Lee's eyes is bulging out like gooseberries on a limb, and his tongue's hanging down like a dog's on a hot day--"
"Get down off that stump at once, and go back to your place," said the Aid authoritatively.
"Don't mind him. He's only a staff officer. He can't order you. Go ahead," shouted the rest.
"I see a couple o' young Second Lieutenants," started Monty, but the Aid sprang at him, and in an instant there was a rush of the other boys to defend him. Capt. McGillicuddy, who was usually conveniently deaf and blind to the boys' skylarking, looked up from the paper he was reading, hurried to the scene, quieted the disturbance, ordered Monty to get down and go back, and spoke sharply to the Aid about paying any attention to the men's harmless capers.
The bugle blew "Attention," and everybody sprang to his place, and waited eagerly for the next command.
"Men," said the Colonel, in his gentle, sweet voice, which, however, was distinctly audible to the farthest flank of the regiment, "we are ordered to help our comrades by attacking the mountain over there. You see what is before you, and that it will be terrible work, but I know that you will do all that you can do for the honor of dear old Indiana."
An enthusiastic cheer answered him.
"Battalion--Take--Arms!" commanded the Colonel. "Right face--Forward--File left--March!"
The regiment filed down through the woods on the hillside, and as it came into the opening at the bottom was greeted by a volley from a battery on Rocky Face Ridge. The shells screamed viciously over the heads of the men, and cut through the tops of the trees with a deafening crash.
"Wastin' good cast-iron on the landscape, as usual," laughed Shorty, to encourage the boys. "I always wonder how the rebels pick out the fellers they make cannoneers of. When they git hold of a feller who can't shoot so's to hit anything less'n a Township set up edgewise, they put him in the artillery."
"Mebbe they'll come closter next time," said little Pete with a shiver, as he trotted a little nearer Shorty.
"Naah, they'll never come no closter," said Shorty, contemptuously.
"They couldn't hit even the side o' the mountain if it wasn't in their way and no place else for the ball to go."
Just then a shell screamed so close above Shorty that he involuntarily ducked his head.
"What makes you juke, if they can't hit nothing?" inquired little Pete, and the rest of them had regained composure enough to laugh.
"O," said Shorty composedly, "that feller wasn't shootin' at me. He was shootin' at the 1st Oshkosh, which is a quarter of a mile behind. If he'd hit me it'd 'a bin an accident, and I don't want no accidents to happen just now."
Approaching the cleared space in the center of the valley, the regiment went into line in the brush and pushed through to the edge of the woods.
The moment that it appeared in the fringe of brushwood a sharp volley came from the line of rebels in the brush along the opposite side of the clearing. Evidently they were not expecting an advance at that moment, for their firing was wild, and wounded but a few men.
"Hold your fire till we are across," shouted the Colonel.
With a yell the regiment swept across the clearing into the brush beyond. A furious, noisy scrambling ensued in the thickets. Neither side could see 10 yards ahead, and the firing, though fierce and rapid, was not very effective. Men shot at sounds, or motions of the bushes, and the bullets, glancing on the limbs, whistled in all directions. But the 200th Ind. pressed furiously forward, and though the rebels resisted stubbornly they were gradually pressed back up the hill. Occasionally one was killed, many were wounded, and squads were caught in clumps of brush and compelled to surrender. Si and Shorty kept their boys in hand, on the left of Co. Q, restrained them from firing until they saw something to shoot at, and saw that they did not advance until their guns were loaded. They heard a crashing volley delivered on their right front, and springing swiftly in that direction, came to a little break, across which they saw a squad of 15 or 16 rebels under the command of a Captain, with their guns still smoking, and peering into the woods to see the result of their fire. Si rushed at the Captain, with leveled gun, and ordered him to surrender.
"Are you an officer?" said the startled Captain as soon as he could gain words. "I'm a Captain. I'll not surrender to any one under my rank."
"I'm Captain enough for you," answered Si, thrusting the muzzle of his gun close to his face. "Surrender this minute, or off goes your head."
The Captain dropped his sword, and his men yielded.
