By this time the enemy horse was passing the bridge and making haste to come up in support of their infantry line on our left. However, our capture of the gun forced a re-think and suddenly the cavalry could be seen dashing back the way they had just come. I am unsure of their officer's name but suspect he might be a relation of those blundering Le Pickleds we hear about from the Gateway Alliance..
Meanwhile the Grenadiers had entered the orchard as ordered and, at no loss to themselves, completely overthrown the Chasseurs. They also delivered a few inches of Medetian steel to the enemy sergeant but, clearly popular with his men, the remaining few managed to carry him with them in their rout.
By now, though, I myself was in a race to win the high ground before the enemy cavalry arrived. I had hoped to be able to follow the wagons along the road but the need to halt this counter-attack was the most urgent priority.
We had managed to get off a volley which emptied a gratifying number of saddles, but we'd just managed to reload and present bayonets when the horsemen crashed into us. My unit fought well but were overwhelmed by the weight of the attack and we fell back across the road and over the wall beyond. As I tried to rally the men I was able to order the rifles, whom Sergeant Rigato had moved up to the road, to fire on the cavalry. Caught milling around in a confused state following the melee, this was enough to see them off and the momentarily tense situation was restored.
At the same moment Lieutenant Gillette took the fight to the enemy, bravely charging the infantry line (having to split his force either side of a tree that the enemy's musketry had set alight). Sadly Gillette was gravely wounded in this charge and his men were unable to make much impression on the enemy despite a prolonged bout of fighting. Captain Mauzac was also lightly wounded but could be seen continuing to exhort his men to hold their ground, which they did.
Our hussars withdrew to sort themselves out, although Gillette was left where he'd fallen. As you know, he's an unpleasant sort and harsh with his men, but I think perhaps more could have been done to recover him from under the enemy's bayonets..
Of most pressing concern, however, was the sudden turn of speed which saw the supply wagons nearing the bridge. I ordered Sergeant Rigato to take his men at the double down the road and intercept the convoy before it passed over the river to safety. I felt it was probably too late but we had to try. Too many Medetian lives had been lost to give up now.
With fortune on their side, the riflemen dashed along the road in fine style under the enemy's very noses.
This bold move forced Mauzac to break his formation and send some of his infantry back to intercept Rigato. The Fleurian infantry had held their flanking position well, though they had been whittled down somewhat by the hussar's charge, the rifles' early sniping, and the brave stand of Ensign Lambrusco's men. The latter had been forced to withdraw earlier due to the casualties they'd suffered and under his own initiative the Ensign had come across to lead the Grenadiers, as recounted earlier.
The enemy came at the riflemen fiercely but our lads saw them off for no loss and set off again after the wagons which had, alarmingly, almost succeeded in crossing the bridge. From my distant position I could just make out our men as they closed on the final wagon.
Alas, though, at that very moment the enemy's cavalry returned to make a last desperate attack.
For our brave rifles, caught between the wagons (and the enemy side of the river) and the charging horsemen, there was nothing for it but to fight like devils, and this they certainly did. Rigato himself wounded the enemy Lieutenant who eventually fled with his retreating men. Fortune smiled on us further as the drover of the final wagon must have been distracted by the nearby fighting and slowed its departure, allowing the victorious riflemen to capture the wagon.
The final drama, so I was later told, was the loss of Sergeant Rigato's hat as a result of the violence of the fighting. Of no great import, you or I would think, but Rigato dived into the river to recover it. Fortunately for him he had already ordered the wagon turned round and his men were on their way back with it.
Captain Mauzac knew the game was up and limped off with his remaining men to explain himself to his superiors.
With our 2 prizes (alas the other wagon had eluded us) we formed up and began the return march. Despite our losses the men were in good spirits after their victory.
All the way back Sergeant Rigato regaled me with the story of his men's exploits, though in truth I had seen them for myself and had already congratulated everyone involved. I did learn, however, that there is more to the Sergeant's hat than meets the eye; he uses it to store his share of the prize money from our recent successful raid on the enemy's paychest. At least that explained his sodden appearance!
We are now safely back in camp and await your next orders.
Your faithful servant,