The man collapsed, almost as if shot, and lay on the ground quivering. Allen felt a measure of pity as he left the man behind, racing to keep ahead of the wall of bayonets. Reaching the low crest, he saw the bodies of the unfortunate advance pickets; their campfire, dug into the ground in an attempt at concealment was glowing hot, several of the light infantry skirmishers were bayoneting the bodies, one was still alive and shrieking for mercy. The column reached the top of the hill and began to spread out as ordered. From this position, the men had an unobstructed view of the enemy encampment directly ahead, along the edge of the woods. The men sprang to their feet in confusion, clearly silhouetted by the flames of their campfires. As if with one voice, the advancing column, as ordered, let loose with wild shouts of battle lust. The sharp battle cries of the Black Watch were terrifying, even to Allen.
The charge swept straight in to the rebel camp and the slaughter began.
"My God, what is that?"
General Anthony Wayne turned in his saddle. The shots had come from his right. Throughout the night and the day before rumors had inundated him that an enemy column was nearby. Repeatedly he had tried to push scouts and mounted videttes forward, only to have them driven back in by the damned British light infantry.
It had been a bitter week since the disaster at Brandywine, as various parts of the army attempted to hold the approaches to Philadelphia. His own position was to hold the advanced position on the road through Paoli and await "developments." Caution had caused him to pull back two miles during the day.
He had not slept in two days, constantly riding out to check the picket lines, to try and look for an opening that he could push in to, take some prisoners and gain intelligence. His men were exhausted as well from the battle and the frustrating days of retreat, maneuver and then falling back yet again.
Most of his command were encamped forward of the Paoli Tavern, his headquarters, while even now he moved with a small column along the flank, responding to rumors of an impending attack from that direction.
The shots, three of them. . .from the sharp snap sounding more like rifle fire rather than the heavier duller boom of musketry.
He looked at his staff repeating the question.
"What is that?"
No one spoke.
And then more shots, distant, echoing. . . .and then only seconds later a nerve-rending cheer, more like a shrieking, the distinctive cry of the Black Watch resounded.
"Merciful God!" was all he could gasp, as he savagely reined his horse about and raced back towards his main encampment.
"Oh God! God!" Allen gasped, trying to back up, jerking his sword back and out of the guts of the man he had just impaled.
He was a veteran of half a dozen skirmishes and two major battles, but until this moment he never really known if he had killed a man. This time the evidence was before him, so close that the convulsive screams of his victim, the blood vomiting up, splashed into Allen's face.
He had stormed into the rebel camp at the front of the charge, trying to keep pace with Andre. And then this man, this man he was killing, came bolting out of a wigwam and all but thrust himself straight onto Allen's sword in his blind panic.
The man's eyes shone in the moonlight, wide, terrified, open mouth a black hole contorted by his screams.