The prisoners were conducted to the rear, and when Si returned with his squad to the regiment he found it had forced its way to the foot of the high wall of rock that rose straight up from the slope.
The rebels on the crest, 100 feet above, had been trying to assist their comrades below, by firing with their muskets, and occasionally sending a shell, where they could get their howitzers sufficiently depressed. Now they had bethought themselves to roll rocks and heavy stones off the crest, which fell with a crash on the treetops below.
The 200th Ind. was raging along the foot of the wall, trying to find a cleft in it by which they could climb to the top and get at their foes.
Standing a few yards in the rear, under a gigantic white-oak, whose thick branches promised protection from the crashing bowlders, the Colonel was sending parties to explore every place that seemed hopeful, and report to him. When Si came up with his squad he was directed to go to the extreme left, and see what he could find.
He did so, and came to a little open space made by the washings which poured over the crest of the rock when the rain descended in torrents.
There was a cleft there, but it was 40 feet above them, and surrounded by rebels, who yelled at the sight of his squad, and sent down a volley of bowlders. Si and his squad promptly dodged these by getting behind trunks of trees. They fired at the rebels on the crest, who as promptly lay down and sheltered themselves.
The firing and stone-throwing lasted an hour or more, and then seemed to die down from sheer exhaustion.
As the stones begun to come down more fitfully, and at longer intervals.
Shorty shouted to those on top:
"Say, you fellers up there, ain't you gittin' tired o' that work? You ain't hurtin' nobody with them dornicks. We kin dodge 'em easy, and you're just strainin' yourselves for nothin'. Let up for awhile, till we both rest and git a fresh hold. We'll amuse you if you will."
"What'll you do?" asked one of the rebels, peering over the crest.
"Lots o' things. I'll turn one o' my famous doubleback-action flip-flaps, which people have come miles to see, when I was traveling with Dan Rice. Or we'll sing you a song. We've here the World Renowned Ballad-Singer of Bean Blossom Crick. Or we'll make you a speech. We have here the Justly-Famous Boy Orator of Pogue's Run."
Everything had become quite still all around during this dialog.
"Give us a song," said the rebel, and his comrades' heads began showing over the edge of the rock.
"Now, no rock-throwing and no shootin' while he's singing'," said Shorty. "Give the boy a chance to git back to his tree after he's done."
"All right. We'll play fair. But no politics," came back from the rock.
"Go out there, Alf, on the gravel, and sing to 'em," said Shorty.
Alf Russell hesitated a moment, and then climbed up on the pile of washings and after clearing his throat, sang "When This Cruel War is Over" in his best style, and was applauded from the top of the rock and below.
"Now, give us your speech. But no politics," the rebels shouted.
Monty Scruggs stepped up on the mound and recited "Bingen on the Rhine"
in his best school-exhibition style. The delight of the rebels was boundless.
"Hip-hip--Hooray! Good! Good!" they shouted. "Give us another."
Monty scratched his head to think of something appropriate, and then occurred to him Webster's great speech in defense of the Union, which was then a favorite in the schools.
"When my eyes shall be turned to behold for the last time the sun in heaven, may I not see him shining on the broken and dishonored fragments of a once glorious Union; on States dissevered, discordant, belligerent; on a land rent with civil feuds, or drenched, it may be, with fraternal blood. Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable."
The rebels listened with growing impatience to the words, and as Monty concluded with his best flourish they yelled angrily:
"Heah, we told you no politics. Git back thar, now, quick, or we'll bust your haid with this heah rock."
Shorty and Si raised their guns to shoot the man with the bowlder, and Monty skipped back to the shelter of his tree, saying with a grin:
"I was bound to give 'em a little straight goods before I quit, and they got it. Old Dan Webster's very words."
"The orders is to stay right here for the night," said the Orderly-Sergeant, coming up through the brush to Si, "and be ready for anything that comes. I don't know what old Sherman means--whether he is going to send over some balloons to lift us to the top of the rocks, or set us to tunneling through. I suppose it ain't my business to know.
I've got enough to do running this company. But something's got to bust inside the next 24 hours, and when it does there'll be the dumbedest smash this country ever saw. Stay where you are till further orders, and make yourselves as comfortable as possible."