The World Today

The World Today
Earth in 2013

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Columbia Front, part 3

Cashmere Valley

Columbia Front

July 3, 1913

Clive Arnold found himself back in the field, much to his relief. Following the fall of Wenatchee, which alone took too long in his opinion, he was further dismayed by how long it took Colonel Dearborn to bring across the entire Twenty-Third Division. Too many days had been lost, and the Tories were given far too long to defend secondary defenses. The enemy could not have been in this part of the irredeemed state in greater numbers than a regiment. Dearborn should have pushed forward towards Steven’s Pass with as many soldiers as were on the west bank of the Columbia as he had on June 26. He loudly voiced this with his division CO, and was promptly sent packing. His old man should be proud to know that Clive inherited the Arnold’s ability of stepping on toes.

In truth, he was far happier to be out of the command tents, even on a secondary sector of the Columbia Front, which was for all intent purposes, designed to divert British and Canadian soldiers from Puget Sound. Sure, this side of the mountains had some nice farmland, but the United States was far more interested in the natural harbor further west. The town of Cashmere, for which the valley was named, was a quaint town, largely undamaged saved the torn up rails. The Tories made certain nobody would be taking a train here for the foreseeable future. Arnold kept a watch on the various hills rising above the valley. If he were going to put up a defense around here, he would have placed field pieces atop those hills, surrounded by machine guns.

Considering how stodgy generals on all sides were– Crickey, they did not even take in the lethal effect of weapons that can spit out hundreds of rounds per minute could have on his neatly arrayed columns on their planning. No, maybe they would deploy machine guns, though how effective they would be on orchards was unclear. Plenty of apple trees would get cut down by .30 caliber rounds. None of them were ripe yet, nor would they be for at least a month. He had no plan of still being here by then. The Pass needed storming, before the Tories had the bright idea of bringing an avalanche down on top of it. They would destroy the railroad to Seattle, and seal the place from invasion. At least from here. This is all assuming they already had not.

The day had been quiet, with the soldiers of his company maintaining noise discipline. That quiet was shattered by the sound of– why it sounded strangely like tearing cloth, like a big old sail was ripped in half. And there was more than one sail. Arnold, along with the more attentive soldiers under his command, threw themselves to the ground. Slowly soldiers fell as well, just as torn as the imaginary sails.

Arnold raised his face from the dirt, tracking any tracer fire he could see. In the midst of an orchard tracers flew from every direction. He could not get a clear fix on just where the machine guns were set up, or even how many. His ears could tell them that too many rounds passed too close, kicking up dirt and chew up leaves. There would not be much of a harvest this year.

He and his men slowly crawled forward, making as small a target as possible. He shouted over his shoulder for them not to bunch up. If the Tories had machine guns, then there was a good chance— the clatter of thousands of small rounds was suddenly swamped by the screamed of larger shells. The first shell to burst hit many meters behind Arnold. The concussion hit like a kicking mule. Like all soldiers, he knew shells could kill without leaving a mark. Large explosions suck the air from men’s lung like a stomach pump. Of course, his immediate concerns were that of shrapnel, both steel and wood.

The screams of soldiers told him that not all were as lucky as Arnold. Machine guns had killed his men outright; burning hot blades of steel would leave more than a few crippled for life. Further explosions hit him as the small freight trains of 75mm shells plastered the orchard. Dirt landed all around, and something solid slammed into his back. His gear, all fifty pounds of the stuff, absorbed the impact. He brushed the debris, his hand landing on something sticky. He felt a queasiness within his stomach as he glanced over to see a disembodied leg, from the knee down, sitting right next to him.

“Dig in!” he shouted over the boom of guns and cries of the wounded. He yanked the entrenching tool out of his pack and attacked the fertile soil more fiercely than any Tory gunner. He was not the only one. Even before he barked the order, which he doubt carried more than a few tree’s distance in any direction, his unwounded men were already attacking the earth with zeal. He swore as he dug, even as new shells came in from behind. American batteries east of Cashmere were returning fire, hoping to knock out the enemy guns. He never knew if any gun hit another, but one thing was painfully clear: this advance was going to take far longer than anybody at General Staff could anticipate.

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