The World Today

The World Today
Earth in 2013

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

On the Columbia Front, Part 4

West of Cashmere

Columbia Front

July 11, 1913

It was all suppose to be so easy. A simple matter of a little marching and a mountain hike, and Irredeemed Washington would be American once more. At least that was how the enlisted men thought of the war. Arnold never believed it for a minute. One look at the maps of the Cashmere Valley, a valley as meandering as the Wenatchee River that flows through it, and he knew that the hills and ridges that littered the valley most certainly gave defenders the advantage. There could not be more than a battalion opposing them, but with the steep ridges, they easily held up the better part of a division.

A division on paper at the least. Far too few of the Twenty-Third were not infantry. Cavalry proved worse than useless in the face of machine gun crossfire. Those sent charging up the steep hills of the valley too often did not return to report. For the sake of the division, the Tories better only have a battalion here; any more than that, and this whole human wave tactic will get prohibitively expensive. Even after two days of shelling, which nearly exhausted to pittance Philadelphia granted to the Twenty-Third, the enemy still chattered away with their machine guns. Perhaps two or three were knocked out, but the rest kept up their fire.

At least the Tories and Limeys were not having any trouble with logistics. Arnold cursed as he crawled through the trenches and foxholes the American had built. Canada had prepared in depth to defend this part of Washington, with enough trenches and dugouts to protect them from anything short of mortar fire. Even then it would be a lucky shot that landed in the trench. Once the first shells start to fall, they just breakdown their machine guns and take shelter.

Thus far, American lines were not big enough to walk through, forcing Arnold to crawl on his belly. After a week of this, he was beginning to forget the color of his own uniform. The only light he could see at the end of this tunnel was that it had not rained yet. If he had his way, they would not be here long enough to wait for rain, or to dig a proper trench network. They would never have stopped long enough to worry about it. He poked his head up just long enough to glower westward.

It was also long enough to draw the attention of some gunner. A short burst of .30 told Arnold it was a good idea to lie low. He glanced over his shoulder, noting that this gun came from the south. In order to storm that ridge, they would first have to cross the snaking Wenatchee, again, and then climb– not charge, but climb– up a fifty degree slope. Tory gun fire brought a response from the American gunner atop their own hill. It was not much, just a cone-shaped hill that sat in the middle of the valley. Machine guns and a few howitzers, along with a treacherous observation post, all crowded the hill. The grassy knoll had its fair share of craters from attempts to take out the observation post. Seemed like a waste of shells to target the hill, which was just high enough for spotters to direct incoming artillery.

Arnold found the first of his surviving sergeants. Normally, he would look for lieutenants, but they were all killed in the first week of the war. He cursed them for getting themselves killed, and not just because it looked bad to get all your officers killed off so fast. He was forced to rely upon NCOs, which knew a great deal more about waging war than new Academy graduates or National Guards college boys. Sergeant Archer, a gruff old veteran of the Spanish War, looked up at his commander.

“What can I do for you today, Captain?” he asked in an almost cheerful voice. What business anybody had being cheerful here was beyond Arnold.

Arnold pointed west. “I need you to find some volunteers to go out there tonight and lay some barbed wire.”

“What for?” Archer broke one of the cardinal rules of the Army; he talked back. “We’ll just be leaving it behind when we push forward.” He had a point, but that was besides the point.

Arnold shrugged. “Be that as it may, Division and Regimental HQ wants barbed wire lain, and so it shall.”

Archer might be argumentative, but he was still a soldier. “Yes sir,” he saluted. He did not stand at attention, but Arnold forgave him for that. Anybody who stood up this close to the Tories was likely to go right back down.

Satisfied orders would be carried out, Arnold continued crawled down the trench to the next sergeant, hoping this war would not last so long that a proper trench could be dug.

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