Tales from a Far Land. An Account of the Invasion of Byzarbia, 1747 – Further Adventures
By Private Rüdiger Lamm, von Donovan’s Savage Swans
3rd August 1747: It is now one month since the great battle before the walls of Tel-E-Tubbi and an uneasy ceasefire still holds between our forces and those of Grand Prix and Prunkland. Although both our armies send out regular patrols there has been little bloodshed when they meet. The problem lies with the pirates and brigands who frequent the lands to the south, often in great force, and who attack our patrols and shipping, threatening our supply lines.
Yesterday the fine troops of Whyeydia marched out in force to bring the brigands to account. Captain Ewald and our native troops had tracked a raiding party back to their stronghold to the south. However this morning, the Viscount Gascoigne sent word that their fortress was stronger than expected and requested the artillery train be sent. Tomorrow we set force with the guns. It is rumoured the forces of the Sultan Pasha, also patrolling in force to the south, will join us en route.
4th August 1747: We are now encamped outside the fortified town. Our journey here was not without incident and we must now take stock of our losses and the rumour of potential treachery from our allies has brought distrust and ill feeling to our camp.
We set off at dawn. Captain Ewald’s scouts led the way, the Legion Uhlans were at the head of the column, myself and our musketeers in the middle, the fine grenadiers, now much diminished by their deeds, of which more anon, as our rear guard. The artillery train interspersed among us , with our Grenzers and dragoons marching alongside to guard the flanks. The first part of our journey was without incident but as we approached the final ford of the river, the encampment of the troops of Whyeydia barely visible in the distance to the south, we saw great clouds of dust raised to the east.
Fearing an attack we pushed on across the ford but our progress was very slow and our Uhlans barely across before we saw hordes of cavalry, pirates and native troops descending on our flank. As their infantry approached the river, a more disreputable and scurvy band you could not wish to see, it became clear the river was fordable at that point so our dragoons, on foot still, moved to defend the ford, and our grenadiers and battalion gun moved up in support. This was to prove hard for our grenadiers as across the river we saw the dreaded camel mounted guns that had wrought such cowardly havoc in the great battle last month. But our grenadiers, though under terrible fire and unable to return such due to the range, stood resolutely along the river bank and took all that was thrown at them, their ranks continually reduced as file after file fell in bloody carnage.
I had much time to observe this action as our column was making little progress as the wagons struggled across the ford. I saw our Uhlans move off to face the large force of enemy lancers. Knowing they had to hold them back and make time for the columns to cross they formed line and faced a force near twice their size. Sensing their advantage the enemy surged forward. These were not rabble horsemen but experienced troops and their charge was a sight to behold!
But our Uhlans did not falter in their resolve and spurred their horses to the charge to meet them! There was a terrible clash and dust engulfed them. Despite their resolve our cavalry were driven back! Their line split asunder under the weight of the onslaught. But they held despite many losses. Another surge and they were pushed back again! More fell! And then, having stemmed the tide for longer than all expected they broke off and withdrew to the west.
It was then that our troubles really began. The heathen horde pursued with great enthusiasm, charging into the wagons as they left the ford, our native warband and the head of my column as we tried desperately to leave the ford. As the lancers held us at bay the main body of the lancers put the wagon drivers to the sword, at least those that did not run, and began to destroy the contents of the wagons. Though they tried to set fire to the powder wagons their heathen god must have been watching for by some miracle the wagons did not explode and soon they broke open the barrels and scattered the powder in the sand and river.
The warband, no match in the open for lancers, fled west. Our column fought hard to exit the ford. To the south the massed ranks of Whyeydia and its native allies were moving to our rescue, albeit at such a slow pace I feared they would not reach us in time! To the southeast I could see the troops of the Pasha Sultan coming to our aid but again, with little enthusiasm and a seeming reluctance to engage the enemy!
Their job done and now apparently threatened on two fronts, the enemy cavalry withdrew. We marched rapidly out of the ford, deployed to line and delivered a fine volley to their rear, felling many riders.
As the remaining wagons now moved across the ford I glanced back to see the valiant defence of the ford to our rear. The grenadiers, now less then half their original number still stood resolute. The dragoons, knee deep in the waters, held off the pirate force, near three times their own in number until their force was but a sixth its original strength. They could hold no longer and fell back through our Grenzers who, with the remaining grenadiers and the battalion gun, lined the river bank. The pirates charged headlong into the line only to be thrown back, though having first driven off our gunners. Behind them, a solid body of infantry in massed column charged the line. Our Grenzers could not hold and fled and the massed columns descended upon our remaining grenadiers, surrounding them and about to put them to the blade!
It was now, as the last of the artillery train moved across the ford that to the east we saw the Pasha Sultans cavalry charging to our rescue. But their true intent was hard to discern for rather than head to the ford to rescue our proud grenadiers they seemed to be descending upon the rear of the wagons! We feared treachery but at the last they pulled up, and milling around they took post at our rear. With the remaining wagons now safe and across, the enemy cavalry withdrawn, and the forces of Whyeydia now protecting us to the south we now seemed safe. The bandits, now heavily outnumbered began to withdraw. The Pasha Sultan’s troops helping keep them at bay, though with little enthusiasm…
Now, encamped to the south we have taken stock of our losses. The valiant Uhlans lost near a third of their strength in dead and wounded, their worst loss in battle ever. But that was nothing compared to our grenadiers! As the enemy withdrew there seemed but a tenth of their strength left, many of their number having succumbed to the terrible wounds inflicted by the camel guns. It will be some time before the company returns to its full strength, but those few survivors will hold their heads high after their feats today! And our dragoons are similarly diminished after their great fight at the ford.
So it has not been a good day as we lost many friends and half of our train but some was salvaged and though at great cost our mission accomplished. The lack of alacrity shown by the Sultan Pasha’s troops in coming to our aid has left much bad feeling in the camp, and they now bivouac apart from us. Tomorrow we begin the assault on the town. The troops of Whyeydia, still fresh, will lead the assault. I fear the Legion will need a little time to regain its former strength…