnificent, those Indians! He could imagine how the ancient Greeks had mistaken the horse warriors of the steppe to have been mythical centaurs as he watched those hideous, beautiful horsemen stampede their own sweating, clumsy, slow soldiers into an aimless, tumbling, uncoordinated mess: and he heartily included himself in this category.
As he hadn't got the slightest clue what to do in this sudden madness he naturally looked to Barlow, and when Barlow pulled his revolver and started taking pot shots at the Arapaho, he took that as carte blanche to do the same. The situation was terrifying, truly, but he had expected it to be: this was it; he was seeing the elephant! At last! And knowing what to do, at least for now, gave him some solace. Getting killed wasn't his biggest fear - not knowing what to do, that was his biggest fear.
One trooper grunted and toppled backward off his saddle to thud like a sack of grain onto the forest floor. Another screamed and bent over his saddle holding one arm.
Greene was near enough to the wounded man to call out a "Steady, Givens, steady!" he was struck by the ridiculousness of him saying that to a man with two stripes on his arm and ten times more experience than himself and how much he sounded like he knew what he was doing!
As the Indians scattered away it was obvious they had won the first round of this but it was certainly not over yet. Barlow was not just an officer, he was a fighter. It would take a lot to make him ever admit he was beaten.
Another trooper next to him panted "Say, you're hit, Lieutenant!" He looked down: there was a beautiful red stripe of blood starting to show along the top of his light blue britches. An Indian bullet had raked along the top of his thigh. "Oh yeah! Well, will you look at that!" he managed to say laconically, and he laughed, just laughed in his head at all those brave heroes of military history and their brave sayings. The brave sayings were the easy part. It was making the decisions, that was the hard part. But for now, it was Barlow's difficulty.
Greene dutifully waited to hear the grizzled scout's report and that of his solemn Apache sidekick.
"Well, Mr. MacIntosh, did you run into 'em? Or did they try and bushwhack you?"
The young Lieutenant couldn't really imagine either of those happenstance events happening where the keen eyed and keen eared civilian auxiliaries were concerned. To a certain extent it cheered him up: maybe they weren't infallible after all, maybe he wasn't the only person who might make mistakes that day.
"I'm betting our scouts have found the Indians, one way or the other. Let's head toward the sounds."
"Yes Sir!" returned the young officer: if he sounded enthusiastic, it was because he was: all the waiting around had allowed the doubts to nibble at his mind: his worries about how he would fare in action. So far, the Captain hadn't done anything that he wouldn't have done, which was a relief. Funny, going into battle, he expected to be worried about getting wounded or killed: instead he was more concerned about anything happening to the gruff Captain - for that would leave him in charge and responsible for the lives of the captives and the men of the troop.
Then he raised his arm to wave forward and called out in a commanding voice, "Troop, at the double, follow me!"
Greene put his spurs to his mount, careful, of course, not to outstrip his commanding officer in their wild gallop! Greene did spare a hand, just for a second, to make sure his revolver was actually in its holster, and felt himself smile, despite the seriousness of the situation, at the thought of getting surrounded by Indians and having to ask them to wait, just a moment, while he went back to the Fort to fetch it!
The cavalry now picked up speed as they rode toward the 'sound of the guns', a tried and true military option.
Sagas of the WIld West is a roleplaying game set in a fictionalized version of the town of Kalispell in Montana territory. Our stories begin in 1875 and are set against the backdrop of actual historical events.Sagas was inspired by the classic television and movie westerns. Our focus is on writing, storytelling and character development.
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